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

Need advice on major

  1. Nov 14, 2006 #1
    well i'm currently a student at SFSU, junior standing in college and sophomore standing in the engineering program. i originally wanted to do civil engineering since i heard it's easier because everything is static. but next semester, when i will begin my emphasis (upper division), i need to decided between mechanical engineering and civil engineering.

    i figured i'd throw this on the table and see what you guys think. i've had experience with cars and working with my hands. i've had no experience with construction or anything like that. but based off of my interests of cars, i'm not sure if this is a good enough reason to devote myself to a difficult major, which is also another reason why i want to do it. here's my pros and cons of doing mechanical engineering, excuse me if i'm misinformed about some of this, but here it goes:

    -seems easier to get a job
    -more challenging (i think)
    -easier to get a job when finished
    -more job offerings
    -more relevant to what i've been doing
    -more to come

    -material is more science than design, more dry
    -focuses mainly on small objects as opposed to a big picture
    -more to come

    anyways, i'd appreciate any feedback. thanks ahead of time.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 14, 2006 #2
    Well, let me break some stuff down for you.

    Ok, that might come in handy here and there for understanding real applications of the material, but nothing in terms of material itself.

    And, you have had no real ME experience either. Fixing cars is not even close, sorry.

    In order:
    -no, each can be hard in its own respect
    -what does that matter?
    -what does that matter?
    -what will you be doing?
    -waiting for more.

    Again, no.
    Twice, no.
    Thrice, no.
    -waiting for more.

    Based on these questions, you should ask yourself if you really want to be an engineer or a technician, dont confuse the two.

    You should take a stroll to the ME engineering labs in your engineer department to get a feel for what real ME work is about and what is at your school. It will open your eyes.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2006
  4. Nov 14, 2006 #3
    Thanks. Yeah i forgot to mention had no experience in either, which is why I am confused on the two. Yeah I figured fixing cars would be completely different, but I thought since I understood the basic concepts of how cars work, it would proove more of an interest in ME. Oh, I'm sure I don't want to be a technician. I guess I will try going to the ME labs to see what the students do in there before I finalize my decision. I think with all people and all majors and all studies, coming out with a job is the utmost importance since having a degree and not being able to use it is...pointless?

    Anyway, thanks for your response.
  5. Nov 14, 2006 #4
    How many engineers do you know are graduating and not finding jobs?...........my point exactly.

    If you are trying to pick based on money, your going to be a lousy engineer (if you even make it to graduation).

    You need to see some real areas of ME and Civil. Go see what professors are doing research in. You are going to see that there is very little hands on, and lots and lots of math and computer simulations.

    P.S. civil engineering is not only statics. Not by a long shot.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2006
  6. Nov 14, 2006 #5
    good point about finding jobs. but thanks, for the discouragement. wow, never thought of not having a person to have doubt in me already who has no idea of who i am.

    no i'm not picking based of money but based off what i will be doing when i graduate. as an undergrad, i have limited knowledge of my future in either one of these two fields. the point of this was to ask simple questions and for some advice, not for your discouragement. and yes i will graduate regardless of what you think.
  7. Nov 14, 2006 #6
    LOL, no i'm not saying to you specifically. I am saying if you choose to go that route, you are in danger of that happening to you (i.e., to anyone in general).

    I see too way too many people come by here with the wrong impression about what engineering is. You need to do some serious research on what area you want to do.
  8. Nov 14, 2006 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    ME is pretty applicable to a lot of different areas. However, there is a lot of specialization that occurs. When you graduate with an ME, you are basically considered someone with a basic engineering background that an employer can train in what they specifically do. You get to be molded to what they need. Once you've been around the block a few times this changes.

    That's entirely up to you.
    Odds are this is true.
    It depends on the area of the country you are in. When I moved to Long Island, I had a heck of a time finding a job. It seemed that software and EEs were the only engineers people were looking for at the time.
    I can't answer that. I don't know what you've been doing in your studies to this point.

    Again, that depends entirely on each individual person. I knew people who breezed thru undergrad.
    In undergrad, there is a predominance of the science end because that is what you are lacking in your knowledge base. However, there is plenty of design work on the horizon. Most people get more than they want their senior year.
    This is true in some cases, but in many it is not true. To tell you the truth, if you get a job that deals with a small part of a bigger project, you will be so nervous that your part does what it should that you will thank the maker that you have just a small part. Working on large projects with large scopes is tough, even for experienced engineers.
  9. Nov 14, 2006 #8
    Hey man, sorry if I chewed out your butt. But it pains me when I read about a fellow student 2 years into their engineering work and still doesnt have a clue about mechanical or civil engineering. It really shows no motivation on your behalf when you have not even looked at the labs at your own campus! Do you just blow past them, not curious? You should be the guy always reading the stuff up on the walls, even if it doesnt make sense...yet. If you dont find yourself doing these things, you're probably not doing engineering out of the love of it. Are you sure you REALLY want to do engineering, because your classes are going to get MUCH harder VERY fast. So be SUPER SUPER SURE you picked the right major, and don't waste your own time and effort.

