Engineering

Links to More Information on U.S. Study in Engineering and Engineering Technology

See also our page of Top U.S. Study Web Sites for some more general sites that allow you to search for undergraduate or graduate programs in fields including engineering and engineering technology.

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Graduate Engineering Study

To obtain in-depth training in an engineering specialty, many engineers pursue graduate study. Admissions requirements for either master’s or doctoral programs typically include good undergraduate grades, English proficiency demonstrated by taking the TOEFL, and sometimes scores on the GRE general and/or subject tests, along with letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose.

In the United States, it’s possible to enter the field of engineering at the master’s degree level with an undergraduate major in another area. To do this, one must choose one of the limited number of graduate programs that focus on professional-entry education. Solid preparation in mathematics and the sciences will be expected. Such programs may longer than the standard two years to complete depending on the particular program’s curriculum and how much related study particular students have previously completed.

In most graduate programs, students choose an area of concentration, often a subfield of one of the five major engineering specializations (chemical, civil, electrical, industrial, and mechanical engineering). For example, a student with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering might pursue a master’s degree in environmental engineering or structural engineering. Students pursuing master’s degrees in engineering conduct research and participate in creative design projects.

Doctoral degree programs in engineering generally require two to four years of study beyond the master’s level and are intended for those engineers seeking positions in research, product development, or university teaching.

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Undergraduate Engineering Study

Today’s engineers are highly educated and qualified professionals who play an important role in shaping our society. Engineers design roads and bridges, create systems that ensure safe drinking water, design medical instruments that can save lives, build systems to contain hazardous wastes, and conceive and design technologies to revolutionize our communications and information systems. In many cases, engineers plan, design, and supervise such projects from conception to completion.

Engineering study is one of the most challenging academic programs offered by U.S. colleges and universities. It is also one of the most popular majors among international students in the United States—about 15 percent of these students choose engineering and engineering technology majors each year. And why not? Engineering careers offer challenging and rewarding work, ample opportunities for advancement, good pay and benefits, and status within society. And while some engineering specialties, such as environmental engineering, are growing faster than others, those individuals who successfully complete an engineering degree program in the United States will find themselves well-qualified for many positions in industry, research, management, and academia.

Students interested in pursuing postsecondary engineering education should begin preparing for the rigors of university study as early as possible—some university engineering faculty recommend that students begin preparing for an engineering career as early as their first year of high school.

While in high school, students should take courses in algebra (two years), physics (one year), geometry (one year), chemistry (one year), trigonometry (one semester), and English (four years). Other recommended courses include history, foreign languages, humanities, biology, calculus, and computer programming. Honors courses, especially in mathematics and science, are also highly recommended.

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U.S. Engineering Specializations

Over 250 engineering specializations are offered by U.S. universities. Some of these specializations apply engineering principles to a particular environment. Others focus on particular types of problems that may be encountered in many environments. Some engineers organize broad processes involving many different elements. Others study the microscopic structures and properties of particular types of matter.

Even more confusing than the differences between engineering specializations are the similarities. Different terms may be used interchangeably for the same area of study. Two programs may use the same name but include quite different focuses of study. Particular engineering specializations are often defined as a subfield of a number of different engineering fields.

Below are defined some of the many engineering specializations, beginning with the basic ones from which all others have developed.

The Five Basic Fields

Chemical engineering. Chemical engineers apply changes in the composition or properties of matter (chemistry) for use in industry. Chemists often perform the basic research, and then chemical engineers modify the processes discovered to make them suitable for efficient, full-scale production. A few specializations include polymer engineering, food engineering, and energy production.

Civil engineering. This field, the oldest branch of engineering, focuses on designing and building structures for society’s use, including everything from skyscrapers to pipelines. A few of the many civil engineering specializations include aerospace engineering, environmental and sanitation engineering, geotechnical engineering, and hydrologic or water resource engineering.

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