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Switching to Engineering after Undergrad

  1. Oct 8, 2014 #1
    Hello all,

    I'm currently a Sophomore double majoring in Math and Physics & Astronomy, but I'm considering going into Engineering. I really love my current majors, but I'm doubtful of my future career opportunities with them.

    I'd eventually like to end up doing work related to studying/exploring space. Astronomy seems perilously difficult to break into, and while the private space industry is still small, it certainly has a lot of potential to grow.

    I really did not understand how difficult it would be to find jobs when I picked my majors. High school had put me under the impression that any STEM major would be fairly safe as far as landing jobs (well-paying jobs at that). But clearly that's not the case, and now I'm quite concerned that I'm going to be stuck without many job prospects, scientific or otherwise.

    Engineering seems like the best way to get around this, but I very much want to finish my current degrees, and it would be demoralizing to give up Math/P&A at this point and end up doing undergrad work for an extra year or more to catch up. Also, my current school has very little in the way of an engineering reputation, which could perhaps hurt my job prospects (especially with companies working on space exploration).

    So this leads me to consider waiting until grad school to get an engineering degree (either mechanical or aerospace). From what I can find online, making this switch is fairly common, but engineers with a Master's but not a B.S. are considered less qualified than those with a B.S. and no Master's.

    I'm utterly lost as to what I should do. Would companies like SpaceX, Boeing, and even non-space related companies care if I did not have an engineering B.S? For that matter, how many grad programs are likely to refuse accepting me for the same reason? If I need to switch majors now, should I also look to transfer to a more prestigious engineering school (there's a very highly rated public engineering school in my state)?

    Sorry this was so long, but I could really use some help. I just feel so stuck.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 9, 2014 #2
    Math/Astronomy is a subject, not a career. If you actually want a chance at a job after graduation besides in academia, I suggest you transfer into engineering. Even if you were to get into a graduate engineering program, you would have a lot of catchup to do. Even physics degree holders who get into engineering masters program have about 1-1.5 years of catchup, and their degree was considered "closely-related." Math provides no foundation to engineering. It only makes sense that you need to have a foundation before you go onto being a 'master' at something. It is not only the math you have to learn for engineering, you need to develop the competency and adeptness in physics, that takes years.

    You could get into an applied math masters program perhaps if you were a pure math major, but evenstill your work would likely be limited to computational science. And, think about it: from a job standpoint, if you have two candidate employees, and you have an applied math masters student vs. an engineering student, you would pick the engineer for an engineering job. They can do all the math, and are likely better at the physics and engineering aspect of the job. Further, the engineering majors tend to know how to use technical software all ready that math majors do not tend to learn on their own, and have developed their technical writing and communication through design projects they have had to do through all of undergrad. Math majors do not have an education like that.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2014
  4. Oct 9, 2014 #3
    If you are happy with Math, Physics & Astronomy, why do you think you would be happy with any sort of engineering? They are definitely not the same thing! Seems to me that you really need to think this through more carefully.

    In a nutshell (with over simplification), Math, Physics & Astronomy are about knowledge for its own sake. Engineering is about doing a particular task, to accomplish a particular goal. This usually means designing a system of some sort to accomplish that task. It is about how to accomplish useful work, as opposed to simply how to know more and more about things.
  5. Oct 9, 2014 #4
    Useful work can actually pays the bills.... You ignored this key point of his post which is a real and worthwhile concern to have - "I'm quite concerned that I'm going to be stuck without many job prospects, scientific or otherwise. "

    Knowledge for its own sake is great. But unless you or your family are rich, you probably go to college to get a career style job.
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