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Cooperative education or Co-op is a college program that balances classroom education with hands on learning. Co-ops are traditionally full time paid positions that are counted as part of a college curriculum. The position is held for a long duration of time, usually 3-6 months depending on the program. Students typically don't take classes during their co-op period. This is so students can focus on their work experience. Co-ops are part of the curriculum of many college engineering programs.

Co-op or Internship

Not all colleges offer co-ops. Co-ops are not to be confused with internships. Internships are work experiences that are much shorter in duration and are not always paid. They are more flexible than co-ops as they require fewer hours and can be completed over the summer or while a student is in classes.

How Co-ops Work

Colleges with co-op programs usually require the student to complete at least two practical learning experiences. A co-op program can lengthen the time a student is in school. This is because there are semesters where they will be working full time and not attending classes. As a result, many university co-op programs are designed to be completed over 5 years.

Engineering Co-ops

There are many colleges with engineering curriculums that incorporate co-ops. Northeastern University, Drexel University and University of Pittsburgh are just a few of the colleges that offer co-op programs in engineering. Overall, co-ops are a great way to explore a field and gain practical experience by working.

COVID 19 has made the the college search much more difficult. For the most part, it is not possible to do in person college visits, tours or information sessions. So how can you make an informed decision when choosing a college? Many universities have been offering new ways to get information about their schools available to potential future students to help with the college search.

Virtual Tours

Virtual tours are one tool many colleges are using to visualize their campus.  The virtual tours often include interactive maps and programs that give you a 360 degree view of different areas of the campus.

Videos

Some schools offer videos to provide a view of the campus, details of their programs as well as interviews with students about their experiences. Videos are great way to visualize a campus and get useful information about a college.

Virtual Information Sessions

Virtual information sessions are another tool colleges are using to get information out about their schools. These rage from large sessions over Zoom with an interactive chat available for questions to smaller Zoom sessions where the participants are encouraged to use their cameras and audio for questions. Colleges often offer general sessions as well as sessions for specific majors, for example the engineering department. Info sessions are not offered all the time and need to be reserved in advance on the college's website.

Virtual Class Trials

Many schools are also providing opportunities for prospective students to try one of their classes. These limited class sessions are often held online on common school holidays to give an idea of what a class at that college is like. These classes are run by actual professors in different subject areas and need to be reserved in advance on the college's website.

While it is more difficult to do a college search during a pandemic, colleges have been coming up with ways to explore their schools virtually. Provided are links to virtual tours and virtual information sessions at colleges with engineering programs.

A Professional Engineer (PE) is an engineer who is licensed by a state board of registration to practice engineering. A PE license is the engineering profession's highest standard of competence. It is also an assurance of quality as well as a symbol of achievement.

How do you get a PE license?

According to the National Society of Professional Engineers, “To become licensed, engineers must complete a four-year college degree, work under a Professional Engineer for at least four years, pass two intensive competency exams and earn a license from their state's licensure board. Then to retain their licenses, PE's must continually maintain and improve their skills throughout their careers.”

The two exams are the FE (Fundamentals of Engineering) and PE (Professional Engineer). There are different exams for each engineering discipline. The FE exam is often taken during the last year of college. An engineer can stamp and sign engineering drawings and calculations as a PE once the PE exam is passed and the other requirements of the state have been met and they have registered with the state.

Do you need to have attended an ABET-accredited college to get a PE?

Some states require that you have a BS degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program to take the FE exam. Other states allow you to take the exam providing you meet other degree and experience requirements. These requirements are nearly always greater for applicants without an ABET-accredited degree.

Why become a PE?

If you are a PE or on your way to become one, it will make you stand out from the competition when job hunting. You may also get to work on more interesting projects. Only a licensed engineer can submit plans and drawings and be in charge of work in the private sector. A PE license will lead to a higher salary, more respect in your field and greater career potential. 

Is a PE required?

In some engineering disciplines, such as Structural Engineering, it is necessary to obtain a PE. If you do not become a PE you can not sign off on engineering drawings and calculations. In some other engineering disciplines such as Chemical Engineering, it is not as necessary to have a PE to work in the field. Overall, obtaining a PE is a valuable designation to achieve as any engineer.

You are good at math and science so majoring in engineering in college is a great idea. Now that you have picked a major you just have to choose a college to go to. This is not as easy as you might think.

Starting The College Search

There are several things you should consider when starting an engineering major college search. First, do all colleges offer degrees in engineering? Do all colleges with engineering departments offer every type of engineering degree? Lastly, do I need to know what type of engineer I want to become? The answer to all these questions is no, no, and not always.

Does This College Have My Major?

Not every college or university has an engineering department or even offers engineering degrees. In addition, many that have engineering departments don't offer programs in every engineering discipline. If you know the type of engineering you want to study, it is important to find out if the school you are interested in has that program. For example, Union College offers degrees in several engineering fields, but does not offer a degree in Civil Engineering. Likewise University of Pittsburgh does not offer a degree in Aerospace Engineering. It would be a mistake to apply to a college and then find out they do not offer a degree in the field you are looking for.

Do I Need To Declare A Major?

Some colleges like University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign require you to declare to a specific major when you apply, while others like Worcester Polytechnic Institute  do not. This is important to know when you are considering prospective colleges. Some schools are more flexible than others. If you do not apply directly into the engineering department in some colleges, such as State University of New York at Buffalo, it is not really possible to declare a major in engineering after the fact.

