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HOW hard is it to get an ENGINEERING degree????


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#1 ironizer

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Posted 17 April 2008 - 05:35 AM

I'm graduation highschool, got into the University of Washington, and I want to study Mechanical Engineering. Everyone told me it's hella hard, and I'm afraid I would not make it and drop out (because a lot of people are). I'm taking a hardcore physics class (called AP Physics C). It's physics with Calculus, and I'm beasting that class with an easy "A" and no studying/doing the homework at all (because I don't feel like it, I'm a senior you know, just want to chill). I'm pro at thinking and problem solving, but I suck at math. I'm not even in a legit Calculus class, I'm doing some bullcrap Intro to Calc class, so I'm just studying math on my own/in the class.

If anyone has any experience on this, please help. How hard is it to get an engineering degree, why do so many people quit after the first year, and what are the chances of me quitting?

Thanks :doh::doh::doh::doh::doh:
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#2 5614

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Posted 17 April 2008 - 10:38 AM

hmm, a hard question. I think whether you quit comes down to you a lot, your determination, and just how you find it (which you can't know until you try it). I should point out I know nothing about the University of Washington. In the UK some unis and some subjects basically do nothing in the first year, whereas others will have an action-packed first year, topped off with continual assessments and final exams which all count towards your actual degree - like mine, grr! At the end of the day at some point during your degree it will get hard and there will be not-nice exams etc., but that's just part of uni life, and everyone does it, so don't fear it, don't be put off by it, but it would be silly to pretend it won't happen.

What I don't get is that you say you're acing physics/calc, but you're not in a good calc class... doesn't your physics class include calc? How can you be acing that if you're struggling with calc?

More than that I'd wait for a mech eng person to post, because I'm a physics student. From what I know not acing calc would be worst for a physicists than a mech eng student, but that doesn't really help you.
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#3 CaptainPanic

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Posted 17 April 2008 - 11:07 AM

The situation in the Netherlands is that most math comes in the first and second year. The third year you really start learning the more useful stuff (because you really need to get the basics first). Then finally in the last two years all the pieces come together.

The first two years are hard, because you'll often wonder "why am I learning this"? That might also be the reason people drop out (something which also happens here in the Netherlands). Teachers often fail to explain why you need some information that they teach. It will be useful only a year, sometimes several years later. (And unfortunately, some information you will learn is utterly useless, but that was not too often in my case).

My degree is in chemical engineering, which does have an overlap with mechanical engineering (the overlap being process engineering: for example large chemical factories which also have a lot of mechanical equipment). There are indeed some hard courses... and even smart students find those hard (ours were mass and heat transfer and also statistics).

The best part of being an engineer is that everything is logical in the end. So, at some point I felt that it all came together, and it also became easier. I sometimes wonder why I failed to understand it in the first place. I blame my teachers. :-p

I encourage you to start your engineering studies. The job-market is excellent for engineers (it will remain good for years to come, all over the world), so that might encourage you too, I hope.
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#4 ironizer

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Posted 17 April 2008 - 10:03 PM

I am good at physics because I have logic and common sense. I understand everything that there is in the class, and I ace exams because all the problems make sense... I can simulate the situations in the problem and just observe what happens in my head, then it becomes easy to solve. The tests are also graded so that if you show logic and a good thought process, you can still get some points even if the final answer is incorrect.. I don't know if they do that in college.

I'm just low on the math level. I learn more math in the physics class than in the math class, and I like it way more because it is useful. In math class, we learn all this crap about economics, and I hate it because I never learn what I need.
Everyone tells me to "work hard", but I don't know how that would help. I never need to try hard to understand something, but in cases that I don't understand, "working hard" will not help. I don't know how the math will be for engineering, is it more problem solving/concepts? I'm good at that. I just don't like memorizing processes and doing them over and over.
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#5 7he3ngineer

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Posted 18 April 2008 - 10:29 AM

I'm a third year mechanical engineering student in Australia. It is my experience that students that are poor at maths, tend to really struggle. There are quite a few who enter my university via the back door, coming from technical college (called TAFE) rather than high school, who actually tend to have a much better attitude towards study, but really struggle with the maths (resulting in a high proportion to drop out).

Yes, the course is much more applied (less mathsy) as you reach the third and fourth years, but you still have to reach these years.

I'd say that you won't be able to hack the course if you don't have a good grasp on maths, even if your understanding of physics is that good. However, I'm guessing that if you are as good at physics as you seem to think, you probably underestimate your understand of calc.

Maths is one of those subjects that if you don't understand the basic stuff, your not going to be able to understand the more complex stuff. For example if you skip a chapter in your text book, it probably will start to look like heiroglyphics.

My advise would be to take a step back and maybe work through a more basic calculus text... real introductory stuff. Then build on this until you understand at least the high school level. You can do it, but clearly you are going to have to do some work, and lets face it, you've got that extra time while every one else is studying physics!

You can ask me if you've got any questions about Mech. Eng,

Josh
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#6 ironizer

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Posted 18 April 2008 - 10:10 PM

Hey thanks Josh! The problem is not that I don't understand the math, I find the course I'm taking extremely easy, and I hate it because it's very very very slow, I get very bored in the class and I feel like a retard while sitting in the class. The problem is that I'm behind on the math level, everyone else in my physics class is at least 1 or 2 years ahead of me in math level, yet I find the class easier than some of them do.
When I was a kid (elementary school) I was very good in math, about 2-3 years ahead of US students of the same grade (my little brother is in 4th grade now, and he's doing math I did in 2nd grade), but I fell behind when I moved here in the USA and had to struggle with English.
I think I'm going to take the math courses first in college, before moving on to the next level physics. That way, I could catch up with math.
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#7 SH3RL0CK

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 02:11 AM

My experience is that I graduated from a major college in the USA about 15 years ago, now I am gainfully employed as an electrical engineer. I do not beleive it is ever easy to get an engineering degree, you will have to do a considerable amount of hard work. That you aren't great at math will not help you either, but if you really want to be an engineer I would not let that stop you, you might want to consider taking extra formal math classes to catch up on your math skills.

Many people drop out in the first year or two because it is so difficult. In my experience it did get easier after the first two years, but you really have to be committed to it to graduate. As far as your chances, that really depends on how hard you work, how efficiently you work, and how committed you are to this goal.
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#8 ironizer

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 02:31 AM

So I guess the central question is, what is the hardest part of getting the degree?
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#9 iNow

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 02:34 AM

Being consistent with your efforts.
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#10 SH3RL0CK

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 02:36 AM

I think the hardest part is sticking with it, even while getting C's after studying all night and watching your friends in other (easier) majors getting A's after partying all night. Its really hard then to stay committed to getting this degree, when you can drop the goal and do as they do. It helps to keep the long term perspective in mind, after college there isn't as much demand, or pay, for a basketweaver as there is for an engineer.
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#11 7he3ngineer

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 06:00 AM

The hardest part would be, that is to say, the reason why most would drop out is because they got behind or became overly flooded with new info and felt unable to catch up. The level of intelligence across all of eng. is pretty close. People don't drop out because they're stupid, its usually because of a lack of commitment (or the fact that they're grades were rubbish because they were working 30 hours a week!). I'm definitely not a good example of a student. I'm a poor attender, and am always a bit behind, and always seem to end up getting my assignment done last minute. But in saying this, my assignments are always done, and relatively well. I always have a fair idea of what needs to be done and learnt and by when, so all in all, I'm still a 'responsible' student (I've also never failed anything as yet, and am currently just maintaining an average of 70%).

The key to graduating (without extending your course too much!) is to make sure you keep up with everything. If you can do this, you'll be fine... Just don't be one of those students that aims for 50's though (its very easy to fall below the line... trust me, I've been one of these students in the past!).

One last thing; First year is the easiest and is generally BS, especially if you have one of the common first years like I did. Most drop out after first year because its a shock to the system to actually have to do some work and not to be spoon fed. However, expect to learn nothing in your first year (suffer it out like the rest of us!).

