• Support PF! Buy your school textbooks, materials and every day products via PF Here!

Advice for an aspiring engineer

  • Thread starter Dalbyphil
  • Start date
3
1
Hi folks, after 20 odd years being a boiler maker and some serious injuries, I've decided to become an engineer, havent got much of an education, but the person I've spoken to at the university said that uni is all different to the way it was and that there are apparently a lot of tradies going to uni to gain thier engineering degrees, with my readers background they suggested mechanical engineering, would you kind people like to offer some advice?
 

anorlunda

Mentor
Insights Author
Gold Member
7,500
4,236
Welcome to PF. Engineer Power :partytime:

I moved your thread to Academic Guidance where you might get better answers.
 

DEvens

Education Advisor
Gold Member
1,002
302
It's hard to offer advice. I can offer questions that might guide you on your choices.

Are you good at math? If not, it's a tough thing to do most kinds of engineering. The minimum you are going to need is calculus, the more the better. You would do well to learn some statistics. There are just tons of other forms of math that might be applicable, but it depends on what specific types of engineering you get involved in.

Even business math and accounting could be useful, since a non-trivial part of engineering is paying for stuff, paying salaries, and keeping a business in business. It's likely you saw at least some of this in trades, since that is usually business based also.

Part of engineering is engineering ethics. This is going to be specific to the country you are in. But, for example, I just went through a refresher on conflict of interest. This is because I am working for multiple clients who are doing overlapping business activities. Did you ever study any of this in trades? It probably overlaps to a large extent. If you did a job for this client, then that client, and they have overlapping businesses, you can get into conflict if one client tries to get leverage on the other through you. Just as an example.

Are you good at computers? Have you ever studied programming of any sort? Computers are a huge part of modern engineering. Get yourself a down-load-for-free language such as Python or PERL or some such, and see if you can get someplace with it on your own. There are plenty of teach-yourself type guides for free on the net. A big part of many engineering tasks is doing computer analysis of one sort or another. There is a sub-forum on here for questions if you have.

That leads into such things as CADCAM. It's quite possible you did such things in the trades. If you know what it is then that could give you an advantage. Ever used a 3-D design program or a 3-D printer? It might let you breeze through a class at the second year or even third year level. Reading blueprints and such will help you here also.

Are you good at working in a group? Especially, have you got what is called "leadership?" About 15 years ago, one of the secretaries in the department started to discuss the possibility of leaving employment. The department manager eventually made her into a group supervisor with 8 direct reports. She had essentially zero technical training, only having a high school diploma. Her knowledge had come from 12 years of reviewing engineering reports for English. But she could get people to do things, and keep them busy at their tasks. And she was good at "keeping many balls in the air" and "herding cats." It's unusual, but if you have the leadership spark you can be very useful in an engineering group even if your technical skill levels are not the most super-nova brilliant.
 

jrmichler

Science Advisor
884
788
I have known many tradespeople with the smarts to get an engineering degree. Some of them sort of fell into their field, others liked to work with their hands, and a couple went to engineering school before deciding that they would rather work with their hands. Generally, they wanted to see something more solid than electrons on a screen at the end of a day.

So, go for it. Mechanical engineering is a great field. Be advised that the principal weedout course for ME's is physics. Students who take college physics without having had high school physics tend to struggle. Do whatever you need to do, but make sure that you understand your undergrad physics. Getting A's is not necessary, but if you understand the material you should get at least B's.

A friend taught Dynamics at a university where they had watered down the physics classes to improve the pass rate. His Dynamics students struggled, with 53% getting D's and F's. They gave him high marks on his evaluation, even after they knew what their grades would be.

Calculus and physics. If you can learn those, the rest of the engineering curriculum will be merely hard work. And do not be surprised if you find a number of fellow students in their 40's, or even older.
 

anorlunda

Mentor
Insights Author
Gold Member
7,500
4,236
This man:


had only a high school education. He learned engineering from on-the-job training. He wound up winning the IEEE Medal of Honor, the highest award given by IEEE.
 

marcusl

Science Advisor
Gold Member
2,653
296
Some advice for college applications: pay attention to proper punctuation and capitalization in what you write.
 
