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How do you decide what kind of engineering to do?

  1. Feb 4, 2009 #1
    I have fully decided that engineering is for me. I was all set up to start moving up the ranks at Wal-Mart, but realized I hated that company and the only reason I liked my job was because of the problem solving. I love math, science, learning pointless information, constantly learning, problem solving ect. Yet, I can not, for the life of me, decided what kind of engineering I should do. Civil engineering was my first decision, but then again my first draw to engineering was dreaming of working at NASA and being on the first shuttle to Mars :). But going on, I also find mechanical engineering interesting. Ultimately, I'm not sure yet what exactly implies to any branch of engineering though. What is the day in the life of an engineer? If you folks would be so kind, please give me some examples of what your day to day work is in your particular field. I believe this could greatly help me decide what interest me the most. I still have plenty of time to decided, considering I just started at a community college in January, but I want to make sure I'm taking the right courses to suit my future needs. Thank you very much,

    Colby G.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 4, 2009 #2
    "Civil engineers build the things that mechanical engineers blow up." That's pretty much how it all started, but instead of outlining the various differences between different engineering disciplines the Bureau of Labor Statistics sums it up pretty neatly.

    Personally, I'm a mechanical engineer by education but thanks to the all-encompassing range of things I've been able to study and interest myself in, I work in a mechanical / materials based research job, trying (and generally failing) to explain the mechanical behaviour of a group of weird materials by testing them in a variety of ways and trying to fit and adapt material models to them, in order to predict their performance when used as impact protection.

    Most engineering students that I know of won't have figured out where they wanted to work before they started, beyond the seemingly ubiquitous 'work at NASA' or 'be Q from James Bond', and as a result often have little idea which course to do - you're not alone! You can have a general mindset in the beginning (i.e. 'I want to work with trains', 'I want to work with aeroplanes', 'I want to work with electrical devices') but you'll probably soon find that so long as you have the basic groundings of a technical education your skills can be employed in a lot of different sectors.

    The most fundamental and transferrable skill between disciplines is mathematics. If you can solve ordinary differential equations, you can use that skill as an electrical engineer, a mechanical engineer or a whole range of things. After that, to decide which direction you want to focus in, you're right to try and talk to people who already do the roles you're interested in. Try writing or telephoning local engineering companies and seeing if you can visit or do work experience; or try local universities to see if you can take a tour of the facilities (doesn't matter if you don't think you'll ever go there, they don't know that yet!). What I'd stress to remember is that just because you decide to study mechanical engineering doesn't mean you are going to work on machinery - it's really up to you which direction you want to go.
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