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My College Entry Steps

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    When applying to colleges, I really did not have a super specific major choice in mind. I applied to over ten universities, with majors of both civil and architectural engineering. When clicking the box to choose my major, I chose whichever of the two majors was available, without much thought. I simply wanted to work toward a career in structural engineering and saw these major choices as a way to do so. Making the decision on where to attend school was a tough one, but I eventually settled on CU-Boulder and their architectural engineering program. In my opinion, this was the best program out of all the available options and after completing the first semester, I have truly learned a great deal about the discipline and my hopeful career path: architectural engineering. When I was registering for classes, put quite simply, AREN 1316 was just on my block diagram and I registered for it in order to accurately follow the diagram. During the registration process, I was curious as to what the class entailed, to make sure it was something that I wanted to get into, and when I read the description, I was pleasantly surprised. The 1 credit hour class seemed a bit peculiar at first, but the seminar nature of the course really intrigued me.

    The fact that the course is a broad overview of architectural engineering truly appealed to me because going into this major, I had no idea what to expect or what concentration to choose, and this course would be able to solve these issues.  Aside from simply choosing the course due to the block diagram, there was a deeper motivation for me to take the course: the motivation behind why I chose the major. Ever since I was a kid, I have had an odd talent. Whenever I visit a house, even if it is just once, I always remember the floor plan. This initial odd talent led me to develop an appreciation for buildings, which eventually grew into something more. Moving on from floor plans, I became fascinated with tall buildings and the steps that need to be taken to construct the buildings rather than simply their end product. This appreciation, in conjunction with my penchant for math and physics, led me to apply to civil and architectural engineering programs. This eventually led me to CU-Boulder and the AREN 1316 class. As previously mentioned, before coming into this class, I really did not know too much about the discipline of architectural engineering, but after this semester, I can now formulate a simple description of the subject. It is my understanding that architectural engineering is a discipline that concerns all aspects associated with the construction of buildings: construction management, structural engineering, lighting design, etc.

    An architectural engineer can choose to specialize in one of the many subdisciplines and take a career path in said subdiscipline. For example, someone can choose the subdiscipline of structural engineering and become a structural engineer. Architectural engineering shares many similarities with civil engineering, but I see it as a more specific version of the former. I see the major of architectural engineering as relatively equal to the major of civil engineering with a structural focus, only with a few differences. Architectural engineers can design the structure of a building, calculate exactly what lights to put in for optimal lighting, implement innovating heating and cooling systems to more effectively run the building, and much much more. However, in my opinion, the principal charge of an architectural engineer is to take an architect’s vision and make it a reality. This can take on many forms and include many different specific tasks, but it is simply my general definition of the discipline. Architectural engineering contains five concentrations: structural, mechanical, electrical, lighting, and construction. Out of these five concentrations, I am most interested in strutural engineering. Going into the architectural engineering program here at CU-Boulder, it was always my plan to go into the structural concentration and, after this first semester, my plan has not changed.

    Although all the guest speakers from the various concentrations piqued my interest here and there, structural engineering has always been my favorite. From a very young age, I have always had an interest in buildings, and I always thought this pointed me to a career path in architecture. Going into high school, I sought to take classes that would help point me in this direction, specifically art classes. I took three fine arts courses in my first two years as a high schooler, hoping to develop my art skills and ignite my passion for architecture, but that was not the case. Although I did enjoy some aspects of the classes I took, I struggled to really dive into the work and, put quite simply, it just was not for me. After my bad experiences in these classes, I still wanted to do something with architecture, and because of my liking of physics and math, I decided to shift my focus to structural engineering. Ever since this shift that I made in my junior year of high school, I have been working toward a career as a structural engineer, and that is why I am most interested in the structural concentration. One of the first steps to achieve my goal of becoming a structural engineer is obtaining a BS degree in Architectural Engineering.

    In order to receive this degree, there is a certain set of courses and skills that one must possess. As far as courses go, there is a set course (block) diagram that lists almost all of the courses that need to be taken so that a degree can be obtained, with a little bit of elective and technical course flexibility in the later years of the program. The courses in the first few years include some pretty straightforward general requirements such as calculus and general physics, with some more specialized architectural engineering coursework thrown in the mix. It is in the latter two years of school that the courses become much more specific to architectural engineering. In these years, many general architectural engineering courses such as illumination and structural analysis are required, with the final year of the program containing all the tech and humanities elective slots. The program requires at least 12 credits of pre-approved tech electives that allow for specialization in different concentrations of the architectural engineering program. There are over 22 options for these electives, which range from courses like “design of wood structures” to “computer simulation of building systems”.

