Navigating the Career Confusion: From Liberal Arts to Engineering and Beyond

  • Thread starter MillenniumCreed
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In summary, the conversation revolves around a first-year college student who is unsure about their future career path. They have considered engineering as a major but are hesitant due to the stereotypes and fears associated with it. They also mention their interests in computers and a desire to have a balance between sedentary and nomadic work. The conversation suggests exploring other career options such as law or private investigation and getting practical experience through volunteering.
  • #1
MillenniumCreed
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Some background information:
I am a first year college student with only vague ideas of what he wants to do in life. I have recently considered engineering as my major. Admittedly I do not need to know what I'm going to do for the rest of my life just yet, but the problem is I have vague ideas. My skills are in: communicating, memorizing, researching, and writing. I consider myself good at listening to and caring for other people, and I know for sure I'd like to impact a huge amount of lives somehow. Whether that's contributing to the building of infrastructure in third world countries, or inventing some new device, I'd love to do something like that. However, my biggest fear of Engineering is all the stereotypes behind it. I fear the constant all nighters, the heavy Math and Science component (for the record, my Math and Science background is relatively weak. I failed high school chemistry - though that was due to my lack of motivation and depression at the time. Never made it to Physics, and the highest level of Math I just BARELY completed was College Algebra), the lack of a social life, etc. Admittedly engineering, medicine, and other tech jobs are in demand nowadays, but I'd hate to just do something because it'll net me some income. I feel I'd be better suited for a liberal arts degree, but I've witnessed first hand about how that's not a good idea. I understand that it's more of a matter of how BADLY you want it, not necessarily about how smart you are (hard work beats talent and all that good stuff). I'm willing to work around my handicaps in math and science, but even then I fear the engineering life after graduation. I hear that it's not nearly as hands on as people think it is (possibly due to movies like Iron Man which popularized the idea), mostly cubicle work (not that I mind, but I definitely would not want to sit in front of a computer all day everyday, I do that now pretty much, though to my understanding on that subject is that it depends on where you work/what your position is), and you can work up to 12 hours as opposed to the traditional 8.

So, the TL;DR version - confused on life, want a job after I graduate, market isn't booming for what I would be better suited toward, not sure if engineering is worth it or would even make sense for me to do.

Some other info about me:
-love computers, have yet to try programming but I did try coding once and didn't like it
-want my work to be a balance of sedentary and nomadic, ideally I wouldn't be lodged up in a cubicle all day
-type 1 diabetic with a medical device, interested in how things work, but wouldn't necessarily pursue that knowledge outside of school work
-originally considering majoring in political science and going to law school, but bad job prospects and hearing how much lawyers hated their jobs discouraged me
-would like to make a lot of money
 
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  • #2
You don't sound like the type that is cut-out for a career involving higher math and computer programming. Of course, some people with degrees in the hard sciences find jobs that don't require them to deal with hard science, but they have to get through the college courses first.

What math courses have you taken in college?

You mention thoughts of inventing things or constructing things. What kind of practical problems have you worked on? (I don't mean any grand problems. I mean: Do you work on simple tasks like trying to get a cabinet door to close properly? - do you think about better ways to rearrange furniture a room? )

I suggest investigating a career as a lawyer more thoroughly. Entrance to "top" law schools is probably competitive. Your realisitic prospects might be to get a law degree from a mnor school or a night school. Actively try to find examples of people with law degrees that don't work as traditional lawyers. Talk to some of them.

A random thought: Look into what a modern private investigator does. How hard is it be licensed in your state ? If you are licensed while still in college, it could give you some part time work as an employee of some agency - you wouldn' t have to set up your own office. My limited contact with investigators gives the impression that they do much of their work on computers. Their firms subscribe to data services not available to the general public.

Before you decide you want a career in helping people, try volunteering to help some. You will find people with very serious problems. It may be less depressing to work in a cubicle than to face situations like that.
 
  • #3
Stephen Tashi said:
You don't sound like the type that is cut-out for a career involving higher math and computer programming. Of course, some people with degrees in the hard sciences find jobs that don't require them to deal with hard science, but they have to get through the college courses first.

What math courses have you taken in college?

You mention thoughts of inventing things or constructing things. What kind of practical problems have you worked on? (I don't mean any grand problems. I mean: Do you work on simple tasks like trying to get a cabinet door to close properly? - do you think about better ways to rearrange furniture a room? )

I suggest investigating a career as a lawyer more thoroughly. Entrance to "top" law schools is probably competitive. Your realisitic prospects might be to get a law degree from a mnor school or a night school. Actively try to find examples of people with law degrees that don't work as traditional lawyers. Talk to some of them.

