You are here

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I double major as a engineering student?

Yes. It is possible to pursue a second major in engineering, or with other disciplines. We actively support double engineering majors and pairing engineering with other disciplines as a double major. Common double majors in the sciences include computer science, physics, mathematics, economics, and public policy studies. Additional interests as diverse as art, music, psychology, or any of the social sciences and humanities are actively supported, as are courses required to prepare for application to medical, law, or business school.

What is the difference between computer science and electrical and computer engineering?

Computer science (CS) is traditionally more concerned with the theoretical underpinnings of computation and of programming. Electrical and computer engineering focuses on the practical aspects of development and use of computers. Courses in digital logic design and processor interfacing which build on an engineering student's knowledge of electronics and circuits are a typical part of ECE programs. Read a full essay on this topic.

Can I study abroad as an engineering student?

study abroadYes. We encourage our students to take advantage of foreign academic opportunities through Duke's Global Education office and more than 27% of our undergraduate students do study abroad. A wide range of arrangements are possible, including students spending a few weeks, a summer, or a semester or longer in an international locale. Depending on your foreign language skills, you can take both liberal arts and engineering courses for credit at foreign universities. We think it is especially important for engineers - the people who design the world's technology--to have an understanding and appreciation for other cultures. It is never too early to begin thinking about study abroad – even in your freshman year. Many of our students do foreign exchange in the fall of their junior year, so we have developed study abroad course plans for this for each of our engineering majors, though students can participate in other programs at any time.

Is an engineering degree good preparation for medical school?

medical preparationYes. In fact, nearly 25% of our engineering students go on to medical school each year. Engineering practical approach to quantitative problem solving is excellent preparation for medical school. Duke also offers a pre-med program, as well as other broad ranging, applicable programs such as biology, psychology, sociology, and physical anthropology. Choose the combination of classes and majors that suits your interests!

When do I need to declare a major?

Students are encouraged not to declare a major during their first year. We want students to spend some time learning about the range of engineering options available before deciding on a course of study. Students must declare their major before registering for classes for their junior year.

When can I join an engineering club?

You can join a club anytime and it’s never too early to get involved! Duke sponsors engineering clubs covering a broad range of interests, from building race cars to working on Smart Home technology to designing sustainable technology for communities in the developing world. While you may feel a little nervous as a freshman, rest assured that everyone can contribute. Plus, as your engineering skills develop during your time at Duke you’ll be able to take on increasingly complicated tasks. Some clubs offers choice opportunities (such as a chance to live in The Home Depot Smart Home) based on a student’s involvement in the club. To learn more about Duke’s engineering clubs: Student Groups

How much do I need to study as an engineering student?

While this differs slightly for different individuals, the general rule of thumb is to study 2 to 3 hours for every hour of class time, including lab classes. Think of college as your full time job—you’ll want to put in your 40 hour work week with your classes, labs and studying. The best thing to do is to develop schedule of your classes, labs, social events, study groups, and other work you need to do (do laundry now and again, okay?). Once you’ve worked out your firm time commitments you can figure out the best times to study. If your schedule doesn't work, revise it. You must understand that your schedule is to help you develop good study habits. Once you have developed them, schedule building becomes easier!

What if I need help in a class?

Many Duke students find themselves really challenged by their classes for the first time and discover they need to "learn" how to study. This is very common, and Duke offers a range of supportive services to help students through this transition, including a peer tutoring program. Duke’s Academic Resource Center (ARC) also provides individual conferences and group workshops on academic skills and strategies. The ARC provides learning and information processing training for students who often ‘understand’ course material but have difficulty applying it on exams, as well as workshops on time and task management, stress management, and test preparation strategies. We also encourage students to form study groups with the other students in their classes, which will also help you develop a strong, supportive social network. Keep in contact with your adviser and Academic Deans—we’re here to help!

