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Considerations When Choosing a STEM Program

Choosing an undergraduate engineering or STEM program is an important decision that can have a significant impact on your future career. To ensure a well-informed choice, it's essential to consider various factors when selecting the program that align with your personal interests and career goals.


Here are some key factors to keep in mind:


Specialization


Take note of the different majors offered by the program. It’s important to know what options, especially if you contemplate switching majors before graduation. Common majors that are usually offered by all programs include;

  • Mechanical Engineering

  • Electrical Engineering

  • Chemical Engineering

  • Biomedical Engineering

  • Computer Engineering

  • Software Engineering


Accreditation


Verify if the program holds accreditation status by a recognized accrediting agency, such as ABET. ABET accreditation guarantees the program meets global academic standards and adequately prepares graduates for their future STEM careers.


Some employers may only consider applicants with an ABET-accredited degree. Additionally, many post-graduation licensing certifications require graduation from an ABET-accredited program. You can find a list of ABET-accredited programs here: **https://www.abet.org/accreditation/find-programs/**



Faculty and Research


Look into the faculty and their research interests to see if they align with your own. By exploring the professor profiles on the university's engineering school website, you can find the different projects professors are working on.Speaking to current students can also provide insights into the difficulty of getting accepted into research labs. Some universities may have a limited number of research labs relative to student interest.



Career Services


Check out the career services offered by the program, such as job placement, networking opportunities, and career counseling. Seek input from current students and alumni about their experiences with the Career Center to gain an inside perspective.



Location


Consider the program's location for a few reasons. First, determine how far you're comfortable with being away from home and family. Second, proximity to local companies can facilitate networking and recruitment opportunities.


Many companies tend to recruit at the nearby university to find their next set of incoming talent. If you're not keen on staying in the area after graduation, ask current students about the university's support in securing roles in desired locations. Some schools may not have the network reach you’d prefer.



Reputation


Research the reputation of both the program and the school offering it. Compare rankings, student testimonials, and the success achieved by alumni. Remember that individuals in STEM positions often secure opportunities based on their qualifications and achievements, not solely on the institution from which they obtained their degree. If you can’t market yourself well during an interview, not many employers will overlook that due to where you obtained your degree.


To assess the success of alumni from a particular program or university, try the following:


1. Visit the University Website

  • Many universities feature a page dedicated to alumni success stories

2. Google Notable Alumni

  • You can find anything on the Internet. This can give you insight into the types of careers some graduates from the university have pursued.

3. Review Rankings & Ratings

  • Publications like US News & World Report, Times Higher Education, or QS World University Rankings often include metrics on alumni success, encompassing employment rates, earnings, and achievements.

4. Conduct Informational Interviews

  • Reach out to alumni of the school and ask them about their university experiences. Most times, people are flattered to provide input on such a significant decision. Candid conversations are a great way to really understand what you can expect.


Cost


Take into account the cost of tuition and thoroughly explore available financial aid or scholarships. It is crucial to keep in mind that reputation should not overshadow the financial strain that the program may impose. If the program is going to bury you under piles and piles of loans that you’ll spend much of your early adult life trying to crawl out from under, it would be beneficial to reassess your motive for attending. Consider whether the benefits of attending the program truly outweigh the financial costs, or whether there are other programs that can provide similar opportunities at a more affordable price.



Choosing the right engineering program is a complex decision that requires careful consideration of many different factors. While many individuals can share their experiences and write blog posts on this topic, ultimately, the decision rests with you and what program resonates with you the most. You’ll be there for quite a bit of time, so may as well enjoy it!

 

Stay tuned for more articles about advice for the best way to take advantage of your undergraduate years as a STEM major - be sure to subscribe to our email list to stay up to date!


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