How do you decide what kind of engineering to do?

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In summary, an engineer has a varied and versatile job that generally requires good math skills. They may work on different machines depending on their education and interests.
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AnEskimo
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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.
 
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"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 http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos027.htm.

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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As a scientist and engineer myself, I can understand your dilemma in deciding which branch of engineering to pursue. It is important to first understand that all branches of engineering involve problem solving and the use of math and science. So, you have already identified key aspects that you enjoy and excel in.

To decide on a specific branch of engineering, I recommend researching the different types and learning about their applications and potential career paths. You can also speak to engineers in different fields and ask them about their day-to-day work and what they enjoy about their field. This will give you a better understanding of what to expect and help you determine which area aligns with your interests and goals.

It is also important to keep in mind that your interests and preferences may change as you gain more experience and knowledge in the field. So, don't feel pressured to make a final decision right away. As you mentioned, you have plenty of time to explore and make an informed decision.

In terms of a day in the life of an engineer, it can vary greatly depending on the specific field and job role. For example, a civil engineer working on designing a new bridge may spend their day analyzing data, creating models, and communicating with team members and clients. On the other hand, a mechanical engineer working in the automotive industry may spend their day designing and testing new engine components.

In my own experience as a biomedical engineer, my day-to-day work involves conducting experiments, analyzing data, designing and testing medical devices, and collaborating with other engineers and scientists. I also spend a significant amount of time researching and staying updated on advancements in the field.

I hope this helps provide some insight into the diverse and exciting world of engineering. My advice would be to continue exploring and learning about the different branches of engineering and consider internships or job shadowing opportunities to gain hands-on experience in different fields. Ultimately, the best way to decide what kind of engineering to pursue is to find what truly interests and motivates you. Best of luck in your decision-making process!
 

Related to How do you decide what kind of engineering to do?

1. How do you determine which type of engineering is the right fit for you?

The best way to determine which type of engineering is the right fit for you is to explore your interests and strengths. Consider what subjects you enjoy and excel in, as well as your career goals and values. You can also talk to engineers in different fields, attend career fairs and conferences, and research job prospects and salaries for different types of engineering.

2. What factors should I consider when choosing an engineering specialization?

When choosing an engineering specialization, you should consider your interests, strengths, and skills. You should also research the job market and demand for different engineering fields, as well as the potential for growth and advancement. It's also important to consider your long-term career goals and the type of work environment that best suits you.

3. Are there any overlapping skills or knowledge between different types of engineering?

Yes, there are some overlapping skills and knowledge between different types of engineering. For example, many engineering fields require strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills, as well as a solid understanding of mathematics and science. However, each type of engineering also has its own specific skills and knowledge requirements.

4. Can I switch from one engineering specialization to another after starting my career?

Yes, it is possible to switch from one engineering specialization to another after starting your career. However, it may require additional education, training, or experience. It's important to carefully consider the implications and potential challenges of switching engineering specializations before making a decision.

5. How do I know if I have what it takes to be an engineer in a specific field?

To determine if you have what it takes to be an engineer in a specific field, you should research the skills, knowledge, and experience required for that field. You can also talk to engineers currently working in that field and ask about their experiences and advice. Additionally, internships and co-op programs are a great way to gain hands-on experience and see if a specific engineering field is the right fit for you.

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