Author Topic: Going to College, What major?  (Read 5236 times)

Tapp

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Going to College, What major?
« on: February 16, 2015, 04:29:51 PM »
Hi all,

Im new to MMM, but i think the wise souls could assist me.

Im returning to school this summer after doing social justice work since 18. I took a year off to work and--unsurprisingly-- spent all my earning from last year. After waking up to my stupidity, I'm looking to start my walk to FI.

Im currently signed up for Pre-Engineering at my local CC. But I also have a love of Economics and Finance. I know this is a choice that is based on myself. But I was hoping you all could recommend choices that could help me to FI early in my life. I spent three years working for free and I'm out of the game.

Thanks.

GardenFun

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2015, 04:34:26 PM »
The important thing is to have a good understanding of each career you ponder. 

Are you looking at engineering for the money, or do you genuinely have an interest in that field?  Do you know any engineers who could give you better understanding of the career, maybe even shadow them for a day?

Any STEM degree will give you strong job prospects out of college, but that means nothing if you do not like the work.  Find people who currently hold jobs that interest you, and talk to them. 

Tapp

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2015, 04:36:18 PM »
My family has said i was an engineer since a young boy (and i agree with them). It seems to be in my blood. I often am building and creating things.

Tapp

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2015, 04:50:26 PM »
The important thing is to have a good understanding of each career you ponder. 

Are you looking at engineering for the money, or do you genuinely have an interest in that field?  Do you know any engineers who could give you better understanding of the career, maybe even shadow them for a day?

Any STEM degree will give you strong job prospects out of college, but that means nothing if you do not like the work.  Find people who currently hold jobs that interest you, and talk to them.

If anyone had any resources on how to understand each career, that would be appreciated. Im still searching for information for that kind of information.

mandy_2002

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2015, 04:58:47 PM »
I'm a chemical engineer, and love it.  In my opinion (possibly skewed) a community college is not the place to start as an engineer.  It seems like a good idea to start there and move up when you can, but most CC to engineering transfers end up going to school for 5 years without break (I was in school for 5 years, but I completed 14 months of full time work during that time, with 7 semesters spent in school). 

Are you good at math?  Building and designing are great, but if you have problems with Calculus 1, I'd be worried....and if I had issues with any math before that, I'd run to another major.  Many of my classmates failed to grasp Calculus 2 (the 2nd of 4 required math classes), and went to business school instead. 

Do you know what kind of engineering you're planning to pursue?  It sounds like you're leaning towards Mechanical or Civil (building and design), but there are other more specialized fields that can be exciting (aeronautical and mining, for example). 

As part of the chemical engineering degree, we took a specialized engineering economics class, which you would probably really enjoy, and there are opportunities to do engineering work more heavy in the money aspects, but I didn't start doing cost/benefit, depreciation, or NPV work until about 6 years with my current company. 

GizmoTX

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #5 on: February 16, 2015, 05:08:52 PM »
What courses constitute pre-engineering at the CC? Will they transfer or aid admittance to a good engineering school?
Are any of these courses required for economics or finance?

Calculus is required for engineering & business school, but be sure to take the more vigorous version accepted for engineering if you are still undecided. It's critical that you build a strong foundation, so taking pre-calculus is a good idea if you haven't messed with calculus for years. For engineering, you'll eventually take at least 4 math courses in calculus & differential equations. Let the first one be your guide -- if you can't do it well, then there's your answer.


caliq

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2015, 05:11:36 PM »
I agree with mandy -- CC is not the place to start for an engineering or science degree.  I'm a Molecular and Cell Biology major, and I started at a CC.  It's really hindered me, honestly.  The best thing to do for your future career in one of these majors is to get lab experience as early on as possible, which requires building relationships with professors starting first semester freshman year -- transferring in really hurts that.  You need lab experience to get looked at for most summer internships and most post-grad jobs (except for the very bottom of the totem pole lab tech positions that only really require high school diplomas and pay like $10/hr).  Maybe this is not 100% applicable to engineering, but I think it's also a field where lab/practical experience is really important.  I would try to transfer after a year at the CC at the latest. 

renter4evah?

