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I have been accepted into Cornell for M.Eng in Biomedical Engineering. I had originally applied for an MS but since they've stopped enrolling students for MS I got into M.Eng which is an industry oriented course. I would like to get a PhD eventually in the field. Will going for an industry oriented course (M.Eng) over a research course end my hopes of getting a good PhD admit?

  • You don't need a master's degree to be admitted to a US PhD program. – aeismail Apr 25 '15 at 18:32
  • When they told you that the MS was no longer an option, did you ask about getting admitted directly into the PhD program? – Brian Borchers Apr 25 '15 at 22:15
  • I did.... they didn't reply to that – KnIn Apr 27 '15 at 4:21
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Generally speaking, the main difference between an M.Eng and an M.S. is in research. An M.Eng is usually a course-based degree and usually does not involve any research. There is often some sort of "project" course which students will be required to take for credit, but that is still far from research. An M.S would usually involve a research project and thesis, and it would give you exposure to the type of work a PhD student would be doing. That being said, many schools also offer course-based M.S. programs, so the name of the degree does not really mean much.

I would not recommend enrolling in an M.Eng program if you wish to study for PhD. In the U.S. in many schools having a master's degree is not a requirement for getting into a PhD program. I would advise you to inquire whether it's possible to be admitted to the PhD program at Cornell instead of the M.Eng.

For schools, the advantage of admitting students without master's degrees to PhD programs is that they will be around longer and probably have more time to do good work. In the case that the student doesn't quite meet up to their expectations, the can arrange for the student to leave with a M.S. halfway through the program. This to some extent compensates for the risk involved in admitting an undergrad (since they will likely not have much research experience).

M.S. students on the other hand have research experience. They have also written a thesis and possibly some papers. This gives the admission committee better insight into the applicants capabilities. Furthermore, a student with an M.S. degree will likely need less time to get started on their research and will not need to take as many courses, so they will probably hit the ground running once they enter the graduate program.

A student with an M.Eng degree will have a shorter PhD than the students coming in with B.S. degrees but will not have the experience the students with M.S. degrees have. So they will be at a disadvantage compared to both groups. Because of this admission to a "top 10" school would be a bit more difficult with an M.Eng degree.

Another thing to consider is that if your goal is a top 10 school, many of them give priority for PhD admission to students already pursuing M.S. degrees at their school. These are typically the schools which require master's degrees for PhD admission (such as Stanford and MIT).

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  • Assuming I have the same research experience as an undergrad after completing the 1 year long program will I be preferred over undergraduate students applying directly for PhD? – KnIn Apr 27 '15 at 4:20
  • I think this would be more of a matter of personal opinion and preference for the admission committee members. I applied directly for PhD programs as an undergrad with little research experience and I got good results in general. I ended up getting a M. Eng from a decently ranked but not top notch school and applied again and got results worse than my first time. Some of the prospective advisers I spoke to at the schools that rejected me said that my M. Eng was a disadvantage in their eyes. – somerandomdude Apr 27 '15 at 6:27
  • That being said I still was able to get admission from a good school (quite a bit better than the place I got my M.Eng from). Not as good as Cornell though. – somerandomdude Apr 27 '15 at 6:29
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In the United States, the distinction between MS and M.Eng is not terribly large. An MS is typically a somewhat more "heavy" course than an M.Eng, but the distinction is unlikely to matter to any significant degree for US Ph.D. admissions.

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