3 answers

Should I switch from Mech E to Architectural Engineering?


I am currently a sophomore in Mechanical Engineering, but I find myself more interested in Architectural Engineering. Some people have told me that Architectural Engineering is more narrow as a field and that it's not worth switching into, but I'm not sure what to do. Should I change my major? If not, is there another way for me to get a job in Architectural Engineering? I am in Texas, by the way.

#engineering #engineer #architecture #mechanical-engineering #architectural-engineering #technology #career #college #job

3 answers

Lisa’s Answer

Updated Allentown, Pennsylvania

Hi Lily - you've gotten some great advice so far, here's a bit more to consider.

First, I assume your college offers Architectural Engineering as a degree. If so, compare the coursework requirements, and see how they overlap. Architectural Engineering is a relatively new discipline in the USA, and my understanding is that it is a combination of structural, mechanical and electrical engineering.

Next, do the ArchE courses sound appealing? Are the required classes ones you will enjoy?

Third, your school may have ArchE options that allow for electives in different fields, if so, I'd suggest adding (or using) your MechE coursework in fluid dynamics, HVAC or fire protection, if offered.

So that's my thoughts on the college degree.

To answer is ArchE more limited than MechE? Absolutely. You are going to find far fewer job postings for ArchE than MechE. So if you are concerned about future employment, stick with the MechE degree and focus on coursework that pertains to mechanical systems for buildings -- fluid dynamics and heat transfer as fundamental physics courses -- and then upper level electives that involve fire protection, hvac, etc. And if you haven't had it yet, a CADD class or two. That way you can go work for an architect, or you can be employed by a firm that builds industrial facilities of any kind or as a facilities engineer.

However, your college may have a phenomenal ArchE program, and has a 100% placement for all its grads -- check with your career placement to see what they can tell you about job placement historically.

Also, look for summer intern opportunities in MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing), in addition to architectural engineering for 2019. That might help you decide too.

Good luck, and let us know what you decide!

G. Mark’s Answer


First off, what you've been told is correct. In most architectural assignments you'll often be designing a very small part of the entire project or building. Not to say that ME will not do the same in many cases, but you'll have, in my opinion, much more latitude. Obviously, there is quite a bit of variability in this, and these are generalizations, but in my experience, true. Second, and this is the most important consideration -- again, in my opinion -- you need to assess just how good a match your personality is for either of these. Since branches of engineering, by and large, operate under the same principles and concepts and overlap quite a bit, there will be a lot of overlap in the types of personalities that do well in those fields. I've said this many times before and I'll repeat it here. I tell my students that you will like what you do well and usually do well what you like. This is a good and convenient fact. As for matching your personality to those people that tend to be successful in any given field or sets of fields, you'll want to take a personality assessment survey, such as RIASE. These tests provide a large set of questions -- some of which are obvious in intent and some of which seem a bit odd -- and simply do a statistical correlation between your answers and those of people who are successful in a lot of different areas. Because of what I said before about liking what you're good at, it turns out that the results of this sort of survey correlates very well to predict your success in some set of careers. And because of what I said before, you'll also have a high probability of enjoying those fields that this test / survey recommends. So check with some guidance counselors or career advisors at local schools and colleges and find out where you can take one of these tests. The test is fun and you might get some very interesting answers. I, for example, was told that I would fit in well with scientists and engineers and mechanics. I was also told I matched up well with being a park ranger, which was a bit surprising to me. But upon reflection, it told me about aspects of my personality and preferences.

Douglas’s Answer

Updated Easton, Massachusetts


You did not say what you find appealing w/r to Architectural Engineering or conversely what you find unappealing about ME so this is a tough question to answer. I would suggest that you go to the web sites of 3 or 4 architectural firms and look at their Employment page to see what qualifications they are looking for which may help you to determine what you would be doing. You might also talk with AE instructors at your school to get a better feel for what you would be doing. Lastly, search several of the Help Wanted web sites to see how many jobs are available in each field. After all of that research and you are still undecided, go with ME which I believe to be a broader field. I would suspect that there are AE firms that hire MEs as there are a lot of mechanical systems in a building.

Hope this helps.