Working professionals who seek new job opportunities recognize Engineering as the ideal gateway to a fast-paced career in high tech. Many such opportunities, however, are inaccessible to individuals who lack a basic bachelor’s degree in engineering.
For well over two decades, the Late Entry Accelerated Program (LEAP) at Boston University has allowed talented individuals and working professionals to obtain graduate degrees in engineering. The LEAP program first brings matriculants up to parity in undergraduate engineering coursework. This positions them to apply to either the Master of Engineering or Master of Science degree program.
The program was originally funded by a 1980 grant from National Science Foundation as a means to attract more women into engineering. The program now admits both men and women and is supported by Boston University.
Who Wants to be An Engineer?
According to David Perreault, a professor in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and longtime LEAP enthusiast, "People from all walks of life and every academic background are attracted to what LEAP has to offer. The LEAP program turns the deficit of a non-engineering background into an asset."
The typical LEAP students are between the ages of 22 and 45 and have undergraduate degrees in such diverse fields as math, music, physics, chemistry, life sciences, education, English, psychology, business, or the fine arts.
What Do LEAP Students Study?
LEAP students may choose from any of the college’s eight graduate programs in biomedical, computer, electrical, manufacturing, materials science and engineering, mechanical, and photonics or systems engineering. The undergraduate courses that must be taken to fulfill the first phase of LEAP are individually determined for each applicant based on prior background, work experience, and previous undergraduate degree.
Some students – physics undergraduates, for example – may need to take only three or four undergraduate courses before proceeding to the Master's program. Others students, such as social science or business majors, will need more undergraduate courses. Students with relevant on-the-job experience may also be exempted from some undergraduate course requirements.
After meeting individualized undergraduate core curriculum requirements, LEAP students make the transition to a regular Master’s Degree program in engineering. Some LEAP students also choose to continue on to the PhD program at Boston University.
Who are LEAP students?
LEAP students come from all walks of life. Diane Kiwior, a former public school teacher, exemplifies the ideal LEAP applicant. After teaching math for 11 years in central Pennsylvania, she joined the LEAP program at Boston University. In her own words,
“I kept reading about all the wonderful things that were happening in the world of computers and the Internet and I wanted to be a part of it. I can’t tell you how much I’m struck by the breadth of the engineering field. I don’t think people are aware of the enormous variety of job opportunities that are available to individuals with advanced engineering degrees.”
Kiwior thrived on the transition from teacher to student. As a nontraditional student, she found the faculty supportive and the younger students very helpful. She now works at TASC in Reading, Massachusetts, where she designs methods for the rapid retrieval of visual information.
LEAP Student Daniel Pascual had an undergraduate degree in biology and worked in a hospital for a year before applying to the program in biomedical engineering. While pursuing his Phase I studies, Dan decided to switch to Mechanical Engineering.
“I started out pre-med with an interest in diagnostic medicine, but I wanted to enter the world of high technology. Now I’m using engineering principles to solve some of those same problems. My laboratory work experience will be a particularly valuable asset when I complete the program and begin my job search.”
While a Master's of Science Degree candidate in Mechanical Engineering, Pascual worked as a research assistant in the Precision Engineering Research Laboratory where he used laser interferometry to design micro-machined hydrophone arrays. The graduate research assistantship paid all of his tuition costs plus a monthly stipend.
A limited number of LEAP scholarships based on financial eligibility and merit in addition to loans and work-study awards are available for the first, undergraduate-equivalency phase of the program. Scholarships, graduate research assistantships, and graduate teaching fellowships are available for full-time Master’s students.
LEAP alumni have been very successful as professional engineers. The experience they bring to the program combined with the technical engineering expertise they gain allows them to work even more effectively on modern, complex engineering problems.
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