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Other The Should I Become an Engineer? Thread

  1. Mar 8, 2004 #1


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    Staff: Mentor

    At the suggestion of Shahil, I'm starting this thread as a general guidance thread for prospective engineers. Some typical questions:

    -Should I become an engineer?
    -What engineering discipline should I study?
    -Is engineering difficult?

    I encourage people to post personal experiences in school and in the professional world regarding the field of engineering.

    Some background info on me - I'm a mechanical engineer working in the field of HVAC design. I started off studying aerospace engineering, but the math was just too much for me. I like mechanical engineering because it is a very wide field with all sorts of job opportunities everywhere.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2004
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  3. Mar 8, 2004 #2
    Question: Is engineering difficult?

    Answer: For most of us, YES! If engineering is not difficult for you, then you will probably become a very good engineer.

    Question: What engineering discipline should I study?

    Answer: What do you see around you that excites you? What do you see that you want to know everything about? What is your passion?

    Question: Should I become an engineer?

    Answer: If you see beauty and elegance in physics and calculus, then maybe you are on the right track; but, if it bores you to learn about how things work, how they are built, and how to make them better, then you probably do not want to become an engineer.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 8, 2004
  4. Mar 10, 2004 #3
    Okay, here's my input. At the moment I'm a 2nd year electronic engineering student in South Africa. I, personally, love studying engineering though it's one field that can guarantee that if you're a little insane, you're sure to BE insane by the end of your years of studying.

    To be an engineer, I think, you should have a flair for Maths. Especially if you're thinking of doing it professionally with a degree instead of a technical diploma, the theoretical aspect of maths will ensure your great understanding of concepts you will probably only apply years after graduating.

    Also, as much as I'm not really this type, you have to have a practical understanding of things. Granted (at leats I've been told) that as a qualified engineer, you can never do a practical application again - but rather just the calculations - if you can't see the solution, it ain't gonna work.

    Anyway, lets get onto something I definetely KNOW about - student life. Studying engineering is basically a self-imposed 4 (or more) year sentence to hard labour. You WILL have no time, you WILL have 30 odd page reports due every week, you WILL lose like a million hours of sleep, you WILL have an astronomical coffee bill, you WILL be stressed, you WILL at times have no clue what you're doing BUT if you are true engineering material, you WILL never look back and even half-consider changing your course.

    I think engineering is a calling. You know, as an engineer, you are at the forefront of development and your company that you will have on campus (ie. other engineers) will be like minded people who CAN make a difference (maybe not politically but more uh...structurally) in the world. Even though you appear to have no life, engineering will ensure that you do enjoy yourself after all - as an engineer, you will "engineer" free time and yes, I know that was a dry joke.

    As for the field - thats personal. You have to have an interset in that field to choose it. However, I say that Electronic/Electrical/Computer is the way if you are more mathematically inclined as mech/aero/civil etc. are very practical fields compared to elec.

    Also, when I was deciding on my career path, I was informed about this "wonder" that encompasses engineering. Once in the job market, you may never ever have to do engineering again. Why? Employers employ engineers in fields which require brilliant thought and introspection. By attaining an engineering degree, it shows you have exquisite probel-solvng skills. Also, engineering does, in a way, teach you to think.

    Lastly, the money is good BUT you should


    ever choose a career for the money - and I'll stand by that.

    Hope this helps. :smile:
  5. May 4, 2004 #4
    Last question first: Yes, engineering is difficult. Partly because it makes use of, but is not the same as, science. Engineers use science, physics and mathematics in particular, as tools. As with all tools, learning how to use these scientific tools takes hard work, largely because they are not:

    a) intuitive
    b) reinforced by day-to-day living.

    If anyone is uncomfortable with _all_ of maths and physics, they are unlikely to succeed as an engineer. The _depth_ of math/physics anyone needs to know depends on the type of engineer they wish to become.

    Middle question: Study whatever branch is most interesting ('sales engineering' is not an option). If none of them are, don't become an engineer (I'm a mechanic).

    First question: The first page of http://www.mech.gla.ac.uk/~rthomson/teaching/lecnotes/ch01.htm might help with the decision.


    Ron http://www.mech.gla.ac.uk/~rthomson
  6. May 18, 2004 #5
    Yeah, im writing some Sat's write now for university, but im wondering, what to do as a career lol.

    First question
    To do engineering, or science (physics)

    Second question
    If engineering which one do I do?

    Third question
    What is a good north american engineering / science university?

    Anyone have any comments to add?
  7. May 18, 2004 #6
    Eh bien, I am already through with engineering (electrical) and it's a week from my graduation ceremony.

    As for choosing engineering as a career, I would really recommend it for those who are serious in their work, who are good in math and science, and who really like to see things work. A degree in engineering gives a broad range of career options from which someone can choose from.

  8. Jul 16, 2004 #7


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    Good North American universities for engineering: CalTech, MIT, Waterloo (Canadian). In my opinion, regarded as the top three in North America, no particular order.
  9. Jul 17, 2004 #8
    Second year Electrical Engineer here. If you can appreciate that small pieces make a whole, and want to understand how that happens, and are into Physics and Math in particular, Engineering is for you. I don't think anybody could just sail through Engineering, though. There will always be a subject or two in there that's bound to give you headaches.
  10. Jul 19, 2004 #9


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    I've debated whether it really is hard or whether the profs make it hard to weed out the weak. I've come to the conclusion that it really is hard. Even weed-out courses have to be made hard so people make the effort to understand them.
  11. Jul 23, 2004 #10


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    No question about it, it really is hard. However it's very (and with Mechanical Eng, very very very!) diverse in terms of disciplines. I'm reasonable at maths, a bit crap at thermodynamics, but very good with design, and thus I struggle with some parts of engineering but sail through others. Other people I know are amazing at the theoretical, calculatory side of the profession but not so good with a spanner! If you reckon you can cope with some aspects, the chances are you can work hard enough to do well in the others.

