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Need some advice with major

  1. Dec 16, 2009 #1


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    Hi all,

    So, here is my dilemma, I'm into my second year of college and its time that I made up my mind on what I want to major in. I can consider myself as an above average student with a CGPA of 3.75 so far after 2 years. I have basically taken all different sorts of subjects for the past 2 years such as sciences, math, arts, and economics.

    Most people advice me to go into a field i am interested in, while others advice me to go in a field if im good at it. The problem with this is that my average grades are A/A- and the worse is that I'm really confused or should I say intimidated to make such a important decision which could make or break my future.

    I do have some tendencies to like a few subjects over some others. I prefer physics compared to biology and chemistry. I also like business as well as mathematics. I have been taking several "career tests" both online and in my college, and most of them suggest that I should go into science. Well, I've looked through engineering, and I cant seem to find a major with a perfect combination which has elements of physics, business and mathematics.

    I do have an ambition to someday start my own business (on whatever it may be), but it seems too "congested" in the business field right now, as there are tonnes of MBA holders out there. I don't want to just be a jobber, I want to be a professional in whatever I do. Besides looking at engineering, I've also looked at actuarial science, but it takes 8 self study papers in order to become an professional (I lack confidence in getting them done).

    Also, I saw the post of "Scientists VS Engineers", and I find that most suggests that scientists discover new knowledge/laws while engineers apply them. I would also like to ask if I become an engineer, will I still be able to do "research" and vice versa if I'm a scientist?

    Hope to get some advice from you guys here soon.... and no I do not want to go into medicine, as it takes 6-8 years of study and for me, money is a concern too.

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 16, 2009 #2
    Hi CR9. If you're more likely to get an MBA than a PhD, and if you're interested in the intersection of science and business, I would recommend engineering. The engineering curriculum is not very business oriented, but the jobs are. An engineering degree is also, on average, the preferred techincal degree of employers of undergraduates as measured by average starting salaries. See www.bls.gov/oco/ocos027.htm[/URL].

    Every large technology or manufacturing business will have an engineering organization within their company. The only industry I can think of with a high concentration of scientists in labs is the pharmaceutical industry - they hire a lot of bio and chem PhDs. When companies do have structured internal research organizations, such as [url]http://www.ge.com/research/[/url], the scientists they hire are typically PhDs. The way it works at GE is the scientists and researchers, including engineering PhDs, are mostly secluded in the research organization, while the engineering organization is much more closely tied to the factories and customers and management of the business. Also, engineers are hired for other jobs within the company such as technical sales and operations management, which includes buying all materials, managing the factories, and distributing products to the customers. Engineers largely outnumber the research scientists, but of course this is not always true, especially at smaller tech companies.

    Having said all of that, if you are interested in something else, you can certainly be a professional in the workforce with any of the degrees you are considering. You can certainly also compete for many engineering or related jobs with another technical degree. Don't discount engineering as not being business oriented though, since the jobs you do as an engineer can be very business focused. To use GE as an example again, they only hire engineers for their entry level operations management program: [URL]http://www.ge.com/careers/students/omlp/index.html[/URL]. This is not atypical, and technology and industrial companies often prefer to have technical people running things.

    It's not so much scientists vs engineers when it comes to research, it's just that a PhD is usually required. A higher proportion of science majors working as scientists have PhDs. Many careers will require a large amount of creativity and original, often technical, thinking, but you probably won't be doing research per se without a PhD.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  4. Dec 16, 2009 #3
    Though if you're interested in research, start doing some as an undergrad and see if it's really for you. (You don't say if you're already doing research in engineering.) It's not impossible to get a phd while working if you're really motivated and pick a school that offers that flexibility. And you may even be able to get your company to pay for it.

    It really won't, 'especially if your sticking in the science vs. engineering track. Enough job experience in the general field and people stop caring what your exact degree is. Specialization is important, but you can always come back for a masters in something you really like, or pick up job training, or it's not that rigid so relax and do something that's both appealing and financially rewarding, 'cause it looks like you'll need both to survive the entire degree.
  5. Dec 16, 2009 #4
    i suggest you "industrial engineering" as i'm figuring it out! think about it... and look for useful and handy information about it.
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