Josh
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#12 ironizer

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 06:51 AM

Is the work load very large, because I can't sit down and spend 5 hours on an assignment... my attention span is not long enough for that. I would get bored and want to get up and do something else. I can learn easy when I'm in the right mood, but if I try to cram a lot of stuff into my head when it's not the right time (maybe 2 in the morning? :rolleyes: ) I just get exhausted and it does more bad than good. How will that go?
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#13 Jaxx

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 08:54 AM

I think you are asking q's that doesn't have a nicely wrapped up answer. All the engineers that have given you input all have valid answers, and u'll see a common denominator in all of them. There is no definitive formula for success in engineering. As long as you know that the reason for you going into the engineering field is a good one, the only thing that can stop you from graduating is yourself. No tests, courses or exams can get in your way if you are determined enough to get that degree.

If you not determined and wholly committed, then maybe engineering is not for you...
I graduated 2 years ago with a BSc in Electrical engineering in South Africa, and i am very happy to be in the coolest profession (my opinion of course). As an engineer you work in a very high pressure (no pun intended for the chemical eng's) enviornment and maybe (speculation) all they are doing is preparing you at uni for these circumstances that you'll be put under.
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#14 7he3ngineer

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 10:30 AM

Is the work load very large, because I can't sit down and spend 5 hours on an assignment


Sorry to dissapoint you, but assignements can be pretty long. The average lab report may take at least 5 hours of long, hard slog. But some design projects may take 25 hours. However, what you have to take into consideration is that you have maybe two weeks to do the average assignment.

Unfortunately, assignments are only a small part of the course. They won't be very helpfull when you need to prepare for exams for example. However, don't let this put you off... its all do-able.

If want a degree for no effort... do an arts degree:D

Josh
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#15 SH3RL0CK

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 12:16 PM

Is the work load very large, because I can't sit down and spend 5 hours on an assignment... my attention span is not long enough for that.


My experience in the United States is very similar to Josh (aka 7he3ngineer). 5+ hours of work on a on a single assignment, and 24h+ on a design project isn't at all unusual. That said, you do have a week or so for the assignments, and the whole semester for the design project. Just don't wait until the last minute on anything. It is possible to do these in smaller time increments, in fact when I was in school, I would usually take a break every 1-2 hours. It is all doable if you want it.

The questions you need to ask yourself is do you want to be an engineer? Why? and How badly?

If you don't know this is what you want to do, or are not sure what you want, perhaps a business degree would be more appropriate. With a business degree you can work in any industry that interests you (albeit on the financial side).
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#16 waitforufo

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 03:28 PM

Ionizer,
In one of your posts you say Ö "I can simulate the situations in the problem and just observe what happens in my head, then it becomes easy to solve." This is a very important skill in engineering problem solving. Exploit it properly and you will find your math classes becoming easier particularly as they become more advanced.

Engineering studies are hard. I don't know a single engineer who doesn't have war stories about a professor that gave weekly assignments that took all day Saturday to complete. I'm not talking about just 5 hours, think 12, or more. Also, getting half of them right made them feel like a genius. Then there are the profs that give midterms and finals that so difficult that after cramming for a week you get 45% right. That 45% correct is a downer until you find out your grade was in the top 1% of the class. Worse still is when you get the solutions to these marathon homework problems and tests and see just how easy they were. Oh yea, and there will be semesters (or quarters) where you have a few professors like this at once.

Most colleges and universities will require you to take a core curriculum including humanities, business, and other. You have to be a rounded individual. Compared to your engineering classes you will breeze through these. You will also meet students, with other degree goals, who think such courses are difficult. These other students will graduate in their majors with good grades, perhaps before you do.

Engineering as a profession is difficult. Those difficult courses I mentioned above, all the problems in those courses have answers. In the real word many don't. There will be times in your carrier where after putting in weeks of six 10 hour days you will just have to decide that you were on the wrong track and start over. The deadline for your answer will not change.

Engineers, particularly mechanical engineers, create physical things that perform a function. When done well, the creation will have elegance. This will be the reward for your work. If you want to study engineering because you think your salary will be good, I recommend you try something else. Even if you graduate, you will likely leave the profession in a few years after graduation. There are many other carriers that are less difficult that pay well.

