Engineering Degrees Overview

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In most departments of this college, several academic options are offered within each degree program. Some programs of study are oriented toward graduate work, and others toward engineering practice.

Engineers work in a wide variety of disciplines, with the college’s 12 undergraduate and nine graduate degree programs reflecting this diversity. The following descriptions summarize these areas.

Aerospace engineering sciences prepares students for successful and rewarding careers in aerospace and other high-tech industries, national research laboratories, government services, and academia. This program provides students unique opportunities to develop in-depth technical knowledge, effective communication skills, and a systems engineering perspective that enables them to develop creative solutions to complex problems. The curriculum encompasses core aerospace subjects including fluids, thermodynamics, dynamics, orbital mechanics, structures, and systems; design of air and space vehicles; and exciting multidisciplinary applications including bioastronautics, unmanned systems, remote sensing, and GPS. 

Applied mathematicians have the expertise and mathematical sophistication necessary to make contributions in a wide variety of fields, including scientific computation, actuarial science, financial modeling, and most areas of science and engineering that have a mathematical basis.

A professional applied mathematician may work with engineers, scientists, programmers, and other specialists. The curriculum at CU-Boulder is designed to have the breadth for such an interdisciplinary career.

Course offerings at the undergraduate level focus on providing students with mathematical tools, problem-solving strategies, and expertise useful in science and engineering. To fulfill requirements, a concentrated area of engineering courses (or approved natural science courses) must be completed. The college has formulated several recommended options within the discipline.

Architectural engineering prepares students for leadership careers in the building design, management, and construction industry and for research at the graduate level on building-related topics. This course of study fulfills the academic requirements for registration as a professional engineer.

The architectural engineering curriculum is recommended for those wishing to specialize within the building industry in engineering design (heating, cooling, illumination, electrical, solar, and structures) or construction and contracting (facilities management). The architectural engineering student may select any one of several areas of specialization offered: HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning), illumination, electrical, building energy, structures, or construction.

Chemical engineering prepares students for careers in a range of industries including energy, consumer products, petrochemicals, semiconductors, medicine, environment, and materials. Modern industry depends on chemical engineers to tailor manufacturing technology to the requirements of its products, and chemical engineers play a central role in development of new polymeric materials, alternative energy sources, and safe, efficient processes for chemical synthesis. 

The undergraduate program in chemical engineering includes curricular options in environmental, materials, microelectronics, computing, bioengineering, and a premedicine curriculum track. There are active and exciting research and educational programs in biotechnology, pollution control, novel membrane separations, and advanced polymeric and ceramic materials.

Chemical and biological engineering prepares students for careers in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, and materials. This degree program adapts a core chemical engineering curriculum to allow for greater depth in biological aspects of chemical engineering.  Exploring the structure of protein molecules, the functioning of cells, and the growth and regeneration of tissues are among the new frontiers that chemical and biological engineering students will address.

In addition to the standard curriculum, a premedicine curriculum is also offered. The chemical and biological engineering department has active research and educational programs in the exciting field of biotechnology, which involves the use of individual cells and their components for producing pharmaceuticals and other important products. The department is also active in biomedical engineering, which involves medical devices, tissues, and biomaterials. A formal cooperative education (co-op) program is offered by the department and its industry partners.

Civil engineering offers a wide range of challenging careers for students interested in the planning, design, and supervision of the construction of facilities essential to modern life in both the public and private sectors. Varying widely in nature, size, and scope, such facilities include buildings, bridges, tunnels, highways, transit systems, dams, airports, irrigation projects, water treatment and distribution facilities, collection and treatment of water waste, structures for space exploration, and offshore engineering designs.

In the coming decades, almost two billion more people will populate Earth in both developed and developing countries. This growth will create unprecedented demands and opportunities for new methods and innovations in energy production, food supply, land development, water treatment, transportation systems, materials processing, waste disposal, healthcare delivery, environmental preservation, and structural designs. Civil engineers play both direct and indirect roles in meeting many of these needs, with the goal of providing and improving the quality and infrastructure of life in general.

Computer science offers study in the fields of computer architecture, operating systems, networking, mobile computing, computer security, computational biology, robotics, algorithm design, artificial intelligence, software and web engineering, programming languages, database design and data mining, human–computer interaction, computer-supported cooperative work, machine learning, lifelong learning and design, numerical and parallel computation, speech and language processing, scientific computing, and theoretical computer science.

