Guide to getting a bachelor of engineering
Engineering is a core academic discipline in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), attracting talented, competitive, and hardworking students worldwide.
In 2019, 200,684 engineering degrees were awarded, with 4.54 million engineers currently active in the workforce. The average mid-career engineering wage was $115,947. According to a recent report, the 3 engineering programs producing the most graduating engineers were mechanical engineering, computer science, and electrical engineering.
Engineering is a broad and diverse field. It provides an opportunity to express your creativity, exercise your attention to detail, build things, and solve real-world problems.
This guide covers the entire process of getting a bachelor of engineering. We discuss various engineering programs, how to pick the best engineering program for you, tuition costs, typical course curriculums, and career opportunities.
What do engineers do?
As an engineer, your primary responsibility is to use your knowledge, creativity, and available resources to solve complex problems and shape ideas into reality.
Depending on the engineering career path you pursue, you may find yourself performing Monte Carlo simulations of oil fields as a petroleum engineering or designing complex robotic systems with thousands of moving parts and components as a mechanical engineer.
This page discusses the generic bachelor of science in engineering as well as specific engineering disciplines such as:
- chemical engineering
- civil engineering
- electrical engineering
- computer engineering
- environmental engineering
- industrial engineering
- mechanical engineering
Once you determine which engineering discipline you want to pursue, we hope this guide allows you to hit the ground running and start on the path towards receiving your engineering degree.
What types of bachelor of engineering degrees are there?
Depending on the institution at which you receive your engineering degree, you may notice slight variations and differences between degree titles.
Common engineering degree titles include:
- Bachelor of Engineering (BEng or B.E.)
- Bachelor of Science (B.Sc. or B.S.)
- Bachelor of Science Engineering (B.Sc.Eng.)
- Bachelor of Engineering Science (B.Eng.Sc.)
- Bachelor of Technology (BTech)
- Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.Sc.)
Some universities issue discipline-specific degree titles, such as:
- Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (BSME)
- Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE)
Note that most of these titles are interchangeable.
If you want to work in a specific field and potentially gain a slight advantage over the competition, you may opt to attend an institution that awards a discipline-specific title (i.e., BSEE for electrical engineers or a BSME for mechanical engineers).
What can you do with a bachelor of engineering?
A bachelor of engineering offers opportunities for work in a wide range of fields and disciplines.
As an engineer, you could find yourself working in fields such as:
- agricultural systems
- applied physics
- biochemical engineering
- computer science
- criminal justice
- public health
- industrial engineering
- information systems
- manufacturing engineering
- project management
- systems engineering
- business management
Should you get a bachelor of engineering?
If you love to design and build things, are very detail-oriented in everyday tasks, love solving complicated problems, or possess a natural curiosity towards how things work under the hood, then a bachelor of engineering may be right for you. Due to the broad nature of the engineering field, it is one of the most versatile STEM degrees you can obtain.
The table below offers a short-term comparison between the entire bachelor’s degree market and a bachelor of engineering degree. It is a snapshot of earnings 3 years after graduation.
Bachelor’s in engineering
The table above offers a short-term comparison between the entire bachelor’s degree market and a bachelor of engineering degree. It is a snapshot of earnings 3 years after graduation.
The above table shows a longer-term estimate of degree performance based on census survey data detailing people’s major, age, and salary.
The age-stratified data above shows that bachelor of engineering degree holders outperformed generic bachelor holders in terms of earnings over time. Additionally, those with engineering degrees saw prolonged increases in earning power over time.
Overall, students who graduate with a bachelor of science in engineering have a combination of job security – with a 98% employment rate 2 years post-graduation – and steadily increasing earnings.
How to pick a bachelor of engineering program
Picking a bachelor of engineering program requires thought, deliberation, and a bit of introspection to fully understand your goals, interests, and options.
There engineering specializations that tend to attract the bulk of students due to their flexibility and versatility are:
- Chemical engineering
Chemical engineers deal with the manufacture and production of various products through chemical processes. They design processes and systems for refining raw materials, processing chemicals to make products, and compounding materials in new formulations. Chemical engineering includes the study of the operation and design of chemical plants and ways to improve their production capacity.
