Most undergraduate majors require 10-12 courses in the major, and maybe up to three courses from other departments as "co-requisites." But most engineering majors require 15-18 courses in the department itself, plus 10 -15 courses in math, chemistry, physics and computer science as "co-requisites."

In one engineering program I looked at, a "minor" consisted of six engineering courses, plus 14 courses in "co-requisites." I "get" that much, particularly the co-requisites (basically enough for another minor). But the major consisted of 18 engineering courses, three times the "six" for the minor, whereas other majors, require twelve courses (double the six for the minor) as well as co-requisites.

That's 25-33 courses, that is two thirds to four fifths of the whole curriculum, versus about one-third for other majors. Why is that?

  • $\begingroup$ It's not clear what sort of an answer you're expecting. Engineering programs simply have more material to cover than other degree programs. $\endgroup$
    – user16
    Jun 14, 2018 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ @GlenH7:That's something I didn't realize.And why would that be? Because of state regulatory/licensing requirements? $\endgroup$
    – Tom Au
    Jun 14, 2018 at 1:37
  • $\begingroup$ Enginering is about application of science, so you need to hear of a lot of things to be able to connect the dots. In fact it in my locale it used to be recognized that engineering was a full 10% more credits than other diciplines. But this was later removed as to harmonize it with other degrees, but its still more work than many other degrees. $\endgroup$
    – joojaa
    Jun 14, 2018 at 3:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This question is pretty locale specific. In the UK there's no such thing as a major or a minor. $\endgroup$
    – AndyT
    Jun 14, 2018 at 8:18
  • $\begingroup$ Why is medical school 4 years? Because there is a lot to learn. $\endgroup$
    – paparazzo
    Jun 14, 2018 at 8:39

2 Answers 2


I went with my daughter's class to the science museum and while we were looking at things, I commented on why it worked that way and gave occasional interpretation of the displays. Impressed, my daughter's friend said, “Gee, Are you some sort of scientist of something?” The answer I had ready was “No, something better. I am an engineer. Scientists only report the news, engineers make it.”

The definition I got for an engineer when I was in high school was “Engineers are science and technology problem solvers.” You can’t solve problems without knowledge of the underlying science, along with the specific technology you are dealing with. When I was in school (BSME, 1981 (I am an old man)), they told us that they were teaching us everything they could fit in four years, it was not enough but it should be sufficient to allow us to function in the real world. As I recall, I had a few “free” electives (I took more math), three (not very free) humanities electives and a few mechanical engineering electives. Everything else was listed out in the requirements when I started. The school knows that much of what they teach is going to be obsolete in a few years so they teach as much of the foundations as they can and how to learn and solve problems. The problem is if you keep squeezing things in, there is not enough room for much else and you wind up with a "course intensive" engineering curriculum

  • $\begingroup$ I have to upvote this... $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 14, 2018 at 16:29

Some of the difference is that some other courses have a lot of individual reading time and engineers get more class / lab / experiment time - which also means that the Uni needs expensive equipment that needs to be maintained.

My Uni had sub & supersonic wind tunnels , water flow stuff axial and radial, water channel etc etc

Engineering courses are not cheap and some Universities do concentrate on law and marketing and humanities as only books are required with less contact time... Each of our lab experiments were 3 hours ....

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There is the joke, The provost was asking the engineering dean if they could reduce expenses “Look at this, $10 million for a microsystems fabrication laboratory. Why can’t you be more like the Math Department? All they want is a few hundred dollars for paper, pencils and erasers. Or better yet, the Philosophy department, they only need paper and pencils.” $\endgroup$ Jun 14, 2018 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ @user1683793 Like it! And then the joke : An engineer is a person who can do for 10 Dollars what an ordinary person spends 100 Dollars to achieve, But be careful : the engineer will then spend 1000 Dollars improving it... $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 14, 2018 at 16:27

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