I am not currently in a position where I’m involved in the hiring process for a civil engineering company, but have been in the past, and wanted to answer the following question that I recently received:
If I have a master’s degree in civil engineering and an engineer-in-training (EIT) certification, will my resume go straight to the top of the pile during the job hunt?
In my opinion, the answer to this question is no. Well, it may be yes in certain situations, but it really depends on your discipline and what else you have on your resume.
When trying to get hired as a civil engineer, regardless of experience level, I think there are several things that are expected, and then once you go beyond those, every additional item you possess can give you a notch up above the competition.
For example, let’s say you are a civil engineering student applying for jobs. I think we can agree that an undergraduate degree in civil engineering would, in most cases, be required.
An EIT certification, while maybe not required by a hiring firm, would definitely give you an advantage over civil engineers that don’t have an EIT.
That being said, in my engineering-career-coaching experience, I am finding that today the EIT is fairly common among young civil engineers and graduating civil engineering students. Therefore, while this credential is critical and should be obtained, it probably won’t fast-track your job application to the top of the pile.
If you obtain a master’s degree in civil engineering, you may separate yourself from many other young civil engineers who don’t have one. However, I can’t say that this gives you a strong advantage in the corporate job search process. This would depend on the job you are seeking and the prospective employer’s preferences.
I have seen master’s degrees help greatly in the structural engineering discipline, where most firms require one in order to hire a young structural engineer. This is why for civil engineers, with the exception of structural engineers, I often recommend doing a master’s degree while you are working.
This allows you to confirm that the degree is needed in your discipline and possibly deflect some of the cost should you find a civil engineering company that will assist you financially with obtaining your degree.
Lastly, I believe that the great differentiator in job applications for civil engineers can be summarized in one word: experience.
Many civil engineering students underestimate the value of an internship or any other civil engineering work experience that they can obtain while in school. You could make a case – again, depending on your discipline – that work experience as a college student might be more valuable than anything else on your resume during the job application process.
In my own case, I graduated from a good engineering college with a civil engineering degree and an EIT, but no master’s degree, and I had multiple job offers from which to choose. I did also have an engineering internship every year during school, and I should mention that the company I worked for hired me.
So, when it comes to deciding what credentials or achievements will help you stand out from the rest of the pool of civil engineering graduate applicants, remember that your work experience can make all the difference.
Think about it: Companies can support you in obtaining your EIT or your master’s degree, but they can’t go back in time and give you work experience.
Anthony Fasano, P.E., is the founder of The Engineering Career Coach website, which has helped thousands of engineers develop their business and leadership skills. He hosts The Civil Engineering Podcast, and has written a bestselling book for engineers entitled Engineer Your Own Success. You can download a free video series on his website that will give you the tools needed to immediately improve your networking and communication skills by clicking here.