MSCHE v. MECPI… what’s the difference?

A number of CHMEs have been asking about these two graduate degrees.  In particular, how do they differ and what are their relative values.  Let’s look at both, and understand the requirements of each and how they might be useful to your professional career:

Master of Science in Chemical Engineering (MSCHE)

The MSCHE is a 32 credit hour, research-based degree that requires the student prepare and defend an original thesis on a research topic.  This requires the student to work under the direction of one of the CHME faculty on a research project in the labs of Jett Hall.  The coursework requirements are rigidly defined, and found here:

Students pursuing the MSCHE are typically interested in careers involving technical pathways, such as process researchers and/or managers.  

The MSCHE can also be a short exploration of Ph D studies.  The required coursework is identical, while the Ph D requires both additional elective courses and extended research studies.  Many students have successfully moved through the MS degree right into a Ph D program (both at NMSU and at other institutions).  

The advantages of completing the MSCHE at NMSU before transferring to another institution to complete Ph D studies are:

  1. you’re already familiar with the faculty and learning resources, making the transition less stressful;
  2. the core CHME course will transfer to other institutions to fulfill many of the core requirements there, leaving primarily only elective courses to complete,. and thus permitting the new Ph D student to focus on research (for which they will have already learned how to use library resources, develop experimental plans, and author journal articles based on their work); and
  3. making use of the accelerated MS program, a student can typically complete the requirements of the MSCHE within 15-18 months of completing the BSCHE.

Master of Engineering in Chemical Process Industries (MECPI)

The 30 credit hour MECPI degree will appear in the 2020-2021 catalog as a flexible graduate degree option that permits the student to define what courses are important to their career progression.  The re-tooled MECPI requirements are found here on the CHME website (as the 2020-2021 catalog is not yet publicly available).  Things to note about this degree pathway:

  1. There are no prescribed courses you must take, there are categories (engineering, process/industrial safety, communication, and electives) with multiple options available in each category.
  2. This flexibility permits a student to focus on a particular technical area (polymers, water, energy, etc.), a mixture of such concentration areas, or blend their technical content with grad-level business and communications courses (such as some content found in an MBA program).  The choice of how to define their degree path is up to the student to propose.  For those employed in the industry, the student can work with their supervisor to define a degree path that will lead to desired promotions or job opportunities.
  3. Students working in industry pursuing the MECPI also have the option of taking the course sequence of CHME 595/596/597, which will permit them to substitute an engineering project being performed under their direction for six of the degree credit hours (leaving 24 credit hours of coursework).  The decision to use an engineering project as part of the degree does not need to be made at the time of application.  
  4. The MECPI cannot be accelerated as the MSCHE, nor does it require completion of the GRE, nor is an MECPI student eligible for TA/RA funding.
  5. The MECPI can be completed completely off campus because there is no research component that requires access to the Jett Hall laboratories.


Both the MSCHE and MECPI are different graduate-level degrees that can help you to achieve promotions or desirable employment.  

If you have interest in fundamental research and want to explore the Ph D program without the 4-5 year commitment, talk to one of the CHME faculty about joining their research team.  As noted, the MSCHE can be completed in as little as 15 month beyond the BSCHE, and should you decide the Ph D program is not for you, you still walk away with a graduate credential to your name.  

If you are focused on a career in the chemical process industries and want a graduate degree with a particular focus, tailor yourself an MECPI program of study.

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