Can I Change Engineering Majors?

Are you stuck with that specific engineering major once you are enrolled in college? In most cases you can switch engineering majors within a college's engineering department. It is sometimes hard to know exactly what major you will be happiest with while you are still a high school student. It is a good idea to explore the different types of engineering majors to get a better understanding of them before you start looking for colleges.  In addition, it is also helpful to look into the types of courses you need to take in that major. This will give you an idea of what you will be studying to see if it is a good fit for you.

Overall, determining the engineering major that interests you most and taking the time to research school departments will make it easy to find the right college for you.

How to pay for school is a big factor when looking for a college. Fortunately, there are many scholarships out there for engineering students. The scholarships may have requirements such as certain GPA's or national test scores, financial need, academic majors or essays. There are also scholarships that are more general. It is a good idea to look into engineering scholarships even if you do not have a demonstrated financial need, as there are many scholarships that are not need based. In addition, many universities also offer scholarships specifically for their engineering students.

Below are several websites that list scholarships for engineering students and also some specific scholarships for engineering students.

American Chemical Society 

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Scholarship Program

American Society of Civil Engineers

American Society of Mechanical Engineers 

FIRST

Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) 

National Society of Professional Engineers 

National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) 

SMART Scholarship Program (Department of Defense)

Society Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation Scholarships 

Society of Women in Engineering 

As a result of COVID-19, the college search for an engineering school has become more difficult. In person college visits, tours and information sessions can't occur in most cases. This is both challenging and frustrating for both high school seniors and the parents of them. As parents of a high school senior, we have been going through these frustrations ourselves. Every day things seem to be changing. So how can you make an informed decision when choosing a college for an engineering major? Many universities have been rising to the challenge by instituting new ways to get information about their schools available to potential future students. Virtual tours and virtual information sessions are two ways to visualize a college and learn more about them. Another great way to get more questions answered is to schedule virtual or phone interviews with college representatives. Signing up for info sessions and interviews does more than get you information. It shows demonstrated interest in the school.  This is something many colleges look for when choosing who to accept. Check our links to colleges with engineering programs that offer virtual tours and virtual information sessions.

Are you interested in things that fly? Choosing to study aerospace engineering in college could be for you! Aerospace engineering is the study of air and space travel. It is often referred to as “rocket science.” Aerospace engineers research, design, construct, test and maintain aircraft, spacecraft, missiles and related systems and equipment. They also are concerned with flight safety, operating costs, fuel efficiency and environmental impacts.

The field can be broken down to two major overlapping branches- aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering. Aeronautical engineers concentrate on aircraft that fly within the earth's atmosphere (airplanes, jets, and helicopters), while astronautical engineers focus on spacecraft and launch vehicles. 

A good background of math and physics classes in high school is important for students applying to aerospace engineering programs. There are many colleges that offer degrees in aerospace engineering. Some of these include: MIT, Georgia Institute of Technology, Caltech, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Perdue University. Check out the U.S. News list of the top ranked aerospace engineering programs.

 

Due to COVID-19 the traditional college search has changed. Since campus visits can't happen, many colleges now offer virtual information sessions. These sessions are done in different ways. Many are offered in a webinar format with interactive chat for questions. Some are prerecorded slideshows of information. Some schools offer just general information sessions, while others have general sessions and sessions on specific majors. Most also offer a virtual tour of the school so you can get a better visual of the campus. Virtual info sessions are often found on the Visit Campus Page of a college's website. In addition, many colleges look for demonstrated interest in their school from their applicants. Traditionally, this would be shown by college visits and interviews, but with today's changes, signing up for virtual info sessions are also counted. Here are links to several schools with engineering programs that currently offer virtual information sessions.

Additional colleges offering information sessions can be found on this previous blog post.

Case Western Reserve University SUNY Buffalo
Colombia University SUNY Stony Brook
Cornell University University of Arizona
Drexel University University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Duke University University of Maryland
George Washington University University of Michigan
Northeastern University University of Pittsburgh
MIT University of Rochester
Ohio State University University of Texas A & M
Rice University University of Virginia
Rochester Institute Of Technology University of Washington
Stanford University Vanderbilt University
Stevens Institute of Technology

Biomedical engineers design and create devices, equipment, computer systems and software used in healthcare. The design of a prosthetic limb, the development of sophisticated medical imaging devices, stem cell engineering and the 3-D printing of biological organs are all examples of biomedical engineering. Simply, biomedical engineers apply the principles and problem solving techniques of engineering to biology and medicine.

Biomedical engineering not part of the traditional engineering education. It is a newer field that has rapidly been growing. Aspects of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, materials science, chemistry, mathematics, computer science and biology are used in biomedical engineering to improve human health. Coursework in biomedical engineering combines engineering with biological sciences. Overall, the field of biomedical engineering focuses on advancements that improve human health and health care at all levels.

There are many courses that students should take in high school that will help them get accepted to a college engineering program. It is a good idea to take as many STEM courses as you can. These include math (calculus if possible), science (chemistry, physics and biology), computer programming and any engineering classes (such as Project Lead The Way) that may be offered at your high school. Engineering schools look for students with an interest and an aptitude in these areas. They also look to see if the student challenged themselves in the courses they took in high school, such as Advanced Placement (AP) courses. AP classes in the STEM field will provide a foundation for classes required in college engineering programs. In addition, AP classes might possibly get some courses out of the way before the student actually starts college.