What can you do with a mechanical engineering degree?
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Zackory Biggers talks about what motivated him to become a mechanical engineer.
The Mechanical Engineering Department offers three majors. Students can earn an ABET-accredited Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (BSME) degree majoring in (click on the link for more information about each major):
The requirements for graduation for each major are summarized in formal checksheets that are maintained by the Registrar. Our latest approved checksheets are located on the Registrar’s website. Note that prerequisite and course offering information on checksheets is for reference only and is subject to change.
The ME department makes unofficial degree path sheets to summarize the requirements contained in the formal checksheets in a flow chart. The degree path sheets summarize prerequisite and corequisite requirements, which may change without notice. These are available for each major and are only for reference only to aid you in planning your courses.
Please consult your ME advisor if you choose to deviate from the semester-by-semester plans outlined in the graduation checksheets and degree path sheets. Dropping the wrong course can cause a 1 year delay in graduation, as senior courses are only offered once per year. Some courses must be completed before a set number of attempted required credits to avoid academic probation and should be considered a priority. Your undegraduate advisor is there to help you if you need to make modifications to the suggested course plans
Students entering Fall 2018 or later are required to satisfy a University-wide set of general education requirements. The requirements not automatically covered by the ME curriculum are:
- 6 credits Pathways Concept 2 (Critical Thinking in the Humanities)
- 6 credits Pathways Concept 3 (Reasoning in the Social Sciences)
- 3 credit Pathways Concept 6A (Critique & Practice in the Arts (NOT Critique & Practice in Design, which is covered by ENGE1215/1216) , and
- 3 credits Pathways Concept 7 (Critical Analysis of Identity & Equity in the US).
Note that all Pathways courses must be taken in the A/F grade mode to satisfy graduation requirements.
Students can view the elective options available in the Pathways Guides maintained by the Provost's Office. They can also view available options by filtering the Timetable of Classes by Pathways Concept number (top right).
Students who earned an AS degree through a Virginia Community College System (VCCS) school may not be required to take Pathways general education electives per the matriculation agreements - see the VT Transfer Guide for more information.
Some students have a strong interest in an area outside of the ME Department that they wish to pursue as a minor or as a second major. To sign up for a minor or major, please visit the website for the department offering that program. Note that you need to either complete all requirements for that major/minor or drop the major/minor in order to receive your ME degree.
Some of the more common minors earned by ME students are:
- Nuclear Engineering (see section below)
- Biomedical Engineering
- Industrial Design (requires 18 credits total including a 6 credit summer studio
- Green Engineering (requires 18 credits which can count towards technical electives and Pathways electives
- Engineering Science & Mechanics (requires 9 credits of additional ESM courses)
- Computer Science
- Math (requires 9 credits of math courses beyond the required courses for an ME degree
To access the checksheets for all minors offered at VT, please visit the Registrar's website.
Students can double major in any two majors as long as they meet the requirements for both degrees. Please see the Graduation Requirement listings for checksheets summarizing the requirements for any major at Virginia Tech. Students wishing to double major in two similar majors (like Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering) should consider a bachelors (BS) degree in one major and a masters degree (MS) in the second major.
If a student meets the requirements for two majors and also earns 30 more credits beyond the credits required for the for the primary major, they can earn a double degree (two separate degrees rather than one degree with both majors listed). For more information about degrees and second majors, please see the Registrar’s website.
The Nuclear Engineering minor requires 6 courses (18 credits), which includes MATH2214 (Differential Equations) plus 15 credits of nuclear engineering courses, which will count as technical electives for ME students. Non-ME students should contact their departmental advisor to find out about the possibility of counting the nuclear engineering courses towards their department’s technical elective requirements.Students considering employment in the nuclear industry should consider concentrating their technical electives in the nuclear engineering area. Suggested courses include:
- NSEG 3145/NSEG 3146 – Fundamentals of Nuclear Engineering – Parts I (Fall) and II (Spring)
- NSEG 3604 – Radiation Detection and Shielding
- NSEG 4214 – Nuclear Power Plant Operations
- NSEG 4204 – Nuclear Fuel Cycle
- NSEG 4214 – Nuclear Power Plant Operation
- NSEG 4424 – Reactor Thermal Hydraulics
- MSE 4384 – Nuclear Materials
- NSEG 4974/NSEG 4994 – Independent Study/Undergraduate Research on a nuclear-related project (requires college and departmental approval on an individual basis).
Mechanical engineering students can also choose to work on a nuclear engineering-related senior design project (ME 4015/ME 4016).
Military students who have additional course requirements above the 129 credits required for a BSME degree often spread their schedules out to 5 years. Sample 5-year plans are included on the pages for the AUTE, ME, and RBMT majors on the individual major pages.
Some students may wish to spread out their schedules and delay their graduation. An excellent way to lighten semester course loads while getting engineering work experience is to accept a full-time, paid engineering co-op position.
Students can work for virtually any company as a co-op as long as the company agrees to the meet the employer requirements set by Career Services. Signing up for a formal co-op position through Career & Professional Development allows the student to be considered as a full time student for insurance and other purposes.
Please consult your academic advisor if you need help making a personalized schedule or if you are planning to drop a course and would like to know how this may impact your schedule.
Please consult with an ME advisor as early as possible if you are entering as a General Engineering freshman with lots of AP credit; it may be possible to graduate in 4 years while squeezing in a co-op work term during the academic year if you plan early.
Students can participate in undergraduate research or independent study projects for credit. For more information and instructions on how to find and enroll in undergraduate research or independent study for credit, please visit this independent study/undergraduate research page for engineering students.
Since it takes time to get projects approved, students should not wait until the first week of classes to seek opportunities. Students must submit the final portion of the application by the add deadline. To participate in undergraduate research or independent study, ME students must have a 2.5 overall and 2.0 in-major cumulative grade point average.
