Study Engineering in the US

Engineering – Diversity in the United States

Engineering programs in the United States are as diverse as the many colleges and universities that have engineering as a field of study. Some programs are theoretical, while others provide more practical experience. Some programs are in a single discipline, with others offering interdisciplinary or general engineering degrees. Most engineering students in America specialize in one particular engineering field, though the basic training they receive can be applied in related areas. This flexibility allows students a wide range of career options after graduation.

Study Engineering in the US

Engineering is the second most popular field of study among foreign students in the United States, according to the Institute of International Education Engineering. Nearly 16% of foreign students in American colleges are pursuing engineering degrees. Business rates as the top choice, attracting nearly 21%.

Picking an accredited engineering program is important. Many employers and graduate schools prefer applicants who have earned an undergraduate degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). ABET accreditation ensures the program follows national standards of quality for faculty, curricula, students, administration, facilities and institutional commitment. Of the more than 2,000 four-year colleges and universities in the United States that offer engineering degrees, only 320 are accredited by ABET. Some of the noted institutions that provide ABET-accredited engineering programs include Princeton University, Boston University, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, and Widener University.

Students can specialize in more than 20 branches of engineering, such as aerospace, industrial, nuclear, architectural and computer engineering. Most degrees in the United States are granted in the following broad disciplines that provide a strong foundation from which to further specialize:

  • Civil engineering is the oldest of the engineering professions, focusing on the planning, design and construction of projects such as bridges, dams, harbors and waterways, highways and railroads, buildings and mass transit systems.
  • Chemical engineering applies principles of chemistry, physics and engineering to the design and operation of plants and processes for the production of materials that undergo chemical changes during their manufacture. Chemical engineers develop processes for producing plastics, synthetic fibers, pharmaceuticals, paper, paints and many other consumer products.
  • Electrical engineering is concerned with electrical devices, circuits and systems. Traditionally, electrical engineers have specialized in areas such as power generation and transmission, electrical machinery, electronics, communication, control and circuit design. In the past several decades, this field has expanded considerably with the development of the transistor, integrated circuits and microelectronics, the laser and the digital computer. Many electrical engineers now work in new areas such as quantum electronics (microelectronics), quantum optics (lasers) and computer engineering.
  • Mechanical engineering involves machines and mechanical processes, such as energy generation and conversion. Mechanical engineers design, test and manufacture popular products, such as household appliances, heating systems, cars, ships and airplanes.

Undergraduate programs in engineering can take four to five years to complete, depending on a university’s requirements. The first two years are generally spent studying mathematics, basic sciences, introductory engineering, humanities and social sciences. The final two years are devoted primarily to courses pertaining to students’ fields of study, incorporating more hands-on design work, use of computer technology, and multidisciplinary teaming. Students can also gain valuable industry experience while in the last two years of college through internships and co-ops, giving them an edge in the competitive job market. Some engineering students decide to jump into the working world after graduation, while others choose to obtain graduate degrees to learn new technology, broaden their education and enhance employment opportunities. In the engineering field, there is sometimes too much material to be learned in a four-year program, and therefore a master’s degree is all but a requirement in some entry-level positions.

Graduate school also gives engineering students a chance to change direction in their career path. For instance, many students are deciding to seek master’s degrees in business to gain insight into the business side of engineering. Some colleges have realized this trend, and are offering dual engineering-business degrees in their curriculum. Likely the predominant reason students seek graduate degrees is for the chance to earn more money. Master’s and PhD graduates demand higher salaries, and can expect to earn 20-40% more than engineers with bachelor’s degrees. Students who don’t wish to continue their education beyond their undergraduate degrees don’t have to fret; many companies continue to hire engineers without higher degrees. Starting salaries for engineers with bachelor’s degrees are significantly higher than starting salaries for bachelor’s degrees in other fields. Companies will need employees with engineering knowledge to help them increase productivity and optimise their manufacturing processes, thus creating many fruitful opportunities for engineering graduates – still more will be needed to build and improve new roads, bridges, water and pollution control systems and other public facilities.

Studying engineering in the United States can be an exciting and rewarding experience. With the many innovative and specialized programs from which to choose, students can charter their career paths and sail to brighter futures in the engineering profession.

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