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Should I change my major from business to engineering?

  1. Jun 19, 2009 #1

    I am thinking of transferring from a Bachelor of Commerce program to a Bachelor of Applied Science program. I have 10 days left to make this decision.
    I originally wanted went into my current program with aspirations of becoming a successful investor or trader or financial analyst. However, after learning more about these professions, my interest has waned and I feel that they are not right for me. One of my reasons for this is that I believe that my strong dislike for financial accounting means that I am most likely not a good fit for a finance job.
    I have already completed the first year of my program and I feel that I don't really enjoy it. I like the idea of learning how to design things and figuring how things work. I also enjoyed physics and math in high school. I applied to transfer majors a couple months ago and I have recently been offer admission to the faculty of applied science at my university.
    The main things that are holding me back is the thought of the intense workload and the associated sleep deprivation and the possibility of working in an adverse work setting after I graduate.
    Please note that I would also have to spend an extra year in college to get my degree as only 9 of the ~30 credits which I took are salvageable.
    Could anyone provide me with any insight on this matter? Anything related to personal experiences of studying as an engineering undergrad or working as an engineer would be greatly appreciated as well.

    Edit: I have been admitted into a general engineering program where I choose my specialization in my second year. I am mainly considering mechanical or electrical engineering. To clarify: I am transferring into the first year of the engineering program.

    I am a person who needs 8 to 10 hours of sleep.

    I've recently spoken to another of my friends.
    His schedule is like this:

    6:30am - wake up and then do morning routine, eat breakfast, drive to school
    8:00 am- first class starts
    4:00 pm - last class ends
    5 pm - get home and relax
    7 to 8 eat dinner
    8 to 10 do hwk, write lab reports
    10 to 12 study
    12 to 12:30 shower, brush teeth etc.
    12: 30 to 6:30 sleep

    That’s only six hours of sleep, and he does this every day. Before midterms, and finals, he sleeps even less. He has only finished 1st year of engineering. I’ve talked to several of my friends and they all have a similar schedule. Do all engineering students only sleep six hours?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 19, 2009 #2
    Wow, thats pretty drastic. I won't say a thing about sleep -- I think its a bad criterion to decide :-p

    But look at it this way...a lot of engineering grads these days get into the financial sector. I don't know of people with bachelors in finance or something similar getting into the technical side of engineering/science. So, reasoning by the age old "keep your options open" argument, I'd say go with engineering provided you are firm enough about (a) your interest in science/math/engineering, working with your hands, spending time to understand stuff and yeah losing some sleep sometimes (who doesn't?) and (b) not regretting your decision later.
  4. Jun 19, 2009 #3
    From my experience in order to be in a program like engineering you can’t just get by doing homework and showing up to classes. These programs are like a full time job, you need to be constantly doing work either that be assignments or just practice problems that you do to enhance your knowledge.

    These programs are hard work and if you are not prepared to sacrifice sleeping hours and devote the majority of your days (including many late nights) then you should reconsider transferring to an engineering degree.
  5. Jun 19, 2009 #4
    I find that workload incedibly hard to believe, i'd suspect that he's either making work for himself or the course is poorly run.

    University courses are designed to be taxing, but realistic.

    In the UK we have a 120 credit per year system for an honours degree, comprised of 10 and 20 credit modules. The rule of thumb is that a 10 credits requires approximately 100 hours of study. Typically 20 of those are lectures and there are maybe 10 hours of workshop/labs, this leaves 70 hours for self study. The upshot is that over a 14 week semster (equial workload of 60 credits per semster) this comes out to approximately 43 hours of work.

    I've been talking to a few guys from the US and apparently a credit is usually considered an hour lecture and 2 hours homework per week. Over the course of the year you take 30 credits. Assuming an equal split again 15 credits per semester should come out at 45 hours work.

    Assuming a 5 day working week, you come to 9 hours per day.

    I have not found anywhere that runs a standard semester to deviate too much from this average workload.

    The workload seems roughly equivilant and i've found the 100 hours to be plenty to learn and understand the material. Your friend is so right around exam and project time, it can be 12 hour days easily (I'd say thats conservative)..

    Plus this is University, you've got to have a life. Spending every hour of the day available working with no fun will just make you 'a dull boy' and, if the Shining is to be believed, will turn you into an axe weilding nutcase.
  6. Jun 19, 2009 #5


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    While I cannot offer any advice based on personal experiences with such a task, I may still be of help.

    How bad do you want it?

    If the above quote ranks higher than your desire for education, then you will need to find a way to become reconciled to this desire not being met.

    You will need to make adjustments in certain (if not all) areas of your life to accomodate this goal. There is no way around this. Please do not let the loss of sleep rob you of an exciting future.

  7. Jun 19, 2009 #6


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    So let's say you decide to jump into engineering. It comes with a demanding cirriculum. Let's say that you end up with a schedule exactly like that of your friend. There are things you can to do manage your time so that things won't be so intense and so you can get the sleep you need.

