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Online MS in Civil Engineering: Construction Engineering

Master’s Degree Paves the Way to New Opportunities

Guy Bates

Assistant Professor, California Polytechnic State University
Former District Engineer, Coastal San Luis Resource Conservation District

Entering the job market after earning his bachelor’s degree in bioresources and agricultural engineering, engineer Guy Bates quickly determined that he needed to add to his skillset if he wanted to advance in the construction industry. So he enrolled in the University of Washington online Master of Science in Civil Engineering: Construction Engineering program.

“As I looked into professional development, I wanted to focus on construction engineering and construction management,” he said. “That's why I chose the University of Washington.”

Guy also wanted to keep his current job while he went back to school for his master’s. The fact that the UW program was fully online allowed him to do that. It was a perfect fit.

After earning his UW degree, when he worked as a district engineer for a resource conservation district in Southern California, he talked with us about his experience in our program and how it gave him skills he could use on the job immediately, as well as prepare him to further his career.

Can you tell us a little about your current job?

I'm a registered professional civil engineer in California and work as the district engineer for a resource conservation district. I do design work and also a lot of contract work, construction estimating and other projects relating to sustainability.

How did the UW master's program prepare you for the work you're doing now? 

I learned about construction estimating from a contractor's point of view, and about working through all the different steps required in construction, and then seeing how that relates to construction contracting. Also, learning different ways of delivering projects — public works projects in particular — has definitely helped me as I develop projects and get them installed.

Were you able to apply what you were learning immediately in your job? 

There was a lot that I learned related to road construction that I was able to put to use in the design of roads and estimating the cost of construction. For example, at the time that I was going through the program, we were working on some larger projects at my job that required a more significant effort in the realm of cost estimating. No one in my office had that knowledge other than me. It was definitely useful.

Did the degree open doors to new opportunities?

I'm now teaching, which I would not have been able to do without a master's degree. In addition, my education related to project procurement, contracting and sustainability — all of those are big issues that will definitely help my career in the future.

How did the online aspect of the program influence your decision to go back to school?

Online learning was important to me and I really liked it. The asynchronous nature of it was helpful. I couldn't have done a master's at another school because it just wouldn't have worked with my work schedule.

What were the instructors like?

The instructors had a lot of practical knowledge and research experience. They were available for you. If you had a question, or in your posts something came out that was not quite right, the instructors were there. It was almost like you were in the classroom. They were the best part of the program.