Many national professional societies, including the National Society of Professional Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, are calling for post-baccalaureate education to become the gateway to the profession. Some go so far as to favor this as a requirement for professional licensing. The need for advanced engineering education for the growing Northeast Florida economy is also evident in two local economic studies, a survey of local engineers, and letters of support from several local chapters of engineering societies. MSME graduates will enter a strong job market and enjoy, on the average, 19% higher starting salaries than those holding just the BS.
The MSME program consists of 30 credits with students able to take a thesis option (24 credit hours of course work and 6 credits toward the thesis) or a practice–oriented project option (27 credits of course work and 3 credits toward the project). While there are no formal tracks, students generally focus on one of two areas: machine science or thermofluids. Enrollment in the MSME program is projected to begin with a headcount of about 5 in year 1 and reach 39 (FTE of about 18) in year 5. Initially, the target audience will be local engineers who desire an advanced engineering degree and graduating UNF students receiving their bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering. As the program expands, engineering students from outside the local region will be attracted to the University of North Florida, helping to ensure a diverse student population and the long-term vitality of the program. The first cohort of students will begin their studies in Fall 2007.
Additional resources will be required for the MSME program. While the current faculty is well qualified to offer a graduate program, there are currently only five faculty lines assigned to Mechanical Engineering. In order to maintain an accredited BS program, active research practices, and significant service activities, two additional faculty members will be required. In addition, one additional full time laboratory technician will be required to support the teaching and research activities associated with the program. A vigorous MS program will require equipment beyond that needed for a BS program and thus, an additional $120,000 is requested over the first 5 years, with an annual allocation of $30,000 thereafter. An additional $20,000 for operating expenses is required over the first 5 years with an annual allocation of $5,000 thereafter. Library resources are currently inadequate and $20,000 per year is required to maintain an on-line subscription to technical journals and to add titles to the Library’s book holdings. Additional space requirements over the first 5 years include 600 ft 2 of faculty office space, 1000 ft 2 of mechanical engineering laboratory space and 600 ft 2 of graduate assistant office space.