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2015, 06:05:39 PM »
I think engineering sounds like a good move. Engineers continue to be in demand. I'd also recommend that you research machine learning (also called deep learning), though--there's a lot of expected job displacement because of it and it may be good to avoid fields that they already know to be threatened. Here's the TED talk that freaked me out about it (while simultaneously giving my electrical engineer boyfriend 5 new ideas for businesses!): http://www.ted.com/talks/jeremy_howard_the_wonderful_and_terrifying_implications_of_computers_that_can_learn?language=en

Also, I read a great book last year. It was So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport. I think he gives some solid advice around choosing a career. I really wish the book was around when I was in college!

DoubleDown

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2015, 06:09:41 PM »
I faced a similar dilemma choosing a major when I was in college (leaning towards engineering), and sought out a counselor at the school for guidance. He suggested getting a major in Math, which can lead you to jobs in engineering, finance, actuarial, computer science, teaching, and so on. One of the Best. Decisions. Ever.

It's actually a little less structured than an engineering degree (at least it was at my college), allowing me to choose more electives and structure the focus that I wanted (for example, you could lean towards economics/finance, game theory, engineering, physics, computer science, etc.). Plus it allowed me to transfer all of my credits, whereas engineering would not have done that. Getting a high-paying job out of college was a slam dunk, as it's considered pretty comparable to a degree in engineering.


GardenFun

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2015, 06:26:19 PM »
I agree with mandy -- CC is not the place to start for an engineering or science degree.  I'm a Molecular and Cell Biology major, and I started at a CC.  It's really hindered me, honestly.  The best thing to do for your future career in one of these majors is to get lab experience as early on as possible, which requires building relationships with professors starting first semester freshman year -- transferring in really hurts that.  You need lab experience to get looked at for most summer internships and most post-grad jobs (except for the very bottom of the totem pole lab tech positions that only really require high school diplomas and pay like $10/hr).  Maybe this is not 100% applicable to engineering, but I think it's also a field where lab/practical experience is really important.  I would try to transfer after a year at the CC at the latest.

I somewhat disagree.  Both my DH and I are chemical engineers.  I went the traditional university route, he went two years to CC, then transferred to a different state engineering school.  In some ways, I believe his education was superior to mine because he had smaller classes during those first years, thus giving him more individual contact with the professors.  Yes, it took him 5 years - but it also took me 5 years.  :-) 

However, he was diligent regarding credit transfer.  Prior to registering for his first classes, he obtained a copy of the CC classes that transferred to the various state university engineering programs.  He worked hard to get good grades, resulting in a community college transfer scholarship offered by the state university.

As others have mentioned, the summer internships are important.  Depending on your location, there may be a few offered at the CC level, but they aren't as prevalent.  Universities are better at offering these opportunities.   

GizmoTX

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2015, 07:39:40 PM »
CC works IF it is aligned with a direct transfer to good universities and/or you are using it for prerequisite fundamentals or liberal arts requirements.

Be sure to check the requirements at your target universities. Also, some have excellent co-op programs, which allow you to earn while getting needed experience & helping you to figure out your ultimate major.

DS worked summers during HS at a startup computer company as an assistant, which exposed him to many engineering & computer disciplines. He then decided he wanted to focus on electrical engineering & chose a medium-sized private university. After his first year, his advisor convinced him to dual major in Math as well -- it's one more course than EE requires. He now wants to be a mixed signal circuit designer, based on his exposure during an internship last summer, so he's planning on an additional year at his college for the MSEE. His engineering college has hard data that summer internships count almost as much as GPA for good offers after the undergraduate degree.

okonumiyaki

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2015, 07:52:30 PM »
I did Engineering & Economics, lots of work but I enjoyed them both. 

caliq

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2015, 07:58:15 PM »
I agree with mandy -- CC is not the place to start for an engineering or science degree.  I'm a Molecular and Cell Biology major, and I started at a CC.  It's really hindered me, honestly.  The best thing to do for your future career in one of these majors is to get lab experience as early on as possible, which requires building relationships with professors starting first semester freshman year -- transferring in really hurts that.  You need lab experience to get looked at for most summer internships and most post-grad jobs (except for the very bottom of the totem pole lab tech positions that only really require high school diplomas and pay like $10/hr).  Maybe this is not 100% applicable to engineering, but I think it's also a field where lab/practical experience is really important.  I would try to transfer after a year at the CC at the latest.

