F.A.Q. for Prospective Students

    1. What is AE?
    2. Difference between AE and Architecture
    3. Difference between AE and Civil Engineering
    4. Admission Steps
    5. Commonwealth Campus Students
    6. Transferring into AE
    7. 5-Year Program
    8. Entering the Major
    9. High School Prep
    10. Portfolio
    11. Planning a Visit
    12. Contacts and Location
    13. Applying to Penn State
    14. Typical Questions about AE

Q. What is Architectural Engineering?

Architectural Engineers apply scientific and engineering principles to the design and construction of buildings and building systems. Architectural Engineering encompasses topics from various disciplines, including architecture, structural engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. At Penn State, Architectural Engineering is a five-year program leading to an ABET-accredited, professional Bachelor of Architectural Engineering degree.

Q. What is the difference between Architectural Engineering and Architecture?

An architectural engineering program emphasizes the engineering aspects of the building design and construction process, while an architecture program concentrates on the aesthetics and the functional/ spatial layout of buildings.

Contemporary buildings are designed by teams of professionals. These teams include designers with distinct responsibilities and expertise. Architects, engineers and other specialists work together to turn ideas into reality.

The Architects are responsible for turning the owner's program and requirements into a three dimensional model, the building as one sees it. The final design must be responsive to the owner's program, the budget, and code requirements. Traditionally, the design team is led by an architect. In current practices, an engineer with the proper qualifications is equally suitable to lead the design team.

Architectural Engineering refers to the collective efforts of many engineering disciplines which are necessary to turn the architect's building concepts into reality. These disciplines include structural, building mechanical, electrical, lighting, fire protection and construction.

The Architectural Engineering program at Penn State prepares engineers to meet these challenges. The engineering students are introduced to engineering fundamentals of all the disciplines in the first three years. In the fourth and fifth year, students specialize in one of the options, structural, mechanical, lighting/electrical or construction.


Q. What is the difference between Architectural Engineering and Civil Engineering, particularly for someone interested in structures?

The engineers on a project design team are responsible for different specialties. The architectural engineers are responsible for the different systems of building, structural, mechanical, electrical, etc. The engineering systems outside of the building are the responsibilities of the civil engineer, (i.e. site development, storm water management, transportation, etc.). In addition, civil engineers may design structures other than buildings, (i.e. bridges, dams and retaining walls).

At Penn State both the AE and the CE programs offer course work in construction management. The AE program deals with the construction of building projects and the CE program covers site related and geographically larger projects.


Q. What are the steps of admission into Architectural Engineering?

You must be admitted into the College of Engineering upon entering Penn State as a freshman (ENGR student status). A student may attend the University Park campus or one of the Commonwealth College Campuses for the first year.

By the end of First-Year Spring Semester, the student must have completed Math 140, Math 141, Physics 211, and Chemistry 12 with a C or better and have a GPA or 3.0 or higher to qualify for admission into AE.

In the April of the Freshmen year, the student should indicate on elion, in the early - entrance to major process, AE as his/her first choice. A maximum of 100 students are offered admission into the major. At the discretion of the Department, additional students may be selected. Second year AE student have the designation ENGAE. After the second year the designation changes to AE automatically.

Students must matriculate at University Park campus beginning the second year upon acceptance of the offer into AE. Only ENGAE and AE students may register for the AE and ARCH courses listed in the AE curriculum for the second year.

Alternatively, during the second year Entrance to Major process, ENGR students with a GPA equal or greater than 3.0 may select Architectural Engineering. Students with greater than 3.0 GPA are guaranteed admission to the major during this process regardless of the number of students already in the program.

NOTE: Students must hava a GPA of 3.0 or higher by the end of the Fall semester of the second year.


Q. Can I attend a Commonwealth Campus and still enter Architectural Engineering?

Yes. The student may study one year at a Commonwealth Campus. Students should confirm their program of study to the AE Curriculum. At the end of the first year, Commonwealth Campus students are subjected to the same criteria as University Park students in the Entrance to the Major process.

  • Students must complete all four courses with a C or better (Math 140, Math 141, Chem 110 and Phys 211).
  • Students must have a GPA of 3.0 or greater.
  • Students with a GPA less than 3.0 or not having completed one of the 4 entrance-to-major courses may be considered if space allows.
  • In the spring of their second semester students wishing to enter AE must indicate or confirm AE as their first preference on e-Lion when the first-year reference survey is announced.
  • They will be told in June of their status.
  • If they choose to accept, they must then come to UP for Fall semester.