When can I start doing research? How do I get started?

student in lab For most students, research is a way to explore areas of special interest in a particular discipline of engineering. By the time students become juniors, they have begun to choose some specialization through their coursework and we find this is a great time to begin to engage in research. Whether it is an independent study, the Pratt Fellows program, Graduation with Departmental Distinction, or some other mechanism, there are many opportunities at Duke. We have also found that research experience as an undergraduates makes our student extremely competitive for graduate school, graduate fellowships and prestigious scholarships. Read more about how to create your own program at: Research Opportunities

Do I need to do an internship to get a good job after graduation?

internship students Our research shows that 8 out of 10 job offers go to students who have internship experience. Why? These students already understand what it’s like to work in the real world and they are faster and cheaper to train. Think of it this way—an internship is a great way to find out if you’re heading towards a career that is really right for you. Better to find out you don’t like something while you’re still a student than after you’ve graduated and moved to a new city! There are a lot of different opportunities as well, from paid internships, unpaid internships, nonprofit work and others. Read more about our internship program.

How much money can I expect to make as an engineer?

Engineers are the foundation of today’s economy—there will always be a need for skilled engineers in industry, academia, government and humanitarian non-profit organizations. Plus, keep in mind that an engineering background provides students with much sought after problem-solving skill sets that launch careers in finance, business, law and entrepreneurship among others. What you make in salary depends a great deal on the job, the location and how much education and experience you bring to the negotiating table.

Can I do the Focus Program?

Yes. The Focus Program offers clusters of small group seminars focused on a topic such sustainable living, arts and contemporary living, or global health. Students apply directly to the Focus program after admission to the university and can participate as a first or second year Duke student. First year Focus students often share housing on Duke’s East Campus. Focus faculty and students engage in a comfortable interaction which continues throughout their academic life and later careers. Engineers who wish to participate in Focus must have AP credit for either Math and/or Chemistry. Visit Duke's Focus Program website for more information.

Do I need a computer?

Having a computer can make studying and coursework more convenient but students can also use Duke’s broadly available, on-campus computer resources. Some courses will require you to use software that is only available on Duke -owned computers because the licenses are sold on a per seat basis to the university.

Can I transfer college credits towards my degree at Duke?

Yes, depending on when and where you took the courses. Our policy for transfer credits can be read here.

Is there a limit to the number of AP or IP credits I can transfer?

No—except for humanities and social science credits. Check out our policy for Advanced Placement or International Placement credits to see which courses you can get credit for.

Note: you are not required to apply your AP credits—don’t feel compelled to jump in to an advanced-level class here at Duke. We would rather that you have a rock solid foundation in core subjects, and you will build on this knowledge in later courses!

Does Duke offer summer engineering classes?

Yes! We encourage students to make Pratt their summer plan. Also, foundational courses in mathematics, physics and chemistry are offered during summer sessions.

How do I apply for scholarships?

Here at Duke, students don’t have to apply for scholarships and fellowships—these are assigned based on student financial need by Duke’s Financial Aid Office. You will be notified if you are awarded a scholarship or fellowship and your financial aid package will change to reflect the financial award. That said, there are a wealth of scholarships administered by industry, the federal government and nonprofit organizations that students can apply and compete for. Talk with your high school counselor about these resources.

Is there an engineering honor society? How do I apply?

There are three different kinds of professional and honor societies. The first is the professional society, which is made up of people who are interested in a particular department. These include the Biomedical Engineering Society for BME students, the American Society of Civil Engineers for CEE students, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for ECE students, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for ME students. You can join these societies any time – and you do not even have to be a major in the specific department hosting the club. More information is available on the student groups website.

The last two kinds of societies are the honor societies. CEE, ECE, and ME each have discipline-specific honor societies (Chi Epsilon, Eta Kappa Nu, and Pi Tau Sigma, respectively) that have different academic requirements for admittance. You do not need to apply to join these, but will be informed of your eligibility and election. The Tau Beta Pi honor society, which is the second-oldest honor society in the United States (Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest), pulls members from ALL the engineering disciplines. Again, you will be notified of your eligibility and election. In the case of Tau Beta Pi, the chapter can accept up to one-eighth of the junior class and one-fifth of the senior class.