    Aside from these courses, a particular set of skills is necessary to graduate from the architectural engineering program. A skilled architectural engineering student is adept in spatial reasoning, visualization, geometry, critical reasoning, arithmetic, teamwork, and much, much more. Primarily, and architectural engineer needs to be able to implement these skills in a team environment because all architectural engineers are important pieces of a team of engineers working on a building, so a student must have strong teamwork skills to graduate from the program. Even if these skills are not all completely present in a first-year architectural engineering student, the aforementioned courses are designed to help implement these skills in each and every graduate of the program. Personally, I believe that I possess a bit of some of these previously outlined skills necessary for a successful architectural engineer, but I need to effectively complete each course in the program in order to fully develop these skills and become a successful architectural engineering graduate. Before I outline how I can ensure my personal success in these courses, I need to outline my definition of success in these courses.

    I will consider myself successful in my college courses not only if I get a high grade in each of them, but if I truly comprehend the material. True comprehension is when I complete and understand each assignment, quiz, and test, not just fly through it, looking up all the answers, simply to get it done. This true comprehension cannot be accomplished without effective study skills. This first semester of school, I would say I have had some pretty strong study skills, but they have not been as effective as they could have been. I often become quite distracted when studying, looking at my phone too often or studying in distracting environments like a dorm room full of people. If I limit these distractions, I feel that I would be more productive in fully comprehending coursework and be well on my way to ensure that I am successful in my courses and in acquiring the skills necessary to become an architectural engineer. Obtaining a BS in architectural engineering is an important stepping stone on the pathway toward becoming a successful architectural engineer, but it is by no means the final step. A fully practicing architectural engineer needs professional licensure to be able to complete the work required of them.

    Professional licensure is one of the most important steps that a student can take on their career path. There are two different professional engineering exams that can be taken: the FE (Fundamentals of Engineering Exam) and the PE (Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam). At some schools, like CU-Boulder, students need to take the FE just to be able to graduate from the program, which shows just how important the FE is. If an engineer passes the PE, they can get a Professional Engineer stamp along with their professional licensure, which allows them to take the lead on more projects, be the engineer on record, and keeps them safer from layoffs. Additionally, engineers with this licensure are the only ones allowed to seal building plans for both public and private use, something that is of paramount importance in the architectural engineering field. Overall, an architectural engineer without proper licensure is subject to lower pay, inferior job opportunities, and fewer opportunities for advancement in the field. After I graduate from CU-Boulder with a degree in architectural engineering, I plan to attend graduate school.

    I am not sure about whether or not I will pursue my master’s directly out of college or after a few years of working in the field. Regardless of exactly when I choose to go to graduate school, I plan on getting a degree in civil engineering with a structural focus. This degree will complement my architectural engineering BS with a structural focus and will assist in my goal to become a structural engineer. Following graduate school, I plan to get a job in the field, most likely in some sort of engineering firm, where I will obtain the required experience to take the PE exam. After these years of experience, I plan to take the PE exam and possibly the SE exam and then become a practicing professional engineer in the field of structural engineering. As far as what specific projects I would like to work on, I am very interested in skyscrapers and working on their structures but, besides that, I do not know. When I first came into high school, I wanted to be an architect, but my passions have since shifted to architectural engineering, leading me to the CU-Boulder architectural engineering program.

    I have always loved structures and am intrigued to learn more about them throughout my time here, and this learning process began with my very first architectural engineering class: AREN 1316. Intro to architectural engineering provides a solid introduction to the major, outlining each of its five concentrations, including my personal favorite, structures. In order to achieve my desired degree with a structural focus, I need to carefully adhere to a block diagram of necessary courses and precisely select appropriate technical electives for my intended emphasis. This degree will not be possible without effective course comprehension and distraction-free, productive studying. One of the important steps to obtaining this BS degree is the FE exam, which can, after work experience, be followed up by complete professional licensure through the PE exam. There are many ways to approach a career after graduating CU with a BS in architectural engineering, but personally, I plan to attend graduate school, obtain applicable work experience, take the PE and maybe the SE, then practice as a professionally licensed structural engineer.

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    My College Entry Steps. (2022, Mar 09). Retrieved from

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