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How to determine which engineering major is right for you?

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Hi, I’m currently a rising senior in high school and will most likely pursue engineering in college. However, I’m still struggling to figure out which engineering major is right for me. I’ve been considering electrical or chemical engineering but I’m still unsure.
#college #majors #engineering

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Trey’s Answer

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Angela - as a degreed engineer with two engineering majors, I can advise you that you don't need to make your specific engineering major choice right now. My recommendation is that you find a university or college with a strong undergraduate engineering program that offers a multiple number of engineering bachelor degree majors. Generally speaking, your first one, and usually two, years of engineering coursework is common across almost all of the engineering majors. Taking those course will be better help you to identify your own strengths and weaknesses as well as subjects that interest you. Generally, by the end of your Freshman year, or, by mid-Sophomore year, you'll have a good idea of what engineering major to declare.

In my own case, I started out thinking that I wanted to be an aerospace engineer. However, after a year of university general engineering classes, I realized that aero was not a good fit for me and the career that I wanted to pursue. So, I declared for Biological Systems Engineering as my B.S. major. Then, later in life, I went back to school and received my Masters degree in Environmental Engineering.

Regardless of what engineering major you declare, you will find out as an engineer that many engineering disciplines work in conjunction with one another. Best wishes as you start your journey!
Thank you!! I appreciate the advice. Angelica P. Translate
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Anna’s Answer

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Angelica, choosing a major and career field can be challenging and it is fine to be unsure!

Many engineering colleges structure their course requirements in such ways that the first semester or year all engineering majors take pretty much the same classes and many colleges offer an 'intro to engineering' course that can help you - i.e. you don't need to have the answer to this question before starting college. Some colleges have 'meta-majors' so students would first choose a broad field of interest - for example engineering, - and take time to explore what would be a best fit for them. Often students would not be declaring their specific major until the sophomore year.

What is more, colleges offer various resources and services aimed at helping students clarify their career path and major choice. Universities typically have career and academic advisors that can help you figure it out. Advisors are often available to discuss prospective students' questions, so you can reach out even before you are admitted to a certain university. Many universities have resources you can access on your own - I see you are based in New York, so for example, you may check out the resources Cornell U offers to help engineering students narrow down their choice of major and career: https://www.engineering.cornell.edu/students/undergraduate-students/career-resources-undergraduates/career-exploration

There are also online resources and assessments that can be useful. Here are some you can check out:
https://www.onetonline.org/
https://www.youscience.com/

Many students find job shadowing and conversations with people who work in the career fields they are interested in helpful. I know some high schools offer such programs. But if your high school doesn't, you can reach out to people on your own. Start with people you know, and just ask them - hey, do you know an electrical/chemical/any other engineer? Can you put me in touch with them for an informational interview?

Without knowing more about you...I can't give you advice that is more specific. So I hope these general pointers help.
Thank you! I will definitely check out those websites. Angelica P. Translate
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Reagan’s Answer

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I'm not sure if my answer will be any more beneficial than the ones already given, but I also struggled to pick an engineering field when I started school. I started an an aerospace engineering major, then switched to mechanical, then finally landed in computer science. Don't stress about trying to pick the right discipline right now. The fact that you want to do engineering is all you need to know. You can always change your major later on. Sometimes it will come with the side effect of taking longer to graduate, but college isn't a race and there's no shame in a victory lap. If you have to declare a specific field, just go with your gut for now and you can change it later on if it doesn't feel right. You can also consider going to a university that offers an engineering undecided option which is specifically geared for students in your situation.
Thank you! Angelica P. Translate
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Mark’s Answer

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One of the most important factors to consider is the work environment. The work environment will be different for a chemical engineer compared to an electrical engineer. I would say the work environment is even more important than the salary.

You really need to ask yourself what kind of environment will I be working in.
-Do I want to be in front of a computer all day or would I rather be on my feet and mobile?
-Am I okay with working around potential hazards?
-Do I want to spend most of my time in a lab or office?
-Are you okay with wearing PPE (e.g., safety helmets, glasses, gloves, etc.) most of the day?

I would definitely look more into job shadowing. If your college/high school doesn't have a program then start calling around to local companies to see if they would be open to some job shadowing for a couple of days.
Thank you! Angelica P. Translate
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Rick’s Answer

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Angelica,

It is a difficult decision as a senior, and you are not alone. First it is fantastic that you are interested the field of Engineering as it is applied in many industries. With a love for math and Science you will be able to choose any path that most interests you.

I my self, wanted to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering, yet changed my major to Mechanical Engineering after taking the Introduction to Civil engineering course in my sophomore year. Changing was not a problem, and the introduction class counted as an elective. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to decide definitively now. You can make a change.

Now, one of the best ways to determine your interest is to do some research, maybe review your hobbies, what is your passion and how do you want to contribute to the world....Also, take a look at the engineering jobs is many businesses. Select a business such as building construction that you are interested in and see which engineering disciplines support that business. Read the Job Descriptions.... As an Example. a Mechanical Engineering would be responsible for the Air Conditioning and Heating ( HVAC). In addition consider how you would like to work. Do want to work outside in the field or in a lab, work from home or in an office. All are possibilities. The good thing is that Engineering is used is many businesses and the choices are vast.

I am excited that you have chosen the field of engineering as good engineering are always needed. It is very interesting rewarding as in most field you will see the positive benefit of your work. That said, do you research, review your hobbies, consider how you want to contribute to the world, but keep in mind that it is possible to change as you pursue you degree.


Thank you so much! Angelica P. Translate
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Rick’s Answer

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Angelica,

It is a difficult decision as a senior, and you are not alone. First it is fantastic that you are interested the field of Engineering as it is applied in many industries. With a love for math and Science you will be able to choose any path that most interests you.

I my self, wanted to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering, yet changed my major to Mechanical Engineering after taking the Introduction to Civil engineering course in my sophomore year. Changing was not a problem, and the introduction class counted as an elective. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to decide definitively now. You can make a change.

Now, one of the best ways to determine your interest is to do some research, maybe review your hobbies, what is your passion and how do you want to contribute to the world....Also, take a look at the engineering jobs is many businesses. Select a business such as building construction that you are interested in and see which engineering disciplines support that business. Read the Job Descriptions.... As an Example. a Mechanical Engineering would be responsible for the Air Conditioning and Heating ( HVAC). In addition consider how you would like to work. Do want to work outside in the field or in a lab, work from home or in an office. All are possibilities. The good thing is that Engineering is used is many businesses and the choices are vast.

I am excited that you have chosen the field of engineering as good engineering are always needed. It is very interesting rewarding as in most field you will see the positive benefit of your work. That said, do you research, review your hobbies, consider how you want to contribute to the world, but keep in mind that it is possible to change as you pursue you degree.


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