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Schools Tech Degree vs University Education

  1. Jul 21, 2008 #1
    Hi guys,

    I wanted to get the input of some people who post on these forums. Maybe some people who are in industry or currently in school.

    I'm currently at a university studying Mechanical Engineering. I'm about to enter my final year and only have a few more classes to finish to get my Bahcelor's Degree. The problem is i feel like i haven't really learned anything and I very much dislike the school I attend (I haven't liked it since the moment I transferred there 2 years ago after getting my A.S. in engineering science from a community college). The reasons i dont like it are the following:
    1) Class sizes are really big, even in my junior and senior level engineering classes; about 90 stuends per class in lectures for classes like fluid mechanics or machine design.
    2) The professors are hard to understand and don't actually teach you, instead just showing power point slides. I feel like 90% of what i learn i have taught myslef. Is this really worth the $15,000 a year i pay? I don't really believe in the whole college as an experience B.S.
    3) I hate living in the town my college is located in. I want to live and work in my home town when i graduate. Every time i think about going back to school in the fall i cringe.

    As an alternative i was considering forgoing a bachelor's degree for now. I know of plenty of people who have had successful careers without a bachelors degree.
    I was wondering what you guys think of a two year technical degree in optical systems technology. My home town (Rochester NY) has plenty of opportunities for careers in optics. Even though this is a 2 year degree that is laregely non-mathematical, I would still continue to learn more math by taking additional classes at local universities. I already have all the math required for a bachelor's degree but i love learning as much math as possible.

    After attending a community college for 2 years in getting my A.S. in engineering science i noticed that i learn much more efficiently there. The professors actually teach the material instead of just throwing it at you. I also feel that getting a hands on education will give me faster gradification for what i have learned. I have seen other students with tech certificates or associates degrees that really grasped the concepts in my engineering classes because they understood the importance of what they were learning (whereas I just blindly solved the textbook problems and exam problems with no real connection to what i was being taught). This realy showed in our project based classes where hands on skilled students ruled over those of us that didn't have hands on skills.
    Class sizes there are about a dozen students and the optics program is very closely associated with local industry and the laboratory for laser energetics at the University of Rochester.

    My questions for you guys are:

    1) Am i being a wuss for leaving the university?
    2) Is a hands on tech degree the wrong way to go?

    Thanks for all your input and let me know if you need any more information.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 21, 2008 #2
    Get your bachelors degree, you only have one more year. Spend the two years after that pursuing a masters in something optics related, not a technical degree. Then you can enter the optics industry around you as an engineer with an advanced degree. Nothing wrong with being a technician, but you're so close to getting your bachelors. And why keep math as only a hobby, when you could make it a part of your career?
  4. Jul 21, 2008 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    I wouldn't say "wuss", but I think your expectations don't align very well with what a university is and does. Most universities would probably agree with the statement that the onus of learning is on the student, not the professor, and that lectures are only one element of the learning process.
  5. Jul 21, 2008 #4
    Are you, by any chance, referring to UB? If so, I completely agree, but since you're so close you might as well finish it off. Whether you're learning from the professors or teaching it to yourself, you're completing the material ( hopefully ). I'd think it's safe to say that a lot of graduating students don't think they've learned very much.
  6. Jul 22, 2008 #5
    Thanks for all the help guys,

    I think I'm going to take a year off from the university and take the optics classes and work in the mean time then go back to finish my bachelors degree when i feel more prepared for it. I think this will give me a better perspective on why I'm going for a bachelors degree to begin with. I wont feel like its just something i have to do. Also I forgot to mention that there is only 1 optics professor and he is retiring soon, so I don't want to miss out on that and the 30+ years of experience and industry connections he brings to the table. And who knows, maybe if i'm ambitious enough and my grades are good enough I'll pursue a masters in optics after i go back and finish my bachelors.

    Freyster, I was actually referring to Binghamton University, but I've heard that UB is very much the same in that regard.
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