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Q: What are some of the different engineering
Q: What does it take to become an engineer?
Q: What types of classes do engineering students
take in college?
Q: How successful can engineers become?
Q: What can a high-school student interested in
engineering do to prepare?
What does it take to become an
To become an engineer, a Bachelor of Science degree is required. An engineering
degree takes four to five years of rigorous study and preparation. Entrance
requirements for most colleges are similar. Most require the prospective
student to be in the upper half of his or her high school graduating class and
have a good ACT or SAT score. Obtain a catalog from the university you plan to
attend. It has vital admission and financial aid information. You can receive a
catalog from your high school counselor or write to the university admissions
office for one. Many schools also have web sites that you may visit, and you
may order a catalog through e-mail.
Many schools offer Engineering Technology programs. Engineering
technology focuses on applied engineering. The program tends to be more
hands-on and focuses on design more than analysis.
Engineers are typically good problem solvers and team players who enjoy working
with others to design, construct, and analyze projects. Creativity and
innovation are the keys to successful engineering along with sharp
communication skills. Mathematics is the language of engineers, and a firm
grasp on algebra, trigonometry, and calculus is essential. A knowledge of
chemistry and physics are also tools of the trade required by
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What types of classes do engineering students take
A Typical Freshman Course Schedule
Computer Science ½
Introduction to Engineering ½
A Typical Sophomore Course Schedule
Linear Algebra 1/2
Differential Equations 1/2
Engineering Economics 1/2
Coursework and Labs
Engineering curricula vary from major to major and school to
school, however most disciplines require at least two years of advanced math
such as calculus, as well as physics, chemistry, and engineering courses.
Junior and Senior level coursework is primarily discipline-specific courses and
laboratory work. Many colleges and universities require that an intensive
project be completed in the Senior year. Projects may be performed individually
or in teams, and can range from developing a complex computer model or program
to designing and building a full-scale prototype of a new design. Projects may
involve a research report and presentation of results to a committee of
students and/or faculty members.
Sometime during the course of an under-graduate engineering
program, various other courses must also be taken such as those in the
humanities, social sciences, biological sciences, and the arts in order to
ensure a well-rounded education.
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Calculus - Mathematics
concerned especially with rates of change, and the finding of lengths, areas,
- English - English
as an Engineering course? Well, not exactly, however English is a required
course in most engineering curricula. Engineers spend much of their time
writing reports that describe their findings and designs, therefore writing and
mastery of language is an integral skill for engineers.
- Drafting - These days, most
engineers use Computer Aided Drafting to assist them with creating engineering
drawings. It is important at the outset that engineers understand how to read
and create engineering drawings, which are important to conveying engineering
information. A first year drafting class will introduce students to the tools -
both manual and computer- that are needed to develop and understand engineering
- Statistics - A
branch of mathematics that deal with the collection, analysis, interpretation,
and presentation of numerical data.
- Physics - The study
of matter and energy and their interactions in the fields of mechanics, heat,
electricity, acoustics, optics, magnetism, radiation, atomic structure, or
- Chemistry - Science that dials
with the composition, structure, and properties of substances and their
Computer Science - These days,
all engineers need some understanding of computers. In addition computer
programming, in languages like C and FORTRAN are commonly used by engineers of
all disciplines. Computer Scientists work with computer hardware and software
to develop programs, and develop and design integrated computer networks such
as the internet.
Mechanics - A
branch of the physical sciences that deals with energy and forces and their
effect on bodies. Mechanics is further broken down into two disciplines - statics,
the study of forces on objects that are not in motion, and dynamics, the
study of forces on objects in motion.
A typical statics problem would be "How much weight would a
particular roof structure support before it is no longer safe?". A typical
dynamics problem would be "What would the trajectory of an airplane be given a
certain amount of thrust"
Thermodynamics - A
typical thermodynamics is the foundation for designing processes that deal with
heating and cooling. The design of heaters, air conditioners, refrigerators,
and power plants all rely on the science of thermodynamics. A typical
thermodynamics problem might be "How would you determine the size and type of
air-conditioning required for a theater that seats 1,000 people?"
Heat Transfer - A branch of thermodynamics,
Electronics and Electro-Magnetics
- The study of electricity and electrical devices, and the effects of
Materials Science -
The study of the behavior of materials. It bridges the gap between chemistry
and mechanics. A typical Materials Science problem might be "How much
deformation (bending) would occur before cracks started forming in a particular
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How successful can
The field of engineering is so diverse, there is
almost no limit to the career opportunities available to engineers. Engineering
has historically been considered a dignified and profession. Engineers can go
into public or private industry, or academia. Engineers can work on project
teams, as independent consultants, as sales personnel, work in the insurance
industry, or work for local, state, or federal governments.
The engineering profession has few limits on
career path. Engineers can become lawyers and specialize in patent law or the
law of intellectual property. Engineers can go into law enforcement and work as
forensic specialists. Engineers can go on to gain knowledge of economics and
finance and evaluate the cost and profitability of new projects or systems.
Astronauts, presidents of large corporations, and even Presidents of the United
States have received an engineering education.
Engineers are also compensated well for the hard
work that they do. Starting salaries for engineers in industry may range from
the low $20,000 to the high $40,000 range, depending on the type of job
offered, the location of the job, and the job discipline. Typically, Chemical,
Petroleum, and Nuclear engineers' starting salaries are slightly higher than
the starting salaries of Civil engineers. Mechanical and Electrical engineers'
salary typically fall in-between. Regardless of the starting salary of a given
discipline, the salary difference is typically diluted as the engineers gain
more experience, and begin to specialize within their sub-disciplines. In time,
salaries reflect the level of ability exhibited by the engineer than with their
undergraduate major, therefore it is very important that a student select an
engineering major that is best suited to her or his preferences and abilities.
What can a high-school student do to
If you're reading this now, you're off to a good
start. Browse the web to see what different engineering firms, engineering
societies, and engineering schools do. Contact local engineering firms and ask
if there are any summer internships available. Talk to engineering college
students and professors and talk to working engineers to learn more about
different majors. If you're in high-school, talk to your guidance counselor
about diferent options for majors and colleges. To become an engineer, it is
helpful to have certain skills. Simple tools like mathematical manipulation,
reading with good comprehension, a broad vocabulary, and a little ingenuity are
In high school, you are competing against the
average high school student, one third of whom go to college. Therefore, in
college, you are competing with the afterage good high school student. In
college courses, less time is taken in class, and much more is expected from
the student outside of class. Thus, the student is responsible for providing
adequate time in his or her schedule to be properly prepared for class, but
more importantly for a career. Below are outlined subjects that you can take in
high school to better prepare yourself for college.
General High School Course work
Social Studies 2
Foreign Language 2
It is helpful to take advanced courses in
Calculus, Chemistry, and Physics, if your school offers the class. Advanced
Placement (AP) courses in these subjects can really help when it comes to
starting off in college! It also helps to be a good
well-rounded student, and to join any science or engineering clubs in your