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How crucial is the choice of the thesis vs. non-thesis option in the Master's degree?

I am a graduate student in Electrical Engineering who opted for the non-thesis option in order to avoid the uncertainty of the time of graduation that is associated with the thesis option. However, I am also planning to pursue a PhD in the future and I have heard how not choosing the thesis option could hinder me from being accepted in the PhD program that I want. Your input will be very much appreciated as I am feeling worried that I made the wrong choice. #engineering #engineer #mechanical-engineering #computer-engineering #electrical-engineering #software-engineering #phd #science-phd

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Peter’s Answer

Mohammad:


I have always advised Masters students to take the Thesis Route when pursuing their masters degree for several reasons, even if not going on the a Ph.D.:


This is a rare chance to pursue original research. You go through the very disciplined activity of carrying out research on a topic and then developing a written thesis, presenting and defending that research. This skill will be a great advantage throughout your career.
This sets you apart from those that simply complete another (admittedly higher) level of courses, followed by yet another Exam.
In job interviews a thesis topic gives you a natural subject to discuss with (and impress) your Interviewer. As one who has interviewed many candidates during my engineering career, this was a topic that I'd always ask about.


Given your desire to pursue a Ph.D, I'd urge you to reconsider doing a thesis project. In my experience, such a project can be started well into your masters program without setting back your schedule. Yes, a thesis may take a Quarter or two more than simply taking an Exam, but I feel the benefits are well worth it and will certainly enhance your chances of getting into the Ph.D. Program of your choice.


Good luck, Pete Sturtevant, Masters in Engineering ('74), P.E.

Thank you comment icon Thank you very much Mr. Sturtevant! Unfortunately I have already made the decision to go with the non-thesis option and this semester will be my final semester before I graduate. Based on your response, it seems you think it is crucial to choose the thesis option to pursue a PhD but it will be good for jobs too. And that made me think of how I can remedy my situation now given that I already made the wrong choice given that I do desire a PhD. Mohammad
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Peter’s Answer

Mohammad:


From your response to my first advice, I see that you are too far advanced in your masters program to start on a Thesis. So I advise that you plunge boldly ahead with your plans to pursue a Ph.D. Hopefully you can get some good recommendations from some of your professors. You might enhance your chances of admission by getting to know the research interests of a prominent professor at one or more of the universities you will be applying. Assuming the research looks interesting to you, you could contact each by letter, indicating your interest in their research area, asking if there would be a place for yourself as a Ph.D Candidate and describing why/what you could contribute.


Good luck, Pete Sturtevant

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Luis "Lou"’s Answer

I chose the non-thesis route for my Masters, pretty much for the reason you mentioned. I don't know how that might affect your candidacy into a PhD program, but I can tell you that for industry it really doesn't matter.
I have prepared many "thesis" since graduating, and learned by doing the rights and wrongs.. Would have writng one for my Masters prepared me better? Perhaps.
If you plan a career in academia, writing a thesis for your Masters would be great preparation for your PhD.But if you are looking for a job in industry, I don't think it maters.
Good luck.
P.S.: I believe there is a subtle difference in your title/diploma if you do or do not do a thesis: if you do, you get a "Master in Science of...", but if you Don't you get a "Masters of ...".

Thank you comment icon Thank you very much for taking the time and replying. I am glad that your experience shows that my choice will not hinder me from the job I want. Mohammad
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Ken’s Answer

Hi!


Sorry you are in such an uncertain situation. I have a few suggestions:
- talk to your academic adviser to see what he/she might have to say, as he/she is more familiar with the your course of study and your school's courses, policies, practices, etc.
- talk to the head of alumni relations to arrange to talk to graduates of your school who participated in similar programs and received the degree you are seeking and are doing what you intend to do with your PhD, as they have gone through the programs and can give you some more educated advice
- here is a professional organization to which Electrical Engineers belong, by locating a local chapter and attending a meeting, you can learn from them enough information that may make the next step a little clearer
https://www.ieee.org/index.html


Let me know if and how this might be of help. Keep me posted. I would like to follow your progress.

Thank you comment icon Thank you so much! Those are great suggestions that I wasn't aware of and will definitely give them a try! Mohammad
Thank you comment icon You are welcome. Keep me posted. I would like to follow your progress. This might also be helpful to determine what you might want to do next: <h2>https://www.themuse.com/advice/14-free-personality-tests-thatll-help-you-figure-yourself-out</h2> Ken Simmons
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