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Mechanical Engineering degree helpful for non-engineers?

  1. Mar 3, 2009 #1
    I'm about two years from completing a mech engineering degree, and I've realized that the thought of having a 9-5, 8 hours a day / 5 day a week job doesn't appeal to me. What I'd really like to do is work as a freelance programmer (ideally as a game designer, though realistically I'll only pursue that as a hobby). I'm thinking maybe I'll work a 9-5er for a year after graduating to pay off all my debts and built up a little bit of savings, and then try going into business for myself. Would a mech engineering degree help much in finding freelance work, or not much? And would it look bad on my resume if my work history kept switching back and forth between being self employed and working for a company?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 4, 2009 #2
    I see temp work on craigslist all the time. Usually someone has an idea for an invention and they need an engineer to work out the details.

    I think an ME degree is useful for even understanding everyday life. The answer is yes. It certainly won't hurt.
  4. Mar 4, 2009 #3
    ... and work 12+ hours a day, 6-7 days a week.

    But, that's only for the first several years -- then you might be able to take weekends off (if the business succeeds.)


  5. Mar 4, 2009 #4
    It could help a lot if you're writing engineering software or simulations...
  6. Mar 4, 2009 #5
    Really? I know this doesn't count, but at the moment I make somewhat physically accurate game engines in my spare time, though I've been thinking about making realistic physics simulators from scratch. If I have a portfolio of simulators that I've designed, how would it help, and what kind of jobs/commisions could I land?

    And I know a lot of people who go into business for themselves work crazy hours, but is it not feasible to work as a freelancer and only take jobs when you want/need cash (maybe not as an engineer per-se, but as a programmer or consultant or something)? I'm hoping to maybe work on and off, and travel a lot. And maybe even live in a country where the standard of living is rather low, and design software for people in other countries, thus being able to keep afloat with only the occasional commision. I don't really care about making tons of money!
  7. Mar 5, 2009 #6
    What software have you used to help you with your engineering coursework so far? Any CAD software? FEA, CFD? MSC-ADAMS or other multi-body sim software? Any of these would be hugely ambitious for one person to tackle, but behind all of them is someone who is familiar with engineering.

    To invent this kind of software, someone needs to say "wouldn't it be useful to have something that does x?" An engineering background couldn't hurt.

    If someone wants a simulation of something and they want it to be accurate and understand the assumptions, etc., they might be more attracted to a programmer who has an engineering degree than a programmer with a CS degree...

  8. Mar 5, 2009 #7
    "If someone wants a simulation of something and they want it to be accurate and understand the assumptions, etc., they might be more attracted to a programmer who has an engineering degree than a programmer with a CS degree..."

    Provided they are also knowledgeable in the field of software development... which is a lot like engineering, really, so as long as an engineer doesn't take software for granted, the skills should be readily transferable.

    In other words: nobody will pay you for a game engine if it's not good software, even if the program works fine.
  9. Mar 5, 2009 #8


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    No, because in todays society you always need money meaning you either need a steady income (=always work) or you need to be able to charge a LOT for your services when you DO work which is only possible if you have you already made name for yourself and your customers come to you because they think you are better than your competitors; and the only way that will happen is if you have spent many years building up your reputation. Although I must say I think this is still really only feasible for artists etc, not for engineers

    The point there is that if you are freelance you will almost inevitably work more than someone with a 9-5 jobs (although obviously there are other advantages).
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