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I'm thinking I want to study something more technical at university next fall. How do I narrow it down?

I am undecided, so whenever I start describing what I want, it usually seems to me like "engineering", which I know is a broad topic. How do I pick a more specific subsection of engineering or even know if that's right for me? Can somebody explain what jobs you do with any sort of engineering degree or what you learn with it? And does anyone have a good method that they used for figuring out what they wanted to study?

#july20
#undecided
#engineering
#university


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John’s Answer

Ted engineering is a broad field encompassing many different specialties; it offers opportunities to work with and develop a variety of technologies.

AEROSPACE ENGINEER
Aerospace engineering is the field of engineering focused on the design and creation of spacecraft and aircraft systems. Aerospace engineering has two sub fields: astronautical engineering (which is concerned with spacecraft and equipment outside of Earth's atmosphere) and aeronautical engineering (which is concerned with aircraft that fly within the Earth's atmosphere). Aerospace engineers are the professionals who study this science and design, make, and test the different flying systems and equipment. They may work on satellites, spacecraft, missiles, or aircraft and ensure they function correctly. To become an aerospace engineer, students will typically need at least a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering. These programs typically result in a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree and are on-campus programs. The average Aerospace Engineer II salary in the United States is $92,000 as of June 28, 2020, but the range typically falls between $83,000 and $103,000. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on many important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, the number of years you have spent in your profession.

COMPUTER NETWORK ARCHITECT
If designing communication networks and determining what computer equipment should be included sounds interesting, consider becoming a computer network architect. Network architects create network plans, make software and hardware selections, submit their ideas to management, lay out equipment placement and explore new technological advances that could benefit the company. To enter this profession, a computer-related bachelor's degree is usually necessary, as is job experience in a lower-level position, such as computer systems analysis or network administration. According to the BLS, over 157,830 network architects were employed in the U.S. in 2017 and earned a median annual salary of $104,650. Employment of these architects is predicted to grow by 6% during the 2016-2026 decade, as reported by the BLS.

ELECTRONICS ENGINEER
For those interested in designing the pieces that make up electronic products and systems, becoming an electronics engineer could be a strong career option. Electronics engineers create electrical components for government, scientific, medical and commercial industries. They draft schematic plans, estimate costs, create testing procedures, execute inspections, suggest modifications and look for ways to boost performance. A bachelor's degree in electronics engineering or a related area is required to qualify for employment in the field. Although not required, earning a Professional Engineer license could provide a competitive advantage when seeking employment. The average Electrical Engineer salary in the United States is $84,000 as of June 28, 2020, but the range typically falls between $78,000 and $94,000. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on many important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, the number of years you have spent in your profession.

NUCLEAR ENGINEER
A nuclear engineer is responsible for monitoring nuclear facility operations to identify any design, construction, or operation practices that violate safety regulations and laws that could jeopardize the safety of operations. They conduct research on nuclear engineering projects or apply principles and theory of nuclear science to problems concerned with release, control, and use of nuclear energy and nuclear waste disposal. Additionally, nuclear engineers design equipment and create the operating procedures used in nuclear power plants. Nuclear engineers usually work on construction sites of a new nuclear power plant. A bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering along with demonstrable experience in a nuclear power plant setting is required. Successful nuclear engineers possess excellent oral and written communication skills and have a strong eye for details. The average Nuclear Engineer salary in the United States is $86,000 as of June 28, 2020, but the range typically falls between $79,000 and $98,000. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on many important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, the number of years you have spent in your profession.

ROBOTICTS ENGINEER
An engineering discipline that is on the rise, robotics engineering is a breeding ground for creativity and innovation from people with a background in mechanical, electrical, or software engineering. Where do robotics engineers work? They may work in the agricultural, military, medical, and manufacturing industries, among others, conceiving of new uses for robots, designing improved robots for existing systems, or repairing and maintaining industrial robots. Based on the many industries in which they might work, a robotics engineer job description can vary from job to job. Because robots are already widely used (on production lines, for example), hands-on technical jobs can easily be found in the robotics engineering field, but there are also plenty of opportunities to take on more inventive roles in experimental arenas. The average Robotics Engineer salary is $90,000 as of June 28, 2020, but the salary range typically falls between $82,000 and $111,000. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on many important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, the number of years you have spent in your profession.

