Engineering School Tips for Success

Considering engineering school? Use these pointers and suggestions to help you decide if an engineering program is right for you.

Smart choices

Biomedical engineering: Americans are living longer today and advances in medical technology are essential to making health care services more affordable to an aging population. Plus, no single occupation is expected to have more job growth -- employment of biomedical engineers is expected to grow by 62 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Engineering management: You gain technical know-how plus management skills in this discipline, which is rapidly gaining popularity among business-savvy engineers who want a shot at consulting or administrative positions. Some students consider attaining a dual or joint degree to qualify for management positions in the engineering field.

[Check out the Best Engineering Schools rankings.]

Insider tip

Be a people person: Professional engineers often work with colleagues in a number of different disciplines, so communication and teamwork skills are paramount, says Julia Galeazzi, associate director of development for the Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering Office of Development and Alumni Relations.

During your graduate studies, participate in a six- or 12-month cooperative education program that puts you in a practical work environment. You'll get real-world experience and will interact with people outside of academia.

[See how engineering programs prepare students for jobs.]

Getting in

Recommendations: Along with grades and test scores, letters from former professors and employers count. Try to work one-on-one with an undergraduate professor and aim to build a strong relationship with him or her.

Introduce yourself: Since admissions are often decided among faculty rather than admissions officers, try to make contact with a potential adviser in your desired department. Start off with an introduction that includes a brief bio, a photo and an explanation of why you'd like to work with that professor. Then, follow up via email.

Know the research: Before you write your personal statement, find and read through faculty research relative to your interests. In your essay, be specific about your research goals and how they relate to work already done at the university.

Reality check

Graduate training is a priority for engineering faculty positions and some research programs, but is not typically a requirement for the majority of entry-level jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Certain specialties within engineering are expected to experience growth over the next decade, including biomedical engineering and civil engineering.

Keep the following statistics in mind when you are considering a graduate degree in engineering.

[Learn about the job prospects for engineering grads.]

-- Biomedical engineers are expected to see 62 percent growth in employment through 2020, according to the Labor Department. This engineering specialty is expected to see the largest growth in employment among the specialties forecasted by the department.

Electronics engineers (save for computer engineers) are expected to experience little employment change through 2020 and are forecasted to have the smallest growth in employment among all specialties provided.

-- The average salary for petroleum engineers is $138,980, according to the Labor Department's latest report on the subject, published in 2011. This salary is the highest among all specialties provided by the Labor Department in the field. The average salary for civil engineers is $82,710, the lowest among all specialties provided in the field.

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