- Civil engineering
A professional engineering (PE) discipline dealing with the construction, design, and maintenance of civil structures such as canals, bridges, roads, dams, sewage systems, pipelines, buildings, railways, and various structural components found in cities and populated areas.
- Computer engineering
Related to both electronic engineering and computer science, computer engineers focus on embedded systems, computer architecture, and digital signal processing. They may work in programming, hardware, software development, installation, network design, and computer systems.
- Electrical engineering
Electrical engineers can be found working on commonly used consumer electronics and products such as solar panels, treadmills, hairdryers, and smartphones. They use their electrical expertise to design and contribute to fields such as robotics, aerospace, energy, medical devices, and even smart vehicles.
- Environmental engineering
When it comes to solving complex problems with the environment we live in, environmental engineers are ready to conquer the task at hand. They use their knowledge of scientific topics such as geology, microbiology, hydraulics, chemistry, ecology, hydrology, and mathematics to solve problems like pollution and find efficient ways to raise environmental quality.
- Industrial engineering
The day-to-day job of an industrial and systems engineer may include applying critical decision-making skills and analytics to optimize complex networks, systems, and processes. Whether they are working in energy, healthcare, finance, manufacturing, or logistics, there is always room for improvement and optimization within the systems and processes they work with.
- Mechanical engineering
Mechanical engineers applies mathematics, materials science, physics, and engineering to designing, manufacturing, analyzing, and maintaining various mechanical systems. This may include designing production systems, operational machinery, or robotic assembly systems. Mechanical engineering is considered one of the oldest and broadest engineering disciplines.
When picking an engineering program, it is important to choose a college or university that offers a degree accredited by ABET, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
ABET is the gold standard for STEM-related fields and puts you in the best position for obtaining a job upon graduation. When considering engineering programs at various colleges and universities, make sure the very first filter in your search is ABET accreditation.
Once you find an accredited engineering program at the institution or university of your choice, you can begin a deeper dive into the curriculum and course offerings.
Engineering versus engineering technology
Engineering and engineering technology are separate but closely related fields. Engineers focus on theory, advanced design, development, and technical management. Engineering technologists work on the operation, construction, routine design, and manufacture of technical products.
Compared to engineering technology, graduates from engineering programs require a much higher level of education in mathematics, which is one of the primary differences between engineering technologists and engineers.
Students who graduate from 4-year engineering programs often:
- pursue work involving research, development, or conceptual design
- continue on to graduate-level engineering work
- pursue professional licensing such as becoming a professional engineer (PE)
Students who graduate from 4-year engineering technology programs often:
- enter work positions in product testing, design, manufacturing, construction, technical services, or sales
- pursue further studies in business administration or facilities management
- may be eligible to pursue professional engineer licensing
Students who graduate from 2-year engineering technology programs often:
- assume work positions as engineering technicians, production technicians, or maintenance roles
- continue to build up their experience and expertise in their field by working alongside engineers
Can I study engineering online?
When looking at the type of courses offered in engineering programs and the hands-on and lab work, in-person training, and group collaboration required for efficient learning, it becomes clear that engineering degrees are best completed in person and on campus.
Bachelor’s of engineering
The above table shows the percentage of programs available either completely in person or fully online. Figures that do not add up to 100% indicate the existence of hybrid programs.
As a potential alternative, a hybrid offering of online and in-person engineering courses may be possible, but this would depend entirely on the institution or university.
Best bachelor’s of engineering programs
Below you can find our ratings of the comparative earnings, costs, and payback rates of various engineering programs.
How much does a bachelor of engineering cost?
The average cost of tuition and fees for a bachelor of engineering degree spans a range from $14,914 at public colleges and universities up to $26,136 at private colleges and universities.
See above how cost and earnings vary depending on the type of institution. Payback refers to how many years it takes students to cover the median costs while earning the median salary. Payback is calculated by subtracting the median earnings of a high school graduate from the median earnings related to this degree.
While obtaining a bachelor of engineering does cost a fair amount, holders of engineering degrees see higher earning potential throughout their careers.
Financial aid and scholarships for engineering majors
Earning a bachelor of science in engineering can cost a pretty penny, often requiring students to apply for financial aid and scholarships to reduce the cost.
