Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How hard is it to study mechanical engineering

  1. Apr 30, 2013 #1
    Hi guys!
    First post :) I`m a 3rd year high school student. Going to college in 2 years. Im planning to study mechanical engineering. How hard is it? Im not very good in math but I really really really want to be a mechanical engineer. Should i still take mechanical engineering even if i`m not very good in math?

    Thanks !
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 30, 2013 #2

    Simon Bridge

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Welcome to PF;
    Any college degree will be tough compared with High School - I mean, even allowing for the toughness of the material ... you are expected to work harder with less support in college than in High School.

    For engineering you will need the math.
    The schools usually expect good math grades before they let you enroll.
    You are going to have to bone up. If you have trouble, get a tutor.
    Well done to spot the need now, when you still have two years to get better.
  4. Apr 30, 2013 #3
    As Simon said its good you know now. I myself spend 1.5 year gettin better at math, physics and chemistry before i started. And yes it only gets more complicated. But If you want to you will overcome it :) I know I did. Im startin on my bs thesis in september. Oh and btw im from Denmark so I dont know about other countries but I guess its more or less the same when it comes to the math part :)

    Wish you the best
  5. Apr 30, 2013 #4
    When I was in high school, I had a burning desire to design (especially airplanes, rockets, etc.). But I did not like problem solving and made too many mistakes in Math.

    But I decided to enroll in Mechanical Engineering because of my desire and things have slowly taken a turn for the good. I have begun to absolutely love problem solving. I also realized that many of my mistakes generated from two sources - lack of thinking, and procedure mistakes

    To cure the first one, I have just decided to think harder and more. It was kind of scary at first but it feels amazing to actually think and solve problems.

    For the latter part, I have begun to develop systematic ways of carrying out mathematics operations to avoid making the mistakes.

    So long story short, If you love Mechanical Engineering then go for it. Mechanical Engineering is no walk in the park. But it is doable. Just make sure to enjoy the courses and keep your eye on the end goal.

    Lastly the best advice I can give (I wish someone gave me that earlier in my life) is "Think", Really think. Its scary to think at first because it exposes weaknesses and lack of understanding of concepts but afterward it feels awesome and becomes addicting.
  6. Apr 30, 2013 #5

    Simon Bridge

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    That's a good point - if you struggle in HS, it is still possible you will bloom in college.
    Depends on the why.

    Often the thinking/problem solving side of things in HS comes across as boring or obscure instead of being fun.
    The brain is a muscle and needs to be exercised. Basic exercises tend to be boring and painful - just like PE/Gym class can be. It gets easier with practice. Some people need more than others.

    So... any of this any use for you?
  7. May 1, 2013 #6
    It will be hard and probably impossible unless you really want it. Your story sounds similar to mine, but I didn't have the confidence to dive right in after high school. So I got a two year degree and worked my way up over the years into an engineering job I really liked. I was mostly self educated and to my surprise found I really could perform on par with degreed engineers. I then went on to take and pass the professional engineering exam ( I was eligible in my state based on experience) The way I did it was probably the hardest and most time consuming route to go. I write more about it at my blog NoDegreePE.com. If you think this is something you really want to do, I encourage you to make the commitment now, prepare for college and give it your best.
  8. May 2, 2013 #7
    Thanks Guys !
  9. May 4, 2013 #8
    Ditto above comments.

    For Engineering, math is an essential tool used in many different tasks, like the pair of pliers or adjustable wrench in the tool box. You MUST have it.

    But luckily you have most of the problem solved: you have identified that you are weak in math, and done it early enough. Now you know that you must work harder at it, do the unassigned homework problems, take the extra effort, get tutored if necessary, do the summer classes or whatever for catch-up, and master it. My opinion is you must absolutely master Algebra & Trigonometry. You get that, then the advanced stuff like Calculus simply follows as a natural progression.

    If you do, then surviving the Engineering curriculum of your choice will be that much easier. You DO NOT want to be trying to learn math while you are trying to learn Engineering. Trust me on this one. I've mastered many mathematical topics over the years and have come to enjoy it, but I sure wish someone had given me this advice when I was in High School.
  10. May 5, 2013 #9
    The question(s) are: do you like to take stuff apart and see how it works? Do your friends tell you that you over-analyze everything? Are you able to put that stuff back together?

    There is no point in taking math classes if you aren't cut out for the profession.
  11. May 5, 2013 #10


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Mechanical engineering is not difficult compared to say electrical or chemical engineering. It's mainly classical physics, a bit of diffeq, some statistical mechanics, a dash of material science, a minor in business administration, and a few thousand hours of mindless study - typical engineering fare.
  12. May 30, 2013 #11
    Im glad I joined these forums and stumbled across this thread, a lot of good info and now I realize more then ever that Mechanical Engineering is what I want to do. This is a great forum-site, thanks guys.
  13. May 31, 2013 #12
    Thanks guys for those inspiring replies :)
    Uhhm What are some good books i can start reading by now?
  14. Jun 6, 2013 #13
    if you aren't good at math, consider going to the tech side of things. it's less theoretical, so you need less math
  15. Jun 12, 2013 #14
    I don't know honestly. But I can tell you the key skills/concepts I used a lot in my first 2 year at Mechanical Engineering and the skills I expect to continue using a lot in upcoming years.

    Most Important

    1. Derivatives, Integration
    - not only learn and master the concepts but also become very fast in taking derivatives and doing integration

    2. Free Body Diagram
    - One of the most important concept. You will be using it a lot

    3. Geometry
    - figuring out unknown angles especially using trigonometry, two parallel lines and tranversal,
    - I have to spend a lot more time on problems because I take longer time in figuring out angles. So you will save a lot of time if you become good at figuring out unknown angles; practice is key.

    Less Important

    4. Solving trigonometric equations, quadratic equations

    5. Trigonometric functions

    I had listened to couple of videos by Thinkwell (http://www.thinkwell.com/) and I really liked their teaching style. Check it out; maybe you will like it. Otherwise there will be no shortage of resources.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook