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Advice: What discipline fits what I'm looking for?

  1. Jun 22, 2011 #1
    I'm currently decisding on my university program, and while I have been researching careers and academic disciplines for a long time, I'm a bit stumped. My main interests are in physics and mechanical engineering (the version of it I have created in my mind, at least), and I also have strong interest in astronomy, chemistry, and biology.

    I love the *idea* of engineering, but from what I've read it's usually very theoretical. My dream job would be in a research and development lab where I have a bit of freedom to create new solutions to problems in a hands-on way. I do also enjoy working with designs on paper, but I would like a balance of the two.

    An example of what I'm passionate about: When I was a child and I first heard of Archimedes block and tackle pulley system, I was so inspired I spent a full two days designing and drawing up plans for it, and then proceeded to put them in all over my room. I used them to lift my bed, dresser, desk, etc. I was just fascinated with the idea of them, and with mechanical advantage in general.

    Is there a career/academic discipline that comes to mind? This is what I wish engineering to be, but from what I've read/heard it's usually solely working with costs and blueprints, with very little if any hands-on work.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 22, 2011 #2
    To be bluntly honest if you only want to work with your hands then be a carpenter. If you want to have a hand in actually designing something and then contracting it out to a construction company (or maybe part of your own engineering company) then you want to be an engineer. Mechanical Engineering is probably the direction you want to go. But as you've already said, the engineer usually comes up with the designs, materials, specifications, etc. They rarely have a hand in the actual construction of something. Plus mechanical engineers design things like *from wikipedia* "... to design and analyze manufacturing plants, industrial equipment and machinery, heating and cooling systems, transport systems, aircraft, watercraft, robotics, medical devices and more."
  4. Jun 22, 2011 #3
    Perhaps I wasn't clear in my post, but I am not looking for hands-on only work. I love designing, I just don't want to be stuck behind a desk all the time! :tongue:
  5. Jun 22, 2011 #4
    Ok, well while Engineers spend a lot of time behind a desk working on computer design software, blueprints, specifications, etc. etc. When it comes time to actually build the thing it's completely up to you, the designer, whether or not you want to get involved. For most engineers who start their own business they tend to contract the work out to a professional construction company, but that doesn't mean the engineer cant get his hands dirty. Your career is what you make of it. No one is going to stop you, the designer, from getting in there and helping with construction of something YOU designed.
  6. Jun 22, 2011 #5
    Is this necessarily true, though? If I work for a large company are they going to be upset if I am doing the job of a lesser-payed technician if they feel it is not within my scope of work and I should be handling other tasks?
  7. Jun 22, 2011 #6
    Perhaps it isn't true across all fields of work. I was speaking only to the 'start your own business' standpoint. The only experience I have with this field is that my buddies dad is a self-employed engineer and I've seen how he runs his business. I'm sure some of the engineers on the board will reply soon enough to clear things up
  8. Jun 22, 2011 #7
    Yeah, I wasn't sure if your last sentence was still part of your "small business or self-employed" viewpoint.
    This is still a good question, though, as the idea of implementing some of my own designs does appeal to me. (I was in electrical construction previously, so I do like to work with my hands sometimes).
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