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Question about engineering careers as a high schooler

  1. Dec 13, 2016 #1
    I'm a high school junior who thought I wanted to be an engineer (because I enjoy and am good at math and science), and I decided to take AP physics 1, but I now realize that was a horrible mistake. I am doing terrible in the class, and although I kind of enjoy the ideas I hate the math for some reason. I still and good at math classes (and Compsci), and I really liked Chem and plan on taking AP Chem next year, but because I'm bad at physics, does that mean I probably won't pursue engineering in college? Also, if the answer to the previous question was yes, what types of engineering might be more suited to me? Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 13, 2016 #2


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    Junior in HS? "AP Physics a horrible mistake?" Not necessarily --- you might be running into a "lemon." Do not presume to have "seen it all" by your jr. year in HS.
  4. Dec 13, 2016 #3
    What do you mean "you might be running into a lemon."?
  5. Dec 13, 2016 #4


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    We can't tell you what you will or will not be good at. You're still very early in your education if you want to be an engineer, and there's no real way to know where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

    The first thing I would do is figure out why you are doing poorly in your physics class. Do you understand the concepts but get stuck on the math? If so, then look into why you're getting stuck on the math. Quite often students will think they understand the concepts and just don't get the math, but it's actually the other way around. The math is often just simple algebra and arithmetic. But understanding what all you need to include when trying to solve a problem becomes difficult if you do not understand the concepts well enough.

    For example, if you are trying to solve a problem involving a block on an inclined plane, and constantly get confused on the direction of the forces involved, then you're not having trouble with the math, you're likely having trouble understanding forces and vectors and how to use them to set up your problem.

    Also keep in mind that engineering encompasses a wide variety of fields and jobs, and even if you don't like a particular aspect of physics, perhaps statics or rotating objects, that doesn't mean you'll be a bad engineer. You may never even have to work with those depending on the career you choose. Just keep on doing the best you can and don't worry too much about whether or not you'll be able to pursue an engineering degree.
  6. Dec 14, 2016 #5
    Another thought is that maybe your teacher doesn't teach the subject well. AP physics requires a certain mind set and discipline. For example, if you are not taught to always use free body diagrams (and this idea is constantly drummed into you), you are likely to experience difficulty. The importance of free body diagrams can not be overemphasized.
  7. Dec 14, 2016 #6
    It's most probably the concepts. I've seen it myself. I will say, AP is not hard. Some countries have compulsory courses in Physics, Chem and Maths which are much-much harder then AP. I've seen most people struggling on how to apply the concept. They know what is friction, what is force etc. but they seemingly don't know how to apply the knowledge. I advice you to read your textbook well. Most probably if you understand the concepts, you won't face much trouble in the mathematical part.
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