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Is it possible for someone without an engineering bachelors degree to go to grad school for engineering?

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At the time I applied for college I was interested in Comp Sci so I entered school as a Math - CS major (about to end my first year). After seeing career fairs, I feel like mechanical engineering seems much more interesting and fun but my GPA is not high enough to switch majors (the cutoff is normally around 3.8 at my school). I have a lot of course work to get through so I normally balance 4 classes a quarter with my part time job. I am currently a math - applied science major and was wondering if I could get into a grad school for Mech E with this degree? I am allowed to pick out Mech E courses to fulfill my upper division requirements (the science part of my major) and was hoping it would either demonstrate an interest in the subject or at least lessen the amount of catch up courses I would need to take. I am also hoping to land some sort of internship once social distancing is no longer a necessity. Does this goal seem realistic? How high of a GPA would I need to even get past the cut off for grad school? Has anyone been a in a similar position? I would like some sort of advice on how to reach my goal and stuff.

#college #engineer #graduate-school #engineering #career #mechanical-engineering #college-major

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Herman’s Answer

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To your main question, yes, you can get into a graduate school program in mechanical engineering from your background. However, there are some extra steps that you should take to ensure you're competitive (most of which you're already doing!).

To take UCLA's graduate program in mechanical engineering as an example, they address this question specifically in Q5 if you scroll down at this link: https://www.mae.ucla.edu/graduate-admissions/

In summary, if your background is another STEM area, the steps you can take to make yourself competitive include:

1) Mechanical engineering coursework (lower divisional and upper divisional, if possible)

2) Projects and experience relevant to mechanical engineering

For #1, you already mention you're doing this, which is great! Try to do well in these courses (especially the upper divisional ones down the road), as grad school admissions committees will pay particular attention there.

For #2, I feel that one of the better routes would be to try to pick up research experience in the mechanical engineering department at your university. In general, research experience is very good to have to make you competitive for grad school. In addition however, it'll show that you have practical experience in a *mechanical engineering* research environment.

Your CS background in particular can be extremely useful to professors in more computational areas of mechanical engineering. For example, computational fluid dynamics would be one of these sorts of areas. There will be other positions and niches that are heavy in simulations (ex. some energy groups), so these may be good targets. Once you get your foot in the door, you'll have practical mechanical engineering experience + a potential recommendation letter down the road.

One more thing that you could do is join one of your school's mechanical engineering design teams! Again, this will give you a sense for what practical mechanical engineering is about while also adding to your profile for grad school admissions. A common team that many schools will have is Formula One, for example.

To your question on grad school admissions in general, the overall requirements will vary depending on the school. UCLA for example has a competitive admissions process and students have an average of ~3.7 GPA. In general, if you can be >3.5, you should be in good shape at most places. You can look up average entry GPA's for your target schools. It's important to note however that GPA is just one factor. The other main factors include your research experience, your letters of recommendation, and your GRE score. The best things you can do to keep your odds high are to (1) keep your grades up, (2) get some research experience and do a great job, (3) down the line, do well on the GRE.

Best of luck, Ashley!

Herman recommends the following next steps:

  • Continue to take mechanical engineering courses, as available
  • Try to find research opportunities within your mechanical engineering department (you can target computationally heavy fields / roles initially)
  • Keep your grades up as best as you can
Thank you so much for responding so quickly! It's great to know I'm doing something right. Ashley T.
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Drew’s Answer

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Ashley, yes. There are several things you can do to prepare for engineering graduate school and to improve your prospects for acceptance into a program. If there is an ABET accredited graduate engineering program at your school, go talk with some of the professors. Ask them about the sufficiency of your preparation, especially in mathematics and physics. My engineering school was five years with a BS in Applied Science at four years and the Master of Engineering at five years. One of my classmates had a BS in Biology and several years field experience. He was required to complete the full five year program because of comparative rigor in his undergraduate program. Talking with the professors will show your early interest and you may be talking with one who will be on the acceptance committee.

Engineering schools' ABET accreditation requirements drive the curriculum to the same skill set. If you really want to learn, the material will be presented and available; your hard work will allow you to learn as much at any engineering school. And when you graduate you will be able to work in industry, utilities, federal government as an engineer. However, getting licensed as a Professional Engineer will be a challenge. However, there is a path for you to eventually get your license.

By way of background, about ten years after completing my M.Eng. and becoming licensed, I went back to school for my MBA. Now at 72 years old, I am about to complete my third Masters Degree, this one MS Mechanical Engineering. In most professions, life long learning is both a requirement and a reward. My thirst for knowledge continues as my joy in the profession. I am a Forensic Engineer serving as an expert consultant and witness in Environmental, Safety and Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Hygiene. Good luck in your endeavors.

Drew recommends the following next steps:

  • Meet with and discuss you plans with engineering professors.
  • Meet with your advisor and discuss your plans and ask which mechanical engineering courses will satisfy elective requirements.
  • If you have a semester break, audit a graduate engineering course. Thermodynamics may be a good one to try because you have probably had some thermodynamics in your undergraduate curriculum.
  • Hard work, determination and persistence will be key to your success.
Thank you! I will definitely try to contact a few professors. Ashley T.
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venkatachalam’s Answer

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yes under the following conditions.
when you join the program you should be able to keep up or have to take extra courses to build your capabilities.

By the way, I did it after my Ph.D. in physics, a Masters in E.E.

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Biju’s Answer

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Yes. However, you may need to take some extra courses or meet the prerequisites depends on the school you choose. Good luck!
Thanks! I'll try my best. Ashley T.
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