Questions and Answers

Questions and Answers for Students and Parents

Do I need to know what field of engineering I want to study?

You do not need to select a specific field of engineering until you apply for transfer or admission to the engineering university. Your courses will be very similar during your first two years of college regardless of which field of engineering you eventually pursue. You will take calculus, physics, and general engineering courses. Your advisor can help you select supporting courses that match your interests.

I want to visit/take a tour. Who do I contact? Can I bring my parents/family?

For a visit and tour of the UWRF physics department, please contact Prof. Rellen Hardtke at rellen.hardtke@uwrf.edumail or by phone at (715) 425-3560. You can visit any time during the school year or summer. Parents and families are welcome.

Campus tours and admissions presentations are available from the Admissions office throughout the year. You can contact the Admissions office directly if you like at admit@uwrf.edumail or by phone at (715) 425-3500.

What classes should I take in high school?

Take as much math and science, especially physics, in high school as possible. Take as much calculus and physics as your high school offers. UWRF does offer college course credit for the A.P. Calculus exams (with a score of 3 or higher). You should also take plenty of English courses, including composition and speech. Computer science is also helpful.

I didn’t take calculus in high school, can I still be an engineer?

Yes, you can. You should take the UWRF math placement test before you enroll so that you can be placed in the correct math course. You can then take the math you need in order to prepare yourself for calculus and physics. This may increase the time to graduation, but it can and has been done.

What kinds of classes will I take?

Engineering students will take plenty of math courses like calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations. They will also take a year of introductory physics and physics lab. Three engineering courses are taught at UWRF: engineering statics, engineering dynamics, and deformable bodies/mechanics of materials. Depending on which engineering program students choose, they usually take more physics, scientific programming, some English and chemistry courses, economics, and general education electives.

What classes would I start with?

A well-prepared engineering student will usually begin their studies at UWRF by taking Calculus I (MATH 166), General Physics I (PHYS 161) and Lab (PHYS 166), an English course, and another elective course. Some students are ready for Calculus II (MATH 167) when they enroll at UWRF. Because PHYS 161 and PHYS 166 are only offered during the fall semester, it is important to start these courses in the fall. Academic advising and assistance with course planning is always available from faculty in the physics department. Be sure to take the math placement test so that you can start in the most advanced math course for which you qualify.

Do I have to take any English?

Yes, pretty much everyone who attends college has to take some English courses. Depending on which engineering program you choose, you will probably take between two and four English courses. They may include writing, speech or literature courses. The ability to read, write and speak well is actually very important for engineers who are routinely called upon to write reports, give presentations, work in teams, and be responsible for legal documents.

How good do my ACT scores/GPA need to be?

Most engineering majors have scored at least 25 on the ACT and are ranked in the top 20 percent of their high school class. Because grade point averages vary from school to school, the most important criteria for engineering majors are: an aptitude for math, a sincere interest in engineering, and a commitment to working hard. The engineering and physics programs at UWRF are rigorous and not for the halfhearted, but you will find a great deal of academic support if you decide to pursue your degree here.

What does it cost to attend UWRF?

UWRF tuition and fees for students from Wisconsin total about $6,900 for the 2010-11 school year. Through reciprocity with the state of Minnesota, students from Minnesota pay tuition and fees of $7,200 per year. These rates make UWRF one of the best educational values in the country. Tuition and fees plus housing in a residence hall and a comprehensive meal plan at UWRF totals between $9,700 and $10,200 per year. Many services -- such as textbook rental fees, concerts, lectures series, health services, activity fees, athletic events, computer access, and e-mail -- are included in tuition and fees.

Non-resident and international students pay about $14,500 per year in tuition and fees at UWRF, and a total of $17,700 for tuition, housing, and meals.

What is reciprocity?

Reciprocitylink is an agreement that the state of Wisconsin has with the state of Minnesota to offer Minnesota students steeply discounted tuition rates at its public universities, and vice versa. Instead of paying non-resident rates to attend public universities in Wisconsin, students from Minnesota pay tuition rates that are similar to the rates paid by Wisconsin residents. Likewise, students from Wisconsin pay tuition at Minnesota’s public universities that is almost as low as what Minnesota residents pay. Students from Wisconsin are not subject to the non-resident tuition rates in Minnesota, and Minnesota students are not subject to the non-resident tuition rates in Wisconsin. It’s a great deal for students from both states.

Do I have to pay for my M.S. degree too?

In engineering and science, students often work with faculty members on research projects. Graduate students are often supported by the research grants of their faculty. These research arrangements often include tuition remission (cancellation) and stipends for living expenses. Some graduate students also work as teaching assistants for their engineering department and can earn tuition remission and a stipend in that way. Students considering a graduate degree in engineering are encouraged to contact professors that are working on projects they find interesting.

What if I change my mind and want to switch engineering programs?

