Preparing for a Career in Engineering

Tiger Tracks for careers in Engineering


Engineering can be a largely self-selecting profession. To succeed as an engineer quantitative proficiency and an ability to solve complex problems are required. Although engineering professionals can find themselves working alone on quantitative problems, entire projects are very team-oriented, so it is important to be able to cooperate with other members of your team and maintain a strong professional network. There are many different specialty fields in engineering, so it is worth the time to explore the discipline fully.


Our Science and Mathematics curriculum will prepare you for opportunities in the engineering sector. Specifically, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Math, or Computer Science will provide you with foundational skills required for more advanced study. An option provided at H-SC is our unique dual-degree program in engineering with the University of Virginia, in which the student obtains a BS degree from H-SC and an MS in Engineering from UVa. For more information contact Dr. Hugh "Trey" Thurman.

Programs and Extracurricular Activities

Depending on which specific field of engineering is chosen, the student should major in a science most closely related to that field. For example, mechanical engineering is best associated with physics while biomedical engineering is best suited to either biology or chemistry. Regardless of your major, interested students can engage with engineering by joining the Society for Physics Students, attending frequent talks by recent graduates, and registering for Advanced Labs.

  • Society for Physics Students: The Society of Physics Students (SPS) consists of students in all fields of science and other disciplines who share an interest in physics. The main mission behind SPS is to teach its members about leadership, personal interaction, and experience that will help in future work and job opportunities.
  • Lecture Series: The Natural Sciences division (Biology, Chemistry, Math and Computer Science, and Physics and Astronomy) here at Hampden-Sydney College regularly sponsors lectures by distinguished alumni and guests. Visit the College Calendar to learn more, or keep an eye out on campus for event flyers.
  • Advanced Labs: In the Physics and Astronomy department, advanced labs are individual projects in an area of research conducted by a faculty member. These projects are excellent examples of what will be expected of students if they decide to continue their education in graduate school either in engineering or physics, because they require the student to synthesize all of the information they have learned in their classes. Offered every semester as Physics 351 in the fall and Physics 352 in the spring, these courses offer varying levels of credit (1 to 3 hours) depending on the scope of the project. Research projects are typically advertised in the department by faculty primarily to juniors and seniors, but sophomores and freshmen are encouraged to discuss research opportunities with professors. Other departments in the Natural Sciences Division offer similar opportunities to their students.

Preparation for Employment

In addition to technical knowledge, engineers benefit from the intangible skills that are taught at H-SC. Engineers must write and speak effectively, so that they can descriptively yet simply communicate their ideas to associates and clients. The H-SC rhetoric program provides a rigorous learning laboratory to develop your written and oral rhetorical skills. These skills are enhanced in the introductory and advanced lab sequences offered in the Physics and Astronomy department. The Career Education and Vocational Reflection Office can assist you with interview preparation, career research, and internship searching. H-SC men have frequently been selected for Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs across the country. H-SC men can also pursue summer research projects through the Honors Program.

Graduate Study

If you intend to go to graduate school, it is vital to prepare for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). The Career Education and Vocational Reflection Office offers a number of preparation resources, as does the Bortz Library. GRE test dates are scheduled online and can be taken at a number of test centers nationwide. The types of graduate programs vary widely in emphasis, and even include some programs like Engineering Management, which might interest students with a passion for engineering and business. It is also vital to determine how pursuing a master's degree or Ph.D will impact your career goals. Beyond graduate school, many engineers also pursue certification through the rigorous Professional Engineer exam.

Alumni with careers in engineering