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The path to become an engineer is usually long and challenging. Most bachelor's degree programs require at least four years to complete and the coursework is difficult. Not everyone is cut out to be an engineer. According to a study by UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute, more than 20 percent of students who enter engineering programs drop out before graduation. But if you have the dedication and technical aptitude, you can make it through the program successfully. If you already have a college degree and take courses year-round, you can even finish the program a bit early and start working as an engineer.
If you’ve attended college before, you may be able to use your previous coursework toward an engineering degree. Check with an academic adviser before enrolling into the program. If you haven't settled on a specific college, consider choosing the one that allows you to apply the most of your credits toward an engineering degree. Every school has different rules on what transfer credit they will accept. The number will depend on the school’s coursework and factors such as your previous school’s accreditation, your GPA and how long ago you earned the college credits.
The college program you choose will affect how quickly you can obtain your degree. Smaller colleges and universities may offer engineering programs, but the limited selection and availability of classes might make it difficult to complete the degree quickly. An engineering degree from Arizona State University requires 128 credit hours and is possible to complete in four years, but many people take longer since the coursework is so challenging. It may be best to attend a university with a large engineering program, so you have a better chance at fitting classes into your schedule.
Taking summer courses will definitely help you graduate sooner. Most engineering programs have a traditional college schedule where school is out of session during the summer. However, others offer summer classes for students to either make up courses or get ahead. If you attend summer school each year during your engineering program, you could graduate in just two and half or three years, depending how many classes you take at a time.
Getting a Job before Graduating
The fastest way to become an engineer is to get a job doing engineering work before you graduate. Students often take engineering internships while they are attending college. But if you already have work experience and a college degree, you might be able to get a job before you finish your engineering degree. The best approach is to find an entry level engineering job through a network or personal contact. Some companies may offer you the position with the stipulation that you finish your degree within a year. This might be a challenging approach, since you’ll have to finish school while working, but it will certainly get you working as an engineer quickly.
Auston Matta is an experienced engineer who has worked in the packaging industry since 2003. He holds a bachelor's degree in bio-engineering and a master's degree in engineering management. Auston has also contributed to "Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News."