Graduates typically take positions as software engineers for computer manufacturers or software firms, advanced applications programmers in scientific research firms, or technically oriented usability experts or systems designers in commercial or government settings.

Electrical engineering offers study of the basic science and technology of information and energy. Its areas of knowledge include information theory and communications systems, computers and digital systems, signal processing and instrumentation, feedback systems and automatic control, electrical and electronic devices and systems, energy conversion and power systems, renewable energy, electromagnetics and microwave devices, and optics and photonic systems.  Students learn how this basic knowledge is applied to such modern technologies as computers, telecommunications, biomedical systems, and remote sensing. The curriculum accommodates a variety of student interests including design, production, testing, consulting services, research, teaching, and management. Graduates pursue careers in a large variety of fields in the computer, telecommunications, instrumentation, biomedical, aerospace, energy, materials, and semiconductors industries, as well as academia. Some go on to careers in other professions such as law or medicine.

Electrical and computer engineering offers the same curriculum as electrical engineering, except that required courses in computer hardware and software replace some upper-division electives. As with electrical engineering, it accommodates broad student interests from design to service, and from research to management. Its graduates take positions in fields as diverse as those listed above for electrical engineering.

Engineering management equips individuals with technical management expertise, preparing them to be leaders in high technology organizations. The program provides a comprehensive graduate master’s degree program and numerous professional graduate certificates for working engineers and technical professionals that can be taken on campus or through distance education. Areas of technical management concentration are in  managing innovation, project management, performance excellence, engineering entrepreneurship, quality systems, research and development, and Six Sigma certifications.

Engineering physics provides students with a broad exposure to the basic physical theories and mathematical techniques underlying engineering. The program may be specialized to meet the student’s interests through engineering electives. Most students become involved in laboratory research, and graduates find opportunities in optics, electronics, magnetics, and other hardware-based job markets. The program also provides excellent preparation for graduate study in physics, applied physics, and other areas of the natural sciences and engineering.

Environmental engineering plays a vital role in maintaining the quality of both human environmental systems and the natural environment. Environmental engineering encompasses the scientific assessment and development of engineering solutions to environmental problems impacting the biosphere and land, water, and air quality. Environmental issues affect almost all commercial and industrial sectors, and are a central concern for the public, for all levels of government, and in international relations. 

The degree in environmental engineering includes course work in advanced mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics. In common with other engineering fields, courses in solid mechanics, fluid dynamics, and thermal sciences are central to the environmental engineering degree. Course work specific to environmental engineering includes water and wastewater treatment, hazardous waste storage and treatment, and air pollution control.

Interdisciplinary Telecommunications prepares students to play a key role in a wide variety of industries that rely on the Internet and 21st century telecommunications technologies: wireless networks; network architecture; cyber security; network management; regulatory policy; and smart grids. Courses are available on campus or 24-7 from a distance. This cross-discipline curriculum offers graduate specialized certificates, masters, and doctoral degrees. The PhD in Telecom enables students to address the key challenges of our global society’s communications and networking infrastructure.  

Mechanical engineering prepares students for careers in a variety of industrial sectors including transportation, energy, manufacturing, medical, and environmental. Based on their education in the fundamentals of mathematics, physics, and chemistry, mechanical engineers deal with diverse components and systems such as engines and motors, automobiles, computers, power plants, aircraft, medical instruments, robotics, space platforms, and pollution control devices. Career opportunities include work in basic and applied research and development, design, manufacturing, project management, consulting, and teaching. They are employed by a wide variety of industrial, governmental, and educational organizations. A mechanical engineering background also provides a firm foundation for other professional careers such as engineering management, law, and medicine.

Open Option Program. The College of Engineering and Applied Science provides the opportunity for new first-year undergraduate students to delay their selection of an engineering major by enrolling in the open option program. This program is available only to new first-year students; students in the program should select a specific engineering degree program by  the eighth week of their second semester.

The college's first-year experience coordinator provides advising for all engineering open option students. This advising is supplemented by advisors in each engineering degree program. Students selecting the open option program are subject to all College of Engineering and Applied Science academic rules and policies. They are also required to satisfy any remaining minimum academic preparation standards (MAPS) required for graduation. For more information, see