Top 5 Things to Look for in an Engineering School

What to Consider When Choosing an Engineering School

postimage7.1My Story

When I started studying engineering many, many years ago (okay, so I’m not twenty-something anymore), I didn’t have any idea about how to pick a good school.  So I applied for a few before doing my homework and had mixed results because of it.  I eventually settled on a school, worked hard at it, and got my bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering, and later went on to get my MBA.

When my daughter started engineering school just a few years ago, I realized there isn’t all that much more information available out there even today.  So, I’m going to give you my top 5 things to look for in an engineering school.

Accreditation:

Is the school Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredited?  This matters if you ever want to become a registered professional engineer (PE).  You might think now that you don’t plan to pursue a PE, but that could be a huge mistake.

Only about twenty percent of engineers ever get their PE.  But trust me, you never know where your career will lead you.  Some companies require engineering managers to have their PE so it’s better to get a degree from an ABET accredited school just to be on the safe side.

Early on I decided not to pursue my PE, but so many doors are closed to those who don’t have it.  It’s better to go ahead and get it to make sure every option is available to you.  My suggestion would be to get it sooner than later.  Like as soon as you are eligible.  It’s easier than waiting like I did, and having to study the material all over again.

Reputation:

postimage7.2What is the university’s reputation in the employment market?  Which school you graduated from and your grade point average definitely will help you land your first job out of college.  After that, your professional reputation, skills, and certifications will be more important.  You can check out U.S. News’ rankings of the top engineering programs for 2015 here.

I considered a few options while looking for a good engineering school to attend.  I was accepted at Clemson, N.C. State and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  Guess what?  At the time, UNCC actually had a better reputation with employers for graduates coming out of their program.  I’m not positive if this is still the case (not a spring chicken anymore, remember?) but doing your homework on this is vital.

Check out our article on Promoting Women in STEM Careers

Research:

How much research money do they receive?  This is important because an active research school will have the latest, cutting-edge technology.  The labs are outfitted with the best equipment so you can become familiar with the latest technologies.

You will also be exposed to modern techniques and might end up being a member of a team that makes an important advancement, which is an attractive feather to put in your cap!  Furthermore, some companies that give grants to universities have their own engineers work with the students, which is a valuable networking tool and can lead to some exciting opportunities.

postimage7.3

Recognition:

Does the teaching staff have name recognition?  I remember my Electrical Fields professor was traveling quite a bit while I was in college because he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in physics.  That is some major juice!  In addition my Signals professor came from MIT to become an instructor at UNC Charlotte.

I can personally say that neither of them were very good teachers.  It is what it is.  The teacher’s aide really does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to your classes.  However, I have found several times that name-dropping both professors has gotten me some immediate clout.  The instructional staff doesn’t have to be rock stars in the field, but having some ready name recognition really gives some heft to the program.

Graduation Rate:

What is the university’s graduation rate?  The old saying “Look to your left and look to your right.  Only one of you will graduate” is completely applicable in engineering.  Face it, it’s a tough field to master.  Unless you are arrogant enough to think that you are smarter than most of your classmates, you need to consider that actually earning an engineering degree is no small feat.

You need a lot of support to make it.  Small class sizes, labs, tutoring help, and extended office hours will all become important to your success.  A good engineering school has all of these in place.  A quality engineering program looks at educating students as a calling, and not just a way to earn money.  The only way to gauge this is by looking at their graduation rates.  You may think “Okay, so they graduate a lot of engineers.  The program must be easy.”

That’s a valid question and one that you need to dig into on your own.  Perhaps the program is easy.  If so, then the market won’t be out to hire those graduates.  The alternative could be that the school has the mechanisms in place that I noted above, and sets their students up for success.

I hope the above items help you to find the right college or university for you.  If you find the first school does not fit your needs, don’t waste your time.  You can always transfer to another school with a better reputation in the jobs market.

Oh one more thing, engineering is time intensive and takes considerable focus to be successful.  If you are successful, eventually you will reap the rewards of your degree, but don’t make it all about financial and career success.  College is a formative time in your life, so make sure to have a bit of fun too!

If you found this article to be informative, I invite you to share it with your friends!  The goal here is to get more females interested in STEM careers and to make sure they get promoted once they are into their chosen career field.  A little sharing goes a long way, and we hope you check back for more here at Leaned On.

Written by Heather

Heather

Heather graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a BSEE. Later, she received her MBA. As a mother of four wonderful children, she has found a way to balance her career with her role as Mom. After becoming director of engineering for a global engineering firm, she decided to start her own company. She is CEO of Select Power Systems, LLC.

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Top 5 Things to Look for in an Engineering School
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Top 5 Things to Look for in an Engineering School
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If you are looking into a STEM career, they don't come much better than engineering. Check out the five things you should look for in an engineering school
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8 thoughts on “Top 5 Things to Look for in an Engineering School

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Jonathan

    February 25, 2015 at 4:06pm

    Hi Heather,
    Thank you for these great tips. I hadn’t thought about looking at a Universities reputation within the job market.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Heather

      March 2, 2015 at 10:28pm

      Jonathan, thank you for commenting. There are things that you don’t know about the job market until you have been in it for almost twenty years. I hope I’m able to pass along my knowledge to make it easier for your generation.

  2. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Greg

    February 25, 2015 at 4:48pm

    Hey Heather. I am at uni at the moment studying engineering. I was very cautious when it came to choosing where to go and I am glad to say its worked out pretty well.

    Accreditation is right up there though, so I know people will find this great help.

    Greg

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Heather

      March 2, 2015 at 10:26pm

      Greg, I appreciate your comments. If there is anything you have a question about please let me know.

  3. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Emma

    February 25, 2015 at 6:35pm

    Hi Heather.

    This is a fantastic site. You’ve got some great information and it’s very easy to find everything.
    Keep up the great work!

    Emma

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Heather

      March 2, 2015 at 10:20pm

      Emma, thank you for the kind words. I’m not a professional web designer or journalist. I am learning a lot along the way. My husband Thomas has been a tremendous help.

  4. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Mary

    February 26, 2015 at 12:21pm

    This site will help many people with their engineering school search. Great Information and well written! Teaching people is so rewarding 🙂
    ~Mary~

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Heather

      March 2, 2015 at 10:18pm

      Thank you Mary. If it helps just one person to find the right engineering school it was worth my time and effort.

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