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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
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