When I started at Viterbi, I heard a lot of talk being thrown around about different emphases within engineering majors. I knew there were several different options within my major, but wasn’t really sure what the significance of an emphasis was. In fact, I really didn’t know anything at all about engineering emphases aside from the fact that they existed. As I’m finishing up my freshman year, however, I’ve definitely picked up some helpful knowledge along the way, and thought I’d share it with all of you to help shed some light on this whole “emphasis” thing.
In essence, an emphasis is USC’s way to let you add a little “flavor” to your degree. Many different Viterbi majors have optional emphases or tracks within which they can specialize. For example, chemical engineers can add on an emphasis on nanotechnology, or on sustainable energy, amongst other topics. Civil engineers can emphasize in building science, biomedical engineers can choose an electrical emphasis, and the list goes on. At the end of the day, your diploma doesn’t change (you’re still the same type of engineering, after all). All that’s changed is that you now have the opportunity to use your technical elective space (units you have to take anyway) on classes themed around your particular emphasis.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Isn’t choosing a major hard enough?” “I’m already having a hard time deciding if I want to add a minor, and now I have an emphasis to think about?” But don’t worry; that’s not what choosing an emphasis is all about. Don’t think of it as extra work that stands between you and your degree, but rather, consider it an opportunity to satisfy required classes with coursework centered around a topic that genuinely interests you.
It’s an individual decision, but on the bright side, it’s not one that matters too much. If it’s too stressful, you can always opt to forego an emphasis altogether, and graduate as an engineer no different from your peers who chose emphases. After all, that’s what you came here to study in the first place.