• Yager Hall Bell Tower, Hartwick College
  • Hartwick student dancer
  • Hartwick students during MetroLink
  • Hartwick student doing field work


"I think I want to be an engineer when I graduate from college, but I am not really sure. I don't really understand what the difference is between an engineer and a scientist."

Does that sound like you? If so, then maybe the pre-engineering program at Hartwick College is the best choice for you at this time.

What is the difference between a scientist and an engineer?
One way to explain the difference between engineers and scientists in a few words is that an engineer asks "How does it work?" while a scientist asks "Why does it work?" That is, a scientist is more concerned with understanding nature at a fundamental level, while an engineer is more interested in applying that knowledge to design a better machine. Of course, that's an oversimplification, but it captures the basic difference. Quite often, in industry, scientists and engineers work together in a team.

Why should I choose to enroll in Hartwick's Pre-Engineering program?
Our pre-engineering program is meant for students who are not quite sure whether they want to be an engineer or who might want to consider some other choice of major, such as physics, chemistry, computer science, or even English or history. If you are absolutely sure that you want to be an engineer, then an engineering college is probably the best choice for you now. But if you have some doubts, a pre-engineering program will allow you to try out other choices while still remaining on track for an engineering degree within five years.

What exactly is the 3-2 Pre-Engineering program at Hartwick?
If you enter the pre-engineering program at Hartwick, you will choose a major in some subject and fulfill all of the usual requirements for that major. You also must fulfill all of the general education requirements (with a couple of minor exceptions). There also are certain other courses that you must take to prepare for the engineering college. These include some basic math and physics courses and others depending on the particular kind of engineering that you want to pursue. If you should decide at any time during your college career that you do not want to continue on the Pre-Engineering track, it is a simple matter to continue with your choice of major at Hartwick and graduate in four years.

During your three years at Hartwick, there is a pre-engineering liaison who will be able to answer questions about the program. During your third year, you will meet with the liaison to evaluate your progress. You then apply to the engineering school. This will generate a request from the engineering college to the liaison to make a recommendation to the engineering college. If Hartwick recommends you, admission to the engineering school is guaranteed. The criteria for a positive recommendation from Hartwick is a solid GPA (generally As and Bs), as well as completion of the basic courses that are required by the engineering college. Those courses vary, depending on the particular type of engineering. If you are missing some of the required coursework, you might still gain admission, but it is not guaranteed.

There also is a 4-2 master's degree program at Columbia, but this is not part of the pre-engineering program. One could apply to this program as a graduate student after you have your Hartwick degree.

What courses must I take at Hartwick?
While at Hartwick, you must take the same Liberal Arts in Practice courses required of every other Hartwick student. Most students in the program choose to major in physics, chemistry, mathematics, or computer science because those majors provide the best preparation for later studies in engineering. No matter what major you choose, you must take three terms of calculus and a course in differential equations, two terms of general chemistry, and two terms of physics. In addition you must take a course in computer science and a course in economics. Certain engineering programs require additional courses.

What about grades?
You must maintain at least a B+ average (3.30) while at Hartwick. You should earn grades of A or B in most or all of your math and science courses. In addition, you must have good work habits, as judged by the pre-engineering liaison in consultation with your instructors.

What engineering schools would I attend after Hartwick?
Hartwick has cooperative agreements with both Clarkson University and Columbia University. Students in our pre-engineering program spend three years at Hartwick College taking math and science courses as well as a mixture of social sciences and humanities. In their fourth year, they transfer to either Clarkson or Columbia, where they spend the next two years studying engineering courses. At the end of five years, a student who completes the program earns a B.A. (or B.S., depending on the major) from Hartwick and an engineering degree from the other university.

Other questions?
If you have questions about the Pre-Engineering program at Hartwick, perhaps our FAQ page will help provide answers.  Or contact Professor of Physics and Chair of the Physics Department Dr. Lawrence Nienart at nienartl@hartwick.edu.

Johnstone Science Center

Contact us:
voice: 607-431-4730
fax: 607-431-4734