    I can't think of many professions which are as broad and varied as engineering, and in the average day (some mornings wearing a suit, some afternoons wearing overalls and safety boots) I definitely have a wider range of things to do than your average GP, accountant or solicitor.
  12. Jul 23, 2004 #11
    If you are thinking of going into engineering, my advice is think twice about whether it is science or engineering you want to get into. I started up myself with a degree in engineering only to find out it was not what I expected and then changed to science.

    Engineers focus on how to make things work whereas science focuses on the fundamental understanding of WHY something works or behaves the way it does. I'm not saying one is better than the other but just ask yourself if you are more of a scientist or an engineer before you start your degree because science and engineering ARE very different from each other.
  13. Aug 25, 2004 #12
    What type of engineering has the least/most math involved, i know they all do but specifically?
  14. Aug 25, 2004 #13


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    If you don't like working in teams, don't become an engineer.

    Once you've graduated (and if your school is any good, latest in your Senior year) you will have nothing but large group assignments.

    My senior capstone class was one project assigned to the entire class (24 people) which lasted the entire semester. This is most likely what your work experience will be like.
  15. Aug 26, 2004 #14


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    Answer to first question:

    Yes, but you will have to deal directly with the hell until you become graduated.

    Answer to second question:

    Mechanical. They are the most multidisciplinar boys you ever will meet. They are wherever you go.

    Answer to third question:

    Ha Ha Ha! :rofl: A lot, A lot. I don't know how are prepared USA's guys, but here an engineer is someone sent by God or something like that. In particular, Industrial engineering and Aeronautical engineering are the hardest of all.
  16. Aug 26, 2004 #15


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    Eek, yeah, they all have a significant amount. Its like asking who has more money, Bill Gates or Warren Buffet - Gates has twice as much as Buffet, but Buffet still has thousands of times more than you.

    Aerospace and Electrical probably have the most, but Mechanical and Materials still have years more than English. For a non-engineer, the difference between EE and Mech-E would seem insignificant.
  17. Aug 26, 2004 #16


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    1st question: if you see yourself as making something that matters in life, go for engineering. if you see yourself as being the next einstein, but you arent that good in mathematics or in geometric perception- go into engineering.

    science (physics, chemistry, biology, etc) is for people who are willing to get paid less money, to work long hours and often times with little progress due to uncertainty in your work and due to the unknowns in sciences. research for a scientist is a combination of academic excellence, perseverance, and drive of curiosity. if you like teaching others or thinking of a career such as college professor this might just be the best option for you.

    engineering (chemical, mechanical, civil, aerospace, electrical, etc) is for people who dont want to be journalists or accountants or customer service representatives because they want to make a difference in life, because they want to see their product - to be able to look at it and admire it with all the 5 senses. engineering is for those who want to make this world a better place, by taking serious responsibilities in everything they do, with a sense of righteosness. you might be smiling, but if engineer is lousy in his work, a lot of people will die, and a lot more might suffer. engineers get paid well compared to scientists.

    now there is also a deviation from science which has a name of 'medical physicist'. those people are basically engineers, than scientists, and hence is their pay in 100k range/yr.

    choose wisely, but if you are torn between the two like i am - go for both. get a dual degree in science and some engineering that interests you. for example: a dual degree, BS in Physics and BS in Electrical Engineering. Both majors are interrelated and would be a valuable addition to each other.

    i'm a student in physics and chemical engineering. if you find everything interesting - go for this mix. chemical engineering is the universal engineering field. in combination with physics it creates an extremely broad range of knowledge and skills that employers will find useful.
  18. Aug 28, 2004 #17

    Is the "medical physicist" the person with a dual degree? Just clarifying. Also, what kind of jobs could you get with such a degree?

    I am a high school senior who is very interested in engineering and physics. I am very strong in math and physics, so it seems a likely career. I just dont know enough about the job part; what kind of job, wages, etc.

  19. Aug 28, 2004 #18


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  20. Aug 29, 2004 #19
    I am also thinking about engineering

    I love learning how things work and solving problems. I work at an automotive manufacturer as a manager right now. We have engineers around here as well as maintenance guys. Since my degree in Computer Information Systems will not get me a job I have been thinking of changing careers. I thought about being a Actuary, since I am good at Math and like science. I can generally look at something(a piece of machinery) and understand how it works to a certain extent. I am thinking about talking to my boss about working with engineering some, maybe talk directly with some engineers about this.
  21. Sep 8, 2004 #20
    I am currently beginning my freshman year at Rutgers school of engineering. I've always had an interest in electronics and computers my whole life, and want to work with them, so I decided in majoring in electrical/computer engineering. Its only been 1 week so far, so I haven't really gotten a wide scope of things as an engineering student.

    For whatever reason, I've really been stressed out the past couple days about engineering. My question is, I'm not great in math, although I have improved over the years. Physics I found to be rather difficult at times in high school. But, is it possible for me to make it through engineering school as long as I stay on top of things and work hard at it, despite not being a genius in physics or math?
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