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node information : the goal of this node (you're welcome to create nodes about *your* professions, like for instance "how ah became a pimpe", or "how I became a slashdot editor" - I make no insinuations), is to explain country-wise, how one becomes an engineer.
This is the entry for Belgium.
The process of becoming an engineer started when I had to choose the amount of mathematics I would be taking for the two last years of secundary school. We had the choice between 2, 4, 6 or 8 hours (50 minute hours) a week of maths and as I was one of the two most talented mathematicians in my class, I chose for the maximum allowed. (In Wallonia the southern part of Belgium, the maximum amount was 7 hours.

The second choice I had to do was between Economics, Sciences and Latin. Having abandonned Latin two years before, and having never ever had an economics course, I settled for sciences although I hated biology and the biology teacher - called the Sex Midget.

The next year (called the fifth year) passed without great events, I always managed to work just no more, no less than necessary. When I arrived in the sixth and final year, our maths teacher proposed us to take one lunch break every week to prepare for the entrance exam for civil engineering. Some ten students signed up, but after some months I was the last one left who was interested. This disappointed our maths teacher, because although she saw I was talented, she also saw I was lazy (I still am). She was often upset because I hadn't prepared the exercises she had given me. But she didn't give up on me and in july 1996 I presented the exam.

The exam was split in five parts :
  1. Written on algebra
  2. Written on calculus
  3. Written on geometry
  4. Oral on analytical geometry
  5. Oral on calculus
I failed for the first and the third, got a 10/20 on the fourth and did ok on the second and the last. In total I got 58/100. While this was in se not the required 60/100, it would have been stupid to have me come back in september for just to miserable points. So I was "deliberated away". The very next day I took my inscription for the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Faculty of Applied Sciences / Polytechnic School, where I had passed the exam.

The engineering studies take five years : first two theorical years called the "candidatures", then three more practical years called the "licenses".

The first year (first candidature) we received education in physics, chemistry, calculus, algebra, programming/CS, and discrete mechanics. The courses went on from october to may. I passed in second exam session (basically, we get two tries, one in june/july - first session, one in august/september - second session). I was not a superhard worker, but I was smart enough to keep my head above the water.

The second year (second candidature), we received courses on quantum physics/ optics, continuum mechanics, more calculus, statistics, electricity, numerical algorithms, non-numerical algorithms, physical chemistry. I passed again in second session.

The third year (first license), we had to make a choice based on what we were good at or what we liked. We had to choose between Construction (for those who liked continuum mechanics), Electrotechnics (basically electronics and CS, low voltage), Mechanics/Electrotechnics (Robots, electromotors, high voltage), Chemistry (masochists), and Material Science. As a geek, I chose the E.
we got system theory, control theory, materials science, computer architecture, networks and filter design, transformers and electromotors, telecommunication (a joke), electromagnetism, electronics, digital circuits, microelectronics, heat and mass transfert (HMT). I didn't pass that time, because of one exam in HMT, the most useless course ever for an E-engineer. Not in first session, not in second session.

Basically, I had to do the first license again. But I didn't want to be left alone in a class with people I didn't know, and besides all pretty girls had passed and the only girl in the new class was ugly. So I set up a special program to pass the third and fourth years in one year, giving up already my summer holydays for 2000.

In the fourth year (second license), E-engineers had to choose between electronics (EL), telecom (TC), photonics (FO) and CS (IN). EL was not for me, although I was in love with a girl who had picked that, FO was for people who liked solving Schrödinger's Equation, not me, although I was in love with a girl who had picked that, TC seemed boring although almost all my friends took that, so I chose IN wich was perfect as it gave me much freedom for the courses I took and that was just what I needed for my special program.

So as a 4E/IN student, I took control techniques (a joke), DSP, advanced measurement techniques, advanced microelectronics, advanced electronics (mainly amplifiers), Cinematics and dynamics of machines, parallel computing, signal theory, interpreter masturbation, compilers, TCP/IP, application layer (yet another joke), Electronics design and implementation, and a free assignment on raytracers to learn c. I passed the third year in first session, the fourth year in second session. I was again a regular student.

In the fifth year (Third license), the most important thing to do was to choose a final thesis. The four years before I had learnt that the people from the CS department were a joke, so I did not want to have anything to do with them. I was planning to take a thesis outside of faculty, maybe in general CS, until I met my measurements professor, who was looking for someone to write an instrument driver for a signal generator. I took it. Other course given that year were : introduction to the corporate world (well kinda), expert systems, economics (a joke), image processing and synthesis (a catastrophe), databases, protocols, software engineering, real time OSes, AI, to which I added a website design in PHP/ODBC, electronics/software codesign, audio DSP (for a girl), and lighting techniques (a joke). I passed in first session of 2001, and that's how I received, on July 13, 2001, the academic grade of Burgerlijk Elektrotechnisch Ingenieur.
All in all, this is the type of studies I would recommand to people that are either hard working, either intelligent. Hard working, stupid people will pass without a problem, intelligent people too, even if they are lazy. I am one of those. But stupid, lazy people just won't cut it. I know people who were in their second first candidature when I arrived in 1996, and are not much further right now.
Becoming an Engineer in the United States

In the United States, the standard engineering degree is a Bachelor of Science. Billed as a four year degree, it frequently requires five years to complete. It does not normally include a thesis, but students in their final year often complete a one or two-semester group design project.

High school students who want to major in engineering should, of course, focus on math and science (especially physics) courses. Calculus and calculus-based physics would be great, but they aren't strictly necessary; almost all students take these in college regardless of their high school background. Scoring high on the ACT and SAT standardized tests is important for getting scholarships or admission to one of the more competitive schools. Engineering colleges often boast the highest average scores in their universities.

At many schools, the first year of study is the same for all engineering majors: calculus, computer programming, chemistry, physics, english, and engineering graphics (a colossal waste of time for the EE majors).

Bifurcation into the separate engineering fields begins in the sophomore (second) year. All students take more math (differential equations and possibly linear algebra) and their second semester of physics if they haven't gotten it already. Most take basic mechanics courses (statics and dynamics), the exception being students in a degree program that doesn't expect professional licensure later on, like some computer (but not electrical) engineering programs. They also take the beginning courses in their discipline: circuits and digital logic for EEs, mechanics of materials for MEs, and so on.

Most dropouts occur in the first two years. If you can make it this far--and you still want to--you can make it the rest of the way.

By the junior (third) year, most of the overlap between disciplines has ended as students take more advanced courses in their majors. EEs like me take courses in electronics, electromagnetic theory, and electric machines. MEs take advanced mechanics classes, ChemEs take thermodynamics, etc. Most students take statistics and technical writing classes at about this point.

In the final year (or years), students begin to specialize within their disciplines, taking advanced elective courses. Most schools require a design class during which students work in small groups on fairly extensive projects.

Prior or coincident to graduation, students are encouraged to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, one of the prerequisites to professional licensure. Being licensed as a Professional Engineer is very important for civil engineers, but somewhat less so for other kinds; if you're going into VLSI design, you probably needn't bother.

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