Students do change their minds about which engineering program they would like to use: the dual degree program, pre-engineering, or a B.S. in physics and an M.S. in engineering. Faculty are always available to advise students about their options and the unique requirements of each program. When a student is considering a change, the first step is to meet with your academic advisor to discuss what the course requirements are and how the courses you have already completed best fit into the new program. Most courses, but not all, can be applied to each program. Sometimes, students may need an extra semester or two to graduate, but advisors can help minimize the extra time.

How long can I stay at UWRF?

Some students decide that they want to stay at UWRF more than two or three years. If you find that this is the case, you can finish your physics degree at UWRF in about four years and then apply to engineering programs for your Masters degree or even a PhD.

How long do I have to stay at UWRF?

Some students transfer to engineering universities after one or two years of pre-engineering at UWRF. In these cases, students apply directly to the engineering university for transfer admission. There is no guarantee of admission, but UWRF and the engineering universities can provide general guidelines for GPA requirements. You should consult with your advisor about which classes you should take at UWRF because they may be different from those taken by dual degree students, especially regarding general education classes. You will want to select courses that are most likely to transfer for credit at your engineering university.

Where can I find more information about engineering at the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin-Madison?

For engineering programs at UM-Twin Cities: http://it.umn.edu/about/index.htmllink

For engineering programs at UW-Madison: http://www.engr.wisc.edu/link

When do I apply or start my paperwork for UM or UW?

Students in the Dual Degree program should complete the admissions paperwork during the fall semester of their junior year at UWRF. Although applications for fall admission are not officially due until March 1, applying before January will give you priority consideration for financial aid.

I’m not in the Dual Degree program. Am I still guaranteed admission to UM and UW?

Students completing their B.S. at UWRF and then applying to UM or UW for the M.S. engineering program are not guaranteed admission. However, UWRF students with good grades have a solid record of being admitted to graduate schools. Admissions and GPA requirements vary among engineering disciplines. Students are welcomed and encouraged to discuss their admission prospects with advisors at UM and UW.

I am a pre-engineer at UWRF and want to transfer after one or two years. Am I guaranteed admission to UM and UW?

Students transferring from UWRF to UM or UW after one or two years of coursework are not guaranteed admission. These pre-engineering students need to go through the transfer application process at UM or UW. Students are welcomed and encouraged to discuss their transfer prospects with advisors at UM and UW.

Who are the engineering program advisors at UM and UW?

At the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities:

Benjamin G. Sharpe
Program Director
I.T. Student Affairs
Institute of Technology
105 Lind Hall
207 Church Street S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Phone: 612-624-8504
Fax: 612-626-1020
Email: sharp003@umn.edumail

At the University of Wisconsin - Madison:

Bonnie Schmidt
Transfer Admissions Coordinator
1150 Engineering Hall
1415 Engineering Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1691

Phone: 608-262-4822
Fax: 608-265-3501
Email: schmidt@engr.wisc.edumail

Do you have engineering programs with other universities?

UWRF has official arrangements with the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and the University of Wisconsin-Madison to accept students who meet the minimum requirements and complete the necessary coursework, but we can work with other universities as well. UM and UW have agreed to accept the general education (English, humanities, social science) requirements of UWRF dual degree students so that students do not need to take any more general courses at UM or UW. Once students are studying at UM or UW, they can concentrate on finishing their engineering courses. If you are thinking about finishing your engineering degree at another university, you should let your advisor know so that she or he can contact the university and help you select the right courses.

I thought I wanted to be an electrical engineer, but now I think I want to be a mechanical engineer. Is that a problem?

Not at all. Most courses at UWRF will be the same for engineering majors regardless of their final engineering field: math, physics and general engineering. We encourage students to explore their interests. When transferring or applying to an engineering university, students will usually be asked to select an engineering field. This does not happen until your second, third or fourth year at UWRF, depending on which engineering program you are using.

I want to be a chemical engineer. Should I still take physics?

Yes. You should also contact Prof. Kevin McLaughlin in the UWRF chemistry department: k.w.mclaughlin@uwrf.edumail. Prof. McLaughlin coordinates the pre-chemical engineering program and can advise you about the pre-chemical engineering requirements and which chemistry courses to take.

Can I study biomedical engineering?

Yes. Biomedical engineering is a rapidly growing field. In fact, many biomedical engineers are employed nearby at places like Guidant Corporation and the Mayo Clinic. In addition to your regular math, physics and engineering courses at UWRF, we recommend that you also enroll in BIOL 150 (General Biology), BIOL 240 (Cell & Molecular Biology), and BIOL 341/342 (Anatomy & Physiology). You will also take additional chemistry courses. Your advisor can help you with your academic plan and course scheduling.

What is the agricultural engineering technology degree at UWRF?

The agricultural engineering technology degree provides students with an educational opportunity which combines an understanding of the biological, physical and agricultural sciences, with the problem solving skills of an engineer. Application of technical knowledge is emphasized as opposed to analytical and design aspects stressed in a professional engineering curriculum. Emphasis is placed on the technical areas of food and food processing, information and electrical technology, machinery, soil and water, and agricultural structures.