I somewhat disagree.  Both my DH and I are chemical engineers.  I went the traditional university route, he went two years to CC, then transferred to a different state engineering school.  In some ways, I believe his education was superior to mine because he had smaller classes during those first years, thus giving him more individual contact with the professors.  Yes, it took him 5 years - but it also took me 5 years.  :-) 

However, he was diligent regarding credit transfer.  Prior to registering for his first classes, he obtained a copy of the CC classes that transferred to the various state university engineering programs.  He worked hard to get good grades, resulting in a community college transfer scholarship offered by the state university.

As others have mentioned, the summer internships are important.  Depending on your location, there may be a few offered at the CC level, but they aren't as prevalent.  Universities are better at offering these opportunities.   

I was diligent about my credits and grades as well; I have state merit grants at the flagship university.  That's not where the CC hurt me.  It just affected the relationship building/research experience side of things.  Also, my general science courses at the CC were significantly less rigorous than the university's, but that didn't affect me much because I took honors courses in high school and was able to teach myself enough to fill in the gaps as needed. 

GizmoTX

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2015, 08:08:45 PM »
Engineering schools prefer that your math, science, & engineering courses be done there -- you avoid gaps & do it "their way". CC is best for liberal arts requirements & any preparatory work.

okonumiyaki

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2015, 08:20:09 PM »
Oh, and I would re-iterate what others said about maths.  Engineering is maths heavy.  In UK terms, if you struggled with double-maths at A level, engineering is going to be tough.  Don't know how that translates in the US.  E.g. look up Maxwell's equations (which are pretty fundamental to electrical engineering) to get a feel. 


Tapp

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #15 on: February 16, 2015, 11:24:44 PM »
Wow what a bounty of information!

I have always been dual disciplined in school, between the arts and stem. I enjoy both of them equally. So that always has made choosing more difficult. As for natural talent, I am able to admit that analytical abilities towards the hard sciences has alway been superior to the arts. My math abilities have alway been superior to my classmates. Throughout my entire schooling, I was in the top 5 of my class.

As to the CC. My CC does straight transfer to all public uni's in the state (NC). Which includes UNC and more importantly NC State (engineering). Which is highly qualified tier 3 school (does anyone care after tier 2?). I am going to CC, because my family never saved a dime for my college, nor are they in a position now to support me. But because they make enough money to reduce my Fafsa benefits to make state school very challenging.

To those who gave the truly helpful comments about testing the waters with math and choosing classes that qualify for multiple programs, thank you.

I am beginning some pre-cal work as a refresher before I begin in the next few months. So I will see if the passion is still there.
The most important thing for me is, I don't like working for a living (It's so limiting). The faster I can reach a point of FI, the more happy I will be. If anyone has recommendations or links to how to do this in college, I would be appreciative.


Wolfpack4

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #16 on: February 17, 2015, 12:03:32 AM »
I was in a similar place out of high school, interested in finance but always good at math and was told my whole life that I had an engineering mindset. Started off in engineering at NC State (Computer Science) before realizing that I was good at it but not all that interested in programming as a career. Transferred to the business school and chose the finance concentration, and ultimately after a couple of internships, graduated in business with a concentration in supply chain.

My suggestions for figuring out what you want to do:
- As others have said, explore the career opportunities for each degree. You can ask the career center at the university you plan to attend, google "What can I do with a degree in" to bring up the career pages of other universities, and talk with anyone relevant that you know about their job and career path. You don't need to find a specific job you want, you just want to get a general feel for the type of work people are doing with those degrees.
- If you're still undecided and everything is equal, I think it's safer to start off in engineering. Business degrees (finance or econ) typically have more electives, so if you switch majors later, you have a better chance of your math and engineering classes counting towards degree requirements.
- Make good grades - depending on the school, there is often a GPA requirement for switching between majors. Making good grades keeps your options open down the road
- Work an internship early on - imo, this is the best way to figure out if you're entering the right field. Solid grades will also help you get the right internship that provides good experience and pays well

As far as moving quickly towards FI, tons of engineering jobs pay well right away. Starting salaries for finance majors seem to be a little bit more of a mixed bag, at least from what I've seen, but I've seen some people receive huge offers in banking (Charlotte) right out of the gate. I don't have the salary data to back that comparison up - but any career center should have starting salary & mid career estimates for each major. As you start to figure out what interests you in a career, you can get pretty good salary data on the website Glassdoor.

caliq

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #17 on: February 17, 2015, 05:21:53 AM »
The most important thing for me is, I don't like working for a living (It's so limiting). The faster I can reach a point of FI, the more happy I will be. If anyone has recommendations or links to how to do this in college, I would be appreciative.

