Information on this website is unofficial. University catalogs and other official documents take precedence over the information that is available here. The material presented here is to aid you in planning your academic program to best fit your interests. Ultimately you are responsible for making sure that you fulfill the graduation requirements. We present these aids to help you achieve your goal of a degree in biological systems engineering.
After you have transferred into the Biological Systems Engineering Department, you will be assigned a BSE academic advisor. You can find your advisor by logging onto Hokie SPA and using the "View your General Student Information" option. Your advisor is here to help you with questions regarding registration, degree progress, planning for co-ops, etc.
Multiple Career Pathways are available to assist you with your selection of BSE, engineering topics, and technical electives, depending on your ultimate career interests:
These pathways are recommendations only to help you plan your courses in the correct order to meet pre-requisites. These are not degree options. To receive a B.S. in Biological Systems Engineering, you ultimately must meet the requirements listed on the checksheet for the year in which you will graduate. You may also develop a personalized selection of electives, but be sure to do so with help from your academic advisor, as some courses are only offerred once per year and others have multiple, sequential pre-requisites.
Virginia Tech has a wonderful Career Services Center to help you find internships, co-op positions, and full time employment. The Career Services website has extensive information to help students with their job searches, including online resources to help you write your resume, explore careers and majors, and search for a job.
BSE faculty members can also be a great source of career advice. Please check our Career Advisors website for help in finding a BSE faculty member involved in a particular field you would like to explore as a potential career area.
Some students have a strong interest in an area outside of the BSE Department that they wish to pursue as a minor or as a second major. To sign up for a minor or major, please see the department offering that program.
Some of the more common minors earned by BSE students are:
Students can double major in any two majors as long as they meet the requirements for both degrees. Please see the Graduation Requirement listings page for checksheets summarizing the requirements for any major at Virginia Tech. If a student meets the requirements for two majors and also earns 30 more credits beyond the credits required for the for the primary major, they can earn a double degree (two separate degrees rather than one degree with both majors listed). Students listing BSE as their primary degree would need 162 credits for a double degree. For more information about degrees and second majors, please see the Registrar’s website.
Most colleges and departments have their own policies for "force-adding" or adding students to sections that do not appear to have open seats. For safety issues, no department is allowed to add more students than the maximum room capacity set by the fire marshal. Departments can only force-add students into the courses that their own department is teaching, so to request a force-add, you must approach the department teaching the course you want to add.
Note that force-adds are NOT performed for convenience, to place you in the same section as a friend, or to switch to a different instructor. It is our goal to keep enrollments in the various sections of a course as balanced as possible to avoid overcrowding and to improve the learning experience of all students in the class. Your request for a specific CRN may be denied if there is space available in other less crowded sections. The College of Engineering posts a generic force-add form that can be used in the absence of a special form that may be required by department performing the force-add.
Students are awarded transfer credit for courses in which they earn a C or higher. If a student earns a C- or lower, they do not receive transfer credits. (Transfer credits should be taken in the A/F grade mode at the transfer institution due to the C or higher grade requirement.)
Transfer credits earned at other schools do NOT affect the student's Virginia Tech GPA. Students wishing to improve their GPA over the summer while living at home should consider taking online courses from Virginia Tech instead of taking transfer courses.
To find out which courses are being taught online from VT, you may do a search of the online timetable and filter the results for "Virtual" campus. (You can also filter by core curriculum area if you are trying to finish your humanities CLE requirements - these courses are much easier to find online than technical electives or required BSE courses.)
Almost any course can be transferred back to Virginia Tech if an equivalent course can be found elsewhere, as long as the student does not exceed the limits for transfer credits:
The Registrar maintains a Transfer Equivalency Database showing courses from other colleges in Virginia and throughout the United States that have been evaluated in the past. You can select a state, a college, then a department, to see the course number and title at the other school and the equivalent course and title at VT. If the course you are interested in does not appear in the list, it means that the course has not yet been evaluated.
Note that the Transfer Equivalency Database is a historical list to be used as tool to help you find equivalent courses. It is NOT a guarantee that the course is still equivalent. Please see below for instructions on how to ensure that the transfer course equivalency is still valid.
