Take a prime job offer or earn his master’s? Purdue’s online Interdisciplinary Engineering master’s degree lets graduate do both

Engineers career journey took a transformative turn when his company offered tuition reimbursement for Purdue University's top-ranked online Master's in Engineering, specializing in Systems Engineering. Purdue's program offered seamless work and education balance, positioning him for a successful leap in his career.
Alex Pax
Purdue Online Interdisciplinary Master's in Engineering

Alex Pax was in a 4+1 program at Ohio State University, which would have earned him an engineering master’s degree with an extra year in school on top of his bachelor’s, but he decided to interview in his senior year and GM made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. 

Online Purdue Engineering Master's Student

“I said, OK I'll go to GM but immediately after I got there, I was already thinking grad school,” Pax said. “I wanted to keep working while doing my degree.” 

Pax was able to do that through Purdue University’s 100% online Interdisciplinary Master of Science in Engineering with a concentration in Systems Engineering. Designed for working professionals seeking graduate-level knowledge of systems engineering, the online curriculum is taught by the same faculty as on Purdue’s flagship campus. Online graduate engineering programs from Purdue are ranked #2 nationally by U.S. News & World Report. 

A software and controls engineer for GM Defense, Pax realized early on that to advance his career at GM he needed an advanced degree. That GM would pay for it through the company’s Technical Education Program (TEP) was a bonus. Purdue and GM have a TEP partnership. 

Pax, who’s also worked on automated driving systems at GM, had some options for earning his master’s within commuting distance of his home, including the University of Michigan. The online systems concentration option offered by Purdue and Purdue’s internationally known College of Engineering won out. 

“I knew that systems engineering is extremely important for GM and it was quite interesting to look at a problem from a much higher view and try to understand how everything fits together, that definitely interests me,” Pax said. “I really wanted to go to another highly ranked school, a place where faculty is world-renowned at what they do. That made me gravitate towards the Purdue online option.” 

It didn’t hurt that Pax’s older brother earned his bachelor’s and master’s in mechanical engineering from Purdue. 

“He definitely had a good experience at Purdue, really loved the faculty and the things he did there,” Pax said. 

Pax thinks of systems as the discipline of looking at the big picture. His goal is to advance to a technical leadership role where he’s more involved with defining and designing the architecture of a project so that all the pieces end up functioning well together. He thinks the step he’s taken with his Purdue degree positions him for such a leap in his career. 

“I definitely think that having the dedicated exposure to systems engineering will make you a better engineer,” Pax said. 

Even while working on his master’s, he found that knowledge he gained from the real-life case studies, group projects and other materials and activities in the program was immediately applicable.  

“Whatever class I was in, there was something that came up at work that was in some way related to what I was doing for the class,” Pax said. “It always seemed to happen.” 

Although he had to be conscious of time management, Pax said the flexibility and asynchronous delivery of Purdue’s online program made it feasible to fit earning his degree around work and the rest of his life. 

“For the most part the online delivery was great and the professors understood work priorities,“ Pax said. “They made sure to give us plenty of time to complete assignments. I never really felt like my work was compromised by my schoolwork or vice versa. I felt like I was able to balance both really well.” 

He said the program included regular interaction with faculty, who were more than willing to meet, and with fellow students. He didn’t feel isolated or that on-campus students had an advantage over their online peers. 

Pax said the Purdue program’s advising component also was strong. He said the advisors were well versed in assisting online students, in helping students tailor their plan of study to fit their educational needs and career goals, and in helping them stay on track to graduation. 

“It is absolutely a great opportunity and it's a great way to get your degree,” Pax said. 

For more information about Purdue’s 100% online Interdisciplinary Master of Science in Engineering with a concentration in Systems Engineering, visit the program website.  

Writer: Greg Kline, 765-426-8545, gkline@purdue.edu