5 answers

Is it vital to have an undergraduate degree in Mechanical or Automotive Engineering to pursue a graduate degree in the same fields, or is it okay to major in something like physics or applied mathematics and then switch over for grad school?

Asked Louisville, Kentucky

Hi! My name's Keegan and I'll be attending Tulane University in the fall. I'm interested in the automotive engineering industry and plan on completing a 3 + 2 year program where I obtain a BS in physics from Tulane in 3 years and then a BE in Mechanical Engineering from Johns Hopkins or Vanderbilt after an additional 2 years of study at either of those respective places. I'm planning on getting my Masters or Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering or Automotive Engineering after my undergraduate work, and intend to move to Italy, Great Britain, or Germany to work in the hyper-car or Formula 1 industry after I've finished. I'm just apprehensive about choosing the right major that'll set me on the career path that I want. #physics #mechanical-engineer #automotive #applied-mathematics

5 answers

John’s Answer

Updated Indianapolis, Indiana

Your plan is not too much different from my experience: I took a 3+2 plan and got a BA in physics and math and an BSME, then followed with an MSE a few years later. You'll probably find that some undergrad courses will have to be carried in your master's program to fill in some gaps but these will be in line with your graduate work and should not be difficult. Two suggestions: if you know where you want to go for your graduate work, talk to that school's admissions people before you select your undergrad courses and they should be able to help you choose courses in your undergrad plan to minimize gaps you may have for their grad program. Second, even if you can't cover all these gaps with prior planning, once you get to your grad school look for courses you can test out of or find equivalent courses in your undergrad work. You may have to in initiate the "test out" proposal but you can't lose. The worst they can do is tell you you didn't pass and have to take the course -- which was their plan in the first place.

One other piece of advice: be open to changes in your plan as you get into these areas of study. You may well find that something else challenges you more than automotive or aerospace engineering so don't be afraid to change direction. What you want is a career that is so much fun you look forward to going to work every day, even on Saturdays! Good luck.

Thank you so much for your advice and your perspective! I'll try to reach out to some of the places I'm thinking about studying so that I can minimize the number of additional courses I'll have to take as a post-grad. Also, you're spot on about being open to changes, and a large part of why I'm going to college is so that I can cement my thoughts about what I want to do and figure out what I love doing.

Vennie’s Answer

Updated Detroit, Michigan

It is not mandatory that you need to have undergraduate degree to have Masters on the same field. It will help but not vital. You may have to take some pre-requisites when you are trying to Masters/PhD to fulfill the depth of knowledge or expertise in that particular field. Physics and Math will definitely a plus when you are enrolling Masters. So go for it and good luck.

Awesome, thanks for your input! I'll probably try to take a few extra classes so that I won't have to take them in grad-school.

Syed Shihab’s Answer

Updated Indiana, Indiana

Its not vital/essential - but it helps getting accepted in a top tier school if you studied in mechanical/automotive engineering in undergrad. That way, you'd have your projects/courses to show for your preparedness to the graduate school.

Gotcha, I'll try to make sure I get involved in any student organizations around some of the stuff I want to study post-grad. Perhaps, even if they're not present at the school, it might be good to try to find some summer internship opportunities. Thanks!

Cheryl’s Answer


Hi.With the push for more money at the community college level..you may find you can do your first two years of college at a much lower cost..and then transfer to a 4 year college for the last two years. this will help a lot in reducing the cost of the degree. Two of my daughters volleyball coaches did that and walked right into their junior year. You have to check with the four year school and make sure they will take the credits..other than that u should be good.

Sam’s Answer

Updated Houston, Texas

Hi Keegan,

If you know that you want to obtain a graduate degree in either mechanical engineering or automotive engineering, to me, it makes the most sense to first get your bachelor's degree in either mechanical engineering or automotive engineering first. Is it vital to do this? No, but it will save you a lot of time and money because you will be taking the shortest path to your goal of a graduate degree in mechanical or automotive engineering.