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Would it be out of the ordinary to get a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering and then go for a Masters in something like Civil or Structural Engineering?

I don't know a lot about how transitioning to a Masters program works.. Do people usually continue on in the same field, or is branching out common?

  • What do you mean 'common'? Of course this happens and from my experience it happens quite a lot in fields that are somewhat connected. You might want to specify your question a bit more so it can be answered more exactly. – superuser0 Jun 27 '13 at 18:52
  • It is quite common for related fields. – Bitwise Jun 27 '13 at 19:32
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This depends on where you are. In the US, this would generally not be too difficult, particularly if one uses elective courses at the bachelor's level to take some of the courses in the "new" field.

Here in Germany, it would actually be almost impossible to switch as you've suggested. The reason for this is that the "prerequisite" for enrolling as master's student in a particular field is usually taken to be the bachelor's degree in the same field as taught at the university! This is known as a "consecutive" degree requirement, and makes life very difficult for people coming from outside Germany.

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  • I agree that the German Bachelor/Master system is modelled for continuity, but I don't think it would be as difficult to switch as you put it. I now several Master programs in Engineering where the formal requirement is to have a Bachelor in Engineering, so a switch as mentioned in the question would be feasible. Depending on the exact regulations, it may be necessary to do a few courses from the other Bachelor program, but it should usually be possible. – silvado Jun 28 '13 at 14:59
  • @silvado: You are describing "nonconsecutive" master's programs, in which the degree choice is somewhat flexible. But these are relatively "modern" programs and are often designed to be interdisciplinary. "Traditional" programs, such as civil, electrical, or mechanical engineering; natural sciences; or mathematics are normally "consecutive" programs, and as such are closed to people who do not have a bachelor's degree in that discipline. – aeismail Jun 28 '13 at 15:29
  • I received a Bachelor's degree in physics in Germany and I actually had the possibility to switch to a whole bunch of fields, including mechanical engineering, for my Master's. However, the converse (engineers becoming physicists) is not possible and I understand it's the exception rather than the rule. – Jonas Greitemann Dec 3 '14 at 9:07
  • In the Netherlands, and not talking about 'hogescholen', a single Bachelor program has a logical continuation in one or multiple Master programs at the same university. However, it is possible to follow a completely unrelated Master, even at a different faculty or different university. In some instances your Bachelor diploma is enough to grant you access to this Master, in other cases you will need to do an entry test or even have a bridge year. I assume there are cases in which this does not apply. I know you cannot become a lawyer if you have not finished a law bachelor and master. – Maarten van Wesel Apr 8 '15 at 16:00
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At least in the US, that is very common. Obviously, it's not as common as getting a Masters in the same area as your Bachelors, but it's still pretty run-of-the-mill. This is especially true when there's some sort of overlap in the two fields, as there is between Mechanical and Civil/Structural Engineering.

A lot of top schools accept applicants into engineering Masters programs who lack engineering undergraduate degrees and even discuss this on their websites (Berkeley, Purdue, etc; I know those particular links are not for civil engineering, but they should at least highlight that it's pretty common for students to tweak their interests between undergrad and grad school). A simple Google search will bring up even more examples.

There are even programs out there specifically designed for people to make these sorts of switches (and even bigger ones). Boston University's LEAP is one example where students can have majored in just about anything and convert to engineering at the Masters level.

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It's pretty common, at least in the US. I, personally, have an undergrad degree in Anthropology, and am studying Management Information Systems/IT Project Management in grad school. I just had to take a few prerequisites before I could start my master's classes. The way it worked for me is I was granted "conditional acceptance" to my master's program, with the condition that I had to complete all the prereqs (3 classes, in my case) within a year. Talk to the advisers in the master's program you want to do, they should have all the information you need.

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I know it is defintly possible. My father is a civil engineer and a couple of his coworkers have gone that route. I also know if you are trying to go into civil, many civil engineering companies like to hire a few mechanical engineers.

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