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Engineering Should I major in Mechanical or Civil Engineering?

  1. Oct 12, 2012 #1
    I am a freshman in college and I am really interested in engineering and I've narrowed it down to Civil or Mechanical engineering. I am from Illinois but I am willing to travel.

    I like civil engineering because I like the idea of creating large structures such as bridges and buildings. I also like that you're not behind a desk the whole time. I am worried that it will be difficult to find a well paid civil engineering job since they are effected greatly by the economy.

    I like mechanical engineering because I like how broad it is. I would most likely get into thermodynamics to help make things efficient or possibly robotics. I am not sure if mechanical engineering is all desk work or not and I would rather it not be. I also read that mechanical engineers tend to get paid more than civil engineers.

    If anyone has any experience or knowledge in these fields that would like to share that would help a lot. Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 12, 2012 #2
    The old saying goes: "ME's design weapons, CE's design targets." :tongue:

    It really doesn't matter which one you choose at this point. The first two years of every curriculum is almost identical. Dive in, get some exposure, do co-ops, you'll figure it out. I was told that ME is the choice for those who don't know because it is the most broad and one can switch from ME to anything. They were right.

    Either ME or CE can keep you desk-bound, or not. Depends on the job taken and the economic conditions. If you want the fully active, constantly mind-stimulating, exciting & glamorous engineering job that pays you GigaBucks........well, you won't find those in any engineering field I think. Surviving an engineering curriculum will leave you with a mindset change and make you a trained problem-solver. THAT is what companies hire engineers for: to solve problems.
  4. Oct 12, 2012 #3
    Thanks for your feedback! The reason I feel rushed to choose one of the two is because I am applying for internships and I need to know whether to apply for civil or mechanical internships.
  5. Oct 13, 2012 #4
    <old grumpy gray-haired engineer mode>
    Doesn't matter one bit what you like the "idea of doing..."

    What does matter is what you like to do in your free time, the stuff that gets you up early in the morning because of the fire in your belly. Putting in retaining walls around your house or building the world's greatest doghouse? Civil. Giving your car a top to bottom tune up and emerging with grease up to your elbows? Mechanical.

    Stereotypes, of course. But you get the idea I hope. I gently suggest that this MUST be YOUR decision, not the opinions of the blogosphere denizens. It is true when they say "do what you like and you'll never work a day in your life."

  6. Oct 13, 2012 #5
    During my career I went from EE -> CE -> ME. I switched from civil to mechanical because the thought of soil mechanics, more structures, and hydrology just sounded extremely boring to me. I didn't want to be a construction manager or something like that. Once I got into mechanical, it was pretty clear that it was what I wanted to do. I loved my thermo and dynamics classes as well as the robotics course I took my senior year. Some of the material is quite hard to grasp completely, but it's manageable.

    You can definitely get a high paying job straight out of college with either degree, my civil friend has a $58k job, a couple mechanical friends of mine range from 60-65 and I think mine will end up being between 50-60k once I get hired :P.

    Apply for the internship that sounds the most fun to you. Because the curriculum overlap so much in the first couple years you have time to test the waters for each. I stayed open option for my first year and switched around a lot. Because I started EE, I had to take an extra year, but if you started either ME or CE and switched to the other, you'll finish in 4 no problem.
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