Destination USA: Engineering programmes at US universities

Engineering is one of the most popular fields of study that Indian students pursue in US

By Author  |  Monika Setia  |  Published: 8th Feb 2020  11:44 pm
Destination USA: Engineering programmes at US universities

As students research their options to study at one among over 4,500 higher education institutions in the United States, another choice that students must make is about their field of study or major. In the next few articles, we inform students about a few popular fields of study available at the undergraduate and graduate level in the United States.

Engineering is one of the most popular fields of study that Indian students pursue in the United States. Students pursuing a graduate programme in engineering at a US institution may choose to enroll in a Master of Engineering (M Eng), a one-year professional degree; a Master of Science (MS) in Engineering, with either a thesis or non-thesis option; a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Engineering, typically a five-year programme with dissertation; or a Doctor of Engineering (D Eng), a three-year professional doctoral programme with a focus on practice in the field of engineering.

Students may choose from among various engineering specialisations when applying for graduate programmes: chemical, civil, computer, electrical, electronic, mechanical, aeronautical, agricultural, biomedical, environmental, industrial, petroleum, etc.

An MS in Engineering Management is another degree of interest at the graduate level for students who have completed an undergraduate programme in a field related to engineering. At the undergraduate (Bachelor’s) level, although students are not required to declare their major at the time of application, they may choose a subfield of engineering as their major or minor depending on availability at the college or university.

Before choosing a programme of study in engineering and your institution, students should explore the research currently underway in their field of interest and specifically at the relevant departments of their preferred university. Also, students should always check on the availability of the field of specialisation or major in which they are most interested.

Students should generally pursue academic programmes with professional accreditation.  The professional accrediting organisation for the field of engineering is the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (

Students may also find out if a course or university is accredited by visiting the database of accredited programmes and institutions published by the US Department of Education at or Department of Homeland Security at

With a degree in engineering at the graduate or undergraduate level, students may either pursue a research career (after MS or PhD) or explore professional work opportunities in the field of their specialisation or major.

Q & A

Q. Can you share when admissions for bachelor’s programmes take place in the United States and what are the application deadlines?

Academic intake and application deadlines for undergraduate (Bachelor’s) programmes in the United States vary by university. Fall and Spring semesters are the two major academic intake periods.

Fall semester runs from mid-August to September, at the beginning of the academic year, while the Spring semester starts in January, in the middle of the academic year. A few universities only offer Fall semester intake while others offer both Fall and Spring semester intake.

It is important that students check the university website for admission periods and respective application deadlines before working on their applications.

Bachelor’s programme admissions in US universities have different application deadlines: regular decision, early decision, early action, and rolling admission. You can refer to our past columns to understand the difference between these different application timelines.

Q. I am interested in applying for PhD programmes in US. Can you please explain how is a PhD programme structured there?

PhD programmes at US universities are designed for students to move towards their end goal of a professional dissertation in a gradual and progressive manner, involving various benchmarks throughout the programme which a student should achieve in order to proceed to the next level.

Students gain a better understanding of their subject and research methods through one-to-two-year mandatory coursework before they start conducting research. At the end of the first year, students go through a candidacy exam, which in most cases is a written exam based on all coursework that a student has completed in that year.

This is followed by a comprehensive exam around the end of the second year to test students on their capability to comprehend and assimilate the knowledge to conduct research in their discipline. The design and structure of the comprehensive exam varies by discipline and university.

The next step is for the student to present a proposal for their PhD research work to the dissertation committee, generally referred as proposal defence. Once the committee clears the proposal, students continue the dissertation research and write their dissertations.

The programme culminates with a final dissertation defence by the student before committee members, students and faculty from their own and other departments at the university, and other invited experts. Once the committee and dissertation chair approve a student’s research work, the student can submit their work to the university to be awarded her or his PhD on completion of all university formalities. Each university follows a slightly modified version of this step-by-step assessment process for PhD programmes.


Every question has an answer. And ‘Destination USA’ will strive to provide the right answer to all those youngsters who dream of studying in the US. Mail your questions and doubts to [email protected] to have subject matter experts answer them, right from the degree and programme of study you can pursue to what the application process entails, on universities, how to prepare resumes, financing your studies and even how it is like to live and study in the US, all are welcome.

(The author is Regional Officer and Education USA Adviser at US – India Educational Foundation, based at the US Consulate General Hyderabad)