I often see in the US that many engineering programs are listed as a BSc or an MSc for Master's.

In my country (New Zealand) one can obtain a BSc in three years in a science field, or, if wanting to pursue engineering, a bachelor of engineering (BE) can be attained, most often with an honours component (BE(Hons)) in four years.

The honours component includes a year long research project with thesis in the final year as well as additional non-research related coursework.

To put it simply, my question is:

  1. In the US, what is the duration of a BSc in an engineering field?
  2. Does this include an honours component such as the one I have mentioned?
  3. If not, is there a significant emphasis on research?
  4. If yes, is this something all students complete, or is it optional?
  5. Is this honours/research component very important to the overall degree?

My confusion arises due to the name of 'BSc' and also due to no honours being mentioned i.e. it is not 'BSc(Hons)'.

  • 1
    A note is that a three-year degree in New Zealand may very well be equivalent to a four-year US degree. This is not because US students are stupid or slow, but because US bachelor's degree programs require a significant amount of "general education" coursework outside the major field. So a person earning a BS in Engineering might have to take about 1/3 of their courses in English, history, art, biology, etc. Thus even if the amount of engineering coursework is similar, the US student would take longer. Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 19:38
  • These are example flowcharts of coursework in electrical and chemical at my institution. You can see a lot of credits are padded by coursework we consider "general," as in composition, economics, social science, etc. The final required credit hours include no mandatory research or honors component but do require a 4th-year "capstone project." Research is limited by lab space and requires instructor approval.
    – CKM
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 22:20
  • 1
    Every university is different.
    – JeffE
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 2:56
  • 1
    @JeffE: I feel that for this particular example, that's not 100% true. While yes, the individual details may very, any ABET-accredited program (which constitutes the vast majority of "good" programs in the U.S.) must abide by a certain set of rules. So for this particular example, I feel that at least a baseline answer can be given that will hold true for a large subset of universities/engineering programs.
    – tonysdg
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 3:47
  • @tonysdg ABET rules standardize the answer to the first question: four years (in principle). But they don't say anything about honors programs or research; those will vary from one university to the next.
    – JeffE
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 10:31

3 Answers 3

  1. Most ABET-accredited programs in the US offer a 4-year Bachelors of Science in XYZ Engineering (sounds like the equivalent of a BE from your home country). Most science programs (i.e., Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Sociology, really any type of science, hard or soft) are 4-year programs as well.
  2. Many programs have an optional honors thesis that students can pursue if they are interested - it's rarely, to my knowledge, required.
  3. US engineering programs don't typically emphasize research - though this depends on the school - but most emphasize a capstone project during one's third or fourth year. This can range from working with an actual client (like my undergrad did) to working on a project that the professors running the project determine.
  4. Generally speaking - all students complete the capstone, research/honors is optional.
  5. Practical experience is what's most important - that comes from the capstone project, laboratory exercises, and above all internships/co-ops/REUs.
  • Thanks for the quick answer. Here we are required to complete 800 hours of work, but this is employment found by ourselves and usually completed over summer. Is this similar to the work mentioned or is yours completed during the year?
    – Dylan
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 19:40
  • Entirely depends on the school. I've got friends who were required to complete a co-op (short for "cooperative education experience") that would typically take place during a semester. They would work at a company - making normal wages - and in return not take any classes. Alternatively, my school pushed for summer internships, as that meant we could graduate after 4 years (the friends mentioned previously took 4.5 - 5 years). There's rarely a required number of hours though, and the capstone courses are usually for credit (though they are good experience still).
    – tonysdg
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 19:43

In the U.S.:

  1. Most ABET accredited engineering B.S. programs are designed to take 4 yr, as are most other bachelor's level programs, science or otherwise. If you eliminate the General Education requirements as I did, it's not terribly difficult to complete the degree in 3yr. I also know that many students take 5yr to complete their B.S. in engineering, but they're typically the ones who have significant "extra-curricular" activities and don't take a full load of classes each term.
  2. Some schools have an "honours" program, but personally I'm not familiar with them. More typical is a 5yr program that leads to a both a B.S. and a Masters degree (either an MS Engineering or an MBA).
  3. Research opportunities aren't typical for undergrad students, but they're available and are usually something that comes about when an undergrad student shows excellence and a professor has an opportunity. I did some research into heat exchanger designs for a professor as an undergrad.
  4. Doing research is optional, but if you were to undertake something like a 5yr B.S./M.S program, research would most certainly be a part of the program. The focus in undergrad programs is going to be on getting some industry/practical experience.
  5. Research is important if you want it to be, but it's not typicvally mandatory for an undergraduate engineering degree in the U.S.
  • Definitely not true, 1 year MS is never research focused. The entire point of the combined program is to exit quicker and research does the opposite of that. Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 2:18

Bachelor of Arts

  • At least 24 semester hours, at least half is upper division

Bachelor of Science

  • At least 36 semester hours, at least half is upper division

ABET's Accreditation Requirements:

  • BEng Total is 120-123 semester hours
    • 30 semester hours in Engineering
    • 45 semester hours in Sciences, Technology, and Mathematics
  • BEng Total is 124-127 semester hours
    • 31 semester hours in Engineering
    • 46 semester hours in Sciences, Technology, and Mathematics
  • BEng Total is 128-135 semester hours
    • 32 semester hours in Engineering
    • 48 semester hours in Sciences, Technology, and Mathematics

I've round down the E, so it is likely for STM to also be round down to 46 semester hours. Usually, 120 semester hours are for most public schools, 126 semester hours from legacy requirement of 6 semester hours of physical education, 128 semester hours are for most private schools, and 135 semester hours are public schools that inflate to 4.5 years.

  1. It is usually 4 years, but some public schools inflate to 4.5 years.
  2. It usually cannot have honors component, because honors require taking more rigorous version of a class, which requires even more semester hours. An honors version of a class is +1 or +2 semester hours compared to a regular version. Also, a student must take all possible honors version of general education and in their major to get honors.
  • In a public school, a normal student needs 40 classes (40x3=120), an honors student needs 30 classes (30x4=120), and lose out on 10 classes of free electives if not Engineering Major. General Education is 16 classes, each Arts Major is 8 classes, each Arts Minor is 4 classes, each Science Major is 12 classes, each Science Minor is 6 classes, and Engineering is 15 classes.
  • In a private school, a normal student needs 32 classes (32x4=128), an honors student needs 26 classes (26x5=130), and lose out 6 classes of free electives if not Engineering Major. General Education is 12 classes, each Arts Major is 6 classes, each Arts Minor is 3 classes, each Science Major is 9 classes, each Science Minor is 5 classes, and Engineering is 20 classes.
  1. Research is not usually part of undergraduate in the US. However, some do provide it as an option, and rarely as mandatory depending on majors.
  2. If a capstone is a research (thesis), students must complete it. Students must complete capstones no matter what it is, if it exists. Some majors do not have capstone.
  3. A capstone is either one class (3 or 4 semester hours) or two classes (6 or 8 semester hours).
  • 46.5 semester hours in Sciences, Technology, and Mathematics Exactly? or a typo?
    – Nobody
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 5:48
  • The amount of Engineering is the lesser 25% or 32 semester hours rounded, but not sure which direction. The amount of Science, Technology, and Mathematics is the lesser of 37.5% or 48 semester hours rounded, but not sure which direction. Since the STM is 150% of E, I leave it at that.
    – Abraham Le
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 15:39

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