SOFTWARE ENGINEER
Every business that generates its own computer programs or needs to personalize third-party software needs software engineers to write, edit, and test programs. There are many layers of computer software, and each requires a specialist in languages specific to that layer. Software engineering is a rapidly changing field: training in software is available at nearly all learning institutions, and most software engineers continue to learn on the job, as languages and development environments evolve. 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. A small percentage of software engineers work alone, but most collaborate with other specialists in development groups all working together to create complex projects. The average Software Engineer salary in the United States is $89,000 as of June 28, 2020, but the range typically falls between $80,000 and $98,000. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on many important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, the number of years you have spent in your profession.

Ted according to the BLS, employment of engineers overall was predicted to grow 5% from 2018-2028, although job prospects vary by specialty. During this time, jobs for biomedical engineers were expected to increase 4%, which is as fast as the average (BLS).

Hope this gives you some Ideas Ted

Thank You Jacklyn. “Our generation has the ability and the responsibility to make our ever-more connected world a more hopeful, stable and peaceful place.” — Natalie Portman John Frick

Thank You Dhairya. Being good is commendable, but only when it is combined with doing good is it useful. John Frick

Investigate the following. Environmental, Computer, Petroleum, Chemical, Civil and Electrical. Again, the field is broad but see what is of most interest. Also consider where you would like to live and narrow down employment opportunities within the desired field of study. Robert H. Boggio Jr.

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Sean’s Answer

Ted,

Some relatively quick advise that I can offer is before choosing, log onto linked in or indeed. Search engineering for the job title, your area for location, and entry level for experience. Take a look at the results that pop up in your area. Take some time and look into each position. Open them up look at the job description, the company description and the required qualifications. This will tell you what type of work is out there, and what type of degree or experience is required. It will also give you an idea of how broad each engineering degree is. It is important to note that you do not need to decide the exact job you want right now. Just do some shopping around get a feel for each field and decide if you think it fits your style. Something else that is worth noting about engineering is that many of the fields overlap. You will be surprised to see how many jobs will take either a mechanical, chemical, or electrical engineer. This holds true for many of the engineering jobs out there. Do not feel stuck in one field once you get a degree. What an engineering degree really does for you is give you the background knowledge to help you figure things out in which ever specialty you choose to work in. Whether you get a MCHE degree or what ever type of engineering degree, you will have tools in your belt to help you become a solid engineer once you get into the work force and begin getting experience.

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Michael’s Answer

I suggest sticking with one of the traditional engineering majors: Chemical, Mechanical and Electrical. Many more are mentioned in previous answers and those are largely combinations of the three I mention here. For example, I am a biomedical engineer and my educational background has aspects of Chemical, Mechanical, Materials, Electrical Engineering disciplines plus biology, anatomy, physiology and other medical disciplines.

Within Chemical, Mechanical or Electrical, you can further focus your interests once you know more about what you want to do with your career. For example, if you like working on mechanical things with your hands (cars, motorcycles, woodworking, etc) then you can choose Mechanical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering Technology and begin learning. In Mechanical Engineering for example, you may find it interesting how insulation of a building functions and improves performance to reduce energy usage. In that case, you could focus on materials courses and heat transfer courses.

Another important thing to remember is the pathway you choose today does not limit your future. It is common for engineers and technicians to change industries. I've seen the biomedical industry hire people with mechanical and electrical engineering degrees from aerospace backgrounds because both industries share similar skillsets.

The good thing about picking a core engineering discipline is there's a lot of overlap with many industries for the future. The bad thing is you'll be taking broad coursework that you may not be interested in at the time.

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John’s Answer

Here's some info I give to High School students.

