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Do you actually have to work for 15 hours a day to get an engineering degree?

  1. Jul 14, 2011 #1
    I was talking to a girl I know who's an engineering major (I was think about becoming one), and she said that she has class from 9:00 - 12:30 every day, and then spends the rest of her time, up until about midnight, doing homework. Except for Friday nights and possibly Saturdays.

    Is this true of most people? Because no offense, but that seems literally effing insane. At least for me. It doesn't seem like it's possible to do four years of that without burning out. Some of the stuff she was telling me about - a three month project where they built a robot that would battle other robots - seemed like fun. But more than a few weeks of solid 15-hour days and I'd probably be done.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 14, 2011 #2
    It depends on how quickly you need want to get done and how well you want to do.

    If you're doing 16 credit hours a semester and you want straight A's, then yeah, you could very well be doing 15 hours of school work a day.
  4. Jul 14, 2011 #3


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    You get what you put into it. There is a minimal amount of work one has to put into any major, but fellowships and internships don't go to the slackers.
  5. Jul 14, 2011 #4
    I can't speak for engineering, but I double majored in physics & math, and I had 18 credit hours a semester.

    I think I was up til 4 am doing work (except for Friday and Saturday) pretty much all four years of my existence at college.

    ...looking back it makes me sad, considering that I'm having such trouble finding work. It seems all for nothing, really.
  6. Jul 14, 2011 #5
    Yes, engineering school can take up most of your wake hours and cut into your sleep.

    Remember that: output = efficiency X input.

    So try to eat healthy, get enough sleep, excercise, and let off some steam from time-to-time. Finding a good study partner helps too.
  7. Jul 14, 2011 #6
    Not unusual. A more typical college handbook suggested that if you're in engineering you can expect 4 to 5 hours of assignments per night. For me, it was more like 6 to 7.

    Was it worth it? Well, it did help me punch the ticket that made my career. However, I already knew most of what I needed to know about electrical engineering long before I took the classes in college. I have been a ham radio enthusiast since I was twelve years old. I had a hands-on feel for most of this stuff from an early age.

    School was mostly a bureaucratic exercise of convincing the professors that I really did understand most of this stuff, and to let them believe that they taught me this stuff in the classroom. Reality: I had more practical experience on this subject than most of our professors and TA instructors did.

    If I sound jaded about school assignments for engineering it is because I am mostly self taught. I don't learn well in a classroom environment. I want to apply the theory, get my hands dirty, and learn something from experience.

    I found school teaching to be excessively theoretical, and horrifyingly bereft of anything practical. That was far more alarming and disgusting to me than the crazy assignment work-load.
  8. Jul 14, 2011 #7


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    I am in agreement with jake and Astro in that it almost seems like an enormous time waster of your life. That's one reason I haven't really dived into full time college yet.
    But in the end, if you want the degree and the jobs, and the only way to get them is college, then you better get to it.
  9. Jul 14, 2011 #8
    Alright, let's not go overboard here. I'd venture to say you're doing something terribly wrong if you have to work 15 hours a day to get an engineering degree. Granted, I'm no engineer, but I do know you don't become a powerlifter by being a cardio bunny :wink:
  10. Jul 15, 2011 #9


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    It depends on the university and the program. I was certainly more oftern than not doing 15 hour days (and sometimes more) when I was an undergrad,
    The irony is of course that I now work far less than that, and I largely control my own time.
    I know people who studied "easier" subjects and then went into banking/finance, and while they had more free time when they were students they are NOW doing 15 hour days 6-7 days a week..
  11. Jul 15, 2011 #10


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    Maths and Physics takes a really big portion of my time, never found time to mateing really. :-D
  12. Jul 15, 2011 #11
    I graduated magna cum laude in EE and barely did work outside of class. It was work and projects outside of the curriculum and knowing the most basic fundamentals that landed me job offers.

    It all depends how much theoretical information you want to know. I spent my time doing more fun things.
  13. Jul 15, 2011 #12
    Sure, but not all banking/finance jobs have you working that much, and it's also not restricted to those jobs. I have a friend with a business degree that is now working in NY, and yeah, he says he's working 70 - 80 hours a week, but he's also getting paid mad amounts of money. So they have a choice, they can either go for a comfortable job, have a life and get paid less, or make your job your life and at least get something in return for the sacrifice you're making. That's all a caricature, of course, it's not quite as simple, but you get my point.
  14. Jul 15, 2011 #13


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    This depends on three factors that we don't know anything about: (a) the school you're at, (b) your level of talent and preparation, and (c) how well you want to do.

