3 answers

Do I have to take physics in high school to be a successful engineer?

Asked Lee's Summit, Missouri

Unfortunately, I decided on my major late in my high school career. Because of this, I did not take physics in high school, but want to be an engineer in the future. Should I be dissuaded from the field if I did not take physics in high school? And is high school physics a necessity to obtaining an engineering degree? #engineering #physics #late-decisions #dedication #women-in-stem

3 answers

Greg’s Answer

Updated Sunnyvale, California

No. While taking physics in high school can be a useful way to get familiar with the concepts and problem-solving techniques, college engineering majors almost invariably require college (freshman) physics and calculus regardless of what you did in high school. It's usually easier and will sink in better the second time through, but if you study hard (i.e., do all of the homework and really make sure you "get it"), go to office hours when you don't understand something, and generally keep up with the workload and lectures (the pace is faster than in high school!), you'll do just fine in engineering.


That said, keep in mind that freshman physics and freshman calculus are frequently treated as "weeder" classes; a significant percentage of students are expected to drop them. (It's generally better for both the students and the school to figure out early whether one has what it takes to succeed in a STEM degree program.) But if you take it seriously, don't fall behind, and really keep up the self-discipline to work on what's being taught until you understand it, you'll absolutely do fine in the rest of your degree program. (And who knows? Maybe you'll fall in love with physics. That was my major throughout college and grad school, despite the fact that I now happily work as a software engineer.)

Victoria’s Answer

Updated Dallas, Texas
Hi Mackenzie, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers are very in demand and the job market is growing everyday. Just because you are considering this super career late in you high school major doesn't mean you should be dissuaded. I agree with Yuki and Abby who both made excellent suggestions. Talk to an advisor as well as a physics professor at your local community college about taking physics (classroom and lab). Many students coming out of high school and college decide to go back to school to get prerequisites for another major. So a liberal arts major might take chemistry to become a doctor. A journalist major might become a biologist. Anything is possible and it's not as unusual as you might think. Many adults changing careers also go to community college to update skills or take new classes all the time. I am thrilled you are interested in engineering. While you are talking to the community college, also look at the potential colleges you are interested in attending to determine what their prerequisites are and if they will accept your credits. Some community colleges have an arrangement with colleges called 2 + 2 that let you take core classes at community college and then major courses at a 4 year college. Definitely join IEEE or another engineering organization as a student and check out links and read as much as you can about engineering. Find a mentor engineer to help you navigate this career. Depending on the kind of engineering you would like to pursue check out these links: http://www.verizon.com/about/news/five-reasons-attend-ieee-women-engineering-international-leadership-conference Verizon is doing some very innovative things with smart cities, flying cell sites, and humanability (how technology helps people lead a better life). Check out the website and maybe something will catch your interest. This next link is also excellent and will show you some of the engineering societies that can help you explore this career. There are more links to other sites that will help you find opportunities, events, and even mentors. http://corporate.exxonmobil.com/en/community/math-and-science/be-an-engineer/be-an-engineer Please keep us posted on your progress. This career will take you places! #engineering #physics #late-decisions #dedication #women-in-stem

Simon’s Answer

Updated Greensboro, Georgia

You have some great advice so I’ll take a more general approach. It’s never too late to persue your dreams, so talk to a counselor and see what an when to take you Physics classes. Although it is always better to make an early decision on a career direction I know, and hired an engineer who went to two years of college studying a liberal arts degree and then change to engineering. If you like problem solving and developing/making things, engineering is a great career. I went to 15 years of night school to get my mechanical engineering degree, so you will surly beat my timetable. Try to sort out what type of engineering interest you the most, mechanical, civil, electrical, environmental, or even chemical, etc., and take courses in those areas and see how you like them. All will provide you a challenging and rewarding career. Study hard, get involved in clubs and try to get a co-op job, all will help you secure that dream job. Good luck.

Simon recommends the following next steps:

  • Look into which classes you will need and set up a plan.
  • Look into the various types of engineering.
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