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Advice for my career path

  1. Jun 15, 2011 #1
    Wow this forum has really helped me A lot. Currently I'am a junior in High School and my interests lie in physics, currently taking Advanced. I have been thinking about pushing for astronautical engineering but also thinking of mechanical just because of the range of potential careers. What I really wish to do is design propulsion systems for spacecraft but also be able to fall back in to a automotive career or something of that sort if I decide to change my mind. But all the research I've done into either of these fields has told me zilch as to what it is actually like. If any one has advice or experience they could share, it would be greatly appreciated
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 15, 2011 #2


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    I don't have experience with engineering so I can't give you any advice there.

    However I would like to say to you to try and remain a little flexible. Some people do what they have wanted to do ever since they were 12 and do that for the rest of their lives, but many change their mind and do different things.

    I know that at least here in Australia, many engineering programs have an option of doing a "common year" where you sample basic engineering units and get exposure to this before having to fully decide what stream you want to pursue.

    Also keep in mind that there is a lot of stuff that goes on in jobs that isn't "told" and I think its great that you asked this question. For example doctors spend lots of their type filling out paperwork and legal documentation, go to long meetings, give presentations and so on as do many other professionals. It does vary but hopefully some engineers can give you a more complete and unbiased taste of their daily (or weekly) routine.

    So yeah, my nugget of advice is to be open about flexibility.
  4. Jun 15, 2011 #3
    Having gone through an Aerospace Engineering degree program, my experience and advice may help you out.

    I decided on studying Aerospace Engineering because I thought engineering would fit my talents in building things, intuition for solving physical problems, and performance in math classes. I also thought it would lead more directly to a career.

    However, even before my freshman year, I read some popular science books on physics. I also realized that I really had a passion for physics. But, I had made the decision to get this degree in Aerospace Engineering, so I carried that through without thinking much about it. I figured I would figure out the rest after finishing the degree.

    I graduated in 4 years, and realized that my passion for physics didn't ever go away, and that I had to make a u-turn. I won't go into this any more here, but essentially I am still figuring out my career. Take this to heart--you might change your mind. At the same time, if you are more excited by sitting in the classroom or learning from a textbook than you are by working in a group to build something real, then I suggest switching to math or physics (as I wish I had done). However if you like to build stuff more than you like theory, stick to the engineering side.

    Ok, with that in mind, here's my advice to you.

    First of all, your graduation date (i.e. the time to degree) is secondary to quality of learning, and above all else, connections and work experience in the field. For example, get involved with a hands-on project/competition teams as soon as possible. Get involved with any local engineering companies you can and start racking up real world experience, and find mentors. Find older engineers you can follow around and learn from. Try to spend time working for professors doing research, as well. See if you like research. Try doing some student teaching--be a volunteer tutor or if you can, be a paid undergraduate "Learning Assistant." Some programs have this as an option.

    What you'll find is that teaching others will advance your own knowledge and ability to learn; at the same time this will develop both your ability to lead, ability to communicate, and confidence.

    You'll find that getting work experience will connect your fast-paced theoretical knowledge to the real world to make it relevant. The concepts in the book apply to real things that you can touch and test.

    You'll find that doing engineering club projects (for example, RC aircraft projects or bridge building) are fun and keep you socially connected to your area of study.

    So to condense that down:
    1. Quality over quantity in your education. Really MASTER your course material. This will pay off if you want a more academic career later on.
    2. Do some student teaching or tutoring ASAP. Tutor for money or for free, either way is worth your time. You might even meet your future wife that way. :) Also, if you enjoy teaching more than research or studying, then make that your career.
    3. Do a project related to your studies, either a mandatory one through school or for fun. If this inspires you more than teaching or research, be an engineer.
    4. Get research experience at some point, and get work experience at a company (not at the same time!) If pure research is most inspiring to you, go to grad school and become a scientist.

    Another bit of advice: Try to find good mentors, i.e. advisers that are wise and willing to share their experiences with you openly. A single good adviser, in any field of study or work, may inspire your entire career. This takes work on your part though--you have to try working for many different people until you find ones that inspire you. This is why I don't recommend going to a research university for your undergrad--many researchers make poor mentors.

    That's a lot of info for now. If you have any responses to that then I can give you more detailed suggestions.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2011
  5. Jun 16, 2011 #4
    Why don't you try Forex trading mate? It is the raging new career option in the post-recession period!
  6. Jun 16, 2011 #5
    College is the time when you can get exposure to different careers. Don't be afraid to experiment and see what you like and don't like. Also it's a good idea to get "basic skills" that will get you far no matter what career you go for.
  7. Jun 16, 2011 #6
    If you anyone wants to know what real professional forex trading looks like, and why the ads you see on TV are scams in which you won't make a dime, let me know. Professional forex trading actually hiring a huge number of physicists and CS people.
  8. Jun 22, 2011 #7
    Think you all for your replies! They have certainly helped. Although, I realized quite the while ago that I still have a ways to go before any career choice needs to be made and that this choice can be changed. As such, I know that I should keep an open mind. My original question asked for career information on either field of study. I understand my mindset might and probably will change, but I just need to know what aerospace or mechanical engineers do in the workplace. I also understand different jobs are different and have different responsibilities. I would like to hear from engineers of any field what they do in their job. Again thanks for all the replies they have helped.
  9. Jun 29, 2011 #8

    Good suggestion. However, I still think a forex tutorial or a training course will do a rookie forex trader a lot of good!
  10. Jun 30, 2011 #9
    I don't think so. If you have less than $1 million in capital and aren't dealing directly with counterparties, you are not trading, you are gambling, and there really is no point in taking a course.

    Most of the stuff in the public sphere that I've seen is "worse than useless." They are just there to get people to gamble, and if you gamble, the only person that makes money in the long run is a the casino.

    Professional forex traders usually do not make long run directional bets on the direction of currency. You have someone that has dollars and wants euros, you buy dollars and pay euros, you then find someone else that has euros and wants dollars, you do the opposite transaction, and then you make money off the spread. You try to close your positions as quickly as you can, so that you don't have any risk of holding currency.

    There are no training courses or tutorials for professional forex trading. You get yourself at the desk and just watch and learn.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2011
  11. Jun 30, 2011 #10
    Gambling with smaller capitals while learning the tricks of the trade is a good way to go imo.

    As for forex turotials, I came across this website that claims to offer live courses on the currency market trade. Don't know how good it is, but does look profesional from the vids they have put in. Check when free - ForexTrainingWorks(.)com
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