Common Engineering Fields

Aerospace Engineering
Architectural Engineering
Bioengineering
Chemical Engineering
Civil Engineering
Computer & Software Engineering
Environmental Engineering
Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering
Electrical Engineering
Material Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
Nuclear Engineering

Common Positions within the Engineering Fields

Design – drafting, analysis, testing
Project Management – manage portion of programs
Manufacturing – support production, tooling, processes
Quality – Inspection, process improvements, corrective action
Testing – test concepts, new products, prove out designs
Research and Development – focus is on developing new products
Overhaul and Repair – rebuild and repair worn out or damaged equipment
Program Management – manage whole programs including people
People Management – manage groups of technical people

Educational Requirements

Normally requires a 4 year degree in an Engineering Field
Alternate path – Engineering Technology Field (less technical – more manufacturing oriented)

For preparation for college best to take the following courses in HS; Calculus, Chemistry, Physics, Computers, Biology

For preparation for employment;
Communication, Shop/problem solving, leadership, business, project management, understanding the fields you want to work in/job shadowing, networking, internships/summer jobs

Note: Wages will vary by region, size and type of company, financial stability of a company, any many other reasons.

Things to Know

Not every field is in high demand – do your research
You may need to travel to where the job is located
Normal to change jobs every 2 to 5 years
Some fields require a Masters or Phd degree
Normally a 4 yr college degree is required in order to advance into a management position.
Current expectation is that engineers need to have more business understanding
Communication is a known weakness for engineers so must keep this as part of your training program.
Networking is important – internship, summer jobs, community events, job shadowing, these are all important. Participate!

Go to to this government website and you can search more about all the Engineering fields, what they do, pay, etc. as well as any jobs.

www.bls.gov/ooh










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Brendon’s Answer

"I am undecided, so whenever I start describing what I want, it usually seems to me like "engineering""

What are you describing that brings you to "engineering"? Engineering is essentially the practical application of high-level concepts. So if you like math, science, chemistry, physics, etc. then do you like the knowledge or the application? Because ultimately, engineers take that information and use it to solve problems (if you stay in engineering).

However, if you are just interested in 'problem-solving,' which is a generic term for 'make things better,' then are you sure it's engineering-related? Cause there are many, many ways to solve problems in various fields.


"How do I pick a more specific subsection of engineering or even know if that's right for me?"

It is almost impossible to tell from just reading the descriptions. The best thing you can do is reach out to the people who are involved in engineering. Ask friends, family, etc. if they know people in the field who can talk about it. And trust me - THERE IS NO WAY TO SUBSTITUTE FOR THIS. If you don't actually talk to people, it will be IMPOSSIBLE to find out what you're missing - I would know because I DIDN'T DO IT.


"Can somebody explain what jobs you do with any sort of engineering degree or what you learn with it?"

Again, the descriptions just aren't enough. They are so generic and broad that it doesn't give you an idea of what the day-to-day is like. You're better off talking to people in the field. You could also try reaching out to people on LinkedIn who are in these fields and asking them if they'd be willing to explain what it's like because you are needing guidance. Many engineers will be able to sympathize with this.


"And does anyone have a good method that they used for figuring out what they wanted to study?"

Yes - if you can't narrow it down then choose something broad. The more broad your field of study is, the more options you will have in the future. For example, mechanical engineering is widely considered the most 'broad' field of engineering because almost everything has to consider the mechanical aspects. Chemical engineers usually work in manufacturing and are focused on the processing of chemicals. But do you know who is designing those machines? Most likely mechanical engineers. Every car? Mechanical engineering. Every airplane? Mechanical engineering. Yes, there is involvement with the other specialties, but mechanical is somehow involved in almost everything.

I chose mechanical because I couldn't decide and thought it would be a wise decision to go with the broadest field. In hindsight, I am glad I did. At first, I struggled a lot and had jobs that I did not enjoy. Eventually, I caught my lucky break and found a job in the biomedical field where my education is extremely relevant - even more so than a biomedical engineers (it's very mechanically-oriented).


Last point I want to make is this: there are so many different 'engineering' jobs out there that it's not possible for you to read and figure out what it's gonna be like. Eventually, you'll have to take a Leap of Faith and just jump in to it. Do as much as you can now to learn what's out there, but if you end up feeling like you're not 'fully prepared' that's okay - almost nobody is.


Good luck!

Thanks! I'm glad of the reassurance and all the work you put into answering my question. I appreciate the thought you gave Ted Y.

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