    I teach physics at a community college, and about 1/3 of my teaching is classes that are mainly populated with engineering majors. On the first day of class I tell them the standard rule of thumb, which is that they should expect to put in a minimum of about 2 hours outside of class for every unit. For a full-time load of 14 units, that would give a total of about 42 hours a week in and out of class, which works out to 6 hours a day if you spread it out over 7 days. My guess is that 2/3 of my students do much less than that. Of those who don't put in that amount of time, a few of them pass, but most don't. This is why community college parking lots are overflowing on the first day of the semester and deserted on the last day.

    The worst case is someone who simply doesn't have the talent and preparation to succeed in an engineering major. A person like that could spend infinite time studying and still fail every class.
  15. Jul 15, 2011 #14
    Ouch. That's discouraging :frown:
  16. Jul 15, 2011 #15
    That's the kind of discipline I'm praying to get, master by the end of the summer.

    I believe it is possible. There was a thread on here by a forumer who claimed that he studies 12+ hours a day. And he was saying he was doing that without any social life etc.,
    This is true I don't know if it is for most people. But I hear from those in tough majors say they lose sleep, etc., A buddy of mine who got into UPenn, claims he was in the library everyday from 12 - 12 during undergrad. His hard work paid of.
  17. Jul 15, 2011 #16


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    Honestly, any engineering student who states that they spend 15 hours a day, 5 days a week on homework and classes is either lying or one of the most disciplined and paranoid students out there. Yes, engineering students have 15 hour days. They even have 24 hour days occasionally, when a project is due and they are behind. However, there are also days when there is only an hour or two of work. I would guess that the work outside of class time probably averaged out (for me) to about 2 hours a night freshman year, 5-6 hours a night sophomore and junior years, and about 3-4 hours a night senior year, but that included (as I said) both light and heavy days, and it certainly wasn't 15 hour days every day.
  18. Jul 16, 2011 #17
    Totally agree with cjl here. I actually had very little work to do most nights. Having all homework due once a week = five hours of work on Wednesday and Thursday nights. But that excludes studying (which I barely did freshman year...).
  19. Jul 16, 2011 #18
    Whenever I've been in school so far (engineering) I would guess that I work around 70 hours a week, including lecture time. Would I need to do that just to get my degree, or even to get my degree with good marks? The answer is definitely no. There are plenty of people who do a lot less work than I do who do just fine, even quite well. The thing is, if you love what you're doing, working constantly isn't such a big deal. Sure I get stressed out sometimes and I do need breaks, but I really love learning and spending time making sure that I understand everything. I tend to go beyond what I need to know to ace the test because the topics interest me. If I were to do a major in something I don't enjoy like biology or social sciences, I bet I would struggle a lot to even put in a solid 40 hours. Engineering is one of the worst choices if you're looking for an easy degree (the engineers at my school generally work more hours than even the physics and math students), but you definitely don't need to work 15 hours a day to succeed.

    I should note three things:
    1. That 70 hours is actually pretty steady now. I find I rarely have to cram for a test or frantically rush to get a bunch of projects done. A lot of people who work fewer hours per week end up with crazy weeks where they spend an insane amount of time on homework.
    2. In my first semester I probably worked around 85 hours a week. I got about the same amount done, but I had poor study habits and time management skills from high school which wasted a lot of time.
    3. People like to inflate their numbers to make it sound impressive. When you feel super stressed, you want people to be sympathetic, and one of the easiest ways is to fudge your numbers. I wouldn't be surprised if my 70 hours is subconsciously inflated, and I do far more work than I would consider "required."
  20. Jul 16, 2011 #19
    If you spend 15 hrs a day studying, what about attending lectures, labs, travelling etc.? That should thake at least 4 hrs a day, very likely more, so you're telling me you leave 5hrs a day for sleeping, cooking, washing, cleaning etc.? Or maybe classes, labs etc. is included in that 15hrs a day, which makes more sense.
  21. Jul 16, 2011 #20
    You don't need that much, except if you want to get magna cum laude or you are really bad at engineering and need to compensate by over studying.

    Even when I was at high school there were people who studied 10 hours a day while I was watching TV or playing some sport, and I did pretty well afterwards lol
  22. Jul 16, 2011 #21
    I don't know anyone who does anywhere near 15 hours a day on average. Figures like that are only seen around exam time and also major deadlines.

    Also, no way could I ever spent some of my prime years sitting at a desk, studying for exams that have little to no relations to anything in the real world. Life is for living.

