Chemical Engineering as an undergrad

By greenteapanda

May 29, 2008

Category: Education


Since I graduated from MIT, a lot of the best Chemical Engineering colleges in the US would not accept transfer credits for another bachelor’s degree. The transfer has to happen before a degree is obtained.

Since I didn’t graduate in a hard enginering/science subject ("Management Science/IT"), I am not eligible for ChemE grad school. Even if I graduated in some other engineering or science subject, I would have to take a bunch of refresher courses. Hence, to get such a graduate degree, I need to go for a new bachelor’s degree.

Given that racking up debt while studying would hardly be ideal, and I also want to continue improving my Chinese (not likely to happen studying in the west, since Chinese people in that subject area will invariably want to improve their English), I decided to look at distance courses.

The plan: live in a Chinese region of the world, study Chinese, do the bachelor’s degree by distance, and work to support all of those studies.

The decision for the bachelor’s is really easy – there is only one Chemical Engineering undergrad programme that can be done by distance in the USA, at the University of North Dakota. Their programme has been around a long time, and is accredited by ABET. The ABET accreditation helps for going to other North American schools as a grad student.

The difficulty will be the time constraints of such a plan. I remember making a mock schedule of courses so I could triple major at MIT in Civil Engineering, Architecture, and Urban Studies and Planning. The amount of work I am setting myself up for might match that, but I want some challenge. Furthermore, being a teacher for awhile has taught me some things about how to be a productive student…


2 Responses to “Chemical Engineering as an undergrad”

  1. I was finally granted my first baccalaureate degree yesterday. It took ten years! Re: pursuing training in Chemical Engineering, could you apply to a Chemical Engineering Graduate program, and see if you get in anyway? I am confident you would be accepted into a Chemical Engineering graduate program, due to the level of maturity and experience that you would bring to the department, which would not be present in younger applicants. I can see the level of appeal of doing the second bachelor\’s since you might be able to live abroad while doing it. But if you were in a graduate program, the department would likely let you take the undergraduate classes to make up for any insufficiencies in training. In a sense, the purpose of the undergrad degree is to show that the person has the social skills to actually get the undergraduate degree, and to acquire "soft skills". Graduate school seems to be a place where you are likely to meet peers who have an intense interest in chemical engineering, which may be a perk of graduate school training. If you do opt for the undergrad program online, at least there would not be the age gap issue that I experienced when I was at Cooper Union.

  2. Check out this article (5 pages long):
    The programme is not geared toward people without a previous degree – in fact many of the people doing it are doing it so that they can get the engineering background that is blocking them from acheiving their goals. In China, to work with pandas, to brush shoulders with high level people, it is necessary to have an engineering background. Just about all the high level people in the Chinese government have engineering degrees, not soft stuff you might find in the west.
    I agree with a humanities degree, it is really about getting soft skills, but with undergrad engineering, there is a lot of hard maths and information to absorb. The woman in the article that did the programme I am planning on took 9 years to finish! If it were just people skills and filling out busywork, I am sure it would be possible to finish the degree in less than two years.
    If you look at the material necessary for an undergrad Chemical Engineering degree, you can see it basically covers what you would learn in a Chemistry major as well as Physics and much of the coursework in Ocean Engineering and Mechanical Engineering as well. Lots of fluid dynamics…

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