Glad to hear you've got the CC-good school transition figured out.  In that case it might give you an advantage, see below:

In terms of getting closer to FI while in college, here are some thoughts:

1.  Summer internships ASAP.  There are some that are designed to help students from non-research institutions, and I believe a CC would qualify.  Definitely look into the ones at universities; you can get free room and board plus a stipend (3.5k to 5k in my field usually) for working the entire summer.  They're typically harder for people just finishing freshman year to get, but you might find some that are specifically targeted for that population as well.  Deadlines are at the latest mid-March so if you're currently in your 2nd semester, you should hop on the applying ;)

2.  On campus student employment.  My university (and the CC I started at) have a searchable site where you can put in really simple job applications for stuff like admin work, or food services, or residential life.  There are sometimes positions in academic departments, either administrative or even research related.  Obviously you'd want to target the ones in departments of interest to you as top priority, but all student labor jobs are pretty cushy.  The best part about these jobs is that they are basically required to be flexible around your class schedule -- it's pretty hard to find an off-campus part time job that's as understanding about things like needing to take a week off for finals or whatever.  And at my administrative/receptionist type jobs, I literally get paid to do homework and sit at an academic department's desk just in case someone comes in the office looking for help.  I think I do actual work about 30% of the time at one job, and maybe 50% of the time at the other job.  And I'm not being lazy, I actually seek out extra work much more than my other student worker colleagues. 

3.  You seem like you've got your shit together so this is probably unnecessary but you'd be surprised...Apply for federal/institutional aid with FAFSA, regardless of your income or your parents' income; you never know what you're eligible for and a lot of people who think they won't qualify just don't apply and end up screwing themselves.  FAFSA will get you access to federal grants, state grants and scholarships, and many institutional grants and scholarships, not to mention work study (which makes it much more likely that you'll be hired by an academic department for researchy type stuff, btw -- they love not having to pay you out of their own grants, lol), and federal student loans --subsidized loans don't accrue interest while you're in school -- it sucks to have loans at all, but if you have to get them, these are the way to go.  If you pay them off 1 day before your deferral period is up, you pay the same $ amount that you took out first semester freshman year.

4.  Buy used textbooks online -- compare prices at various places; wait until the first day or even week of class to buy, just in case they're not really required.

5.  Apply for other scholarships through your school/department.  I got a $1500 scholarship to the CC just for writing a one page essay about some random thing (it was years ago, can't remember exactly lol).  Anything that goes above your bill amount can be saved for next semester in your school account or disbursed to you as a lump sum at the beginning of the semester. 

6.  Don't get sucked into the eating out everywhere/going out to the bar 5 nights a week.  It's hell on your finances and hell on your body and hell on your grades.

That's basically all the financial stuff I wish someone had told me my first day of college :D   

Edit:  I have no idea if this is legit but this website emailed everyone at my school at the beginning of the semester -- gradebuddy.com.  It's basically a notes sharing site for people in the same classes, but you get paid by the page if you upload your class notes and make study guides or whatever.  I don't do it because I hand write my notes, and they want them typed, but they claimed you could make $500 per class in a semester.  So if you type your stuff already, I don't see how you could go wrong there.  Unless of course it's not legit but do your own due diligence, cause I only got as far as the typed notes part before I decided it was way too much work for me to convert everything and stopped looking into it.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2015, 05:24:25 AM by caliq »

Financial.Velociraptor

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Re: Going to College, What major?
« Reply #18 on: February 17, 2015, 08:56:13 AM »
Engineering and Computer Science are very math heavy.  I did AAS - Accounting, BBA - Economics, MBA - Finance.  If you go with an Econ major, know that it is moderately math intensive.  You will only have to "prove" each mathematical concept once but you'll need mastery of the concept and an understanding of what all those 'curves' are generated from (Hint: it's almost always the first derivative of a really messy equation.) 

The ultimate work I did was OK.  I find that all the talk of "do you like it?" to be a little misguided.  To me, 90% or more of my enjoyment from a workplace came from my coworkers. I think it makes more sense to ask yourself, do I like my engineering (or other) classmates?  If you don't relate to engineers, find something else.

If you are interested in straight up money and lifestyle with no other considerations, become a nurse anesthetist.  They work a straight 40 or less and start at about 250k in Houston.  Much less training overhead compared to full doctor...