Although personal interests and preferences determine what electives are the best fit for individual students, students should select electives that complement their engineering knowledge while making them more marketable for specific jobs. Most undergraduate engineering programs require students to dedicate the majority of classes to engineering-related courses. Engineering students should dedicate the remaining electives to courses that improve skills that, while not always directly related to engineering, make them more effective in that field.
Business and Communication Classes
Students should take several business and communication courses to prepare them to market their engineering skills effectively to business leaders. Drexel University’s general education elective options for engineering students include classes in finance, international business, taxation, marketing and leadership. Construction engineering students might take business and finance classes to help them develop a thorough understanding of all aspects that go into planning a building project. Specializing in communication and foreign languages helps prepare all engineering students to work with other engineers and clients worldwide. Students might also take a few semesters of basic writing, speech and interview classes.
Computer and Design Classes
Design courses help engineering students develop fundamental artistic and design skills that will benefit them during their engineering careers. Engineering majors might benefit from courses such as software design and computer programming, particularly if they learn to transfer design and programming skills to their engineering projects. Students might also learn to use computer software for complicated engineering computations during their computer and design courses, as Virginia Tech’s engineering electives suggest.
Humanities classes are good extra classes for engineering students to take because they help students develop an understanding of different cultures, human behavior, social structures and political realities. These skills benefit engineers throughout their careers, particularly for those involved with global engineering projects. Purdue University recommends all engineering students take several humanities classes to gain a global perspective, expand their personal interests and improve their judgment skills.
Depending on the type of engineering, students should pursue specialized courses that prepare them for their specific engineering subfield. Civil engineering majors might take classes that give them a deeper understanding of building and structures, such as building design, hazardous waste management, water quality and air pollution. Other courses might include product design and development, robotics, mechanics, machinery and energy sources.
- Purdue University: Guide to General Education Electives for Incoming First-Year Students
- Purdue University: The General Education Program for Engineering Students
- University of Delaware: Civil & Environmental Engineering
- Virginia Tech: Electives Policies
- Drexel University: General Education Courses
- ASME: Your Most Important Classes Had Nothing To Do With Engineering
- Columbia University: Mechanical Engineering
Amy Pearson earned dual bachelor's degrees in management and horticulture. She is a licensed elementary teacher for kindergarten through sixth grades. Pearson specializes in flower and vegetable gardening, landscape design, education, early childhood and child development.