Engineering is a branch of applied science that uses mathematics, science and technology to solve problems. Students in an engineering program are trained to understand the mechanics of buildings and machines so that they can design and build functional tools, systems and structures.
Any engineering concentration will require you to take many science and mathematics classes, so you should be an analytical and logical thinker if you want to study this field. Engineers also innovate new products, so you must be able to think in unconventional ways too. You can study engineering at the undergraduate and graduate levels, but keep in mind that you generally need only a bachelor's degree to become an engineer.
Table of Contents
Check the Guide to Accreditation in Higher Education to learn more about accreditation and how to determine if the program you select meets the necessary standards.
After you complete your bachelors degree, you may wish to extend your engineering education with a graduate certificate. A certificate program offers several classes in an engineering concentration so that you can learn about that area without pursuing lengthy graduate study.
An Associate of Arts (AA) in Engineering has courses in science, mathematics and the humanities that offer a broad education. The AA is acceptable if you want to transfer to a bachelor’s degree program.
An Associate of Science (AS) in Engineering has a more scientific and mathematical focus than the AA. The AS is the best option if you want to transfer into a bachelor’s degree program.
An Associate of Technical Arts (ATA) in Engineering concentrates on the technical skills that you need in the engineering field. An ATA is a good choice if you plan to enter the workforce immediately.
An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Engineering teaches practical job skills and it is very similar to the ATA degree. Likewise, an AAS is a good option if you want to start working as soon as you graduate.
A Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Engineering offers science, mathematics and liberal arts classes that are designed to give you a broad education. The BA is a good choice if you want to gain skills in the humanities as well as engineering.
A Bachelor of Science (BS) in Engineering has science and mathematics classes that are designed to give you a strong technical background. The BS is a good choice if you want to work as an engineer as soon as you finish your coursework.
A Master Of Science (MS) in Engineering requires in-depth study and research through engineering, mathematics and science classes. It is a good choice if you want to work in an advanced technical position or continue on to a PhD.
A Master Of Engineering (MEng) has science and mathematics courses that focus less on research than the MS. This option is best for working professionals who need to take continuing education classes and students who do not plan to earn a PhD.
A Master Of Engineering Management (MEM) is a terminal degree that offers classes in applied engineering and business. It is a good choice if you want to learn to manage engineering teams and operations.
A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Engineering offers advanced classes in science, mathematics and engineering theory. It also requires students to conduct original research that leads to a dissertation. You will be required to specialize in a concentration like mechanical, industrial or civil engineering. You program will train you to conduct original engineering research that your peers respect. When you graduate, you will be qualified for research jobs in many different workplaces.
Use this directory to find Engineering programs
The Professional Engineering (PE) license is a coveted professional credential that will grant you increased pay and job opportunities. Since applicants are required to have at least four years of supervised work experience prior to taking the PE exam, hiring managers for engineering firms immediately favor license holders because they know they already have a solid base of expertise and a college degree.
Even so, very few working engineers are professionally licensed. This is due to the arduous application standards as well as state and NCEES exceptions that enable engineers to practice, as long as they remain under the supervision of a licensed professional. By earning your PE credential, you can distinguish your portfolio and resume from other applicants and you will be able to take on more job responsibilities like accepting government contracts, becoming a principal at a design firm, stamping and sealing designs or working for yourself as a consultant. If you think an engineering career is right for you, then plan to prepare for the PE right after you graduate from college.
The path to PE licensure is rigorous and starts while you are in an ABET-accredited college with the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, after which you will need to get work experience and pass the Professional Engineering exam.
Most states allow reciprocity between states, which means you can transfer your professional credentials no matter where you live as long as you have an ABET-accredited degree. This is a crucial caveat because the ABET’s standards are the scale by which all state boards and consumers measure the professionalism and worth of engineers and engineering firms. If you do not have an ABET-accredited degree, you will likely have to reapply for licensure if you move to another state.
You must participate in continuing education to maintain your P.E. credential. Continuing education standards are dictated by state boards instead of the NCEES, so determine the requirements in your location after passing the PE exam. A number of activities can qualify for continuing education credits, depending on your location; for example, in Alaska, continuing education credit is awarded for publishing an academic paper pertaining to engineering or completing semester and quarter-long courses in subjects related to engineering, such as public safety or health.
After earning your license, you should review your state’s requirements for continuing education and professional development in order to avoid having your licensed revoked or voided.
If you have earned your degree overseas, it is still possible to seek licensure stateside by applying for a credentials evaluation sponsored by the NCEES. These credential evaluations simply serve as a way for state engineer licensing boards to verify the credentials of a foreign applicant. The process usually includes a general summary of the applicant’s history and achievements, including an in-depth comparative analysis that measures the proficiency standards of the international degree against those of ABET. This is done in order to discern whether an international graduate has been trained the same standardized disciplines that many hiring managers believe best aid new hires in the workplace.
This is a helpful but expensive process as one evaluation costs $400 while any repeat examinations thereafter will cost you $225. Additionally, if you want your results sent to additional state licensing boards, it will cost an additional $60 per board. If you are dead-set on working in the United States, this is the most streamlined – albeit pricey – solution, but, if you are even halfway considering against it, it is probably easier and more cost efficient to simply stay abroad.