    - living on campus to cut out commute times
    - take public transit so you can do homework on the bus/train
    - limit television/internet/video games to planned time
    - precook meals on the weekend so you don't have to spend time cooking during the week
    - take a couple summer classes to lighten the workload during the rest of the year
    - three words: elective bird class
    - getting regular exercise to make your sleep more efficient
    - learning and perfecting effective study habits to make study time more efficient
    - study groups that will allow your to bounce ideas off friends in the same courses
    - limit party time, but get enough that you can remain focused during the week
    - absolute worst case scenario: extend your studies by another year

    My question is this: how do you think this will be different from your current
  8. Jun 19, 2009 #7


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    It's ridiculous that studying engineering would mean sleeping only 6 hours a day. I think your friend is either following too many courses, or a slow worker, or a bad scheduler. A university study can be time demanding, sure, but if there is no time to do anything other than study, there is something seriously wrong.
  9. Jun 20, 2009 #8
    I've talked to multiple people who all go to the same university I am planning to do engineering in. I have talked to 3 students who just completed 1st year. All 3 sleep about ~six hours throughout entire year. I then talked to 4 electrical engineering students (2 in 3rd year, 2 in 4th year). All 4 had to consistently sleep six hours per night. All 4 sleep six hours throughout entire year. Doing all nighters for projects was normal.

    Then I talked to a software engineer student who regularly slept 7 to 8 hours, but did an all nighter before every exam.

    Talked to mechatronics student, who slept six hours throughout entire year. Materials engineering student got 7 to 9 hours. All engineering students mentioned having to pull all-nighters before midterms and during all of finals week. After hearing so many students talk of being sleep deprived, I'm having serious doubts of going into engineering.
  10. Jun 20, 2009 #9
    I have little trouble doing 6-hour nights and all-nighters, occasionally. That's what Saturday is for.
  11. Jun 20, 2009 #10


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    Maybe they don't need more than six hours sleep a day. Otherwise the whole university would be burned-out after two months.
    When do these people go out, have a drink with their friends? Or are they all zombies, and is studying, eating and sleeping all they ever do?
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2009
  12. Jun 20, 2009 #11
    Doing an all nighter before an exam is the most stupid thing you can possibly do in terms of performance. You mind works sharpest when it is well rested and you've eaten something, and not only that if you dont know the material fully 24 hours before the exam then you arent going to know it.
  13. Jun 20, 2009 #12
    First of all, I really don't know what kind of job would allow you to sleep 8 to 10 hours EVERY DAY. Isn't it too much, 10 hours, anyway? Of course the amount of sleep required for normal functioning differs from person to person, but I think the average would be around 7 hours. Think about adults you know - your parents, their friends - how much do you think they get to sleep? In any case, any person with a successful career, in any field, be it commerce or science, doesn't get to sleep 10 hours every day, at least not in the beginning of their career.

    Anyway, I think your career choice should not depend on this sleeping thing so much, unless you have a special medical need or something of that sort.

    From a personal perspective now. I've done my undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and physics (double major). I NEVER pulled an all-nighter. The latest I got to stay was until 2 am, and this only happened 2-3 times in all 4 years of my studies. I got to sleep 6-7 hours every day, same as I did ever since, except for the weekends, of course. Some of my friends slept much less, but that was their choice. One friend of mine used to fool around all day and only study at night. I always found that weird. The key is to know how to manage your time, which is one of the most important skills you learn in the university.

    However, if you're afraid not only of the sleeping thing, but of the workload, the amount of time and effort you'll be required to put into your degree - then maybe you should reconsider. Engineering is difficult. Mind it, it is still possible to enjoy your life while doing an engineering degree - to sleep, and party, and have a hobby etc. And if someone tells you otherwise they have a big problem with their time management.

    Hope this helps. Good luck with your decision!

  14. Jun 20, 2009 #13


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    I completely agree (especially the first sentence), well said.
  15. Jun 20, 2009 #14
    You can easily do your friend's workload and still get eight hours. Live on campus then you can do an hour before class starts. You only need 15 mins for dinner, breakfast, and ablutions. Remember a lot of classes will be lab work, which isn't as mentally taxing or tiring as doing serious financial analyses or studying. Mostly like cooking or putting up shelves...
  16. Jun 20, 2009 #15
    I don't know how you can go through college and never pull an all-nighter. Everybody should do it because, if for no other reason, it's part of the college experience. That and ramen.
  17. Jun 20, 2009 #16


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    I will repost for emphasis.

    I thought I could escape the ramen part but I just bought 2 6 packs today =\

    Im Aerospace engineering btw.

    After my first year in a real engineering degree...All nighters will happen. However in my experience, I only did all nighters because of bad time management and due to the fact my family has a history of poor ability to sleep properly anyway....

    With a regular course load (15 - 16 credit hours) One should be fine. Just have really good study habits and I suggest keep a sport or exercise regularly to keep your mind sharp. And as many have mentioned...You may want to hang out with friends on weekends. But I dare say do it not so often if you know you have lots of work ahead.

    But from business to engineering is a huge transition...I can understand the worries.
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