    I'd also suggest that if you are having to study that much you are either hopelessly inefficient, or... well, just really poor at studying.

    It also turns out that employers don't actually want the type of person that studies 15 hours a day to get top grades in an exam that covers material not used in industry. Employers are far more concerned about your social skills, communication skills, teamwork skills - the soft skills. Many of the people on my course that got the best grades struggled the most to get internships.

    So forget studying so much. Go out and play some sports, go to the pub, volunteer at a charity or something. Also, learn stuff outside of your degree. If you can be well read in economics or philosophy, it's impressive. Yes, all of this will hurt your degree grades, but it'll make you far more employable than if you sit from morning to midnight all day solving equations.
  23. Jul 16, 2011 #22
    Oh, but if you love what you're doing, then surely... :shy:
  24. Jul 16, 2011 #23
    I like engineering. I soon get tired of the irrelevance of university engineering.
  25. Jul 16, 2011 #24
    Ugh, I feel like you. I'm actually really well read in philosophy and economics (Can't really put that on my resume though...), and people who talk and interact with me know I'm bright, but my grades aren't that great because I KNOW how irrelavent most of this stuff is to real-world engineering so it's hard to concentrate on working all the problems.

    I'm really more of a conceptual guy, I don't do hand calculations that well (hence, low test grades), which really isn't that big of a deal in the real world because I'm pretty good with a spreadsheet and I can write code pretty well too.

    However, no one wants to talk to me about an internship because I don't have any real experience and my GPA right now is only like a 2.8, it'll be above a 3.0 by the time I graduate, but I've worried that since I'm probably not going to have any substantial experience on my resume after I graduate that I'm going to have a tough time finding a job.
  26. Jul 16, 2011 #25
    Maybe in the US and Canada they really care about grades. Maybe some of what I'm saying isn't that applicable to those of you not on my side of the Atlantic.

    Here, grades seem to play a very minimal role in securing internships and jobs. The extra curriculars, sports, work experience (both relevant i.e. internships and other work e.g. part-time in a shop) and other skills play a much bigger role in getting to the interview stage. And the interview will then also be almost solely about these soft skills; you'll be given many group activities to complete, e.g. building the tallest paper tower, as well as presentations to give about a subject of your choice, and a whole range of other tasks to complete. I've never been asked a technical question in an interview, nor have my grades every been inquired about.

    But then, as previously mentioned, my experience might not be too applicable to Americans and Canadians, primarily due to two reasons:

    1) CV vs Resume: In North America, you have a resume; in the UK, you have a Curriculum Vitae (CV). A resume is essentially a much shorter version of a CV. I'm told that it is not convention to include all of your hobbies and interests in a resume (e.g. sports teams you are in and instruments you play), that you only include relevant work experience and educational background. A British CV is about twice as long, giving you much more space to write down all sorts of bull**** bigging yourself up - where it definitely IS the convention to include all of your hobbies and interests, for these are quite often what can give you the edge over other candidates.

    2) GPA vs Degree Class: In America and Canada your grades are measured in GPA, which is a score out of four, and can be measured to the nearest decimal place. In Britain, we don't use that system. Instead, we have different classes of degrees: 1st, 2nd (subdivided into upper (2i) and lower(2ii)), 3rd, pass, and anything below that is a fail. A pass is only given out in exceptional circumstances where the student fails to achieve honours, but still did some work at least. So that leaves three different classes/grades of degree that a student here can be awarded. Now, due to the fact that British university is no longer just a finishing school for the wealthy to send their children to meet and breed with other wealthy families, and students actually attend lectures, only one or two percentage of students are lazy enough to get a 3rd class degree. So that narrows things down even more to there only being three realistic grades that a British student can get: 1st, 2i, 2ii. But then grade inflation happened at the lower end, pushing up a great deal of people from the a high 2ii to a low 2i. But this inflation isn't so apparent at the top, where the percentage of people being awarded first class degrees has barely risen at all in the last half century. So currently, about 60-70% of British students will get the exact same grade! So employers here are reading CVs and nearly everyone has the exact same grade, so stop caring.

    Of course, I didn't suggest that anyone let their grades fall too low and that if they had good soft skills then it didn't matter. What I was saying was that if you are spending 2/3s of your day studying so you can get straight As then that is a bit of a waste of time as employers care about more than just grades, and that someone who put in much less study time and consequently has lower grades (although still not poor), but instead has a wealth of experiences and soft skills to draw upon, as well as other useful skills e.g. programming will be more impressive.
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