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How Can I Plan to Become a Universal Engineer?

  1. Jun 28, 2011 #1
    I would like to have job tasks that are as interdisciplinary as possible. I'm trying to avoid boring routine work; regularly growing my skills and knowledge. Could aerospace and chemical engineering accomplish this goal?

    Also, is it common to work as an interdisciplinary engineer after you pass the PE test or display outstanding-broad skills/knowledge?

    Last edited: Jun 28, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 28, 2011 #2
    There is some overlap between mechanical, civil, and chemical engineering.

    So one approach would be to major in mechanical engineering and minor in one of the other two. Take courses in 3D solid modelling, controls, instrumentation, structural engineering, fluids & heat transfer (especially CFD & FEA), pressure vessel design (if available), and process engineering (if available).
  4. Jun 28, 2011 #3
    I'd be a bit nervous trying to avoid boring routine work... since most of work is just that. Also, be aware that being a "jack-of-all-trades" is the express lane to boring routine work. To do the really cool stuff you have to be able to go all the way down the rabbit hole.
  5. Jun 28, 2011 #4
    It's not a great idea to use acronyms on this forum for academic guidance. I'm an aerospace engineering major and I have no idea what "FEA" is, though I probably know its full name.
  6. Jun 28, 2011 #5


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    I'm going to guess that they are (respectively) Computational Fluid Dynamics and Finite Element Analysis

    Oh, and I agree that being a jack of all trades (and master of none) isn't really the best way to go. You'll likely have more interesting work if you specialize a bit more, since that will allow you to be a lot more qualified for the more interesting jobs.
  7. Jun 28, 2011 #6
    Agreed. That's an interesting spin which evaded my thoughts. Although, I'm not suggesting a jack-of-all-trades, expertise in none. Lifelong learning is the goal.(I participate in heavy amounts of self study -- all included university materials.) I do have stronger interests which are potential areas of expertise.

    I think I would enjoy software/electrical engineering, and dislike basic mechanical work. So, majoring in electrical engineering and something else seems ideal. Putting all my eggs in broader baskets, seemed, closer to my goal.

    Sorry for any confusion.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2011
  8. Jun 28, 2011 #7
    It really depends on your university. Mine won't even allow a minor in engineering if your major is in engineering, AFAIK. But if 'basic mechanical work' bothers you, then the broadest discipline is electrical engineering. However, the most versatile is without a doubt mechanical engineering, because a mechanical engineer can work on practically anything.

    Engineering is more versatile than you think. Just because you're an aerospace engineer, for instance, doesn't mean you're locked into a career in the aerospace industry.
  9. Jun 28, 2011 #8
    I know engineering is versatile, I'm interested in questions addressing how versatile it is. How much versatility will employers let you put to use?
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2011
  10. Jun 28, 2011 #9
    Job tasks is what I'm trying to figure out. I understand a mechanical engineering can work on a refrigerator or an airplane.
  11. Jun 28, 2011 #10
    I desperately need internships.
  12. Jun 29, 2011 #11
    "How much versatility will employers let you put to use?"

    That completely depends on the employer. I am an electrical engineer and at the company I work for projects typically run 1 - 1.5 years. On a particular project I may be doing circuit design, software/firmware control systems, system modeling, some of all of that, or more general software/firmware projects. So there is some variation there. One project may be a hydraulic controller software, the next might be a circuit card design for a video conversion adapter. Between projects I may get very boring work until the next project starts.

    But none of those are overly complex or cutting edge technology either. I know other engineers that range from chemical engineers who are basically program managers at plants, electrical and mechanical engineers who have very small areas of responsibilities at large companies like the power management circuit on a cell phone, or the battery housing design for a cell phone.

    The best advice I would give is pick the area of engineering that interest you the most and then worry about what your actual job responsibilities will be when you start working and finding out what it is really like.
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