William Woods to add two undergraduate majors

Dr. Vern Hart lectures to a physics class.
Dr. Vern Hart lectures to a physics class.

William Woods University will add two new undergraduate majors in the physical sciences this fall—physics and pre-engineering, both of which can lead to lucrative technical careers.

“I am really excited about them because they will give our students an opportunity to pursue careers in advanced technical fields,” Dr. Vern Hart, assistant professor of physics, said.

Physics, which previously was offered as a minor, will now be available as a Bachelor of Science degree program. Students enrolled in pre-engineering would spend two to three years on campus earning an Associate of Science degree in Applied Mathematics with an emphasis in pre-engineering. They would then transfer to another institution for completion of their engineering degree.

“I am delighted that William Woods will be adding these new programs,” Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett, president, said. “It is further evidence of our ability to make changes that benefit our students.”

According to Hart, in 2013, there were 5.7 million new job openings in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields, 4.4 million of which required at least a bachelor’s degree. Several STEM fields are currently facing a lack of qualified graduates to fill available positions.

Hannah Riebkes uses the microscope while Hallie Peters and Kayla Lancashire work in the background.
Hannah Riebkes uses the microscope while Hallie Peters and Kayla Lancashire work in the background.

“Physics is a broad and dynamic field which provides students with valuable problem-solving and critical thinking skills, while instilling a solid mathematical foundation,” Hart said.

Physics is the ninth highest-earning major in the United States with an average mid-career salary of $107,000. The average starting salary offered to students graduating with a B.S. in physics was over $57,000 in 2008.

“Physics is also a highly interdisciplinary field,” Hart said. “Many physics students go on to pursue advanced degrees in subjects such as biophysics or medical physics. In 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that bioengineering was the single fastest growing job in America.”

The physics program will include 44 physics credits and 14 mathematics credits, plus 43 general education credits.

Coursework in WWU’s pre-engineering program is designed to simulate the first two years of a typical engineering bachelor’s degree program. It includes 35 engineering-based credits and 33 general education credits, at least 60 of which must be taken at William Woods.

“The pre-engineering program will give students a sound foundation for future study in either science, engineering or mathematics,” Chris Schneider, assistant professor of mathematics, said.  “I’m excited that the new program will also draw student’s attention to our mathematics offerings.”

Engineering continues to be a rapidly growing field that is popular among students because of the excellent employment opportunities it provides. Of the 20 highest-earning majors, 12 are engineering-based programs, including six of the top seven.