Should I continue pursuing my Mechanical Engineering Degree?

In summary, the author is considering whether to continue their degree at a prestigious university such as UCSD or to go into the workforce. They are considering whether or not to pursue an engineering degree, as it offers a good salary and stability, but they are unsure if they want to be an engineer for the next 25 years. They are considering whether or not to take a break from school and come back later if they decide that they want to continue their degree.f
  • #1
I have recently transferred to UCSD from a community college, but I am not sure if I should continue my degree. Before I ask what I really want to know, let me explain my where I am at in school and life right now. I hope you enjoy reading :) but if you are willing, I am very interested in hearing your response.

I started pursuing the degree at a community college and I was there for 3 years. I did very well during my time there, mostly A's and a few B's. Since I did very well, I picked up a job working as a math and physics tutor on campus. I was also active in the engineering club we had and ended up becoming VP of the club. I didn't know where I wanted to transfer to, so I took some classes that fulfilled UC requirements, and some that fulfilled requirements for state schools. After applying to 4 year colleges, I got into UCLA, UCSD and some other schools, but decided that I should pick between UCLA and UCSD. After talking to people and doing research and found that UCSD had a better ME program, and so I went there.

Even though I have done well at my community college, my performance has decreased a bit toward the end of my time at community college since my motivation has been decreasing. During my first quarter here at UCSD, my motivation has picked up either even though it is a great school, and is at a great place. One reason that my motivation has gone down is that I will have to be at UCSD for 3-3.5 years to finish the degree, since transfer students come in as sophomores. Another reason is that I am tired of sitting in classrooms. I am not the kind of person that want's to be a student forever, even though I like learning.

The main reason that I have lost my motivation is that I don't know if I actually want to work as an engineer. I have looked into what engineers actually do at work and it just doesn't seem very exciting. I do like making things, learning about technology, etc, but I know that many, if not most, engineers mostly sit at a computer and do paperwork and the job is not very hands on.

What I want to do is become self employed and own a small business, and work on making it a large business. The business I would want to focus on is real estate. I like learning about how to structure real estate deals, how the law applies to the business, and how to run a business effectively.

The reason that I went for engineering is because I like technology, it pays well, and the path to become an engineer is pretty well laid out. I was planning to use my income as an engineer to start investing in real estate, and then stop working as an engineer soon as I could.​

Since I don't plan on working in the field for the next 25 years, I am thinking that maybe quitting school and starting some work in real estate may be a good idea. The benefits of being an engineer are still pretty obvious, however. The job is stable, and a decent salary is basically guaranteed. Engineering and business/real estate are just so different, however, that if I don't think that it is possible to be great at both at the same time. I am wondering whether it is a good plan to work as an engineer for a bit then switch, or whether it is best to change my plan now.

Even if I decide to do engineering, I think that a break from school may do some good at this point. If I continue with low motivation/somewhat depressed my grades will probably suffer, and since I know that I am capable of doing well, I don't want that to happen. I am thinking that if I take a break and decide to come back to school, it will be because I want to be here and so i will start doing my best work again. I wouldn't want to be the engineer that just barely got the job.

I know that it is difficult to give advice about something like this, so I would like to know about your experience. If you have ever changed your major, made a career change, took time off from school or work to do something else or faced any of the other things that I wrote about, please let me know what you did, and what happened. If you have any advice about what I should do, or any advice in general, I am all ears. I will appreciate any and all responses. If you don't know what to say, or want to know something that I didn't write about, feel free to ask me a question.
  • #2
It is not surprising to hear that your grades and motivation went down when you transferred to UCSD from a community college; this is common due to the increased competition.

It sounds to me like you need to ask yourself some basic questions:
1. Why do I think I might want to be an engineer?
2. Why do I think I might want to go into real estate?
As you noted, these are rather drastically different fields, and it is not likely you will be a whiz at both of them. If engineering is just a crutch to get you into real estate, then I think you should go straight to real estate right away. If the interest in real estate is purely for the money, I think you need to think about what satisfaction there will be at the end.

