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Need major help picking engineering discipline!

  1. Mar 23, 2009 #1
    I'm in my (general) first year of engineering and I have to now decide which discipline I want to go into. I need some major help with this though because I am so confused now more than ever. I'm not even too sure that I want a lifelong career as an engineer. I've ruled out ChemE, so basically, the three I am considering are MechE, CivE, and ECE. Here is what I feel about each of them.

    CivE: before I had any knowledge of anything engineering, this is what I wanted to go into. Mainly because I saw big bridges, or big/interesting buildings and thought it would be really cool to build that. But now that I've heard about the reality of civil engineering, it seems majority of the work is uninteresting and it's really hard to find work where you're working on really cool projects. Also looking at courses, the only ones that seem interesting are the structural, design and transportation courses, although there are a good number of courses in these fields. But I think in the field there is not much work done in the structural side but more in land and materials analysis, cost analysis, management, efficiency and things like that that don't interest me too much.

    MechE: the main thing that draws me to MechE is how broad it is. Especially because you learn basics of civil (specifically structural which is the part of civil I'm drawn to), and the basics of electrical. It just seems there are so many things within MechE that it is perfect for someone like me who doesn't know what to go into. There are a lot of things within Mech such as aerospace, biomech, nanotech or even engineering management that seem really interesting to me. But it seems most of the jobs for MechE's are mundane. I think the job openings are in things like HVAC or oilfields (I'm in Alberta) which don't seem very interesting.

    EE: Never considered this until recently, when I saw a few presentations about the field and possibilities. The whole "cutting edge" aspect of ECE is what draws me. It seems like the only field where a good chunk of work that is leading edge and innovative. Really though the only part I'm interested in is the computer and electronics engineering. But I think majority of the jobs are in the power and energy sector, which doesn't really appeal to me. Also, I've heard it is very difficult to get a good job in the field now, but I'm not too sure about this.

    I am leaning towards MechE, just because of the broad education, the diversity of jobs, diversity of fields that one can go into and the opportunities do exist for intersting work. But I'm skeptical about the type of work for mech.e's. The school part seems interesting but the jobs seem like crap. Really, I would rather build the building itself than the HVAC system for the building. On the other hand I would rather work with automobiles or airplanes than buildings or bridges (unless high profile ones I guess). Having said that though my feelings about this change all the time. I'm so confused!!

    I would appreciate any insight (or any corrections on my perceptions).
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 23, 2009 #2
    Can't decide? Go to Electrical and Mechanical engineering or how it now sounds a lot cooler - mechatronics. I've just applied to Electrical and Mechanical engineering at University of Strathclyde and I'm thrilled. The course seems very interesting.
  4. Mar 23, 2009 #3
    As you have deduced, ME is probably the most broadly based, so that is an attractive option for you. The downside is that North American manufacturing is declining, and with that the number of ME jobs is dropping.

    Reading what you have written, you seem truly drawn to structural work, and I can assure you that there will always be structural work to be done wherever you are. My daughter is a structural engineer in Dallas right now, and her firm is crying for good structural engineers. This is a field that will never go away, and will never go entirely offshore. I'd think very hard about it.

    The most important thing to remember, however, is that you only need one job, not a whole field of jobs. Thus even if the field is declining, if you want to do something, do it! Just plan to be very, very good at it, and rise to the top. There is no engineering field that is going to go away entirely, so go into whatever you want to do, just plan to be the best in it.
  5. Mar 28, 2009 #4

    With regards to ECE, its not true that the majority of jobs are in power and utilities. That is a fertile area, but computer engineering is a way bigger field. Tons of companies need engineers to design chips (like FPGA, ASIC, etc.). Not only that, but tons of companies needed EEs to work on embedded systems, in everything from manufacturing, robotics, communications etc.

    Control and digital signal processing (DSP) are two very big areas with lots of interesting work being done.

    This website might help you in picking a major:
    http://subversiveguidetoeng.blogspot.com/2009/03/picking-majorfield.html" [Broken]
    http://subversiveguidetoeng.blogspot.com/2009/03/last-post-i-wrote-with-tips-on-picking.html" [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  6. Mar 28, 2009 #5


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    Where is the future of North America headed? There is quite a lot of enthusiasm for alternative energy sources, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a growing demand for Electrical Engineers as a result. It doesn't matter much if it's wind, nuclear, solar - much of our energy-distribution system is bound to be in our electrical grids (existing and expanded, both), and there may well be some interesting control problems if we get to base-load with renewables and nuclear and take load-swings on carbon-fueled plants.
  7. Mar 28, 2009 #6
    Do Physics Engineering.
  8. Mar 29, 2009 #7
    Thanks for the responses.

    I took a look at ECE courses and for the most part they don't seem too appealing to me. So I'm leaning more now towards ME or CE, as they sort of look like I would enjoy the courses more. I think the diversity of ME is drawing me in. There is also a biomed option in ME that looks really interesting, so I might go into that. Any views on biomedical engineering?
  9. Mar 29, 2009 #8
    Biomed is relatively narrow, so do not do it unless it is really the thing you want for certain. The biology component excludes a lot of other more conventional engineering courses, so a biomed engineer winds up being weak compared to a standard ME for most ME situations (but certainly not for biomed).
  10. Apr 1, 2009 #9
    You raise a good point about new energy sources. Right now there is a bit of a renaissance going on in the utilities. There's a lot of talk about switching to smart-grid technology and high voltage DC lines to replace our creaky grid. Of course, a lot of it is still talk.

    The Subversive Guide to Engineering
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