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Advice Needed: AeroE vs. Comp. Sci. Undergrad.

  1. Jun 7, 2015 #1
    Hey everyone,

    I am new to the forums, so I'll take a second to introduce myself. My name is Michael. I am 26 years old, and had a delayed start into college because simply put, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life other than make money. Ironically, this isn't my goal anymore. I want a job I enjoy, and I want to work in an industry that has a potential to be life changing. Now for my questions, please, bear with me as this will probably end up being a novel of a post.

    Enter college. I am currently debating between an Aerospace Engineering or a Computer Science major. I do not wish to major/minor. I am kind of at a crux presently because I am at the point where I need to decide which direction I want to go. That is, my Fall courses will have to be geared towards one or the other as my general education is nearing an end this Summer. My experience in both fields are severely limited, but my reasons for choosing between these two will follow.

    Aerospace Engineering: Since being around 5 years old I was always curious about space, and space travel. Unfortunately video games took over my life (quite literally, I was playing 18-20 hours a day) and I started failing academics and other pursuits/hobbies. Since returning to college, however, I have found a renewed interest in astronomy, and physics. I have a 4.0 GPA and have finished my math sequence through Calculus 2. I love math. I've heard that Engineering is a great route for people in love math because it is applied physics, and physics is applied calculus. Thus, not only would I be able to pursue a field that I am interested naturally, I would be able to use a tool (math) that I love in order to accomplish potential change. Beyond this, I am not mechanically inclined. I am not the fastest learner, but once I learn a topic, I can apply it and teach it fairly well. Essentially I am a very hard worker. Not the sharpest tool, but determined.

    Computer Science: As aforementioned, video games took over my life. When this happened, I started playing video games competitively. When I was about 8 years old I was writing HTML pages, when I was 10 I started designing modifications for Age of Empires, when I was 13 I started creating modifications for Medal of Honor, and when I turned 17 I got paid to play counter-strike and learned some basic CSS and PHP to manage my teams website. I have literally forgotten everything since then. I am presently teaching myself Python and thoroughly enjoy it, but I feel disadvantaged. I feel as though most people majoring in CS already have 2-3 years programming experience and are 8 years younger than me. My goal for CS would be to get a masters and study Artificial Intelligence. The purpose for learning AI is because AI fascinates me and it has many applications. I could work with video games, but ideally, I would end up in the aero industry programming AI for various robotics, etc. I like the diversity this degree provides me. My hesitation is in my lack of knowledge in programming. Yes, I could learn it, and pick up on it, but I fear I won't be as competitive as others. Especially in this job market.

    My goal is to get into UT or A&M. The issue I face is that I need to either start taking CS electives, or pursue Engineering Physics this next semester. I really don't know which route provides more safety, or happiness. I just know my end goal is to work in Aerospace. I've heard that CS is a great way to get in -- and that's truthfully why I've considered it as an alternative. But again, diversity is nice considering Aero tends to be boom or bust.

    Lastly, this may not make a difference, but I have connections in both fields. I have a family member who works for the FSA and has contacts with Boeing and NASA. I have another member who works for Google. Both have said they will help me (with a grain of salt) whichever path I choose to pursue.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 7, 2015 #2
    If you want to do computer science, don't let a lack of programming experience stop you. A good program won't assume any prior knowledge--they'll build it up from scratch. If you do have prior knowledge, it's all the better, but it's not completely necessary. I'm an electrical engineering major, and I had never programmed a day in my life before I started. It's all done from the beginning.

    I can't comment on the amount of CS students that are hired by the aerospace industry, so obviously you should await further responses on that note.
  4. Jun 8, 2015 #3
    First, programming and computer science are not synonymous, though I frequently see those terms used interchangeably. Second, you're in college to learn. Just start taking CS courses and you'll soon find yourself on even footing with the other students that you feel are far beyond you. In truth, they are not. The overwhelming majority of CS students are not good programmers, at least when they are fresh out of school. The real growth and knowledge in software development starts when the first job is landed after graduation. Don't misunderstand me -- I'm not saying CS students are stupid. They are just ignorant of professional software development.

    As for which major you should choose, I would recommend that you pursue the degree that interests you most. You can learn to program through self-study if it is only a secondary interest.
  5. Jun 10, 2015 #4
    Thank you everyone for your input. I've discussed my situation with previous professors, and they are under the impression that I would do well in Engineering. I also tried to imagine if I contributed one thing in my life time, what I would be more proud of. I found the answer to be Aerospace Engineering. I find myself getting excited about the academic side of it, as well as the career opportunities. I don't have the same drive and passion for coding, but I will probably learn it on the side. Thanks again.
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