No one but you can tell you what to do, but you need to look seriously at what you want to do with your life and then try to move directly toward that goal after proper evaluation.
  • #3
I haven't found that the competition is much different from the people that I associated myself with at my community college. The people that I was friends with and studied with also went to good schools, such as Berkeley, UCLA and Cal Poly SLO. My motivation has just started decreasing since my last year at community college. When I came to UCSD, I did very well on my first midterms, but the grades have started slipping for the reasons that I mentioned before.

I like the questions that you laid out, and I have started thinking about them and similar questions seriously. I want to get into real estate because of the independence that it offers, not just because it can pay well. I have also been reading up on and studying real estate on my own for about the past four years, so I don't have a romantic view of it and I know that there is hard work involved. I also understand that no one can tell me what to do, but I am trying to get as much input as possible so that I can accurately evaluate the situation. I know that people that are looking at the problem externally are going to have a different view than what I see. I am giving myself about a week or two to evaluate everything and make a decision.
  • #4
Welcome to PF, Waldonaut. I'm a bit confused: Why was there no discussion in your post about pursuing a business degree? Seems like an obvious course of action to me. And did you start out in engineering because you thought you might like it or did you always want to be in business?
  • #5
I was more interested in actually working as an engineer in the beginning, before I learned what engineers actually do day to day, but I was always interested in eventually becoming self employed and running a business related to real estate. The reason that I didn't pursue a business degree is that after talking to people that were self employed, I found out that many of them didn't have business degrees. They got there mainly through hard work. From what I understand, most business majors end up working as an employee in a company. Maybe as an accountant, appraiser or some other role; the vast majority don't become the CEO. There is nothing wrong with working at a company, but that is not something that I want to do for the rest of my life. I am also not looking to become a CEO of a huge company, but I do want to be self employed and start a business that I can grow. I don't see that opportunity available for at least 15 years with either an engineering or a business degree.
  • #6
Ok, well, there are some logical problems there. Just because some people who work for themselves never studied business doesn't mean it is the best way to become self employed. And just because some people who work for others have business degrees doesn't mean you have to work for someone else with a business degree.

The best way to learn how to be a businessperson of any kind is to get a business degree.
  • #7
There are no logical problems there. I was generalizing, and that is why I used words like "many", and "most". In this link it shows common jobs that business majors have. Like I said, there is nothing wrong with that but that isn't what I want to do.

I am not saying that a business degree is useless, but experience seems to trump a degree in the field that I am interested in. The issue with getting a degree in business is that real estate is very localized. What works in one city or state may not work in another. There are of course business principles that one needs to know, some of which I do and some of which I still need to learn, and I would not be working completely independently.

If I was seeking to be a CEO of a large company, then you are probably right that a business degree is the best way to go. Talking to people that do what I want to do, however, they all say that the most important thing to doing well is taking action and getting to work.
  • #8
Pursue real estate.
I have my degree in mechanical engineering and i just tested for my professional engineering license. Yes, my engineering salary helped me save and qualify for financing for my first two properties (both rentals). However, because of my love of real estate, I have stayed in the construction/facilities industry ( not the highest salaries), so I'm currently researching alternative purchasing methods.
I have watched my college colleagues in the oil/gas industry purchase much nicer homes, pay cash for brand new cars, and earn nice returns on REITs and Gap funding deals with more available decretionary funds. They also work much longer hours than I do - i have time to go to REI meetings, search for properties, and still hit the club/bar on weekdays. And on the weekends i have time to volunteer at habitat for humanity in the morning (learning trades skills) and party at night, all while my colleagues are still in the office or on the rig.
If i could go back, I'd get my real estate license asap (which I'm currently pursuing) and a business degree in construction science, because my dream is to work for/ be a top commerical developer. I'm currently trying to marry my engineering design experience and love of real estate together to accomplish that, but again, in hindsight, i should've gone straight to real estate.
Best wishes in your decision!
  • #9
Someone who want to be in real estate is not a good adviser regarding ME. By all means, pursue your ME degree if ME is what you want to do; if you really want to do banking, insurance, real estate, etc., then go for whichever one interests you. Life is way too short to spend it doing something you don't like.

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