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How do I know if engineering is the right field for me?

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Hi! I'm currently a high school student trying to figure out what to major in for college. I enjoy solving problems and learning math/science, but I've never really been the type of person to take things apart and put them together just for the sake of it. Could I still consider being an engineer? Or is there another better option out there for me? #engineering #engineer #math #science #college #solutions #major #technology #tech

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John’s Answer

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Great Question Jane

There is large number of job opportunities and specialties in engineering. Below is a list of six specialties with each specialties definition and the nature of the work, I hope this is helpful for you in determining whether or not the career is right for you.

SIX ENGINEERING CAREER DESCRIPTIONS

BIOMEDICAL ENGINEER
Biomedical engineers work in both the biological and medical sciences. They design, create and improve a number of solutions related to health care. These might include medical equipment like MRI machines, healthcare computer systems, or medical innovations like prosthetics and artificial organs.

CHEMICAL ENGINEER
Chemical engineers utilize their knowledge of the physical world to manipulate the interactions of individual atoms and molecules. Their talents are generally employed in the research and development of new materials and are critical to numerous fields including nanotechnology, energy storage, and computing.

COMPUTER ENGINEER
Computer Engineers develop and improve the software programs and hardware that make computers run. Computer Engineers may specialize in either software or hardware.

• SOFTWARE ENGINEERS – Software engineers tend to specialize in a few areas of development, such as networks, operating systems, databases, or applications, and each area requires fluency in its own set of computer languages and development environments.

• HARDWARE ENGINEERS – Computer hardware engineers modify the hardware components for computers. They evaluate existing computer systems and use complex problem-solving skills to improve models.

ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER
Environmental engineers use science and engineering principles to protect and improve the environment. The quality of air, water, and soil is their primary focus. They seek solutions to water-borne diseases, wastewater management, and air pollution.

GEOLOGICAL ENGINEER
Geological engineering involves geology, civil engineering, and fields such as mining, forestry and geography. These engineers apply earth sciences to human problems. Specialty areas include geotechnical site studies of rock and soil slope stability for projects; environmental studies and planning for construction sites; groundwater studies; hazard investigations; and finding fossil fuel and mineral deposits.

MECHANICAL ENGINEER
Mechanical engineering is the study of motion, energy and force. The mechanical engineer seeks to control these elements by using a combination of material, human and economic resources to develop mechanical solutions that help satisfy the needs and wants of our society.
Thank You Dexter. The more we praise and celebrate life, the more there is in life to celebrate. John Frick Translate
Thank you! I really appreciate the time you put into outlining different engineering specialties. Jane S. Translate
Your Welcome Nancy, My Pleasure. "Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs." – Farrah Gray John Frick Translate
Thank You George. “Help one another. There’s no time like the present, and no present like the time.” – James Durst John Frick Translate
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Gary’s Answer

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Hi Jane,

I’m glad to hear you are considering a career in engineering. Not being one to take things apart is not a barrier at all. You touched on the the key attribute - you love solving problems. That’s the main motivator for an employer to higher engineers, they solve problems in order to make things.

I am an engineer and was one who took things apart and modified them growing up. But my wife is an engineer who never did that. She was good in math and science and loved challenges. Sound similar? I have a daughter studying engineering now and is similar to my wife.

One thing to know is there are so many types of engineers. Find a subject area (or two or three) that interests you and see what those engineers do. It may spark an interest.

One more thing...often there are programs in the summer for women engineering experiences. Check those out.

I put a couple links below that could be worth visiting as a next step. Check it out!

Gary recommends the following next steps:

  • https://www.nacme.org/types-of-engineering
  • https://swe.org/k-12-outreach/youth-programs/
Thank you so much! That was really inspirational :) Jane S. Translate
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Katherine’s Answer

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Hi Jane,

This is a pretty personal question with no easy answer. What I'm going to recommend isn't a major, but a way of figuring out what's right for you!

First of all, consider whether college is what you want to do. When I was in school, my teachers and parents seemed to push me toward this, so I never considered *not* going to college, or at least not for four years. It may be worth thinking of other options like some sort of occupational school (X-ray technicians, car mechanics, hair stylists, insurance claims adjusters, and many more people work in fields requiring a certificate or an Associate's Degree). The military also recruits people for a variety of jobs with only a High School Diploma (I actually joined the Navy after high school because I wasn't ready for college yet).

