1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Practical College Courses

  1. Oct 25, 2013 #1
    I'm majoring in mechanical engineering and I have a lot of open room in my course schedule the next few years. What are the most useful electives I could take? What courses are the most useful in industry? What have been the most useful courses you've taken for your career? I'm interested in taking courses outside mechanical engineering, so I'd love to hear from anyone regardless of your job/major.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 25, 2013 #2
    Most engineers I know have a decent knowledge of physics, but you spend an awful lot of time communicating that or other information, either in reports or meetings. So anything related to writing, speaking, presenting, arguing, negotiating, etc. I would consider a great asset. Maybe psychology, or management/business related courses?

    Or actually doing something with your knowledge: instead of following courses, consider going into local politics, amateur rocket science or build your own airplane.
  4. Oct 25, 2013 #3
    It all depends on your interests. What area of mech engineering? What do you like?

    In general though, differential equations and numerical classes from the math department are helpful. Programming is helpful from CS. Maybe some upper division thermo from physics. If you're in the right area, some advanced circuits knowledge could be helpful.

    I would caution against being "too" practical. College is a time to learn all sorts of crap you'd never be exposed to later. When you're older, working in engineering/whatever you plan to do, you'll learn all sorts of very practical stuff.Learning about history and philosophy and literature and stuff like that is awesome. It's nice just to know things. Even if it isn't exactly super practical. You have the chance to, so why not?
  5. Oct 25, 2013 #4


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor

    Something related to technical writing, or some upper level speaking type courses would certainly be beneficial. More math or physics is never a bad idea.

    Using those credits to take courses that you just find interesting are quite beneficial too though. Some of the classes I've enjoyed most in my college career have been some of my geneds. I'm in anthropology right now, and I look forward to going to every class. It's more like "story time" than a lecture that I have to sit through. Taking classes in areas that you find interesting for their own merits is very practical, and will certainly help you in the real world. Finding areas of mutual interest with people in higher places can be a big aid in moving up the ladder.
  6. Oct 25, 2013 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I'll agree with the technical communications suggestion - I took such a class and it was HUGELY useful. If I were you I would also speak with your advisor; there may be a math/physics/stats/programming courses that would make sense. Finally, since you only are in college once, you should take a couple of classes that you WANT to take - literature, astronomy, history, geology, music, math, whatever floats your boat.

  7. Oct 25, 2013 #6
    I would say by far the most useful things I have learned all relate to programming (and probability). Knowing how to program better is useful in almost everything you do. It has even helped me in hobbies like magic the gathering.

    Keep in mind basically the most practical thing you can do in terms of your career is get good grades, recommendations and contacts. Most of what one does on a job can be learned there with reasonable fundamentals. But your performance in college is going to determine the kind of job you can get.
  8. Oct 25, 2013 #7
    Without a doubt almost any programming class or statistics and probability.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook