Columbia Engineering vs Carnegie Mellon Engineering


I am going to graduate school for engineering. I want to start in a standard engineering industry and move up to business (probably get an MBA) and work at a hedge fund or other similar business job.
I was accepted to both an M.S. in Columbia engineering and M.S. in Carnegie Mellon engineering. At CMU I would be getting a specialty in computationl engineering (not comput. finance).

Carnegie Mellon is, no doubt, a better engineering school than Columbia, but I haven't exactly heard of CMU being the breeding ground for Wall Street whereas I've heard 19th century French Literature majors out of Columbia can find jobs right out of school at Wall Street just with only the name Columbia (I certainly have my doubts).

Which is more renown in the business setting? And is it true that high level corporate employers have much more respect for people with engineering or physics degrees than ones with business degrees?


Comments (15)

Apr 12, 2017 - 9:54pm

My impression is that Columbia places very well. Columbia is a better name and the students who get in are typically slightly smarter as well. If you're a top notch student, then you'll get to where you want to be regardless of Columbia or CMU. However, on the off chance that you don't perform as well, then the Columbia brand would likely still open up interviews.

Apr 14, 2017 - 12:15am

I think overall it is probably true that the Columbia students are smarter if you consider the other 46% of CMU students who are not in either computer science or engineering, but I would certainly bet that the smartest at CMU are more intelligent than the smartest at Columbia.

Yes Columbia is a better name. But is it a better name in my SPECIFIC situation (business at CMU vs business at Columbia is a no brainer but not when comparing anything related to engineering or science)?

Apr 14, 2017 - 1:37am

Columbia is actually pretty decent for engineering. US News, for what it's worth, ranked columbia #13 for engineering (CMU is at #5) tying with cornell and beating all other ivies. I guess if you are trying to go into finance or business in the future anyway it's a good balance between name value and decent engineering education. As someone said above IEOR undergrads place really well into IB, finance and consulting, I'm not too sure about grads but I think they do as well.

That said, there is a perception of MS programs being cash cows and quality of undergrads being better than masters, and some employers may think so as well. But I think its a problem shared by most top schools, and if you are good enough you won't have problem in recruiting; a lot of quant positions require minimum of masters anyway. Both are great schools with great brands so you can't really go wrong with either, though if you are going into business, especially in NYC Columbia might give you an edge.

Apr 19, 2017 - 1:49am

I've heard the "cash cow"claim before, but I've never understood it. Maybe it only applies to Stanford and the Ivies, but I know CM is actually 7k CHEAPER for masters students and has a 20% acceptance rate (even after the natural self-select which happens for grad schools and not undergrad). I don't know why anyone would think undergrads are a better indicator of quality since only the ones who succeed in undergrad first would pursue a masters in the first place (and most people do pursue masters or PhD degrees nowadays)

Apr 19, 2017 - 10:18am

Tuition for bachelors and masters are mostly similar, but masters programs usually have no scholarships or financial aid, and with higher proportion of internationals, most students will be paying out of pocket or by taking loans. This, along with the trend of these schools aggressively expanding the size of the programs while not providing enough resources for them, is why they are sometimes called cash cows.

These schools give out tons of scholarships/financial aid to undergrads, and fully fund PhD programs. At top undergrad programs you see most of the people serious about continuing studies go straight into PhD programs, and not masters. A lot of people who are not so sure about 5+ year PhD commitment start PhD, then drop out after a year or two with a masters degree. In this case, they would get the masters degree without paying tuition since they entered as PhD’s.

Also, most STEM undergrads take grad level classes as upperclassmen so many think that it doesn’t provide much beyond an undergraduate degree when they are often 1 year and will recruit for similar positions. A lot of my friends simply chose to do masters because they weren’t satisfied with recruiting senior year and wanted a one year extension.

The result is that at these masters programs, you see a very high proportion of international students who see more value in these programs (either to break into the US or get a US brand name), and fewer graduates from “target” undergrads. The masters students are obviously people who have done well in undergrad, but you won’t see, for example, that many ivy undergrads going into ivy or other MS programs, as they tend to go for PhDs or straight to employment. Some exceptions are people continuing to MS from BS at the same school, as schools often have facilitated application process and incentives for those.

That said, the only thing that really matters is the value that you will personally be getting from the degree. The programs that you are considering place well in finance/engineering, and are especially useful if you are trying to transition to a different field or location.

Apr 26, 2017 - 2:24am

Thank you for the info.

Assuming you have a background not in engineering, I think you perhaps have different standards for STEM and engineering. In engineering, if you get a PhD, you are now often either too specialized to offer versatility in industry OR you want to be a professor. It is really a dichotomy. A good engineer will almost always see the value added from a masters (15k+ usually per year) and the very small marginal gain (or even loss) from a PhD. For this reason, the best engineers who want to work in industry will usually go straight to a masters (this is what I see at my undergrad) or will try and wait to get an employer to pay for it (more uncommon). No one who wants to work in industry goes for a PhD, and the ones in industry who have PhD's are usually people who switched from academia to industry.

In the other STEM subjects (STM), a PhD is almost always required for either industry or academia and so yes I imagine MS degree seekers would be deemed "inferior".

I have no idea whether recruiters see the difference between engineers and other STM fields but from all I have seen it definitely appears the best engineers would go for masters degrees unless they want to work in academia.

So I guess my final question is: Isn't an MS in engineering from a target school better than just a BS from one? (Two candidates of same exact experience and major and one has a BS from target school and one has BS from state school and MS from target school: Who gets the job?) It's hard to believe any logical person would actually give a **** where I got my BS.

PS: Also, financial aid I'm pretty sure is only given to students whose families make like less than 50k at the ivies and other elite schools. I can't imagine that being very much of the general undergrad populace.

P.P.S. Can I get some references (links) as to where many get the idea of MS degrees being "cash cows" from? I've just never seen it backed by hard numbers so I'm wondering if it's just a rumor based on an appealing (but specious) premise. It would definitely seem no more of a "cash cow" than undergraduate degrees (especially since I'm only there a year versus four)

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