Secondly, choosing a major isn't the most essential task right now, though I know it may feel that way. My alma mater allowed students to enroll as "Undeclared - Science" and "Undeclared - Humanities," and things like that. Many schools allow students to remain undeclared for a few semesters, design their own major (this would require a clear idea of what you hope to do with your custom degree as well as administrative approval), or simply choose a major and change it later if needed. I should know about the latter because I changed my major THREE times before I graduated.

Okay, so say you really, really just want to choose! Well, get to know yourself. You need to know your aptitudes (what you're good at), your values (what is important to you), what courses of study are available where you're applying, what you enjoy, and -- if you're practical -- how you want to make a living one day. That's a lot of information, and some you know already. Some will require some Internet research (try the school's websites or talking to guidance counselors, teachers, librarians, or parents for help). I think some takes serious introspection, especially considering values.

There are practical steps to take too though. I know we're a bit limited right now because of the pandemic, but do your best to get involved with different types of volunteering, clubs, community events, and classes. Use your time as a high school student and soon a college freshman to take "general education" classes and truly explore all the many fields there are! Not only will this help you get a feel for what you want to study and do, but it will expose you to diversity, other ways of thinking and living, which will only help you solve problems and empathize with others. It's a true win-win.

Another thing you can do is ask for informational interviews. This should be doable even with social distancing. Basically you make a phone call or send an email to interview someone about their field. You're not seeking a job with them, but trying to learn what they do, what you'd have to do to get into the field, and so on. Often these interviews include a tour of a lab or other work environment, but not always. I've found them very helpful. It is as simple as reaching out to people in your network (you might not know an engineer, but you likely know someone who knows an engineer and can put you in touch). If you have a limited network, try using LinkedIn, asking your school counselors, or simply searching the Internet for professionals in your area. Think of questions you'd like to know, and using your best professional voice or writing, reach out via phone or email. Introduce yourself as a student interesting in X, asking for an informational interview about Y, and give them some times you're available.

Well, I know this has been a long answer. I hope it's helpful to you, though I wish I had an easier answer for you. To summarize, I think it's too early to exclude engineering as a possible major/career choice, but it's also rather early to settle on it. Explore! Good luck!
Thank you so much! I really appreciate the advice, it's definitely helpful to me. Jane S. Translate
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Marie’s Answer

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Hi Jane,

I was in your exact position when I was in high school applying for college. I started off with wanting to be a biomedical engineer and then an electrical engineer--questioning my interests and whether a certain major would be a perfect fit for me. But then I started off majoring as a biochemical engineer at my university (soon finding out it was not for me because I just couldn't imagine myself working in that field) and then I had a mini mid life career crisis in my dorm room! But the truth of it all is that you can never know "for sure" what major is perfect for you until you experiment and try out different majors/interests. So, even if a major sounds scary or you have that tiny doubt that you might not like it, why not try it out to know for sure if it's for you or not?

One thing I did my freshman year of college is take an introductory computer science course. I'll mention that I had never ever thought of studying computers or programming until then, but I tried it just to see if I will like it, I ended up enjoying the course, changed my major to computer science, and now i'm taking the steps to hopefully working in the cyber security field!

So, summing it all up, experiment and learn about different fields you might be into pursuing. Engineering is an extremely broad term. There are so many routes the engineering field has to offer. Maybe take a peek at the different types of engineering available and just try it out! If you end up not liking it, then now you know for sure what major would not suit you. Good luck I believe in you!
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Rebecca’s Answer

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You can absolutely be an engineer! You can also be many other things as well with a love for math/science/problem solving.

I was a mechanical engineer before pivoting to product management and it was math, problem solving, modeling, and experimentation. Before studying engineering in college, I hadn't taken a lot of things apart, but loved it when I got the opportunity to in college and in my career. However, a strong math and science background were really the core building blocks to be proficient in my role.

I highly encourage you to try out engineering if that is what you want to do!
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Kasey’s Answer

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Hi Jane!

I was in a very similar situation as you when I was in high school! I always loved being creative and being hands on, but I was never really "good" at taking computers/cars/electronics, etc. apart and putting them back together. I more just loved math/physics and the problem solving aspect. I ended up deciding to pursue engineering in school because I wanted a profession in which I could problem solve. I would say you definitely don't have to worry if you are not super hands on!

When it comes to a profession/career, at least with my job, it more consists of being able to problem solve, have good time management, and actually a good amount of communication skills. I am more of a project manager even though I studied Mechanical Engineering (B.S.) and Math (B.S.) in school. There are so many different routes you can choose from when deciding what kind of career you would like.

