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How to decide:MechE or ChemE

  1. Mar 3, 2013 #1
    Hello all,
    I am a sophomore in college and I need to decide my college major now, as in the next two days.
    I have always been interested in Chemical Engineering, since I like chemistry and like to think about large-scale thermodynamics and fluid dynamics. I think it would be cool to work in bio-fuels or a waste-water treatment plant helping design/modify the treatment processes. I always enjoy chemistry.

    I also think MechE is cool, and of course broad.
    I am interested in mechanical alternative energy like turbines for wind and water power, geothermal power and other stuff. I like to know how things work.

    I don't mind either curriculum.
    What I don't want to do is end up doing process engineering for a company making Windex or paper or some product I am not interested in.... Like I said, biofuels would be interesting and environmentally important, and so would wastewater treatment, but I know it is hard to get into biofuels.

    Any advice? I feel like chemistry and environmentally important chemical processes fascinate me but then I think of all the silly products I might have to help make, and I am discouraged from chemical engineering. I think it would be easier to get into alternative energy or green structures from MechE, especially since my school is highly ranked in Mechanical Engineering.

    Any advice would be helpful.

    I am leaning towards ChemE to pursue a biofuels career, and I can always get a masters in MechE somewhat easily and then help design mechanical stuff.
    But I am relatively depressed and feel that no matter what my decision will be, I will always wonder what I could have done with the other discipline and have regrets...
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 3, 2013 #2


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    Ultimately, you're going to have to decide.

    With either degree, you probably won't have to worry about being geographically constrained. They're both highly marketable. I don't think I know of anyone who is unhappy with their ME degree. But I will say that I know lots of ChemEs who work (or used to work) as process engineers. Seems like it's kind a default job for many, but the money can be really good. And even if you do end up in a process engineer job, it's not like it's forever.

    Regret is so hard to deal with! Which sounds worse to you: regretting something you did, or regretting something you didn't do?
  4. Mar 3, 2013 #3
    Have you considered possibly studying to be a Civil Engineer (with Environmental Focus)? You can be involved in all of the areas you described at various levels.

    It might be worth an honest look.
  5. Mar 4, 2013 #4
    Lisab - Thank you, I am definitely happy knowing there are good options either route. In regards to ChemE, I wouldn't mind process engineering, but I would want have an interesting process, not a big chemical company making a product that I don't support morally.

    Mege - Thanks for the response. My school has no Civil, only an environmental major that is actually in the MechE deparement. I kinda figured that I would be better off doing either ChemE or MechE, not a hybrid of both. I feel that for serious engineering companies, I won't be hired as a process engineer or a turbine engineer with an environmentalE degree...
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