(March 19, 2010)

Contact: Rick DelaHaya, Centenary News Services, 318.869.5073

College Provides Program For Students Seeking Engineering Degree

3-2 program combines liberal arts and engineering degrees

Ask anyone who has graduated from the 3-2 engineering program at Centenary College what makes a good engineer, and the overwhelming response will be not only problem solving and analytical skills along with proficiency in math and science, but also the ability to communicate clearly to a wide variety of audiences.

Engineers of today apply the principles of science and mathematics to solve real world problems ranging from building bridges, developing machines in response to specific manufacturing needs and researching solutions to environmental problems to designing computer chips and systems to provide power to a satellite over its 20-year lifetime.

Engineers confront interesting technical problems in many contexts in a variety of industries essential to the technology-based economy of the modern world. Because of this array of possibilities, the ideal engineer would have the broad intellectual training offered by a liberal arts college and the technical training offered by an engineering school.

3-2 Engineering Program

For those seeking to pursue a degree in engineering, these two types of education come together in the dual degree program in liberal arts and engineering offered at Centenary College.

The 3-2 engineering program offers the advantages of a combined liberal arts and engineering program that allows students the opportunity to earn two degrees in five years. Centenary College has arrangements with Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio), Columbia University (Manhattan, N.Y.), Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas), the University of Southern California (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Washington University (St. Louis, Mo.), whereby a student may receive both a Bachelor of Arts from Centenary and a Bachelor of Science from the participating engineering school.

What our graduates say

"I think what makes the 3-2 program unique at Centenary College is that we prepare our students to be able to communicate their ideas, both written and verbally, to a variety of audiences which is critical in the engineering field," said Dr. Troy Messina, assistant professor of physics and advisor for the program. "We require a great deal of writing and speaking during the program, such as how do you write a research proposal, give both written and verbal updates, and then present at conferences and the student research forum. Combine this with a strong background in the liberal arts, and our students are just as prepared, if not better, than those students going through a four-year engineering program."

Brandon Larson ’05, a design engineer and project manager with the Boeing Company, couldn’t agree more. Larson graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in physics from Centenary and Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in mechanical engineering from Washington University. According to Larson, if not for the 3-2 program at Centenary, he would not be where he is today. Being an engineer is a fascinating and rewarding job, he said, but being an engineer and having the social and communication skills of the liberal arts student is "real power."

"The ability to solve incredibly hard problems means less without the ability to communicate those findings to any audience, and unfortunately, many four-year engineers lack this skill," said Larson. "The education I received at Centenary coupled with my engineering education at Washington University have become a total package which gives me added insight in many situations and often helps me be more creative in my problem solving. Centenary taught me how to think; Washington University taught me how to solve problems."

Along with having a strong background in the liberal arts and communications, students are well prepared for the rigors of engineering classes once they transfer to the school of their choice. Students, depending on their choice of engineering field, are immersed in the sciences and mathematics, and according to Richard Lopez, a Centenary student now attending Washington University seeking a degree in mechanical engineering, are just as prepared or better prepared than the students in a four-year engineering track.

"My advice is to take as many classes in math and physics as you can while at Centenary," said Lopez. "They may not be required, but you will feel more comfortable and understand concepts better. I’ve seen some of my other classmates struggle a bit because they did not have the strong background in these core subjects." He suggests classes in vector analysis, Calculus 3, linear algebra, math methods and computer science, all of which are offered at Centenary.

Employment outlook for engineers

Whichever field students decide to pursue, whether it is chemical, mechanical, civil or even aerospace engineering, the employment outlook is good. According to a recent article in the Chicago Sun Times, when it comes to prospects for a resurgence of engineer hiring in 2010, understatement is the watchword. Some believe engineering job recovery has already begun. "We’ve recently seen a 180-degree turnaround from the recession’s difficult market for engineers in certain specialties," says Karen Panetta, chair for the IEEE Women in Engineering Committee and associate professor of engineering at Tufts University.

And many see much promise in defense, Homeland Security, civil engineering and aerospace engineering jobs in the future. Companies in homeland security and defense will be hiring and creating jobs in engineering throughout 2010, Panetta says. Raytheon, Textron and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are among the organizations bringing on engineers in substantial numbers. Working for defense contractors “is not just about making bombs,” says Panetta. "Employers are looking for bachelor's engineering students with well-rounded experience, including fields like biology and psychology."

The question on everyone’s mind is, "How much can I make as an engineer?" According to the Monster® Salary Wizard’s November 2009 snapshot of salaries, increases will be modest in all but the most-in demand specialties. Salaries for engineers include:

  • Aerospace engineer II: $71,832
  • Biomedical engineer II: $58,230
  • Chemical engineer II: $75,069
  • Civil engineer II: $66,505
  • Drilling engineer II: $83,368
  • Electrical engineer II: $73,273
  • Electronics engineer II: $73,401
  • Environmental, health and safety engineer II: $63,826
  • Manufacturing engineer II: $70,278
  • Materials engineer II: $74,787
  • Mechanical engineer II: $72,528

"Engineering is a very lucrative field," added Messina. "Our graduates have never had any problem finding employment once they have graduated."

He added with a slight grin, "One of our graduates who is an aerospace engineer is planning on retiring by the time he is 35-years old. Not bad for living on the beach of Southern California."

To find out more on the 3-2 engineering program, contact Dr. Troy Messina at 318.869.5217 or email.

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