Rise in the number of U.S. students majoring in engineering

four female engineering professors to serve as role models, he says. “It can be daunting to be the only woman in a class of 40 men, a common occurrence just a decade ago,” Stabler says. “I think increases in the number of women faculty have helped make the field seem less of a male-dominated environment. A critical component is encouraging females at the K-12 level that it’s OK to excel in math and science.”

As alluring as the field may seem, its benefits do come at a price: The course load for an engineering student can be heavy, Stabler says. She recommends a prospective high school or college student look into all the different specialties within engineering before selecting a major since switching departments after freshman year can be difficult.

Some branches of engineering include:

• Civil engineering — the design and making of buildings, roads, canals, and bridges.
• Mechanical engineering — the design and making of devices, such as cars, airplanes, and power plants.
• Electrical engineering — the study and application of electricity and electronics, such as the power systems and grids used by Florida Power & Light Co.
• Biomedical engineering — the application of engineering to medical research, such as the creation of prosthetics and imaging machines like MRIs.

Regardless of the type of engineering a student chooses, the basic requirements are strong science and math skills in order to earn a bachelor’s of science degree or a master’s degree. A doctorate is not required for most positions, but may be necessary in certain situations, especially if the student plans to teach at the university level.


The National Society of Women Engineers suggests high school students (girls and boys) take algebra 2, geometry, statistics, calculus and science courses, such as biology, chemistry and physics. Both engineering deans at UM and FIU recommend students enroll in Advanced Placement courses that can later count as college credits. They also suggest students join after-school clubs or volunteer with research labs or other engineering industries.

Keep up with engineering-related community events as well, says FIU’s Mirmiran, such as FIU’s Engineers’ Week, which is usually held in the third week of February. The engineering expo invites middle and high school students to shadow their labs throughout the week.

“`If you’re interested in why it works, how it works, and want to make a better mousetrap, that’s what keeps you in engineering and makes you a better engineer,” says UM’s Tien. “It’s about innovation — that’s your motivating force. We can teach you the math and science and physics, but what we can’t do is motivate you. If you have no interest, then whatever I’m teaching you is useless.”