Timothy Peck
4 College Lists

Top Liberal Arts Colleges with Engineering Programs

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While many people might not associate liberal arts colleges with engineering, these schools can offer an ideal environment for prospective engineering students. Liberal arts colleges offer smaller classes and supportive environments, while encouraging students to build a diverse set of knowledge. If you’re considering a liberal arts college but want to study engineering, here’s what you need to know.


What is a Liberal Arts Education?


Rather than teaching a specific set of knowledge, a liberal arts education provides a student with a wide base of understanding, equipping them with the ability to problem solve, think critically, and communicate effectively. 


A liberal arts education is most commonly associated with liberal arts colleges (LACs)—small, residential institutions that commonly do not offer graduate or professional programs. However, liberal arts programs can also be found at large universities, such as Brown University and Northeastern’s College of Social Sciences and Humanities.


A common misconception is that a liberal arts education focuses solely on the humanities, which is not true. Liberal arts refers to the core academic subjects (humanities, arts, mathematics, sciences) that are separate from professional, vocational, or technical studies. A liberal arts education can be very robust in the sciences, and many LACs have strong STEM programs.


To learn more about liberal arts colleges, check out our blog What is a Liberal Arts College, and How Are They Different? 


How Liberal Arts Education Differs from Professional Education


Students enrolled in a liberal arts program are exposed to a variety of topics across a spectrum of fields, building skills that transfer across industries and careers. Alternately, professional education instructs students in a singular subject, developing the skills needed for success in a particular field of study and preparing them for entry into the professional world. 


Learn more about the difference between a liberal arts and professional education in our blog Liberal Arts vs. Professional Education: Which is Better?


Benefits of Getting an Engineering Degree From a Liberal Arts College


More Support: One of the major benefits of attending a liberal arts college with an engineering program is smaller class sizes. Engineering students are challenged with numerous difficult prerequisites such as calculus, physics, and chemistry—smaller institutions are better able to provide a supportive environment for learning. Smaller classes allow for more one-on-one interaction between students and faculty, make it easier for students to ask questions, and encourage a deeper exploration of topics. 


More Well Rounded: Proponents of a liberal arts education argue that they produce more well-rounded engineers than those from professional programs. In addition to technical skills, students from liberal arts colleges have developed the problem-solving and critical-thinking skills that make them valuable collaborators in brainstorming sessions, while their ability to clearly communicate their thoughts and ideas, write papers, and prepare presentations allows them to more easily adapt to professional life. 


More Flexibility: Liberal arts colleges with engineering programs are also ideal for students not ready to fully commit to pursuing an engineering degree. If, after the first year or two of college, a student discovers that engineering isn’t the path they want to follow, it’s simply easier to switch majors while attending a liberal arts college than it is if enrolled in an engineering program at a large university. 


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Liberal Arts Colleges with 3-2 or 2-1-1-1 Engineering Programs


Many LACs don’t actually offer an engineering major, and instead offer 5-year engineering programs in partnership with another school. 3-2 programs are dual-degree programs that last five years, at the end of which the student graduates with two bachelor’s degrees: one from their liberal arts program and one from their engineering program. In a 3-2 program, a student spends their first three years at a liberal arts school and their final two years at an engineering school affiliated with the liberal arts institution. 


Dartmouth College offers students from participating colleges the opportunity to study at their Thayer School of Engineering as part of a 2-1-1-1 program—although they also offer a more traditional 3-2 program as well. While part of the 2-1-1-1 program, students spend their first, second, and fourth years at their home schools and their third and fifth years at Dartmouth. 


Here are liberal arts schools with 5-year engineering programs in partnership with another university.


College Name School Location U.S. News Rank Acceptance Rate
Williams College Williamstown, MA 1 13%
Amherst College Amherst, MA 2 13%
Wellesley College Wellesley, MA 3 20%
Pomona College Claremont, CA 5 8%
Bowdoin College Brunswick, ME 6 10%
Carleton College Northfield, MN 7 20%
Claremont McKenna College Claremont, CA 7 9%
Middlebury College Middlebury, VT 7 17%
Colby College Waterville, ME 11 13%
Haverford College Haverford, PA 11 19%
Grinnell College Grinnell, IA 14 24%
Hamilton College Clinton, NY 14 21%
Vassar College Poughkeepsie, NY 14 25%
Colgate University Hamilton, NY 17 25%
Davidson College Davidson, NC 17 19%
Wesleyan University Middletown, CT 17 17%
Bates College Lewiston, ME 21 18%
Bryn Mawr College Bryn Mawr, PA 27 34%
College of the Holy Cross Worcester, MA 27 38%
Colorado College Colorado Springs, CO 27 15%
Kenyon College Gambier, OH 27 36%
Mount Holyoke College South Hadley, MA 32 51%
Oberlin College Oberlin, OH 33 36%
Scripps College Claremont, CA 33 24%
Franklin and Marshall Lancaster, PA 38 35%
Occidental College Los Angeles, CA 39 37%
Skidmore College Saratoga Springs, NY 39 27%
Denison University Granville, OH 43 34%
Sewanee: The University of the South Sewanee, TN 43 65%
Connecticut College New London, CT 46 38%
Whitman College Walla Walla, WA 46 50%
Centre College Danville, KY 53 73%
Gettysburg College Gettysburg, PA 53 45%


Liberal Arts Colleges With Engineering Majors


While it is less common, some LACs actually do offer engineering majors. Here are the schools with this option:


College Name School Location U.S. News Rank Acceptance Rate
Swarthmore College Swarthmore, PA 3 9%
Washington and Lee University Lexington, VA 10 21%
Smith College Northampton, MA 11 31%
United States Naval Academy Annapolis, MD 17 9%
United States Military Academy West Point, NY 21 10%
Harvey Mudd College Claremont, CA 23 14%
University of Richmond Richmond, VA 23 30%
Barnard College New York, NY 25 14%
Bucknell University Lewisburg, PA 35 33%
Lafayette College Easton, PA 39 29%
United States Air Force Academy USAF Academy, CO 39 11%
Union College Schenectady, NY 45 39%
Trinity College Hartford, CT 46 34%


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Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.

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