Chemical Engineering vs. Electrical Engineering Major

In summary, the conversation is about a student who is deciding on a major in engineering and is considering chemical and electrical engineering. They are interested in working for a company like Boeing or SpaceX, but also have a passion for renewable energy. They are seeking advice from other engineering students and professionals about what a typical day in their job looks like and what the more advanced classes are like. The conversation also touches on the diversity and potential job opportunities in electrical engineering, as well as the challenging nature of engineering courses. Finally, the conversation emphasizes the importance of enjoying the field in order to be successful.
  • #1
labentzel
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Hello everyone! I'm currently a student about to get my AA degree at the end of the semester so the time has come for me to transfer from community college to university and, most importantly, decide on a major. Throughout my college career thus far, I've bounced around with ideas like microbiology, physics, and, of course, engineering. Finally I came to the conclusion that engineering is a good fit for me, but I'm still not sure what type of engineering.

On the one hand, I like that chemical engineering has a lot of options for careers and that there's a lot of variety. However, while I don't think I'm bad at chemistry, I do think I'm just "okay" at it. I'm worried that if I were to go into chemical engineering, I'd have to be better than just "okay." Also, most of the classes I would be required to take at university seem like they would be boring for me (with the exception of thermodynamics and magnetics). However, maybe the benefits of the career options I have could outweigh the dull classes.

As far as electrical engineering goes, the classes I'd have to take seem a lot more interesting for me. The downside is that the career options I'd have don't seem to be very diverse. I'm taking an electronics class now and I enjoy it for the most part. I've always liked working with my hands, so the labs in this electronics class are definitely fun for me.

My dream career would be to work for a company like Boeing or SpaceX, but more realistically, I want to work with renewable energy, which I know I can do with both a chemical and electrical engineering degree.

If you're a chemical or electrical engineer, could you give me an idea of what a day in your job looks like? What your duties are, what tasks you have to do, etc?

If you're a chemical or electrical engineering student, could you give me an idea of what the more advanced classes are like? What topics do you go over, would it kill me if I were to take 5 or 6 of the advanced classes in one semester, etc?

Thank you all!
 
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  • #2
Electrical engineering is incredibly diverse. You can work in front of a computer writing code or designing circuits, or you can be out in the field supervising the installation of solar panels (I am one of the former, a friend of mine is one of the latter). There are a ton of other roles EEs play.

I would say engineering is a pretty hard major and you probably won't be successful unless you enjoy (it is hard to motivate yourself to do all that work, otherwise). The advanced classes are not that different from what you've taken, just more advanced material (and probably more challenging). I struggled with three advanced courses in one quarter so I would be worried about taking five or six.
 
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  • #3
analogdesign said:
Electrical engineering is incredibly diverse. You can work in front of a computer writing code or designing circuits, or you can be out in the field supervising the installation of solar panels (I am one of the former, a friend of mine is one of the latter). There are a ton of other roles EEs play.

I would say engineering is a pretty hard major and you probably won't be successful unless you enjoy (it is hard to motivate yourself to do all that work, otherwise). The advanced classes are not that different from what you've taken, just more advanced material (and probably more challenging). I struggled with three advanced courses in one quarter so I would be worried about taking five or six.

Thank you!
 
  • #4
As a chemical engineer, I can tell you that there is no typical day, and that there are a wide variety of career options, ranging from operating manufacturing facilities to research and development. So, it depends on what you enjoy doing. Unlike HS where chemistry was lots of memorization, chemical engineering focuses on designing and operating equipment for chemical plants (although, it can be applied in many other areas as well). The focus in on physical chemistry and thermodynamics. These principles are applied to problem solving in chemical engineering work.
 
  • #5
There are very few engineering graduates that are not able to find jobs. The biggest conflicts seem to arise when you want a particular type of job in a specified location. I decided early on that, as an engineer, I would have to be prepared to move to and live wherever the good job was. You can't expect to find the ideal job in a predetermined location very often. Other than that, there are plenty of jobs in all engineering fields.
 

What is the difference between Chemical Engineering and Electrical Engineering majors?

Chemical Engineering focuses on the design and production of chemicals, fuels, and other products, while Electrical Engineering focuses on the design and development of electrical systems and devices.

Which major has better job prospects?

Both majors have strong job prospects, but it ultimately depends on the industry and job market. Chemical Engineers may have more opportunities in the oil and gas, pharmaceutical, and food industries, while Electrical Engineers may have more opportunities in the technology and renewable energy sectors.

What are the typical courses for each major?

Chemical Engineering courses may include thermodynamics, mass transfer, and chemical kinetics, while Electrical Engineering courses may include circuit analysis, digital systems, and electromagnetics.

Can I switch from Chemical Engineering to Electrical Engineering (or vice versa) after starting college?

It is possible to switch majors, but it may require additional coursework or extending the duration of your studies. It is important to consult with your academic advisor before making any major changes.

Which major is more math-intensive?

Both majors require a strong foundation in math, but Chemical Engineering may have more emphasis on calculus and differential equations, while Electrical Engineering may have more emphasis on linear algebra and complex analysis.

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