Engineering 101: What Faculty Need to Know About Advising Engineering Students

Mission College, MESA Director/Counselor, Counseling and Library Faculty Issues Committee

"California's colleges and universities have great engineering programs and the capacity to produce more engineers. Our challenge is getting more students into these programs and ready for the job opportunities that await them after graduation"

-Governor Schwarzenegger, 2007

The Governor's proposal to bring 20,000 new engineers to California's workforce includes a plan to establish new engineering programs at both California State Universities and University of California campuses, as well as to fund new apprenticeship programs that partner private industry and California Community Colleges (CCC). As a result, CCC's will likely see an increase in students pursuing degrees in Engineering. What can we, as CCC faculty, do to prepare ourselves and these students to meet the State's needs? In an effort to support the Governor's goal, this article provides CCC faculty an opportunity to acquaint themselves with the various components involved in assisting students to successfully transfer into Baccalaureate Degree engineering programs.

Rick Ainsworth, Director of the Center for Excellence in Engineering and Diversity at UCLA, expresses the following concern: "The barrier that our transfer students frequently cite is the lack of proper counseling and guidance for the engineering and computer science major." While the "lack of proper counseling" may stem from the student's own failure to seek such assistance, such complaints remind us that counseling students is always a challenge as transfer institutions change policies, students change their minds, and some majors are just more complicated than others. Although many CCC counseling faculty appropriately advise engineering students that IGETC (the UC general education pattern) is not the appropriate guide to follow, that engineering degree requirements vary from university to university, and that may not provide the most up-to-date information, CCC faculty may not be aware of all the nuances that accompany the ability to properly inform engineering students of their transfer requirements.

The faculty, those both teaching and advising these students, should work to see that students pursuing this in-demand major understand the complexities of their chosen transfer path and seek the guidance they need.

#1 Ask Questions!
Faculty who teach courses that are designed for the student who intends to go on in engineering should learn who their students are-and encourage those with transfer plans to meet with a counselor to ensure proper course planning. In order for counselors to properly advise engineering students, counselors must first obtain information from the student. Counselors need to ask specific questions relating to intended transfer institution and interested emphasis so they may be able to identify the required courses needed for transfer.

Resources such as,, and the US Department of Labor can provide students with overviews of careers in engineering that might assist the student in identifying an emphasis. Additionally, career sites such as allow students to view streaming video of interviews with people such as Mary Bell, VP of Logistics for Caterpillar, and Michael Dell, CEO and Founder of Dell Computers.

#2 Inform students to commence Physics and Calculus Sequences Early
Once the student has acknowledged his/her degree objective and transfer institution, specific classes needed for transfer can be identified.

All engineering students are urged to begin their calculus and physics sequences early in their academic career as these courses are the foundation courses required for most engineering majors.

Faculty who encounter these students in the classroom should reinforce this message, as well as facilitate student access to counseling by encouraging students to make appointments for advisement, as well as inviting counselors to present transfer requirements to students in appropriate courses.

#3 Identify and use current Resources
In efforts to accurately identify additional required courses, the current college catalog of the transfer institution should be used as a primary resource. Current catalogs can be found online via for UC, for CSU, and Mentor/schools.asp for California private universities. Although the college catalog will not contain articulation agreements specific to the institution, by using the catalog, counselors can then compare the requirements to those listed in At some institutions, degree requirements change on an annual basis, so, by cross-referencing the college catalog with, counselors can feel confident that they are providing the student with the most up-to-date information possible. Additionally, depending on the popularity of the engineering program at the intended transfer institution, certain institutions may revise their departmental admissions procedures. Contacting the engineering departments directly has assisted counselors in gathering current admissions information.

Sound like a lot of work? It is, and with the rise of new engineering programs throughout the state, it will most likely become even more complex. Although advising engineering students can be a complicated and time consuming task, taking steps to ensure the reliability of the advice being given to the student is invaluable.