May 16, 2021  
Course Catalog 2018-2019 
Course Catalog 2018-2019 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


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Whereas pure scientists seek to understand phenomena and to gain new insights, practicing engineers devise solutions to real-world problems within an array of constraints ranging from laws and ethics to costs and environmental impacts. As indicated by the etymology of engineer, engineers need to be ingenious in their design of solutions.

The 3-2 Engineering Program is designed to develop within students not just the requisite grounding in science and mathematics, but also the creativity, effectiveness in communication, and sensitivity to real-world problems that are hallmarks of successful engineers. In the program, students pursue studies in the liberal arts, including mathematics and sciences, during three years at Oberlin and then complete an accredited schedule of engineering courses during two years at an affiliated engineering school. At the end of five years, students receive two degrees: a Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the engineering school. The latter degree allows recipients to sit for the professional licensing examination for engineers. Oberlin’s partners for the 3-2 program are California Institute of Technology (Caltech; Pasadena), Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland), Columbia University (New York), and Washington University (St. Louis).

The 3-2 program strives to prepare students for professional practice of engineering as licensed engineers, as well as for graduate research training. Graduates of the program are expected early in their careers to emerge as leaders in their chosen field, whether design, analysis, management, education, or research. The specific learning outcomes for students at the time of graduation after three years at Oberlin and two years at engineering school follow.

  1. Graduates will be technically competent within their chosen engineering discipline and will demonstrate the abilities to analyze and to solve engineering problems by applying basic principles of mathematics, science, and engineering sciences.
  2. Graduates will be able to design and conduct experiments as well as analyze and interpret data.
  3. Graduates will be able to identify, formulate, and find innovative solutions to problems of significance to society.
  4. Graduates will be able to apply the knowledge and skills from a broad education with sensitivity to global, societal, and environmental concerns.
  5. Graduates will behave professionally and act ethically.
  6. Graduates will recognize the need for – and have the ability to engage in – life-long learning.
  7. Graduates will have the abilities to function and to communicate effectively, both as individuals and as members of multi-disciplinary teams.

To ensure fulfillment of entry requirements at partner engineering schools, students are encouraged to discuss their interest in the program as early as possible with Oberlin’s engineering advisor, Taylor Allen (Biology Department), who is trained as a biomedical engineer.

Advanced Placement

AP credit for the courses listed under Major, below, may be granted by the individual departments. See relevant departments in this catalog.

Entry-Level Course Sequence Suggestions

It is suggested that first-year students interested in engineering take a mathematics course (MATH 133, 134, 231, or 234), as well as either chemistry or physics during their first year at Oberlin.


A student may declare 3-2 Engineering as her or his major at Oberlin and take a schedule including the courses listed below. To be accepted by the engineering school, a student normally must maintain a grade point average of 3.25 or greater. If a student does not proceed to an engineering school, she or he must satisfy the requirements for some other major at Oberlin.

Students must earn minimum grades of C- or P for all courses that apply toward the major.

The recommendations of the partner engineering schools differ slightly; however, it is generally required that a 3-2 engineering student take the following math and science courses at Oberlin:


There is no minor in engineering.

Graduation Requirements


Because students in this program spend only three years at Oberlin, they must satisfy modified general requirements for the Oberlin degree:

  1. A minimum of 24 full courses or the equivalent, of which at least 22 must be full academic courses (two half academic courses[1] will count as the equivalent of one full course).  Up to 2 of the required 24 courses may be fulfilled by a combination of co-curricular[2] credits. 
  2. Two Winter Term credits.
  3. At least four semesters in residence at Oberlin or on Oberlin College programs, completing not less than 16 full courses or equivalent at Oberlin College. Ordinarily, the last 4 full courses or equivalent must be taken while in residence.
  4. The following general requirements are more completely specified in the section “Requirements for Graduation” in this catalog:
  • Curriculum Exploration;
  • Writing;
  • Quantitative and Formal Reasoning;
  • Cultural Diversity.

[1] Some labs, mini courses and modules, and some private readings will be half courses. 

[2] Co-curricular courses are courses such as ExCo, Athletics, Creativity & Leadership, and some others as appropriate.


There is no Honors Program in engineering.

Other Programs

Students interested in engineering may spend four years at Oberlin, major in an appropriate natural science or in mathematics, and then work toward a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree or an advanced degree at an engineering school. Please note that generally it is the BSE degree, not an advanced degree, that is needed for one to become a licensed professional engineer.

Winter Term

Students may arrange engineering internships with companies during January. In addition,Washington University offers intensive courses in several engineering fields during January, and one of these may be taken for Oberlin Winter Term credit.

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