FAQs

Addressing some of your questions

  1. Do you have a major in Chemical Engineering (or Bioengineering, or Systems Engineering...)?
  2. What do your students do after graduation?
  3. Will I be able to get an engineering job with a General Engineering Degree from Swarthmore?
  4. Will I be able to get into graduate school with a General Engineering Degree from Swarthmore?
  5. What is in the Swarthmore Engineering curriculum?
  6. Can I get a double major?
  7. Can I take a semester abroad?
  8. Is your program accredited by ABET?
  9. What options do I have if I decide to take more specialized courses than Swarthmore offers?
  10. What opportunities for research are there and how early on in one's engineering education are these opportunities available?
  11. How cutting-edge is the equipment in the Engineering department?
  12. How many students are in your program?
  13. I have heard that initially around 45 first-year students indicate an interest in engineering but only about half of those graduate with an engineering major. Why is this?
  14. How large are your classes?
  15. Do you have separate lab courses?
  16. Do you have graduate student teaching assistants?
  17. Are engineering students ever shut out of engineering courses due to full classes?

Please contact us if you have any other questions.

Answers

  1.   Do you have a major in Chemical Engineering (or Bioengineering, or Systems Engineering...)? While we do not have specialized majors within Engineering, we nominally offer the opportunity to specialize in Civil/Environmental, Computer, Electrical or Mechanical Engineering. Ultimately, all of our students receive a Bachelor of Science in Engineering. With that said, students who wish to specialize can do so through their choice of electives at the college, or by pursuing options off campus. Our students have no trouble in specific fields, or getting into top notch graduate schools.

Top of page

  1.  What do your students do after graduation? The short answer is "Anything they want." For longer answers please refer to the following responses on job opportunities and graduate school.

    See a list of companies that hired our recent graduates.
    See a list of graduate schools attended by our recent graduates.

Top of page

  1. Will I be able to get an engineering job with a General Engineering Degree from Swarthmore? Our students can get any kind of job after graduation, if they so choose. Some opt for large companies like Microsoft or IBM, some choose much smaller companies or anywhere in between. Many don't go directly into engineering but go to work for investment banks or small non-profit organizations. The varieties of the career paths our students choose is astounding. 

See a list of companies that hired our recent graduates.

Top of page

  1. Will I be able to get into graduate school with a General Engineering Degree from Swarthmore? If you do well at Swarthmore, you have a good chance of getting into any graduate school you choose. We regularly send students to MIT, Stanford, Berkeley and a host of other excellent Universities. Graduate programs include Civil, Computer, Environmental, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering as well as other various fields that include Chemical, Bio, and Aerospace Engineering. Our students have also gone on to Medical School or Law School.

See a list of graduate schools attended by our recent graduates.

Top of page

  1. What is in the Swarthmore Engineering curriculum? The Swarthmore Engineering Curriculum consists of twelve engineering courses and eight courses in math and science, at least three in math and three in science. Of the twelve engineering courses, about half are required and the other half are electives. The required courses give students a broad background in engineering fundamentals while the electives allow students to tailor the program to their specific interests.

Because Swarthmore is a liberal arts college that values breadth of learning, it requires that twenty courses be taken outside the major; thirty-two courses are required for graduation. This leaves at most twelve required courses for the major, making Engineering the most expansive major allowed by the college.

Top of page

  1. Can I get a double major? Because Swarthmore requires only twelve courses in engineering for an Engineering Major, students are able to easily double major in four years without taking overloads. Common double majors include Economics, Mathematics and Computer Science. However, students at Swarthmore are a diverse group and we have had double majors with Philosophy, Political Science, Religion, Music, and just about any other degree offered by the college. If you choose not to invest all of the time for a double major, a minor is also a possibility; this gives you the opportunity to study a topic in depth without requiring the commitment of a full major.

Top of page

  1. Can I take a semester abroad? Many of our students take a semester abroad. Recent choices have included schools in Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Scotland, Poland and Spain.
  1. Is your program accredited by ABET? Our program is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, 111 Market Place, Suite 1050, Baltimore, MD 21202-4012, telephone: (410) 347-7700
  1. What options do I have if I decide to take more specialized courses than Swarthmore offers? If you decide to take more specialized courses you can take courses at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Engineering and Applied Science. There is a train that goes between Swarthmore's campus and the campus of Penn in less than half an hour. It is also possible to take a semester elsewhere; Swarthmore even has an exchange program with Harvey Mudd College.

Top of page

  1. What opportunities for research are there and how early on in one's engineering education are these opportunities available? Engineering students are encouraged to become involved in faculty research, and we show students in the first half-credit course (ENGR 005) around the faculty labs and discuss what projects are going on. In the end, between a quarter and third of all students join in faculty research, many finding their names on a published paper.
  2.  How cutting-edge is the equipment in the Engineering department? Our major concern when choosing equipment is how well it will help students learn. We may not have all of the multi-million-dollar lab equipment available at larger universities, but any equipment that we do have is fully available for hands-on use by undergraduates for class work and individual projects. Alumni often report that one of the greatest benefit of their Swarthmore Engineering education was that they learned how to figure out how to make something work.
  3. How many students are in your program? We start with roughly forty potential majors every year and usually graduate about twenty to thirty (see next question). Most of the students who leave the program choose to do so because they find something at the college that interests them more than engineering; our program gives you the flexibility to explore many interests.

Top of page

  1. I have heard that initially around 45 first-year students indicate an interest in engineering but only about half of those graduate with an engineering major. Why is this? We view this as a strength of the Swarthmore experience and is a direct result of the kind of students we get. Our students generally have very broad interests, and after they come here they may find that their intellectual passion lies outside of Engineering. The students who decide not to pursue the Engineering major generally do so because they find something else that interests them more. We think it is positive that the kind of Renaissance people we attract, with right brain as well as left brain interests, have the freedom to choose or not choose Engineering as a major at Swarthmore. The very flexibility in this choice is one of the best things about our program: if a student takes, say, a wonderful course in Linguistics or African Dance, and finds that that is her calling, she is encouraged to pursue it (even by her Engineering advisor!).

It is very hard to decide on a career path before graduating from High School (or even college) and Swarthmore gives you the opportunity to pursue a variety of interests before deciding on a major. In fact, you don't even apply for a major until the second semester of you sophomore year.

  1. How large are your classes? That depends. Our required courses typically have between 20 and 40 students, depending on how many majors there are (see previous question). Our elective classes are typically from 8 to 12 students, though some are larger or smaller. The larger classes split up into smaller groups for labs; we generally like to have no more than eight students in a lab at any given time so that there can be close interaction with the professor giving the lab.
  2. Do you have separate lab courses? We do not have separate lab courses. Instead, all of our engineering classes have labs as part of the class.
  3. Do you have graduate student teaching assistants? Swarthmore is a strictly undergraduate institution. We have no graduate students helping to teach; all classes and labs in Engineering are taught by professors.
  4. Are engineering students ever shut out of engineering courses due to full classes? No, this never happens.