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Engineering or something more?

  1. Oct 31, 2014 #1
    I am a freshman mechanical engineering. I have been exposed, to some extent, mechanical/materials, robotics(electrical), and I'm headstrong about not doing civil. I considered computer science, but I'm glad I didn't because it seems that not much calculus (math) is required for the major. I do not enjoy metals/materials.. I just find them boring (I'm taking a job under a mechanical/material scientist and we're studying material properties, so I can safely say I'm not interested in materials). I chose mechanical because of its broadness and career safety. Now, I plan on switching to electrical because it interests me more (how can I even say this statement, given that I don't know anything about engineering disciplines?) Also, I noticed some CS classes sprinkled into ECE so I'm leaning towards ECE.

    I'm also leaning towards Physics and Math... The problem is neither ECE, Physics, or Math is a strength of the college I attend. This college is big on mechanical and civil engineering.

    I tried asking engineering professors how to choose a discipline. They said look at the classes and pick based on that. Well its something. I just like learning.. I feel like living in a library learning and applying my knowledge and gaining new knowledge and applying and studying and sleeping. Is there any engineering career where its mostly learning? I'm not really into the business side of things... or administration... MBA's don't interest me. I considered data science... but I'm not sure what that's all about.

    I'm not choosing math or physics because of the limited career prospects...but I suppose it answers the "mostly learning" part. I just dont know what to do. I can do anything I set my mind too...but not everything. Eventually I must choose...and I hope eventually is rather soon.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 31, 2014 #2
    The short answer to your question is, "No, there is no engineering field that is mostly learning." Engineering is about making things, designing systems and devices that are useful to mankind.

    Your post suggests a very inward looking person with this emphasis just on learning. Learning for yourself is not doing anything useful for anyone else, so you are failing to find your place in society. Each of us must do something to earn our way in this life, not simply have fun doing the things we like if no one else benefits. You need to look at how you want to be useful to mankind, and then follow that approach.
  4. Oct 31, 2014 #3
    How would this statement apply to math and physics majors? Is it the discovery part that allows these scientists (or mathematicians) to fit society's needs? Aren't these majors learning in and of themselves? I said in my original post that I wanted to apply the knowledge.
  5. Oct 31, 2014 #4
    Well, raddian, I think you are looking reality in the face, whether you realize it or not. Have you noticed how small the market is for pure mathematicians and physicists compared to the market for engineers? Not too many people want to hire some one to simply learn. The employer expects to get something of value from the employee. It is certainly true that mathematicians and physicist do find employment, but it is only when the employer defines a problem area where new knowledge is of interest to the employer.

    If you are an employer engaged in a new technology field, it is entirely likely that you will want to be a part of the development of that advancing technology. Thus you may find it useful to employ people whose primary job is to develop new knowledge in that field - a physicist, a mathematician, a chemist, etc.

    If you are an employer whose primary product area is based on a well established technology, you will most likely want to employ someone who knows that existing technology quite well and knows how to apply it to your product line. That person is an engineer.

    To be sure, engineers do research and develop new knowledge at times, but it is usually quite focused on filling in an particular knowledge gap.

    If you go into math or physics, you can also teach, but that is not so much learning new information as it is learning how to convey information to others.
  6. Oct 31, 2014 #5
    This gave me a new perspective. Thank you.
  7. Nov 3, 2014 #6


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    I think you are mistaken with respect to "mathematicians" finding employment, probably because you confuse the term "mathematician" to mean solely those with a background in pure mathematics, and have not looked beyond to include those who specialize in applied mathematics or math-related fields (e.g. statistics, certain branches of computer science, operations research, etc.) These are people who I referred to in another thread as "mathematical scientists".

    Mathematical scientists of the type I talk about don't just find employment in areas of developing new knowledge/technology, but also on established knowledge/techniques as well (for example, statisticians use both existing and new knowledge in statistical methodology to analyze data in a variety of contexts -- health care/pharma, finance, marketing, etc.). Most such jobs don't necessarily have a job title of "mathematician" (some common job titles include "statistician", "data scientist", "analyst", "quantitative analyst", etc.), and these jobs typically require someone with a degree or background in mathematics or some related field, including physics.
  8. Nov 3, 2014 #7
    StatGuy2000, I am well aware of the various math oriented careers you mention, but they do not seem to satisfy the criterion laid down by the OP of being "mostly learning." They are all directed toward getting some task done, accomplishing some goal, answering a question (or group of questions). To my mind, "mostly learning" narrows the field to pretty strictly pure math, not the applications you mention.
  9. Nov 4, 2014 #8
    Mathematics is no guarantee either, as you may end up calculating at which prices and to whom insurance policies should be sold.
    Once you have your piece of paper, you face the job market.

    The only way out I see is PhD and staying in academia in a pure maths sector. But whether this is convenient depends very much on your country's situation and how brilliant you are. You will also be teaching if you do this of course.

    In engineering, you always have to learn and keep up-to-date. But on the job you think about costs, engineering and business are closely linked.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2014
  10. Nov 4, 2014 #9
    I have been a working engineer for over 30 years and I still learn new things. Every day. Makes it easy to get out of bed and get into work.
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