For students interested in taking courses at Virginia Community Colleges, please see the VCCS Course Listings page, which lists schedules for all of the VCCS schools. Consider online courses to satisfy CLE electives (like PSYC2004 for Area 3 or MUS1104 for Area 2, offered online by many of the VCCS schools over the summer) that will not interfere with summer jobs or internships.
If the course you are interested in is not in the Transfer Equivalency Database, that means that the course has not been evaluated for transfer equivalency. Engineering students should contact the transfer school and obtain a copy of a recent syllabus for the course they would like to take.
The course syllabus should be attached to a completed transfer credit request form and returned to the Dean of Academic Affairs Office in 212 Hancock. The Dean's Office recommends allowing at least 3 weeks for approval of courses taught by US institutions and 3 months for study abroad courses.
Students are strongly encouraged to fill out a transfer credit request form to have courses pre-approved before taking them, even if the course is listed in the Transfer Equivalency Database. This form guarantees that the student will receive the credits they expect.
This form is not a contract saying that the student must take the course, nor is it needed for the student to receive "permission" to take the course. It is a way of letting the student know ahead of time what courses they will receive credit for before they invest the time and money into taking the course.
Special note to students taking courses to fulfill Curriculum for Liberal Education requirements:
Please be sure that the course you intend to take transfers exactly as a course on the appropriate list in the Curriculum for Liberal Education (CLE) guide or that the Dean's Office has preapproved the course for the CLE area you need. An "XXX" in the course number is NOT a wildcard!
Upon completion of the course, have an official copy of your transcript showing final grade(s) mailed directly to:
Virginia Tech Registrar
250 Student Services Building 0134
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Allow 4-6 weeks after the transcript has been mailed to Virginia Tech, to view your transfer credits on Hokie SPA on the Transfer Credit screen (under the Grades Menu).
Until the transfer credits show up on your unofficial transcript, they will not be recognized by the VT registration software as satisfying prerequisite requirements. If you are unable to register for a class that requires your transfer course as a prerequisite, please contact the department offering the course and be prepared to send them a copy of your approved transfer credit request form and an unofficial copy of your grades for the transfer course.
If no equivalent course is found at VT for a course you have transferred, you may see a VT course number with X's in Hokie SPA (example - BSE2XXX means a sophomore-level BSE course with no exact equivalent). You may send syllabi for transfer course(s) you have already taken to Vicki Langford in the Dean's Office to have them evaluated for possible credit if the course(s) do not match existing VT courses.
Please see the Education Abroad web page for valuable information about studying abroad. Included is an extensive checklist of tasks to do before you depart. Information on study abroad programs specific to BSE is available in our Education Abroad section.
Study abroad courses are evaluated for transfer equivalency the same way as courses from US colleges are evaluated, but you should allow more time to have these courses evaluated. The Dean's Office recommends that you allow a minimum of 3 months for courses to be evaluated after you have submitted the form with complete syllabi for the courses you plan to take.
Depending on the school and country in which you plan to take classes, it may be difficult to obtain sufficient information about the courses before you actually take (or complete) them - some schools do not use syllabi and you will need to bring a copy of your class notes and graded work with you to have the courses evaluated. Please be aware that you are taking these courses at your own risk.
The only way to guarantee that you will receive the credits you expect is to have your courses pre-approved through a transfer credit request form. A verbal okay from a faculty member is not a guarantee that courses will be equivalent!
The purposes of Policy 91 are to identify at-risk students who are not making sufficient academic progress toward their BSBSE degree and to develop a plan and contract for the remainder of the student’s program of study at Tech. Any Biological Systems Engineering student who does not:
will receive an e-mail informing them that they are on "Policy 91" probation.
Students on Policy 91 probation are required to sign a Policy 91 contract at the start of each semester. They may also be required to meet with the Biological Systems Engineering Assistant Department Head for Undergraduate Studies or another member of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee to discuss goals and requirements for the coming semester to ensure that the student makes sufficient progress toward their BSE degree.
The requirements of the Policy 91 contract may include, but are not limited to the following:
Failure to meet the conditions of the contract may result in academic suspension. The student will be required to meet with the Assistant Department Head each semester to set new goals until the student reaches both a 2.0 overall and a 2.0 in-major GPA, at which time they will be removed from Policy 91 probation.
