Trying to decide my major. Any help from you guys?

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OUTofPRINT
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Trying to decide my major. Any help from you guys?

Postby OUTofPRINT » Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:42 pm UTC

So, I'm a senior in high school, and I'm trying to decide what I want to major in. For years, I thought I would do computer science, but I took physics last year and loved it, so I'm thinking about engineering now. I'm thinking about aerospace, electrical, computer, petroleum, and mechanical engineering. What do you guys think of these majors? What are the classes like, what do you learn, stuff like that. Also, I'm considering a double major, any two from the following: Engineering, CS, and something in business. What are your thoughts?

Also, if it makes any difference, I think I'm gonna go to the University of Texas at Austin, but I probably won't get in (slacked off, bad grades), so I think I'll transfer in after a year of community college.

Thanks, guys!

Meem1029
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Re: Trying to decide my major. Any help from you guys?

Postby Meem1029 » Sun Nov 21, 2010 6:33 am UTC

I'm in a physics program right now and one thing you have to keep in mind is that if you are going to get further education (masters/PhD) it is much easier to go from physics->engineering than the other way around. As far as your actual question, I think that any combination of them could be useful. What are you thinking you want to do for a future career? From what I have seen, business degrees can be useful, and also would open up many more possibilities. On the other hand, physicists/engineers always need people to do computer modeling and programming, so cs could be useful. Either way, I would recommend getting a minor in whatever you choose to not do, or at least take some classes as those all seem like they could work well together.
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OUTofPRINT
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Re: Trying to decide my major. Any help from you guys?

Postby OUTofPRINT » Mon Nov 22, 2010 7:03 am UTC

I think I'll go into whatever I major in. To be more clear, I think the business major I'm considering most is finance. My dad works in IT and he says that being a computer guy who has a good understanding of the business/financial side of what they're doing would be really valuable. I would imagine that the same would apply to engineering. I considered physics, but I think engineering would be a better fit for me. Does anybody else have experiences they could share? I would just like to hear about someone's experiences with these programs.

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Re: Trying to decide my major. Any help from you guys?

Postby jmorgan3 » Mon Nov 22, 2010 8:35 am UTC

I'm a 4th-year Aerospace Engineering major. As an AE, you'll learn the fundamentals of just about every field that relates to aircraft or spacecraft. It mostly breaks down to four fields:

Fluid Mechanics/Thermodynamics
All about the physics of fluids. This includes everything from wing theory to compressibility to rocket engine performance.

Structures
Covers the basics of aircraft structures, starting off with analyzing just forces in a truss to calculating stresses and deflections in compound-loaded thin-walled beams.

Dynamics
The movement of rigid structures. Includes general rigid-body dynamics, aircraft stability and control (making sure an aircraft does what the pilot tells it to do), and orbital mechanics (motion of satellites in and between orbits).

Design
Puts all the other fields together and applies them toward the preliminary design of an aircraft.

Labs
Not really a field, but different enough that it warrants its own section. Hands-on labs generally have 4-5 people in a lab group doing some relevant experiment, then writing an 8-35 page lab report. For example, in one of our fluids lab sessions, we took temperature and pressure measurements inside a small jet engine and used them to calculate the engine's performance. In one of our structures labs we used a pair of cameras to calculate the strain in a beam under different loading conditions.

The classes are mostly lectures, with about 40 people per section (about 4 of them female). The professors vary from great teachers to nice people who are bad teachers to horrible individuals who throw temper tantrums.

Compared to mechanical engineering, AE covers more of each field I listed above, and less manufacturing and mechanical design.

PM if you want to see some syllabuses/tests/projects from some of these classes.
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Re: Trying to decide my major. Any help from you guys?

Postby Bakemaster » Tue Nov 23, 2010 6:43 pm UTC

OUTofPRINT wrote:I took physics last year and loved it, so I'm thinking about engineering now.

Keep in mind that just because you loved physics doesn't mean you'll like engineering. The earlier comment about it being easier to do physics undergrad/engineering grad than vice-versa is also accurate. You may also be a more desirable candidate for certain specialized jobs if you have a foundation in physics or chemistry, followed by an MS in an engineering field, than if you go engineering all the way.

If I were you, I'd postpone your major decision until after you've gone through a few college physics and engineering courses. Statics/Dynamics and Circuits are common lower-division engineering requirements. The work you do in those classes will have a lot of overlap with the work you do in a physics curriculum, but you may notice a somewhat different focus to the engineering work.

As for business, it's probably best to leave that as a minor, if what you're really interested in are applied or theoretical sciences. Alternately, you can always go for an MBA after your undergrad.
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OUTofPRINT
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Re: Trying to decide my major. Any help from you guys?

