Name: Brendan Denker
Year: Class of 2010
Hometown: Holliston, MA
Major: General Engineering
LETTER TO THE PROSPECTIVE GENERAL ENGINEER
Hello Prospective Students,
I would like to give you all the inside track on General Engineering. Lets start at the beginning. Most of you have probably never heard of General Engineering prior to reading this. Hopefully, I can get you to consider General Engineering as a potential Major here at Hopkins. Here are some quick facts about the program: the degree is a B.A. in Engineering, you can design your own concentration to fit your individual interests, and you will have the opportunity to study abroad. The Johns Hopkins Undergraduate course book describes the major as such:
The Bachelor of Arts in general engineering is a liberal arts degree, which is designed to provide students with both a concentration in some area of humanities, or social sciences and the fundamental engineering principles needed to understand the basics of modern technology, innovations and engineering practices. It is intended for undergraduate students who desire a background in engineering and technology yet have neither the desire nor the intention to become professional engineers.
While the course book description is nice it doesn’t exactly leave you with a feeling of confidence about what the degree actually means. To help you gain a better understanding of what the program is really about here are the answers to two of the more common questions.
- What is a general engineer?
Most people have absolutely no idea. General engineers do not pick a specific discipline; they study many different areas of engineering. The program at Hopkins has general requirements including humanities, some writing (yes, engineers should know how to write too), basic math through Calculus III, natural sciences, the general engineering core, international dimensions and your engineering concentration. The engineering core consists of a computing course, an introductory engineering course and several fundamental courses from the mechanical, civil, electrical, materials and chemical engineering majors. Taking a foreign language or studying abroad can fulfill the international dimensions requirement. The student and his or her advisor design the engineering core, which can encompass any aspect of engineering.
- Why become a general engineer?
There are a few things that come to mind. You have the unique opportunity to study abroad as an engineer and the freedom to design your own concentration to fit your interests. You will also get a broad exposure to the many branches of engineering. By working and studying with engineers as an undergraduate, you will learn to effectively communicate and work with engineers. Finally, you will get a strong background in engineering that will enable you to pursue a broad range of fields.
After reading all of the information I just bombarded you with, you may feel a little overwhelmed. On the surface, the requirements seem long and many. However, they are actually quite easily to fill and there is a lot of flexibility to pick and choose the courses you want to take.
I would also like to address the bit in the course description about how the major is meant for “students who desire a background in engineering and technology yet have neither the desire nor the intention to become professional engineers.” Although this may be true for some students, it is not necessarily so. Some graduate programs require that you have an undergraduate degree in a given branch of Engineering, however if you are interested in a form of interdisciplinary engineering you should be fine. For example, I am interested in sustainability and renewable resources engineering. There are no engineering branches that directly address my interests. General Engineering fits my needs perfectly and will enable me to pursue a graduate degree in Renewable Resource Engineering without any problem.
For me, General Engineering was the perfect option. I was unsure about becoming a practicing engineer, so I did not want to invest all of my energy and time into a branch of engineering I was not sure I would enjoy. I have always been very interested in sustainability and renewable resources, so I chose the General Engineering degree with a concentration in Sustainability. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever studied Sustainability prior to me, so I had the opportunity to design my own course load and determine what I wanted to take. I will have the opportunity to travel aboard to Australia as part of my program (something that is almost impossible to do in any other type of engineering).
There are few things that I would consider to be possible downsides to General Engineering. The program is a B.A., not a B.S. and it is not ABET (American Board for Engineering and Technology) accredited. These are the only two things that General Engineering cannot offer you over a traditional engineering discipline. Despite these two minor issues, I am finding that general engineers are actually very desirable to employers. Often an employer wants to hire someone whom they can train and mold to fill a specific role that is needed in the organization.
Now the question is where will a general engineering degree take you? I personally feel that by molding this major to fit my interests and needs I am better prepared to be on the cutting-edge. For me, General Engineering is opening doors into either a Masters or PhD in Renewable Resource Engineering. General Engineering is a great option for anyone who is interested in engineering, whether you plan to become an engineer, go into business or you just find it interesting. I hope that this has been informative and has answered any questions you might have had about General Engineering. Whether you choose to be a General Engineer or some other kind of engineer you really can’t go wrong. Good luck.
Click here to access more information about the General Engineering Undergraduate Program of Study.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective as well as our General Engineering question thread.