For example, my boyfriend and I met in school in the same class. We have the same degrees, but I went into the Medical Device industry while he went into Aerospace. He is more hands on and very good at thermodynamics/IT. I am better with math and management. Even though we have the same degrees, we ended up in completely different spaces based on what we like and what we wanted to pursue.

I would say don't discount yourself because you may be better in one area than others. There are SO many options for engineers. I am very happy I studied what I did because now I can pursue many different careers because of the versatility from my degrees. From what you shared, I think it is a good choice to try out engineering :)

Hopefully this is helpful!
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Riley’s Answer

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If you enjoy solving problems involving math and science, then this career field does sound pretty well suited to you! If you have never really been one to take things apart, maybe you could try it and you would actually find you enjoy it? I did build my own computer in high school and it was such a fulfilling project for me! However, there are many different types of engineering that you could pursue!
Some of the most popular types are chemical, civil, electrical, computer, and environmental.

Riley recommends the following next steps:

  • Do some research about the different types of engineering and see which one might suit you well.
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Sydney’s Answer

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Hi Jane!

I asked myself the same exact question in high school too! I have always loved math and science classes and problem solving. In University I tried to take a variety of courses to learn what interested me. Eventually, that lead me to the path of becoming a Software Engineer! As a Software Engineer I get to build things everyday with my team members. We collaborate together and work to find creative solutions.

My advice to you is to explore courses at University and discover what excites you! You can always change majors and or combine them.
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Jane’s Answer

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Hi Jane,

I remember feeling the same way - I've always been interested in math and science, but I didn't understand how engineering fit in. I felt like I didn't understand what it meant to be an engineer. When I started at my university, I explored different engineering courses began to realize there are so many different types of engineering and so many different definitions of "being an engineer." I chose to study industrial engineering, which is less hands-on than some of the other engineering fields and more analytics focused.

I would recommend taking a variety of engineering courses to test out what excites you. You can even do a simple google search on the different engineering fields to better understand which areas are more problem-solving and analytics based than hands-on.
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Gustavo’s Answer

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Hello Jane!
           This is a difficult question, as it is very personal. However, I think that the main thing to become an excellent engineer you already have, which is the taste for math and science.
What I can recommend is that you keep connections with students who also want to do some type of engineering, talk about what motivated them to do engineering, try to talk to academics who are studying engineering, I believe that little by little you will have confidence if it is the best decision for you go to the Engineering.
Sincerely, we will never know if our choices are the right ones, but we can do some good research beforehand. So my suggestion is to contact students who want to do engineering, engineering academics, Engineers who already work in the job market and exchange experiences, ask questions, I'm sure this will be very beneficial for your choice.

           I hope I have helped you, my best regards.
That's a good idea, thank you! Jane S. Translate
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Aditya’s Answer

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Hi Jane,

If you have a liking to problem-solving and an inclination towards maths/science, then by all mean you are the right fit for engineering. I also have never been quite enthusiastic about taking apart devices and exploring what lays inside their covers, but engineering is so much more than that, and I am saying that after completing my engineering.

There are branches of engineering such as computer science engineering where the emphasis is more on the problem-solving aspect rather than taking apart stuff. Also as you study this field you will realize that the core concept of engineering has always been an emphasis on problem-solving for the community. So I would recommend you don't hesitate and take up engineering as your career choice
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kaili’s Answer

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As a software engineer, I can say something that it's perfect for you loving math/science, and to be a software engineer is also suit for you. It needs a quick response, a flexible way of thinking, good logical thinking, etc. But there is one thing you have to make sure is that whether you really like coding or computing, as my experience, being a programmer is a little boring and you need always focus on some bugs and try to solve them.

If you like being steeped in something and enjoying doing something harder , try software engineer or hardware engineer or algorithm engineer,etc. what's more, there are many positions and you can try to know them.
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Sarah’s Answer

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You've gotten a lot of great answers, but I felt compelled to add mine! PLEASE be an engineer! You do not need to be a "tinkerer" to be an engineer - I certainly wasn't one.

I grew up loving science and math, and even though I had better test scores in literature and other subjects, I decided to pursue electrical engineering because I loved the math and theoretical nature of the field. On team projects in college, I got to work with others who were the "tinkerers" and I was the "perfecter" and "risk finder!"

Engineering is a team sport where the players must have diverse thinking to successfully create the best solutions for the world's problems. With a passion for math and science, you have the foundation you need. You can do it!
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