How to choose a program in the Faculty of Engineering

Two Waterloo Engineering Students

Choosing your engineering program is a pretty major decision.

At the University of Waterloo, the path to a specific field of study in engineering begins in first year — what’s called “direct entry” — so it’s important to understand all your options.

Waterloo has one of the largest faculties of engineering in Canada, with more programs than any other institution, and ranks among the best engineering schools in Canada. That means, whichever program you choose, you're in good hands.

“In most cases, high school students don’t know exactly which engineering program they’re interested in,” undergraduate recruitment specialist Ryan Pyear says. “They just know they like math and science and that they excel at those subjects. If they like physics, for example, it often leads to an interest in engineering.”

2 engineering students in lab.

Learn why Zahra (on right) chose to study Engineering at Waterloo.

Narrow down your choices

If you're not familiar with Waterloo Engineering, you may be surprised to learn there are 15 different programs.


With all of these options, you're probably wondering: What are the major differences? What are the requirements? What if I want to switch from one program to another?

If you're interested in engineering but don’t know exactly what you want to study, there are three important things to consider.

  1. It's important to understand the unique features and career trajectories of each program.
  2. You also need to determine which programs align best with your interests and passions.
  3. Lastly, you should study the admission requirements to sort out which programs you're eligible for based on your high school courses and grades.

Making an informed choice at the beginning is highly encouraged because switching engineering programs at Waterloo is difficult.

We always emphasize that the most important thing is to do the research and connect directly with our current students,” Pyear says. “For students who’ve done a lot of research and already have an understanding of where their interests lie, direct entry is very attractive.”

Engineering student outside her co-op job in New York.

Hannah, a Management Engineering student, spent a co-op work term in New York City.

A quiz to help you choose

If you’re just starting your research, we encourage you to take our quiz to find the engineering programs most aligned with your interests and personality traits. Questions like, "Would you rather work inside or outside?" and "Would you prefer to work with your hands or on the computer?" can help tease out your preferences and give your career goals some clarity.

“We really don’t want students to think about transferring out because they’d often have to start back at year one,” Pyear says.

“Our job is about educating more than recruiting. We want to make sure the students who choose us know exactly what’s involved with direct entry. All Waterloo engineering programs lead to good jobs. It depends on the students’ interests. It’s not really about finding the best job or getting the most pay. It’s about finding what they’re passionate about and then pursuing it. The more passionate they are in their field, the higher they’ll rise.”

To take your campus experience to the next level, you can contact our Engineering ambassador team to register for a live virtual EngChat to learn more about the curriculum, majors, and co-op jobs — and to see what life is really like for engineering students at Waterloo.

“Our campus atmosphere is a lot better than prospective students realize,” Pyear says. “Students do actually have time for a social life.”

Students working in the design centre on a vehicle.

Student design teams are a great way for students to get even more real engineering experience.

Helping you choose your engineering program

Start with a self assessment

  • Know your abilities. Are you good at it? If so, you’re much more likely to enjoy what you do.
  • Know your values. Working at something you believe has value will be much more rewarding a decade or two down the road.
  • Know your interests. Why not get a pay-cheque for doing something that you already love?
  • Worry less about the career path and the salary. Focus on getting the skills — because by the time graduation rolls around, you might be applying for jobs that didn’t even exist when you were in first year.

Next steps



Related articles