Not so long ago, back in the early days of electronics, successful engineers could be "undegreed" and learn their craft on the job. They could dabble in different nascent technologies to solve some problem and maybe discover a new technique or technology along the way. Engineers with a native talent, bitten by the engineering bug, and seeing dollar signs, could forgo the university degree for immediate career gratification. It made more sense to start working at the leading edge of knowledge rather than sit in a classroom.
Yet even then, the degreeless engineer may have been the exception. A college education -- specifically an EE degree -- was and still is important to the career of us mere mortals.
An MIT graduation ceremony, 2006, from Boston.com: "Another graduate, Ryan Griffin, was prepared in case graduating gave him a big head."
(Globe Staff Photo / David L. Ryan)
Off and on the school-vs.-work debate crops up on EE Times and sister sites (see a short list of past discussions at the end of this article). We believe, however, that most engineers realize an engineering, math, or science degree is the differentiator in the modern job market and that it can get your foot in the door for at least that first job. The degree tells an employer that you know certain basics about engineering and science. Undoubtedly job seekers with the right academic credentials plus the right work experience will be more competitive in any cut-throat job market, in any field. Engineering is no different.
Whether engineering in the US is a cut-throat job market is itself debatable: If the number of US engineers vying for US jobs is greater than the number of jobs, why does the US need H1B visas? (The answer: The job competition is global.)
Regardless, competition among engineering schools is fierce, just as it is for applicants trying to gain a spot in one. Here's a look at 10 US universities considered up-and-comers in the world of engineering. This list comprises a little of everything, including liberal arts colleges, land grant schools, Midwestern schools, coastal schools, schools where engineering is the main focus, and universities where engineering is one of several options. This unscientific, short list is based on interviews with engineering departments at two top schools (MIT and Stanford) plus US News and World Report's famous annual list.
Inevitably, because the list is short, many under-appreciated institutions have been left out. Please add your favorite engineering school you think everyone should know (but doesn't) in the comments below. While you're at it, let us know your thoughts about an engineering education and if there are other routes possible that can prepare engineers other than a college program.
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