What is a professional engineer?

Professional engineers (P.E.’s) are engineers that have fulfilled the educational and experience requirements for this respected title. To achieve the P.E. designation, engineers must be a graduate of an accredited engineering program (which UM and UW certainly are), have four years of work experience, and have passed the rigorous (1) Fundamentals of Engineering and (2) Principles and Practice of Engineering exams. P.E.’s can offer their engineering services directly to the public and they take legal responsibility for their engineering designs.

Where do engineers work?

Engineers work almost everywhere. Any company or organization that designs, creates, tests, or analyzes products, machines, technology, energy, structures, instruments, or natural resources needs engineers.

What do engineers do?

Engineers solve problems. Engineers apply math and physics principles to practical technical problems. They may be involved in the research and development of products and processes, or in the testing and quality control of industrial or high-tech production. Engineers design buildings, airplanes and computers. They determine why objects fail and how to prevent it in the future. They often need to estimate the cost and duration of engineering projects. Some engineers are involved in engineering management or marketing. Most engineers use computers to do part or most of their work.

  • Civil engineers usually work on projects for public use and public safety. They design roads, bridges, dams, tunnels, water supply protections, airports, highways, levees, waste treatments centers, office buildings, research centers, and public transportation systems. Cities and states often hire civil engineers, as do many private companies and contractors.

  • Environmental engineers work to prevent environmental problems and to correct existing damage. They design projects to reduce air pollution, clean up hazardous waste, keep drinking water clean, treat sewage, protect wildlife and wetlands, reduce chemical run-off, and recycle water and goods.

  • Electrical engineers design and develop all products related to electricity, electrical systems, and electronics. They design computers, home entertainment products, PDAs, video gaming systems, MP3 players, fuel cells, solar panels, cell phones, satellites, and power generation and distribution systems.

  • Mechanical engineers work design, test and analyze machines with moving parts like engines, factory components, tools, home appliances, air conditioners, bicycles, cars, or robotics. If an object uses power or delivers power, a mechanical engineer probably worked on it.

  • Chemical engineers use science to create useful chemicals and products, including cleaning products, petroleum derivatives, personal care products, scents, adhesives, pesticides, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Some large employers of chemical engineers are 3M, DuPont, Dow Chemical, Johnson Wax, drug companies, and the oil industry.

  • Agricultural engineers work in all fields related to food production and plant science. They study ways to give food plants proper nutrients and ways to dispose of agricultural waste, both in environmentally healthy ways. They design machines that harvest crops and develop methods to transport and store them.

  • Biomedical engineers and bioengineers apply science, math and engineering to biological and medical problems. They design artificial hearts, dialysis machines, hearing aids, medical instruments, prosthetics, and diagnostic machines.

  • Aeronautical and aerospace engineers design, develop and test commercial airplanes, military aircraft, spaceships, and satellites. They also study the aerodynamics and design of automobiles, race cars and golf balls.

  • Computer and software engineers address all aspects of computers: design, manufacturing, operating systems, hardware and software development, networking, and computational analysis. Some work with the desktop computers in offices and homes, but since computers are found nearly everywhere today (from cars to satellites to coffee makers to Wall Street), so are computer and software engineers.

  • Structural engineers design frameworks, supports, and layouts for buildings, bridges and other structures that meet the needs of the users while being economical and safe. Structural engineers often work with architects and building contractors to design a final product that meets the needs and budgets of their clients.

  • Industrial engineers study in how factories and companies operate. They study how the raw resources, machines, processes, and people work together. They design ways to make operations safer, more efficient, and less costly. They are often involved in quality control, logistics, ergonomics, business planning, and management.

  • Material scientists and material engineers develop useful substances and study ways to make existing substances more useful. They work with plastics, metals, ceramics, alloys, polymers, and superconductors. They may develop materials that are stronger, more malleable, more resistant to wear and corrosion, more or less conductive, more or less insulating, or lighter.

  • Mining engineers study and locate natural resources. They design ways to extract natural resources, to build mines, and to move the extracted materials. Some mining engineers also work on returning mined areas to their natural state and on mining safety.

  • Nuclear engineers utilize the energy in atomic nuclei for energy production at nuclear power plants, medical diagnostics, industrial applications, and submarine and spacecraft propulsion. They also work on the safe storage and disposal of radioactive materials.

  • Geological engineers study the earth, its resources, and its environment. They often work for oil companies, government agencies, environmental firms, and for construction and mining companies. Some explore for minerals, some study the impact of earthquakes and volcanoes, and others analyze ground water systems. Geological engineers often work with other types of engineers, like civil engineers, mining engineers, and environmental engineers.

Discussing Blueprints

Dave Wagner, owner of A.M. Structural Engineering discusses blueprints with engineering students at UWRF.


University of Wisconsin-River Falls
410 S. 3rd Street, River Falls WI 54022 USA
Campus Information 715-425-3911