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How long should I commit to a career before deciding whether or not it's right for me?

I am a senior in high school wanting to go into an engineering degree, but I am not sure what type of engineering I want to do. I am willing and excited to try different types of majors within engineering, but I do not want to spend too much time in one area if I don't immediately think it's right for me. career job

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Steve’s Answer

Keep going! You can do lots with an engineering degree, both as an actual engineer, and even in adjacent roles. For example, my dad is an electrical engineer by training, but was a businessman. One of my closest friends is also an engineer by training, and now runs customer service for a global hospitality brand.

Based on the conversations I've had with them, learning engineering is great because it not only teaches you things about mechanics, electrical, computer science, etc etc., but it importantly teaches you HOW to think about problems, break them down, and how to solve them.
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Myisha’s Answer

Great question! I would recommend looking into computing & engineering clubs in college. Often times they will have panels where you can speak to professionals in different engineering tracks. It will also give you exposure to other students who are in your shoes and learning about their experience may help you figure out exactly which track you are most interested in!

Also interview for internships early in your college career! I was one of few students who started doing internships in my freshman year but it helped me so much because I got to work in different technical roles and see what I liked and what I didn’t. I have seen more companies hire young talent through internships so they can get real world experience!

The biggest thing is to really love what you are doing. So if you try out one track and you don’t like it don’t be afraid to try other things out! Engineering is a vast field and we need talent in all different areas.
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Chris’s Answer

Cyrus, this is a great question and you're certainly ahead of the curve for asking this so early on, but I think that you're already framing it as a "career choice," as if it's irreversible decision you must make now may put you in a spot with a limiting perspective.

If I were in your situation right now, I'd think more in terms of the applications you're interested, as some other folks mentioned above and get a project or two going. Give yourself 6 months ~ a year to explore if you enjoy spending the time learning how the "applications" in that field are built and try to grab time with people that are actively practitioners in the field. You will be surprised how many people are willing to give time (10-20min) to young, ambitious, hungry people like you who genuinely take an interest in their field of work. This is certainly much easier to do earlier in on your "career", and people love to give students advice and tips. Go through this for one or two fields and see if after 6 months to a year it gives you a better sense of what feels more "right" for you to dig even deeper into.
own career.
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Francisco’s Answer

Hi Cyrus!

So glad you are looking to start a career in engineering! There are so many different fields any engineering degree can take you into, but I understand choosing one area can be tough. I personally know several friends who changed majors well into their freshmen and sophomore years. One of the cool things about engineering is that most degrees share some common core classes. You are very likely to take calculus, physics, chemistry, and some introductory classes, therefore swapping after a couple semesters is very easy, so you don't have to worry about if you aren't 100% sure even after you start. I do recommend industrial or manufacturing engineering (cause I'm biased). Regardless, in order to choose one my advice would be twofold:

1. Look into the degree plans of each major and also google about them. There are a lot of youtube videos that go in great detail about what each engineering field involves, and that way you can see which one relates closer to your interests. Make sure you go into one that deeply interests you and that the career prospects is something that matches your passions and objectives.

2. Once in college engage with senior students and student organizations. Seniors are an endless supply of information and true testimony of what each class, professor, and major truly are, and student organization are a group of passionate students who care about their field of study enough to dedicate their spare time to engage more people on it. These are great assets not only to make your college life better, but also making decisions based on the input from people who were in your shoes not too long ago.

Hope this helps and whatever engineering field you choose, you are able to reach your goals and plans for the future. Best of luck!
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Ryan’s Answer

Hi Cyrus,

Mechanical Engineers likely have the broadest range of opportunities in their field. Entry level mechanical engineers will likely be hired to support direct project work which could include many areas such as working in manufacturing environments to address production and/or process issues for increasing productivity. They could work in customer interaction roles where they have daily contact with customers to determine product and or process changes. With a bit more experience, they could evolve into leadership roles where they are managing large teams with increased responsibility and deliverables.

I chose mechanical engineering because I felt it would give me a lot of options and flexibility to adjust to different career opportunities when they presented themselves. I started my career as a service engineer supporting turbochargers on diesel engines with various customers. I greatly enjoyed this role as it introduced to me to a great deal of technical learnings and helped me develop strong working relationships at many different levels. I also got to travel to customer locations and see the equipment in operation. I did enjoy the opportunities to travel as this was not something, I had been able to do before starting my career.

My current role involves me leading a warranty parts lab which involves managing a team of engineers, technicians, and documentation specialists. This role is a big change from what I was doing when I first started my career in service engineering. I have been able to do a wide range of roles such as service engineering, application engineering (direct integration work with customers), dynamometer test cell work with diesel/natural gas engines and getting the opportunity to lead and manage teams.

To conclude, I wanted to highlight that a career path in the mechanical engineering/technology field can vary greatly and provide many opportunities that might not always be apparent. My advice is to really determine what your interests are and what you enjoy doing. Don’t be afraid to take risks and make mistakes as this is how people really learn. I will also say don’t be discouraged if you choose a career path and find that is not what you really wanted. There will always be opportunities to change that path or make adjustments that better fit what you are looking for.

Regards,
Ryan
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Holly’s Answer

Hi Cyrus! Congratulations on almost being done with high school, very exciting! Something that helped me (along with taking different classes and reading more into specific majors or career paths) is to find people that are currently working in the specific engineering fields that you are interested in (perhaps your parents know people in these industries or professors can recommend people to talk to). You can talk with them about their experience and what they like/dislike about their field and that can help you decide if one specific engineering stream sounds better to you than another. Most people like to talk about themselves so I'm sure you can find willing people to talk to :) Another good way, once you are in college, is to do internships. Those were pivotal for me to know whether I actually was interested in the career path that I thought I was interested in - if you can do this early on in college that can also help you change focus if needed before being too far into school.
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Moushumi’s Answer

Hey! Engineering a very exciting field to work in! You can find out from universities you want to join what's the rule there. Like I'm from India and there we had the option of changing streams after the 1st year. So the thing is during the 1st year of engineering school, we studied different subjects related to different streams of engineering. That gives you a good idea and helps you choose.

Since you are in high school you can ask yourself a couple of questions and figure out what interests and excites you more.
What subjects interest you more? Chemistry? Physics? Computer Science? Then explore the related engineering field.

Once you choose a stream (type of major within engineering), I think in about six months, you will get a fair idea of whether or not you like it or not.
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