After reading all your posts again, I think you have to seriously evaluate your current maturity level. Donít take that as an insult. I worked for two years after high school before becoming a university freshman. I did a lot of growing up in those two years. I learned that hard work with my brain was more fun than hard work with my back. I also learned to respect those that do labor. If you want to enjoy life however, learn to enjoy hard work.
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#17 cjohnso0

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 04:06 PM

Excellent reply waitforyoufo.

I managed to graduate with a degree (or two) in Mechanical Engineering while working full time at night to pay for it. Mind you, my job wasn't super hard and I could do homework when I wasn't busy. How hard it is is entirely dependent on you. Same goes for your career following your education.

Some people would put in 10 hours on a paper / project / homework and get a C, while others put in 1 hour and ace it. The workload will not be light, you take about 6 classes a week, not including labs. And they all have homework and projects to do. When you're going after an Engineering degree, you need to realize that this is the reason you are at school. You are not at college to goof off and party (at least not all of the time).

We lost about 90% of the incoming ME's over the course of four years. Most went to other majors, everything from EE (electrical engineering) to CJ (criminal justice). I think some wanted to party more, some found it too much work, and some just were way out of their league.

Bottom line:

If you love engineering you'll do fine. I think you really need to enjoy math and problem solving. You sound pretty good at problem solving. Math in college is taught differently that in HS. I found it easy, while highschool wasn't a cake walk. Most engieering math is based on calculus and it's derivatives (ha ha ha). You'll probably have an economics course, but that's the name of the course, so you expect it. And as mentioned by waitforyoufo, the other courses are really really easy A's after an Engineering course or two.

Just stick to it, don't party too too much, and you'll do fine.
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#18 ironizer

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 07:32 PM

I want this degree because I want to skills to do what I want. I like to design cars and engines, and I started studying thermodynamics on my own, and it's pretty cool. I like having brain challenges (like trying to figure out special relativity etc.) but I hate doing useless processes over and over for 5 hours.
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#19 waitforufo

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 09:15 PM

Regardless of the major you select, there will be courses required for graduation that you have no interest in taking. These courses are often difficult. You may see no personal practical benefit from taking these courses. The courses may only be offered during times that coincide with courses you would truly love to take. To graduate however you must take them.

When studying for my master's degree 'solid state physics' is one I particularly remember. I'm not saying itís a bad subject. I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with those that love the subject. It just wasn't in my carrier plans. I just wasn't interested. I found it to be a difficult subject. The professor was poor as well. He had a PhD from UCLA and had never formally taught after working 20 years as a chip designer for Texas Instruments. I picked out all kinds of equally difficult courses that I was interested in and tried to convince my masters professor that I should be able to switch. I even said I would take two of those other courses instead. No dice. All MSEEs were required to take this course. I got a 3.2 out of 4 in the class hating every minute of it. I retrospect, I still don't see why I had to take the it. I have never even used it once. But I'm glad I have my degree.

I glad I measured up to the challenge. Because I toughed it out I have been able to work on projects I would not have otherwise been able to work on. Great projects. By the way, when you get a real engineering job, you will be put on lots of boring and nonsensical projects. You will learn a bit from each, but it will often feel like drudgery. You have to do well on those projects if you expect to get the projects you really want. Thatís why they call it work. That's just the way life works. Always paying your dues. If you stick with it, one day you will toque down the last bolt of some really bitchin engine that sprang from your imagination and hear that baby fire up for the first time. Then it will all be worth it.

After that, back to paying dues until the next time. That's engineering.
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#20 CaptainPanic

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 01:17 PM

(from post #4) I can simulate the situations in the problem and just observe what happens in my head, then it becomes easy to solve.


You sound like an excellent engineer.

Also your remark that you understand math better, and it makes more sense when it is applied in physics make me conclude that you are prime engineering-material. :D

How to get through the first couple of years is going to be the tricky part... it was the same for me... Just accept that you might not be the best student in math, and perhaps you'll have to take some exams again. At least in our system it's no shame to fail an exam. (Actually, the average engineer in my old uni took 7 years to complete the 5 year course. That was not because we're all dumb)... :D
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