    Granted, it is hard to pick a specific area at the sophmore level becuase you have not had the courses yet to get a feel for something you like or dislike, but not to have any general idea, whew, thats not good. Thats REALLY not good.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2006
  10. Nov 15, 2006 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The holy molly!! You must be f...ing kidding me!!. Two things:

    1) I don't think you will succeed in the future if you think like that.

    2) Fortunately even though most calculations in civil engineering are made for static equilibrium (not every of them!), the involved staticity is extraordinarily complex, because it involves internal stresses of thermal or elastic origin. And talking about non staticity, vibration analysis is also a part of civil engineering if I am not wrong.
  11. Nov 15, 2006 #10
    I think you should choose soley on the program that you find interesting; choose it because you would enjoy doing it, not because you think it's easier or more challenging.

  12. Nov 15, 2006 #11
    well that was originally when i entered as a freshman. of course i'm not confused because its is easier or not anymore mainly because i realized throughout these few years that both are equally difficult. its mainly about what i will be doing for the rest of my life. i guess this is part of my research to see what other people think of this.

    Last edited: Nov 15, 2006
  13. Nov 15, 2006 #12
    its cool. it's funny, cause i am one of those guys that admires the projects posted on the hallway walls and reads the research projects, not all, but some that are readily available. its just that i focused so much on learning what civil is that i didnt do much research on mechanical, which is why i wanted to ask some questions. i guess i have it answered.

    the labs on campus are usually closed during classes or locked when there aren't classes. i'm not one of those guys who would interupt a classroom just for personal interest.

    everything i'm learning in my classes right now are interesting and i'm sure this is what i want to do. its just that i've been talking to some classmates (who i shouldn't listen to) about the difficulty of coming out as a graduate with no experience which made me consider other fields.

    i'm sorry if i dont have the knowledge of both fields and i have questions about them as i am still inexperienced and trying to do some research. the impression i'm gettin from all of you is that i'm some idiot that should just quit. the only thing you know of me is my username.

  14. Nov 15, 2006 #13
    Well, I was not talking about a lab class. I was talking about a graduate research lab.

    No one has said that. What we are saying is that if you dont pick a major, and one that you LOVE, your life is going to be painful hell for the next two years of hard classes slaming your GPA down below a 3.0. You talked about not getting hired, well here is who does not get hired. People who graduate with Low GPA's because they were not sure what they wanted to do in college. This is why its VERY important for you to wise up fast. Getting a good GPA in upper level classes you cant stand is going to be damn near impossible.

    To be brutally blunt, you need to get on the ball. These are questions you should have had before entering engineering, not 2 years later.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2006
  15. Nov 15, 2006 #14


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    That is something to consider, to be sure. Again, you really need to let what interests you be your driving force in your decision. The experience part is important, but there are opportunities out there. You'll be given opportunities to get experience while in school. Hopefully you can take advantage of them. Does your school have a co-op program? I worked during my school as a technician in a test lab. That was a great step for me. I didn't end up working for that company when I graduated, but I was offered and other employers liked that wrench turning experience.

    You're doing the right thing in asking questions despite the answers you have received here. Just try not to go into any research situation with any assumptions if you can help it. There have to be a couple of profs that you have that cross over between both disciplines. They are a great source of information if you can get one to sit still for a little bit. 2 of my professors did more for my career guidance than any counselor ever did. Keep asking questions.
  16. Nov 16, 2006 #15
    thanks fredgarvin, i guess i'll just think more about it, in the meanwhile, i'll continue my studies towards my original goal, CE. My school does have a co-op program, but i have no idea how it works. i never really looked into it because i figured i should first finish off the lower division courses first. i am in a "co-op" program for a company, but i am not getting any training at all. anyway, thanks for the help and sharing your experience.
  17. Nov 16, 2006 #16


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Hello mrmotobiker, I'm a senior CE undergrad student, and let me say you need to do some research about your career. It is true static equilibrium plays an important role in CE (especially Structural Eng.), but there's much more than that!.

    Other problems a CE will encounter depending on his specialization path:

    +One of the problems a CE finds is to correctly design the Wastewater plant process (from simple clorination to more complex and special like desalination) depending on the source's (Body of water to be treated) contaminants. CEs design each chamber.

    +Pluvial Drainage systems in Highways. The CE must correctly calculate the input the small open channels (the longitudinal drain) will transport to a waterway. Plus the CE must design the channels and sometimes redesign the terrain close to the roads, because of its slope and the water impact it'll create.

    +Pavement design. A CE must design an strong enough pavement for its use, which can be in Airports or Highways.

    +Foundation design. The CE will need to make a proper assessment of the soil to see if it'll has enough resistance for the weight of the structure, and then proceed on the design for the proper foundation, which can vary from slab on grade, piles or isolated pads, or others. This is very important considering that some type of clays expand on water absorption which are the cause of local failure (a part of the structure lift, while the other stays fixed).

    and more...
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook