Abroad in the United States
So, you’ve decided to study engineering abroad. Now you find yourself faced with an almost overwhelming number of options – so many countries and so many schools to choose from. In the United States alone, there are 346 universities approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), the national organization that ensures standard competence among engineering colleges. The United States should place high on your list when deciding on a country in which to study as some of the best engineering schools in the world can be found here.
There are several factors that you should consider when choosing a country and a university. Of course, you will consider colleges in your major with good reputations. If you haven’t decided on a specific major, you might want a larger college, which can offer a wider range of opportunities. But don’t overlook the importance of factors such as the size of the university, the climate, the culture and other unique characteristics of different colleges. Addressing these factors can help ensure that you find an engineering education that meets your needs and your comfort level.
The United States offers many opportunities for engineering students, whether they have chosen a specific field of engineering or not. More than 270 universities offer programs in mechanical engineering, and almost three hundred have programs in electrical or computer engineering. But there are also many universities with degrees in agricultural engineering (31), biomedical engineering (62), construction engineering (25), environmental engineering (80), manufacturing engineering (31) and software engineering (22). And if general engineering is your interest, there are 40 programs offered around the country. Although the number of programs in each area can be intimidating, when you begin to research the areas of specialization for these individual programs, you can narrow your list of schools to those that suit your interests best.
Aside from your specific major, perhaps the most outstanding factor influencing your choice of a school is reputation. You can learn a lot about reputations from publications like the Princeton Review, U.S. News & World Report, and Peterson’s. But contacting professional engineers and professors will also help. You will learn that the United States has more top universities than any country in the world. ABET assures that all accredited programs continually meet the highest standards through periodic reviews, so perhaps your easiest decision about studying in the United States will be to attend an ABET-accredited school. Whether you attend a world-renowned school like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of Michigan or one of the many other well-respected universities, you are assured an engineering education of the highest quality.
Studying engineering in the United States also places you within the world’s largest economy. Consequently, you will be able to establish relationships that can benefit you in the future. You will have opportunities find co-ops and internships with U.S. and international companies. You can develop friendships with other students who may serve as key contacts as your career develops. An unexpected benefit lies with the fact that the number of engineering degrees awarded has not kept pace with economic growth over the past 20 years. In 1985, over 77,000 bachelor’s degrees were awarded in engineering. Twenty years later, that total has decreased to about 73,000. Some engineering executives and labor economists predict future shortages of engineers in the U.S. market. This will ensure that engineering graduates will be at a premium for years to come and international students could be crucial in filling this gap.
Engineering schools in the United States also provide a variety of physical and learning environments. The United States has 9.8 million square kilometers (3.8 million square miles) of diverse environments including deserts, coastal regions, rocky mountains, fertile plains, tropical islands, cold northern climates and warm southern regions. There are also a variety of regional subcultures, urban and rural settings, school sizes and general social characteristics of universities. It is important to identify these attributes during your research so you can find the appropriate setting for you. In addition, many colleges are located in areas directly related to majors such as petroleum engineering, mining engineering, marine engineering, forest engineering or arctic engineering. There are several schools with these programs, should you choose to major in one of these fields. Whether you are looking for a familiar climate, a dramatic change of scenery or a environmentally specific major you will find many educational alternatives in the United States.
As an international student in engineering, you have access to a solid support network of on-campus organizations. Of course, this varies school by school, with larger schools offering greater variety thanks to larger student bodies. Aside from the many campus-wide organizations for international students, a survey of several schools reveals groups including the Muslim Engineering Student Association, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers and the Asian Engineering Student Association just to name a few. Engineering colleges also offer a wide variety of student support programs ranging from advising to leadership and service, learning development opportunities to specialized workshops and career fairs. Tutoring and study groups are offered as well. On the whole, these support options can help ensure your successful education.
The United States offers international students many unique opportunities. First and foremost is the opportunity to receive a degree from some of the top universities in the world. The combination of high technology and devoted engineering educators will help you get the most out of your education. You will not find a better selection of universities in any other country. Consequently, over 100,000 international students study engineering at all degree levels in the United States every year. So you will be in good company. Engineering colleges welcome international students, encouraging student-driven support organizations in addition to those developed by the universities. But you will also have the opportunity to develop personal and business relationships that can ensure a successful career. I’m sure you’ll find that the United States offers the best prospects for a top engineering education and a rewarding future.
Michael T. Gibbons is director of data research for the American Society for Engineering Education.