A random thought: Look into what a modern private investigator does. How hard is it be licensed in your state ? If you are licensed while still in college, it could give you some part time work as an employee of some agency - you wouldn' t have to set up your own office. My limited contact with investigators gives the impression that they do much of their work on computers. Their firms subscribe to data services not available to the general public.

Before you decide you want a career in helping people, try volunteering to help some. You will find people with very serious problems. It may be less depressing to work in a cubicle than to face situations like that.
Oh definitely - I'd agree with you. However, in terms of marketability, lawyers aren't doing well nowadays. I have read of several stories of people who regret going to law school. They then go into a STEM field or even medicine. Even some law schools are advising against going there.

As for practical things - I don't know if I can answer that one either. When I said that I was giving some examples of how I could "change the world" as an engineer. Engineers after all do design those kinds of things (bridges, buildings, medical devices, etc) no?

I definitely agree with your assessment of volunteer work. However, I'm not necessarily "knocking" the cubicle life. I just wouldn't want to spend all of my job working in one. Like at times I'd get to work in the cubicle and other times I'd get to do other stuff. Perhaps that's asking too much working for a big name company, but my overall point is that I wouldn't want to spend every single waking hour in a cubicle.
 
  • #4
MillenniumCreed said:
Oh definitely - I'd agree with you. However, in terms of marketability, lawyers aren't doing well nowadays. I have read of several stories of people who regret going to law school. They then go into a STEM field or even medicine. Even some law schools are advising against going there.

If you plan your life according to statistical trends, you need to be in the trend yourself. Statistically speaking, how many students who have big trouble with pre-calculus level math and science in college are able to graduate with an excellent academic record as engineers? No doubt a few are, but are you going to count on being one of them? If you count on bucking that trend, why worry about other trends?

As for practical things - I don't know if I can answer that one either.
Surely you can answer the question of whether you spend time on simple practical problems.

When I said that I was giving some examples of how I could "change the world" as an engineer. Engineers after all do design those kinds of things (bridges, buildings, medical devices, etc) no?

No, most engineers do not design big important projects. They may do bits and pieces of an important project. There is more engineering work in fixing and remodeling projects that someone else designed than in designing new projects.

I definitely agree with your assessment of volunteer work. However, I'm not necessarily "knocking" the cubicle life. I just wouldn't want to spend all of my job working in one. Like at times I'd get to work in the cubicle and other times I'd get to do other stuff. Perhaps that's asking too much working for a big name company, but my overall point is that I wouldn't want to spend every single waking hour in a cubicle.

If you work for someone else, you can't be choosy. The majority of people work as employees of somone or something else. This automatically puts them in a passive posture - which is fine for most people since they don't want the problems of being independent operators. However, are you also taking a passive position to investigating career opportunities? Are you just reading about job trends? - not going out and talking to people about their jobs? - not investigating any career in depth?
 
  • #5


I understand the struggle of navigating career choices and the pressure to make a decision that will impact the rest of your life. It's important to remember that your interests and skills should guide your decision, not societal expectations or stereotypes. Engineering is a broad field with many different specialties and opportunities. It's not just about math and science, but also problem-solving, creativity, and teamwork.

It's great that you have a desire to impact people's lives and make a difference in the world. This is a common motivation for many engineers, and it's important to find a field or industry that aligns with your values. You mentioned your interest in computers and technology, so perhaps exploring areas like software engineering or biomedical engineering could be a good fit for you.

It's also important to consider your own personal preferences and work style. If you don't enjoy sitting in front of a computer all day, there are still engineering roles that involve more hands-on work, such as field work or research and development. It's important to research and talk to professionals in different engineering fields to get a better understanding of what their day-to-day work looks like.

In terms of your concerns about math and science, it's important to note that engineering programs have support systems in place to help students who may struggle in these areas. There are also many resources available, such as tutoring and study groups, to help you improve your skills. And remember, hard work and determination can often overcome any initial weaknesses.

Ultimately, the most important thing is to choose a career that you are passionate about and will bring you fulfillment. Don't choose a path just because it seems like the "right" or "safe" choice, but rather consider what will make you happy and fulfilled in the long run. And keep in mind that it's okay to change your mind and switch career paths if you find out that engineering is not the right fit for you. Best of luck in your decision-making process!
 

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