The student will have a hold placed on their account if the Policy 91 contract is not signed or if the student does not attend a required Policy 91 meeting by the deadline sent in the notification e-mail. The hold will prevent the student from taking future courses at Virginia Tech. (Transfer courses taken at other schools do not affect a student’s Virginia Tech GPA, so they will not help a student earn their way off Policy 91.)
Policy 91 students are often advised to retake prerequiste courses in which the previous grades were below a C- to help strengthen their background, to make it more likely that they will succeed in later courses. This also can help improve overall and in-major GPAs. If previous grade(s) in a course are all C- or lower, the new grade will average into the GPA as if it were for a different course. (If a C or higher is earned, a course cannot be retaken for a grade - the grade reverts into a P/F grade and can only hurt the student's GPA.)
The graduation requirements to earn a BS in Biological Systems Engineering are:
Students should apply for a degree at the start of their junior year. Applying for a degree is NOT what you did when you selected a department to switch into when you were in General Engineering. Your application for degree lets the University know when you plan to graduate and whether or not you plan to attend the commencement ceremony.
To apply for a degree, please follow the instructions to apply for a degree posted on the Registrar's website. If you are not sure when you will graduate, you should take a guess at your graduateion date and modify it later if your plans change. If you would like to be excused from the ceremony, please indicate that you do not plan to attend the ceremony and list the address where you would like to have your diploma mailed.
If you do not apply for a degree by the posted deadlines, you will not be included in the commencement ceremony. (The deadlines are usually early in the semester that you plan to graduate, but if you apply for a degree earlier, this gives us time to fix errors on your degree audit report so you receive your diploma on time.)
The Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS) is a computer-generated report that matches the requirements of a degree program with a student's completed course work. The audit identifies those graduation requirements that are completed as well as those requirements that still need to be completed. Once a student has applied for a degree (see above), they may generate a DARS report by following the instructions to run a DARS report provided by the Registrar.
You may run a DARS report and notice errors. Listed below are some common errors and what you should if you see this error on your DARS report:
If you have errors on your DARS report that are not listed above or if you have any other questions about your DARS report, please contact Dr. Thompson.
Engineering students who are within 12 months of graduating are eligible to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam, which is offered twice per year in October and April. Application instructions for VT students and alumni can be found on the College of Engineering website.
Virginia Tech offers a 2 credit, online, pass/fail review course for the FE exam, ESM4404, Fundamentals of Professional Engineering, which is offered during the spring semester. These credits will NOT count towards your engineering degree, as the course duplicates material you should have learned in other courses.
Passing the FE exam is the first step in becoming a licensed professional engineer. Some employers may require that their engineers become licensed, especially those who work with projects involving public safety. For more information on becoming a professional engineer, please see the NCEES website, which also includes more information about the FE exam.
The FE exam is administered by the Virginia DPOR (Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation) - please see the DPOR website for additional information about the FE exam. Per the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), most states recognize the Engineer in Training (EIT) certificates from other states (which are awarded once you pass the FE exam and graduate from an accredited engineering curriculum).
If you are not sure if you will need to become licensed for your future career, we encourage you to take the FE exam during your senior year. The exam is based on material from your undergraduate courses and BSE students have a very high pass rate (about 90% of our students pass the exam on their first attempt). If you wait until after you graduate to take the FE exam, it is likely that you will need to spend more time studying to prepare for the exam.
If you are planning to graduate and participate in the commencement ceremony, you should do the following:
For information about the commencement ceremonies, please see the Commencement Information website. In the Spring, the University holds a ceremony Friday afternoon in Lane Stadium for all graduates. Graduating seniors sit in the stands and are not individually recognized at this ceremony. The College of Engineering holds its spring commencement ceremony on Saturday in Cassell Coliseum. During the College ceremony, students are called up to the stage individually to receive their diplomas. No tickets are required for either ceremony.
The Commencement website lists details and times for the ceremonies. The College ceremony typically alternates between 8:00 AM and 2:00 PM from year to year.
The BSE department would like to acknowledge Sarah Deisher and Linda Vick in the Mechanical Engineering department, whose advising web resources served as a model for the advising section of the BSE website.