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Earlham's 3-2 Pre-Engineering Program provides a wonderful opportunity for students considering a career in engineering who want the experience of a broad, liberal arts education that is seldom available to students in engineering schools. By combining three years at Earlham with two years at an engineering school, students can emphasize the liberal arts as well as the technical aspects of their education. At the end of those five years, the student receives two degrees: a B.A. from Earlham in pre-engineering studies, and a B.S. from the engineering program. For more information about this opportunity, contact Assistant Professor of Physics Ellen Keister — the 3/2 Faculty Liaison.

Typically students spend three years at Earlham studying fundamental science and mathematics and the liberal arts, followed by two years of specialization at an affiliated engineering school. The required pre-engineering coursework leaves about 2/3 of your course credits for the liberal arts, some of which must fulfill the general education requirements, but the remainder can be filled with classes of your choosing! In the past, 3-2 students have completed minors in Computer Science, Physics and Management, though other fields are also possible. In addition to their course-work on campus, 3-2 students have been active in Earlham’s athletic, theatre and music programs, as well as participating on off-campus programs.

For a variety of reasons, some students chose to spend a fourth year at Earlham. Doing so would give you time to complete an Earlham major even before you go on to the engineering program, as well as additional opportunities to participate in athletics, off-campus study and other co-curricular offerings. The engineering schools with which we are affiliated are equally willing to accept students who’ve been here either three years or four.

Earlham has transfer or combined programs with the following schools:

  • Columbia University (New York, NY)
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic University (Troy, NY)
  • Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH)

Earlham's affiliation with these schools guarantees admission to the engineering school at Rensselaer or Case Western for students who complete the required coursework with the grades and GPA specified by the school (usually 3.0-3.2). Columbia no longer offers guaranteed admission to students from its partner schools, but Earlham continues to have a formal relationship with Columbia. It is possible to arrange a transfer to any of several other engineering schools, but such transfer cannot be guaranteed except for the schools with which we have a formal program. In the past, students have successfully transferred to Washington University (St. Louis).


Ellen Keister
Assistant Professor of Physics; 3-2 Engineering Program Liaison
Plan of Study

Pre-Engineering requirements in the sciences depend on the engineering program to which the student transfers, but most programs require the same set of foundation courses. Additional coursework depends on the school and engineering major the student chooses. In addition to these courses, students are required to complete all of their Earlham general education and graduation requirements before they transfer. This can be challenging to fit into three years, so consult with your adviser and the 3-2 Program Liaison early and often!

Foundation courses

  • PHYS 125 Analytical Physics I: Mechanics
  • PHYS 235 Analytical Physics II: Electricity and Magnetism, Optics and Waves
  • CHEM 111 General Chemistry
  • MATH 180 Calculus A
  • MATH 280 Calculus B
  • MATH 320 Differential Equations
  • MATH 350 Multivariate Calculus
  • CS 128 Programming and Problem Solving

Other commonly required courses

  • MATH 310 Linear Algebra
  • ECON 100 Introduction to Economics
  • PHYS 350 Electronics and Instrumentation

The number of additional required courses varies a great deal across programs, so it is important to consult with your adviser and the 3-2 Program Liaison as soon as possible to make sure you are on track to complete the requirements.

Three-Year Planning

We recommend that you take

  • Calculus sequence (Math 180 (Fall, 5 credits) and Math 280 (Spring, 5 credits))
  • Physics sequence (Physics 125 and Physics 235)
    • If you are interested in Chemical Engineering, you may want to take Chemistry 111 instead of physics
    • You could also take CS 128 instead of physics

The physics sequence is recommended for the first year because of alternate year courses that are required for some programs/majors. This schedule makes it very difficult to take a language in your first year, because of required Earlham Seminar courses. If you are uncertain whether you want to major in pre-engineering, we encourage you to take at least the calculus sequence and something that satisfies one of the general education distribution requirements. 


We recommend that you take

  • Math 320 (Differential equations, Fall, 3 credits) and Math 350 (Multivariate calculus, Spring, 4 credits)
  • Depending on what you took your first year, one of the following:
    • Physics 125 and 235
    • Chemistry 111
    • CS 128
  • If you have not placed out of it, you are encouraged to complete your language requirement
  • Economics 100 (offered every semester)
  • Physics 350: Electronics and Instrumentation (alternate years)

We recommend that you take

  • Math 310 (Linear Algebra, Fall, 3 credits)
  • Depending on what you took your first two years, one of the following:
    • Physics 125 and 235
    • Chemistry 111
    • CS 128
  • Economics 100 (offered every semester)
  • Physics 350: Electronics and Instrumentation (alternate years, requires Physics 125 and 235)
Affiliate School Information

Earlham has transfer or combined programs with three engineering schools. As noted in the overview, admission is only guaranteed for students who complete the required coursework with the grades and GPA specified by the affiliate school (usually 3.0-3.2). Each school is listed below, with the types of engineering they offer, details about the transfer requirements, and documents listing their required courses and the Earlham equivalents, where available. There are typically two sets of required courses, one set is required for all engineering majors, listed as "Foundation Courses" on the overview and three year planning pages, and then each major has additional courses that are required for that major. For example, a chemical engineering major would need more than General Chemistry, which is all that is required in the foundation courses. 

Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH)

Case Western offers degrees in biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, mechanical & aerospace, and systems & control engineering, as well as macromolecular science and engineering, materials science and engineering, and engineering physics. The document linked below lists only the foundation requirements, to see the requirements for specific majors, go to their dual degree website:

Case Western Dual Degree Program

Earlham College - Case Western Dual Degree course requirements: (.pdf)

Columbia University (NY, NY)

Columbia offers degrees in biomedical, chemical, civil, computer,earth & environmental, electrical, and mechanical engineering, applied math, applied physics, computer science, engineering mechanics, and several majors in industrial engineering and operations research. The linked document contains all requirements for all majors (and is thus very long) with the Earlham College equivalent courses listed where available. The combined plan website has more information, including course descriptions:

Columbia Combined Plan Program

Earlham College - Columbia University Combined Program course requirements (.pdf)

Rensselaer Polytechnic University (Troy, NY)

Rensselaer is in the process of revising their 3-2 engineering entrance requirements, so the document linked is incomplete. RPI offers degrees in aeronautical, biomedical, chemical, civil, computer & systems, electrical, environmental, industrial & management, materials, mechanical, and nuclear engineering. The RPI School of Engineering website is:

RPI School of Engineering

Partial list of requirements for transfer to RPI (.pdf)