Pre-Engineering Advising

Pre-Engineering is an advising function to assist students choosing courses and applying to engineering schools for study after Williams.  Although Williams College does not offer an engineering major, many Williams graduates enjoy rewarding careers in engineering, applied science, and technical management. Successful engineers need to be able to communicate effectively, reason logically, and understand both the technical and the social dimensions of a problem. Williams offers opportunities to acquire a strong grounding in science and mathematics, while also studying broadly in the humanities and social sciences. This well-rounded liberal arts education enables Williams graduates to succeed in engineering graduate study and in their careers.

Interested in computers?
Williams has an excellent Computer Science Department whose graduates are well prepared for employment as software engineers or for further study in computer science. Please consult that department for advice on how to prepare for careers in the software industry.

There are many pathways to careers in engineering and applied science from Williams. Most prospective engineers major in one of the sciences or mathematics and later pursue a Master’s Degree or Ph.D. at an engineering school, ofter after gaining work experience in their field of interest.

B.A. in the Sciences, then Graduate School

The most common route to an engineering career is to complete a B.A. at Williams in the normal four years, majoring in one of the sciences (often physics, chemistry, or computer science) or mathematics. Afterwards the student goes to a graduate school for a master’s degree or doctorate in engineering. Our experience is that many of the best engineering graduate programs are eager to accept Williams students who have strong records in science courses.
Some graduate programs Williams students have attended in recent years

Transfer Programs

Williams partners with two engineering transfer programs — at Dartmouth College and Columbia University — in which you typically spend three years at Williams and two at the other school, graduating in 5 years with both a B.A. from Williams and a B.E. or B.S.E. from an ABET accredited engineering program. This engineering degree can be the start of pursuing licensure as a Professional Engineer (PE).

Students interested in either of these programs should work with the Pre-Engineering Advisor as well as the Study Away office to ensure their course plan covers all the prerequisites. Note that Williams considers the first year of each of these programs a “Study Away” year, meaning that Williams financial aid generally applies for this year, but also that students participating in a transfer program are ineligible for any further Study Abroad or Study Away semesters. For more information about these programs and their up-to-date requirements, see here:

None of these routes to an engineering career is the most direct. If one’s goal is to prepare for an entry-level job in engineering as quickly as possible, one should attend a four-year undergraduate engineering program instead of Williams College. Of necessity undergraduate engineering programs concentrate earlier and more intensely on engineering-specific topics. They also offer few opportunities to study non-technical subjects. A prospective engineer should attend Williams if they to take the time to acquire a firm foundation in science and to explore the humanities and social sciences before beginning engineering-specific training. In the long run the extra time and effort required to combine a liberal arts education with engineering training gives an engineer valuable scientific and communications skills that will enhance their career.

Courses Recommended to Students Interested in Engineering

Mathematics and physics serve as the foundation of most engineering disciplines.  First-year students who might be interested in engineering should take mathematics and physics courses as early as possible.

Engineering includes a wide variety of subjects, ranging from traditional fields like mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering, and chemical engineering to newer fields like bioengineering and environmental engineering. Different engineering fields will have different prerequisite courses. The following courses are recommended as a common foundation for most engineering disciplines:

  • PHYS 141 Mechanics and Waves
  • PHYS 142 Foundations of Modern Physics
    • or PHYS 151 Seminar in Modern Physics
  • PHYS 201 Electricity and Magnetism
  • MATH 130140150 or 151 Calculus I, II, and Multivariable
  • PHYS 210 Mathematical Methods for Scientists (strongly recommended, required for Columbia Combined Plan)
  • CHEM 151 or CHEM 153 or CHEM 155 Introductory Chemistry
  • CSCI 134 Introduction to Computer Science
  • ECON 110 Principles of Microeconomics (recommended, required for Columbia Combined Plan)

Beyond these common fundamentals, more advanced science and/or mathematics coursework that supports your specific engineering interests are also strongly recommended. Both engineering transfer programs have specific further prerequisites depending on your planned area of study.

For advice please contact the pre-engineering advisor, Prof. Kate Jensen. She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] .