Please note that students do not receive confirmation of their ENGAE status until early summer. Acceptance into the AE program necessitates that the student matriculate at University Park starting the second year. Commonwealth Campus students must make appropriate contingent housing plans for the Fall Semester of the second year.

Alternatively, during the second year Entrance to Major process, ENGR students with a GPA equal or greater than 3.0 may select Architectural Engineering. Students with greater than 3.0 GPA are guaranteed admission to the major during this process regardless of the number of students already in the program.

NOTE: For the second year entrance-to-major purpose, a student’s GPA at the end of the Fall semester of the second year is used.


Q. What will I take in the second year if I did not complete the requirements for admission into AE after the first year?

Complete all non-AE or non-ARCH courses listed in the first three years by the beginning of the third year. Enroll in Summer class if necessary. Students must complete all required courses by the end of the third year to select an option. See the schedule below:

Required Classes for Selecting an Option

3rd Semester
Math 220(2)
Math 231(2)
Phys212 (4)
ARCH 100 at UP
or (GS/GH) at CC

TOTAL: 17 credits

4th Semester
Math 250
Phys213 (2)
ArtH202 at UP

TOTAL: 17 credits

5th Semester

TOTAL: 16 credits

6th Semester
TOTAL: 15 credits

* EMCH 13 pre-req for AE 308
**ME 23 pre-req for AE 310


Q. Can I attend another college or University for the first year or two?

Due to the level of interest from within the University, the program does not accept transfer students (students with greater than 18 credits of post-secondary education).


Q. Does Penn State's AE Department participate in a 3-2 engineering program?

No. Penn State's AE Department does not participate in a 3-2 engineering program.


Q. Why is Architectural Engineering a five year program?

The AE curriculum is a five year program because of the breadth and depth of material it covers. Our students take all the College of Engineering requirements, University general education requirements, and two years of architectural design studios plus other architectural courses. We have a year-long comprehensive senior project in the fifth year. Students study all the systems in a building, even though they specialize in one area.


Q. Why can't I enter the major as a freshman?

All College of Engineering first-year students are admitted as ENGR students. Students are admitted into AE with major preference selection in the spring of their first year. However, students with an interest in in Architectural Engineering should indicate the preference as early as possible to be advised accordingly starting with the FTCAP session. All first-year students are advised through the Engineering Advising Center rather than through the Department.

Q. How do I declare an option?

Students select an option at the end of the the third year. In order to declare an option, students must complete all required courses in the first three years of the curriculum.

Q. I'm a junior in high school. Are there any high school classes that I should be taking in preparation for the AE curriculum?

Since the criteria for admission to AE requires the completion of two consecutive college calculus math courses in the first two semesters, a strong math background is necessary. Having calculus in high school provides a substantial advantage.

It should be stressed that all college preparatory courses are important. Writing and verbal communication skills are of paramount importance in the practice of Architectural Engineering and stressed in the education of an AE. A broad world view is also important to engineers. Familiarity with architectural CAD programs is a plus. This skill is very marketable to employers looking for summer interns.


Q. Do I need to prepare a portfolio for submission with my application?

No. Students applying to architectural engineering do not need to submit a portfolio as students applying to Architecture. Architecture is a 5-year program in the College of Arts and Architecture. The admission process is different than the AE process. Architecture students are admitted into the Architecture program beginning the first semester.


Q. I'm planning to visit Penn State. How can I set up a tour of the Architectural Engineering Department?

Students may contact the University Admissions office, Engineering Advising Center (814-863-1033) or call the Student Records Secretary in the AE Office at 814-863-2078 or aeinfo@engr.psu.edu. In general, it is recommended that students contact the Admissions Office to schedule the most comprehensive program during the visit. By contacting Admissions, the student's visit may include appointments with the appropriate College and Departments.


Q. I have questions and would like to talk to a person. Who are the points of contact in AE?

The Undergraduate Program Officer can help you with most questions. The Student Records Secretary (814-863-2078) coordinates student visits to the AE Department.


Q. Where is the Architectural Engineering Department located?

We are in Engineering Unit A, which is located between Hammond Building and the Hintz Alumni Center. The Department's main office is 104 Engineering Unit A. The Student Records Secretary's office is in 104 Engineering Unit A. Please consult the directions for reaching the AE department (and a list of local hotels) and download a campus map.


Q. How do I apply to Penn State?

Please visit the Applications page.