Postby OUTofPRINT » Thu Nov 25, 2010 3:31 pm UTC

Thanks, guys. Anybody else have anything to say about this? I'd especially love to hear from somebody in electrical engineering. I don't really know that much about what electrical engineering actually is.

engr
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Re: Trying to decide my major. Any help from you guys?

Postby engr » Tue Nov 30, 2010 6:02 am UTC

I am a mechanical engineering senior.
MechE is probably the most universal engineering major, which is what I like about it... Aerospace engineering at some point sounded very attractive to me, but the thing is - as a MechE you can work in aerospace industry and in many other industries, but as an aerospace engineering major you are probably limited to aerospace field. In MechE you learn a bit of everything - statics, dynamics, circuits, heat transfer, fluids, measurements, design. Interestingly, the actual mechanical design does not take a very big chunk of curriculum (contrary to what I assumed); there was like 1-2 classes where we actually learned stuff about bolts, nuts, and gears. During junior/senior year you can choose classes in the area that interests you most - fluids, heat transfer, mechanical behavior of materials, dynamic systems, etc.
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Endless Mike
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Re: Trying to decide my major. Any help from you guys?

Postby Endless Mike » Wed Dec 01, 2010 10:15 pm UTC

MechE and aero are so similar that my university actually merged the programs, offering an aero specialty within the mech department. MechE definitely has more universal applications. (Basically anything that works with physical structures will hire a mechie.) If you're interested in petroleum, you may want to be slightly more general and get a ChemE degree. It's typically a pretty tough major, but the applications are similarly wide. EE is pretty narrow in some senses, but still covers a large number of industries, and there's some level of specialization you can work into your program (depending on university, I imagine, but I'm guessing UT's engineering college is not too dissimilar to UF's in terms of course spread and such). In a broad sense, it largely focuses on circuit design and that sort of thing, although you can get into other areas such as semiconductor design and optics and such.

I got my degree in Materials Science & Engineering which is pretty wide ranging since everything is made of materials. UF offers multiple specializations, but still gives an overview of the others as part of its required coursework.

In terms of double majoring, you should look into your chosen university's requirements for each major. It may not be easy or even feasible to do more than one without an additional year or two, depending on the classes required, since there may be little to no overlap even in the first two years, never mind the last two.

engr
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Re: Trying to decide my major. Any help from you guys?

Postby engr » Thu Dec 02, 2010 2:18 am UTC

Endless Mike wrote:In terms of double majoring, you should look into your chosen university's requirements for each major. It may not be easy or even feasible to do more than one without an additional year or two, depending on the classes required, since there may be little to no overlap even in the first two years, never mind the last two.

In my school it's pretty good. The first year is the same for all engineers (all engineering freshmen are officially considered 'engineering - undecided' until we officially pick a major at the end of the year). There was a big overlap during the second year.
The devil is in scheduling. I'm a MechE major, BioE minor (senior right now), and scheduling BioE classes wasn't easy. A lot of core classes from both departments are at the same time slots. I can only imagine how much fun it would be with a dual major.
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OUTofPRINT
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Re: Trying to decide my major. Any help from you guys?

Postby OUTofPRINT » Thu Dec 02, 2010 5:08 am UTC

Endless Mike wrote:MechE and aero are so similar that my university actually merged the programs, offering an aero specialty within the mech department. MechE definitely has more universal applications. (Basically anything that works with physical structures will hire a mechie.) If you're interested in petroleum, you may want to be slightly more general and get a ChemE degree. It's typically a pretty tough major, but the applications are similarly wide. EE is pretty narrow in some senses, but still covers a large number of industries, and there's some level of specialization you can work into your program (depending on university, I imagine, but I'm guessing UT's engineering college is not too dissimilar to UF's in terms of course spread and such). In a broad sense, it largely focuses on circuit design and that sort of thing, although you can get into other areas such as semiconductor design and optics and such.

I got my degree in Materials Science & Engineering which is pretty wide ranging since everything is made of materials. UF offers multiple specializations, but still gives an overview of the others as part of its required coursework.

In terms of double majoring, you should look into your chosen university's requirements for each major. It may not be easy or even feasible to do more than one without an additional year or two, depending on the classes required, since there may be little to no overlap even in the first two years, never mind the last two.


The reason I would do petroleum engineering is that UT has the #2 undergrad PE program in the country, and the average starting salary for undergrads is like $83k.

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Re: Trying to decide my major. Any help from you guys?

Postby Windmill » Sat Dec 04, 2010 8:54 pm UTC

The petroleum industry will be like that as far as starting salaries go, but you don't have to be a petroleum engineer to go into petroleum. One of my ME buddies got hired this year at an oil company for $92k and apparently he got a fat raise already. I'm ME, but I don't expect to get that out of the industries I want to be in.

Mechanical is definitely the widest and will give you a lot of options once you figure out where you want to be. If you get too far into petroleum and don't like the industry, good luck.


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