3
1
I did do well in maths in high school, I was in the top maths class, but that is well over 20 years ago. In Australia we have what they call recognized prior training, wether it be a trade certificate, or just on the job training. Trying to get a straight answer from any of the intake officer's is painstaking at best, I had responses from, oh you are already an engineer seeing as you have your trade certificate, to Oh my seeing your age and trade base I dont you would ever qualify.
 

ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
2018 Award
35,109
3,914
I did do well in maths in high school, I was in the top maths class, but that is well over 20 years ago. In Australia we have what they call recognized prior training, wether it be a trade certificate, or just on the job training. Trying to get a straight answer from any of the intake officer's is painstaking at best, I had responses from, oh you are already an engineer seeing as you have your trade certificate, to Oh my seeing your age and trade base I dont you would ever qualify.
It would have been nicer and a lot clearer if you had told us way in your first post that you are in Australia and looking for a degree there. I'm sure you know that (i) we have people from all over the world here and (ii) different parts of the world will have different criteria and admission standards. Heck, even just within the US alone, different universities have different admission criteria!

So you need to be very clear on your geographical location. Otherwise, you may get advice and information that are completely useless to you.

BTW, you never did explain why you want to pursue such a degree. If some people there already consider you having the same level of skill and knowledge as an engineer, what difference will a degree make?

Zz.
 
3
1
Due to a serious spinal injury, I can no longer do my trade. The education system and the trainee, apprenticeship board is all screwed up, some skills are recognized some are not. I know some fellow boiler makers who went to get thier fitter an Turner trade certificate but couldnt until they done the " hand and power tools" module. These are people who have been in the trade for over 30 years. Also the reason why is to get back into gainful employment, everyone looks at what pieces of paper you have and not necessarily your skills
 

Dr. Courtney

Education Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
2018 Award
2,953
1,880
In my years teaching Physics at a US community college, I had lots of students in situations similar to yours.

The ones good enough at math to start at Pre-Calc or Calc 1 had pretty good success rates. The ones who were not good enough at math to start in Pre-Calc had very low success rates.

It boils down to a lack of persistence and perseverance due to the number of semesters the ultimate degree requires as well as how steep the learning curves are based on existing mathematical knowledge and skills.
 

CalcNerd

Education Advisor
Gold Member
397
154
Since it seems you can devote quite a bit of time to concentrating on your education, it comes down to what you want/can pursue. I would suggest you look at your local community colleges (unless you live close to a major university) and take mechanical engineering type classes.
You should look into Engineering Technology type programs unless your Math skills are current and top notch. Engineering technology courses are generally much softer on the math requirements. This translates into an easier time, especially for the individual with experience in the industry.
The drawbacks: Generally a slower career path for the new graduate (but that doesn't take into account your actual experience). You will likely be able to graduate with an Engineering Technology degree 1-2 years earlier than pursuing an Engineering degree.
Why is that? It would be the added math courses that you WILL need to complete an engineering degree. You can probably take full course loads and quite probably course overloads pursuing an Engineering Technology degree. It is unlikely you can overload courses pursuing a normal Engineering degree and quite probably, not even carry a full course load due to the added work of taking the advanced math and physics of a standard engineering degree.
Engineering Technology majors take many of the same types of courses, but the ET based course typically requires only pre-calculus math.
Either way, you should also investigate CLEP or other ways to test out of courses that most colleges require as electives. Older adults often have experience and with some brushing up on can often test out of some types of courses. I personally tested out of literature as what I considered an unnecessary elective (admittedly, I did miss out on some finer points of literature, but professionally I don't feel crippled)
 

ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
2018 Award
35,109
3,914
Er... the OP is in Australia! I would guess that advice on "community college" and "engineering technology" degree may not be relevant here.

Zz.
 

CalcNerd

Education Advisor
Gold Member
397
154
Zapper Z
Thanks for clarifying. My post is really only applicable to the USA.
 

Want to reply to this thread?

"Advice for an aspiring engineer" You must log in or register to reply here.

Related Threads for: Advice for an aspiring engineer

Replies
3
Views
3K
Replies
14
Views
3K
Replies
8
Views
2K
Replies
1
Views
1K
Replies
1
Views
393
Replies
8
Views
1K
Replies
4
Views
1K

Physics Forums Values

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving
Top