Calling the Builders and Innovators: Get Your Career in Engineering Started

The numbers say it all: black students earned only 4.2% of bachelor’s degrees in engineering in 2012 across the United States, while their white peers earned a total of 68.1% of those same degrees. Clearly, African American students are severely underrepresented in engineering programs at our nation’s colleges and universities and, consequently, in the field of professional engineering. And like most career fields, improving diversity and representation starts with our educational systems.

If you’re great at math and science, and you thrive as part of a team, engineering might be an excellent job for you. Engineering provides a stimulating career for people who enjoy solving puzzles, have big ideas and who use challenges and setbacks as an opportunity to develop and improve. You can tailor your abilities to a certain area of interest within the profession—which is quite broad—such as computer engineering, chemical engineering and electrical engineering, among others. Regardless of how you concentrate your studies, engineering jobs are in high demand, are a profession with stability and generally provide a good salary. 

Want to build the next Tesla? Patent wireless electricity? Land the next SpaceX rocket? In high school, getting involved in anything and everything STEM-related is a smart move. Take advanced math and science courses as they’re offered, and talk to your teachers to learn about extracurricular activities and other ways you can get involved. As you start searching for a college, check to see which are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Make sure to thoroughly research each school’s engineering departments. Do students have to transfer to a different school to complete their degree? Do they have up-to-date technology in their classrooms? In such a quickly-changing field, gaining experience with the latest systems and technologies is key.

Several UNCF (United Negro College Fund) member schools offer high-quality engineering programs that allow students to focus on their specific areas of interest. Claflin University offers a computer science/engineering major as well as a dual degree in chemistry and engineering in partnership with the University of South Carolina. Similarly, Florida Memorial University offers a dual-degree program in physics and engineering in partnership with Florida International University. Check out Morehouse College, Xavier University of Louisiana, Stillman College, Virginia Union University and Wilberforce University as well to see what their programs have to offer. 

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STEM-oriented scholarships, such as The Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars Program, will be an asset to you as you seek ways to fund your degree. The Dell Scholars program provides advisory services alongside financial aid and is not limited to a certain area of study. 

New programs focused on black scientists-in-training come into the picture each year, setting promising students on track to graduate and succeed later in life. To be amongst the first to hear as new opportunities come up, follow UNCF on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. With the right resources, you can achieve your goals in ways that will benefit you for a lifetime.