As an initial step, it is encouraged to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application. Once you have completed your FAFSA application, meet with your university’s student financial aid advisor to discover the full range of financial aid options available to you.
» Read: Guide to student loans
While financial aid and the FAFSA program are a great starting point, it is recommended to apply to as many scholarship programs as you can manage.
What to expect from a bachelor of engineering program
In the first 2 years of a bachelor’s degree in engineering, students complete core courses in calculus, chemistry, physics, engineering-specific social sciences, and various electives.
Junior and senior years usually dive deeper into a specific engineering discipline. Certain programs diverge at this point, allowing students to take electives in the engineering concentrations of their interest.
What are the admission requirements for a bachelor of engineering?
Admission requirements are set by your chosen college or university. Depending on which school you apply to, there may be specific SAT scores, ACT scores, and high school GPA requirements.
How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree in engineering?
The average student completes their bachelor’s in engineering within 4 years.
Engineering students tend to look for summer internships. Real-world engineering firms are the ideal placement in junior or senior year, sometimes leading to full-time employment after graduation.
FE and PE exams
Depending on which state you live in, you can take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) during the final year of an ABET-accredited engineering program or following graduation. Some states may allow you to take it prior to your final year. The FE is the first step towards full licensure as a professional engineer.
The FE is offered in 7 disciplines:
- electrical and computer
- industrial and systems
- other disciplines
It is recommended to choose the discipline you are most prepared to be tested in.
Full licensure as an engineer is earned following completion of the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam. The PE can usually only be taken after 4 years of work experience as an engineer.
Special credentials sought by these graduates
Engineering graduates working in certain fields such as civil engineering, oil and gas, and other industries that frequently require sign-off and approvals on advanced engineering drawings can benefit from obtaining their Professional Engineer (PE) license and seal.
Certain states require PE licensure for specific types of engineers offering services to the public. The industries where licensure is most beneficial include:
- medical facilities
- engineering consulting
What type of courses are there in a bachelor of engineering program?
Engineering as a whole is a vast field encompassing hundreds of subdisciplines.
The core engineering courses – with slight variations based on the institution – included in nearly all engineering programs are:
- introductory engineering courses
- social sciences
Upon completing core engineering courses, students proceed to discipline-specific classes.
Frequently asked questions
Is a bachelor of engineering the same as a bachelor of science?
In the U.S., the bachelor of engineering (B.Eng.) and bachelor of science in engineering (B.S.E.) are very similar, and in some cases identical degrees. Certain B.S.E. programs may have a more theoretical focus in comparison to more practical B.Eng. degrees. In the United Kingdom and other countries outside the U.S., B.Eng. is simply the more common name for an engineering degree.
Is engineering a 5-year degree?
Engineering degrees generally take 4-5 years to complete, depending course load and whether or not any minor degree programs or specialties are pursued. Minoring in a specialty along with your primary engineering program increases the number of courses you are required to take and thus the length of your program.
Which bachelor’s degree is best for engineering?
The best engineering degree to pursue depends primarily on which career you wish to pursue after graduation. Compensation and salary may be a secondary consideration, favoring degrees in petroleum, electrical, computer, aeronautical, and chemical engineering.
What’s the difference between a PE exam and a PE engineer?
PE exam refers to the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam taken by engineers who have completed the FE and accrued 4 years’ work experience. A PE (or P.E.) engineer is a fully licensed professional engineer.
Are all engineers licensed?
No, only about a quarter of all practicing engineers are licensed. The largest proportions of licensed engineers were found in civil, architectural, environmental engineering, mining/geological/petroleum, and nuclear engineering. Roles that intersect with public safety and compliance with regulations are more likely to require licensure.
National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)
The NSPE administers the FE and PE exams as well as overseeing engineering licensure. They publish a seasonal professional engineering publication entitled PE, as well as offering other news, research, a job board, and professional membership.
The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES)
The NCEES, founded in 1920, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing professional licensure for engineers and surveyors.
NCEES FE Exam Information
The NCEES offers a thorough guide to the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Th FE exam is generally the first step in the process to becoming a professional licensed engineer.