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Why Change to Biological Engineering?

Are you a current Penn State student exploring engineering majors? If you are looking for a major that emphasizes practical applications and focuses on sustainability, Biological Engineering (BE) might be for you! Read below for more reasons why you should consider BE.

B E curriculum is hands-on and applications focused

We guarantee hands-on laboratory experiences in just about every BE course!  This is possible because the BE program is attractively small (~50 graduating students per year), which means you will know all your professors and your peers.  In addition, the Agricultural Engineering Building was recently renovated with a focus on teaching lab spaces (e.g., machinery lab, fabrication shop, wet pilot plant, instrumentation lab).  There is also a department computer lab available exclusively to BE and BRS students.

B E prepares graduates to make a difference

Sustainable solutions are needed to supply a growing world population with food, fiber, water, and fuel under increasing environmental constraints.  A video introduction by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) explains how B E graduates are leading the way.  If you want a career where you help find solutions to global challenges, study B E and get involved with Penn State's ASABE Student Branch


B E provides broad engineering background with opportunity to specialize

B E students take courses in engineering fundamentals and are well prepared for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exams, the next step to Professional Engineering licensure.  BE students specialize by choosing an option and relevant technical and engineering electives.

Many students pursue minors or certificates, such as:

Graduates are employable

Graduates are in high demand. BE alumni are enjoy successful careers in industry, government agencies, and engineering or consulting firms.  Recent BE alumni are employed by:

  • Power and Machinery Systems Manufacturers (e.g., John Deere, CNH, Cummins)
  • Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA)
  • Environmental Consulting Firms
  • Food Processing Companies (e.g., Nestle, PepsiCo, Ardent Mills, Anheuser Busch)
  • Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (e.g., Johnson & Johnson, Merck)

Graduates pursue advanced degrees

Approximately 20% of B E graduates go on to graduate school in Agricultural and Biological Engineering Departments across the country, as well as in related fields such as Food Science, Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Civil and Environmental Engineering.

B E is an alternative to other engineering majors

At a university as large as Penn State, there are often many related programs of study that can all lead to similar career goals (think of these as parallel academic options!).  The following pages highlight differences and overlaps between BE and other College of Engineering majors that you might be more familiar with. In addition, the pages describe how first and second-year courses would count that are common between other majors and BE.

What is the difference between Biomedical Engineering and Biological Engineering?

Are you interested in bio-processing, biological systems, want to be an engineer, and are looking for an alternative program to Chemical Engineering? The Biological Engineering major may be just the right choice for you!

Are you interested in protecting the environment or structural design, want to be an engineer, and are looking for an alternative program to Civil Engineering? The Biological Engineering major may be just the right choice for you!

Are you interested in designing machinery systems, do you want to be an engineer, and are you looking for an alternative program to Mechanical Engineering? Then the Agricultural Engineering Option of the Biological Engineering (BE) major may be just the right choice for you!