All students participate in a 2-semester capstone design project. They start on a project during a Fall semester and continue on the same project during Spring with the same team. For more information, please see our Senior Design page. Most students will select their design project during the first week of classes during Fall semester of their senior year.
The Transfer Guide includes information on course equivalencies for transfer and AP, IB, CLEP, and Cambridge exams. For more information on transferring courses to Virginia Tech, please see the College of Engineering's Transfer Credit Information page.
For current students interested in taking transfer courses over the summer through a Virginia Community College School System (VCCS) school, please see the combined timetable for the VCCS colleges.
Transfer credits are not awarded until after the Registrar’s Office receives an official transcript from your transfer school showing a final grade of C or higher.
Please see our undergraduate advising page for information on our undergraduate advisors and how to meet with us. You can meet with any of our undergraduate advisors, regardless of who your officially assigned advisor is.
We prefer to meet with students through drop-in advising hours Monday-Friday (typically 8:30-11:30am and 1-4:30pm in 112, 113, or 113A Randolph) rather than through appointments, because we want you to feel free to stop by whenever you have questions or concerns. The Navigate platform makes you schedule your appointment at least 24 hours in advance, and we don't want you to have to wait that long to get advice.
We are also happy to answer simple questions through e-mail, but please don't panic if we don't respond to your e-mail immediately. We're trying to limit our time answering e-mails during the evenings and weekends so we can maintain a healthier work-life balance. If we haven't answered your e-mail within 2 business days and you didn't get an out-of-office message from us, please feel free to resend your e-mail.
The B.S. program in Mechanical Engineering is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, www.abet.org.
Student Outcomes for Undergraduates
Upon graduation with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (BSME) degree, the students will have obtained:
- an ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics.
- an ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors.
- an ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences.
- an ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts.
- an ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives.
- an ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions.
- an ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies.
Please refer to the Undergraduate Course Catalog and Academic Policies to learn more about the Mechanical Engineering department’s objectives, employment opportunities, course offerings, and policies.
Starting as a New Transfer Student at Virginia Tech
Transfer students will be assigned an ME advisor after they matriculate. The advisors will work with new students to make long-term course plans and with with class registration for the first semester. Once students move to mechanical engineering from general engineering, they will retain that same advisor for their career in ME.
Transfer students should develop long-term course plan(s) by the time they leave orientation showing when they plan to take all remaining courses needed to graduate. Plans might include the quickest way out, a co-op schedule, and/or spread out course plans. An academic advisor should sign off on these plans after checking to make sure that: (1) all graduation requirements are covered, (2) all prerequisites requirements are met, and (3) courses will be offered in the terms the student intends to take them.
Students with questions about their long-term course plans or intended major are encouraged to contact the academic advisor in their intended engineering department. They should try to ask questions and meet with an advisor well in advance of deadlines. Students should try to avoid seeking advice during the first week of classes and should ask questions earlier if possible. Mechanical Engineering advisors are available all summer.
New General Engineering transfer students are able to take major-restricted courses from their intended degree-granting department (like Mechanical Engineering) during their first semester provided they meet all prerequisite requirements. Students will need help from their academic advisor to add major-restricted courses. ENGE advisors will work with advisors in the degree-granting majors to get the appropriate major-restricted courses added to a student’s schedule. After the first semester, transfer students must switch into their new major to continue taking major-restricted courses in their intended major.
Students should consult their academic advisor before dropping or withdrawing from classes to make sure they understand how this would affect their long-term plans.
Official checksheets summarizing graduation requirements can be found on the Registrar’s website. We prefer to use degree path sheets to show the relationships between the various prerequisite courses. Students starting as General Engineering freshmen would follow one of these degree path sheets:
Transfer students come to Virginia Tech with a variety of credits, and their path is not always easy to visualize. All students should meet with an academic advisor during orientation to finalize course plans which outline when all remaining courses will be taken.
Students should consider the following when making course plan(s):
- Students should start with at least 15 credits during their first term so they can drop a class and still have the 12 GPA hours needed to enter a degree-granting major.
- Students should not plan to take more than 15-16 credits of technical courses during any term.
- 12 credits is considered to be full time for financial aid reasons; tuition is the same for 12 credits or above.
- Engineering-related work experience is highly valued by employers; some will not consider hiring students with no relevant work experience, so we recommend that students leave room in their plans for work experience prior to graduation.
- Not all courses are offered every term.
- Senior courses are only offered once per year, and senior design must be taken during consecutive Fall/Spring semesters starting in the Fall.
Students coming to Virginia Tech with a VCCS associates degree have about 5 semesters of courses left. We strongly recommend a co-op schedule, which leaves time for work and has a reasonable course load each semester:
Co-op Plan for Transfer Student with AS Degree in Engineering
This plan, which assumes that students have completed the courses in the white boxes, might also work well for students coming from a college offering a “3-2” engineering programming. Co-op jobs are easier to find and tend to be higher paying than internships. This co-op plan also saves on tuition compared to the spread out plan below, and the student could drop down to part time status if desired during their last semester to save on tuition.
Students with a VCCS associates degree who prefer to take a lighter course load can follow this plan instead:
Spread Out Plan for Transfer Students with an AS Degree in Engineering
This plan leaves room for summer internships and results in more tuition charges than the co-op schedule above. Not all terms are full time, which could cause financial aid issues.
If unsure which plan to follow, we suggest starting off with the co-op schedule, then meeting with an advisor if the course load is too heavy. Students have only 1 week to add classes, but have 7 weeks to drop them, so we recommend starting with a slightly heavier load and cutting back if necessary.