So, you want to become an engineer? You're comfortable with mathematics, like to design things, love to work with your hands, and you think you have the self-discipline to do it. Now what? What are the alternatives?

Engineering School
If you're highly motivated to be an engineer, self-confident and competitive by nature, then engineering school is the way to go. You will enter a fast track which trains you to become the type of engineer you want to be. Most likely, you'll study calculus, physics, and chemistry during the first year and then move into courses designed to prepare you to become a mechanical, electrical, civil or other kind of engineer. Engineering schools have many advantages. You'll be recognized as a graduate of the school you attend, and if it's a good engineering school, such recognition leads to good high-paying jobs. You'll be well trained to do engineering work from the moment you graduate, a fact which is also important in the job market. Spending the full four or five years at one school provides you with a life-long pool of classmates and friends.

But engineering school may not be the answer for all students. Engineering school is really competitive. Many engineering schools admit more qualified students than they can handle in their upper-level courses. So at least one first-year course may be designated as the "shark" course, made artificially difficult in order to "weed out" students. This practice guarantees a flow of good engineers. It also deters many who have what it takes to be good engineers, but who are either not so competitive, not so driven, or perhaps not sufficiently well prepared in mathematical skills. Also, the very depth of training in a specific engineering discipline, that so well prepares students to enter the job market, may imply some lack of breadth in preparation, particularly in the area of communication skills.

Transfer and "Dual-Degree" Programs
Most engineering schools welcome transfer students and many have formal arrangements with liberal arts colleges through "dual-degree" or "3/2" programs. Although requirements for transfer vary with each engineering school (and you should check in advance with any school to which you might transfer!), most require relatively little course work in order to transfer. Typically, engineering transfers must complete a year of calculus-based physics, a year of chemistry, mathematics through differential equations, a course in dynamics (mechanics), and some computer programming, with sufficiently good grades to prove their ability to do college-level work. In Virginia, all community colleges originally offered formal programs including these courses geared toward transfer to Virginia Tech. Some still do and two years of community college can provide an excellent springboard for transfer to engineering schools.

Dual-degree programs differ in the details. They typically require three years in a liberal arts program, during which students complete the requirements for transfer, along with a large portion of a major program, which is usually physics, and the general education (or "breadth") component required by the college. A streamlined transfer process allows transfer to the engineering program for the fourth year, provided grades are sufficient. Engineering courses taken during the fourth year are transferred back to the college to complete a baccalaureate degree at the end of the fourth year and the student typically earns a B.S. in Engineering after the fifth year. Thus a student who completes a dual-degree program holds two degrees, a bachelor's degree from a liberal arts institution and a bachelor's degree from an engineering school.

So what are the advantages of the dual-degree approach? You might not be really committed to engineering as a career, or you might not quite qualify for admission to the engineering school as a freshman, or you might not be ready to compete or move so rapidly through the challenging technical load imposed from the start in an engineering environment. Students typically find greater support along with smaller classes at liberal arts colleges. Encouragement and individual attention translates to success. But there is more to the story! A liberal arts education provides breadth and insight into a wide range of ideas, ideas which are not a formal part of engineering education. Liberal arts graduates learn to think and to write. One of the most vexing problems for companies who employ engineers is finding engineers who can communicate. Persons who complete a science major at a liberal arts college are broadly prepared to read and think about their disciplines, skills which can translate to greater mobility as technologies change. Dual-degree programs provide the best of both worlds: liberal education that stresses reading, writing and thinking and the specific preparation for a particular engineering discipline.

Are there disadvantages to the dual-degree approach? Surely. Experience may convince some students that they are not able or do not want to pursue the program. However, such students will have completed some courses that meet general education requirements and thus the time taken to explore will not have been wasted. Some students find the transition from a small and supportive environment to the more competitive engineering program difficult, at least at first. It may be difficult to leave one's friends for what would have been a senior year to make the transfer, and it may be difficult to find one's niche among a new group of students who have been together for at least two years. Funding may be a challenge.

What happens if you decide that you don't want to miss your senior year? That's easy. You can complete the major at your college! And, if you still want to be an engineer and if your grades are sufficient, you can attend graduate school in engineering. Many engineering programs, especially interdisciplinary programs such as engineering physics, materials science, biomedical engineering, or textile engineering, enthusiastically accept persons who have completed undergraduate majors in physics, mathematics, or chemistry.

Dual-Degree Programs at Lynchburg College
Lynchburg College currently offers two different dual-degree programs. One is a 3/2 program in conjunction with the Engineering School at Old Dominion University. It operates as described above and students who complete the program will earn a B.S. In physics from Lynchburg College and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from ODU. The second program is offered in conjunction with the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) at the University of Virginia. This "3-1-1" program allows students who earn a B+ (3.3) average during three years of study at Lynchburg College to enter the School of Engineering and Applied Science as special non-degree undergraduate students. The courses for each student will be selected to provide a useful introduction to a particular branch of engineering or applied science while fulfilling the B.S. degree requirements of Lynchburg College, and will be based on the advice of the faculty advisor at UVA. Then, provided the grades in the appropriate courses at the University of Virginia are "C" or above, transfer credit will be awarded to complete the requirement for the Bachelor's Degree at Lynchburg College. The student is then be eligible to apply to a graduate program in SEAS. As with all graduate study, admission will be based on academic performance and promise. Students who complete this program will earn the B.S. In physics from Lynchburg College and a Master's of Engineering from the University of Virginia.

Why Lynchburg College?
Students find that the faculty makes the Lynchburg College difference. The faculty is talented, committed to good teaching, and fully committed to the long-term success of its students. Lynchburg College enjoys a long tradition of preparing well-qualified science graduates. Many physics graduates have enjoyed careers as engineers, some with formal training in engineering and others by the strength of their abilities and broad undergraduate preparation. Lynchburg College stresses good teaching, individual attention, and strong academic support. Highly qualified tutors staff the Mathematics and Writing Laboratories. Science facilities are modern and pleasant. The College provides sophisticated equipment for the use of undergraduate students, and not solely for the research interests of faculty. The College has worked aggressively to reach and remain at the forefront of instructional technologies and, consequently, students find laboratories full of computers. Small size can lead to great flexibility in scheduling. That's particularly important for science majors who want to participate in time-consuming extracurricular activities such as intercollegiate athletics or theater.

This web page and its content and opinions are the sole responsibility of John Eric Goff. Lynchburg College is not responsible for the content or opinions found on this page.