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Is this the career for me?

  1. Feb 21, 2012 #1
    I'm 18 and have been recently deciding between a couple choices for a future career. One being mechanical engineering.

    A little about my self related to the career,
    I have been brought up around cars my entire life, and love everthing about them, how they look, the differences between them, and most definitly how they perform.

    I understand quite a bit about engines and suspension components, things like air intakes systems, fuel systems, exhaust sytems, shocks, springs, etc. Along with that, I understand the concept of performance and what is needed to "improve" cars torque/power. Definitly don't know everything but like I said, quite a bit.

    That being said, I also enjoy designing things, aswell as making things better than what they already are. If I can reinforce something, I will. Anything to make that item better than what it was.

    One thing I find that conflicts this career is that I absolutly hate working with power tools, lol. I can't stand being behind a large machine that I am in control of. Smaller tools such as dremels, or angle grinders, I am great with.

    Basically, are there any fields in mechanical engineering that require and focus on the design of engines and not really being behind a large machine?

    Sorry if this is the wrong section, just wanted some advice from people in the course, or graduated and in the field of mech. engineering.

    Any input would be highly appreciated.

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 22, 2012 #2
    Mechanical engineers don't generally (almost never) operate machinery. You might oversee someone using a piece of equipment, but you should not be using it yourself, that's what the technicians/laborors are paid to do.

    Keep in mind that most engineers in industry don't "design engines". They work on specific components of engines (and any other piece of equipment you've ever heard of, and plenty you haven't) and work in teams (though the word is used a bit loosely) to finalize complete designs. So, say, you get an engineering degree and find yourself working as an ME for GM in whatever department they have for improving the performance of their engines. You might be tasked with running a simulation on the displacement vs. efficiency of certain cylinder bores, or you might be given specs of an engine design and be asked to spec the coolant flow requirements.

    Mechanical engineering is a diverse field (probably the most diverse field out there), and there is tons of opportunity for exciting work (especially if you get involved with small start-ups -- if you don't mind a little job insecurity and long hours) but the one thing most people don't realize is that you probably -- indeed, almost certainly -- wont be designing large scale equipment, like engines or cars, from scratch, by yourself.
  4. Feb 22, 2012 #3
    hey man, im on the same page as you right now. to say the least, im a total People Person who has always been into cars and what makes them work, go fast, wear out, and get fixed again, iv got my associates in automotive technology/repair and right now im majoring in mechanical engineering. my last weekend project consisted of shipping over a japanese spec racing engine and putting it in my daily driven car, so trust me your hearing from a gearhead myself.

    That being said, i think i see where your at. theres a lot you like about cars and you want to involve your career in the automotive industry in some sort of way, if im correct. seeing as your more of a hands-on oriented person, that can be a great dividing point between the TECHNICIAN and the ENGINEER. you need to ask yourself if you want to work with the equipment, or design/manufacture the equipment.

    mechanical engineering is more of a mathematically/analytically involved designing of a broad spectrum of things in general. So, if your not interested in living up east where many of the automotive engineering (more auto specialized) universities, mechanical engineering can give you the opportunity to do so. Car companies dont only want auto-engineers, they need more developed Mechanical engineers to solve problems as well. (1 thing iv heard from a lot of engineering grads as well as what the previous poster said, the bigger the company, the less affect you have on the project. you design nuts and bolts on the robot, not the whole robot... just my 2cents.)

    But if your not really into math and physics, there's what i personally think is a step down from math and science into the field of ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY. This major involves you doing more work with engineering oriented equipment, big or small... its also a fairly general field. So you might be more interested in being an engineering technologist.

    At the bottom academic level of interest would be where iv just completed, a 2 year degree in an automotive study, usually for people who want to do hands on work in the auto field. Anything from fixing/maintaing cars to refinishing and doing body work. This is for those who arent really into the whole "School" thing.

    personally, i got my associates in ^^^ that field because i want to build a hands-on foundation of mechanics before i get into the field of engineering where i may have a better perspective of the product being designed.

    (for example... most automotive engineers cant show empathy towards the millions of technicians who have to remove an oil filter right beside the extremely hot catalytic converter that was molded around the filter in a god damn hyundai.. that sir, is an engineering ****up. Hopefully I can make a difference in the mechanics' ease of repair..)

    Anyways, I hope i helped give you an insight on the areas of study, i know i wrote so much, but it seems our interests are real similar.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2012
  5. Feb 23, 2012 #4
    Thanks a lot for your help guys, I really appreciate it. I find that mechanical engineering will be a great choice as I would love focusing on one part of a engine and enhancing it to be better than it was. Hondaman, I find as your intrests are fairly in line with mine lol, and I hear you about the hundais oil filters, same goes for Subaru lol. I ask my self that question often as to who designs such a PITA location for the oil filter. As you just said, auto engineers can't show any empathy towards mechanics, as long as they make money on the design, doubt they stop and care for the mechanic.

    Anyways, thanks to the both of you for the in depth descriptions you gave me! Truly helped!
  6. Feb 25, 2012 #5
    for sure man, just remember, if you want to go mechanical all the way.. theres hella math and physics skills you've gotta be good at. Calclulus 1 2 3 as well as differential equations and mechanical/electrical physics are the typical curriculum agenda before you even start your dynamics and other "engineering" specialized classes.

    You cant go into the field thinking about money, moneys gotta be the last thing on your mind. (even though MEs get paid very well...) working on your car is only a hobby... and in the unlikely occasion you make it your side-job. Even though engineering perspective will give you a better sense of taste in performance. Like i've already started to figure out, you have to start developing the mathematical mindset and understand that social matters and technical/mathmatical phenomena have NOTHING in common whatsoever. don't expect your non engineer friends to give a flying **** about what you've learned in school today. (sorry, i dont mean to be bashing this field of interest)

    Other than that, welcome to the club, and welcome to the leet mindset of being the real inventor, not the stupid salesperson on tv who claims to be an engineer. I think engineers and scientists in general deserve the utmost respect for all they do for their colleagues and society as a whole, because without us, the understanding and manipulation of life seizes as we know it.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2012
  7. Feb 26, 2012 #6
    i'm an engineering student myself, you're lucky that you know what you want to do at such a young age, I didn't figure it out until I was 25!

    shut yourself in a windowless basement for 8 hours while you read Thomas' Calculus.
    Work through all of the problems that you can.

    the next day, do the same thing for 12 hours working through University Physics (freedman, young)

    after that, get a stack of white papers over various electromechanical parts that you've never encountered. spend 4 hours reading those, then 4 hours poring over various journal publications on the elementary minutia of powertrains

    during all this, have your best friend ask you to lunch/coffee/smoke/etc. every 2 hours.

    lastly, have an adult test you on something that has nothing to do with any of the things you've been studying, while another adult tells you to design, build, test (and present the results of all that) a new product

    skip showers, meals, and social gatherings
    for (at least) the next 4 years, this is your life.

    welcome to the study of engineering
  8. Feb 26, 2012 #7
    ^^ i like this answer lol. but i still think you can totally manage to have a social life while taking the several years of study at hand. Its just harder, you cant let social gathering offerings seem "inconvenient" to the moment of in-depth studying. You have more control over your study time whereas you dont have all that much control over social gatherings. I think balancing this observation can prevent you from "not having a life" like many engineering students succumb to. But whatever you do, dont try to mix math with friends, i swear there is no connection, and you will end up being one of those kids i find at radioshack cracking jokes about solid state resistors and potentiometers... aww those poor virgins.
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