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Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?
3

Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

(OP)
Hey everyone!

I am looking to gain some knowledge by asking this question on this forum with a multitude of experienced engineers.

I will keep my history brief as possible! I am 28 years old, have four years of experience in the USAF working with aircraft (I was a flight engineer) as well as 2 years working for a boat manufacturer as a design engineer using Unigraphics NX4. As a child, I have always been a "hands on" individual, loving to take things apart and figure out why they work the way they do.

I am now returning back to school after completing a B.S. in Aeronautics with minors in Safety and Business from Embry-Riddle (basically, a combo of business/light science). I will be considered an upper-level transfer since I already have my core engineering courses out of the way, so now the question arises...mechanical or electrical?

I ultimately would like to assist in the design of advanced aero-propulsion systems, but lack the field knowledge of how feasible this is in today's economy. So many people have told me "you can't go wrong with electrical..."

Is it true that EEs have more opportunity than MEs? I feel that my interests are most closely related to mechanical engineering, but I don't want to go down a path that will provide less opportunity.

I thank all in advance for your advice/comments!  

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

Quote:

Is it true that EEs have more opportunity than MEs?
EEs have more opportunity to do EE work.  MEs have more opportunbity to do ME work.  EEs are smarter because they work with stuff that blinks (just ask one).

Quote:

So many people have told me "you can't go wrong with electrical..."
If you trust "people", then you deserve what "people" give you.

How can one go "wrong" with mechanical?

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

Couple of ideas.

1.  You could take mechanical but try and fit in any EE classes you can.

2.  You could try and find an Electro Mechanical or Mechatronics degree though they may be more common in Europe than in the US, I'm not sure.

thread730-257538: Do MEs need to know electronics..?? may well be relevant.

I took Aerospace Systems rather than Aeronautical because I believed the hype about systems being the way forward etc.  With hindsight, given what I've worked on, Aeronautical may have been a better fit or mechanical even more so, but I didn't know it at the time.

If you're more interested in mechanical I'd pick that, and like I said just try and pick up enough EE to get by.
 

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

(OP)
KENAT,

Thank you for the advice! I do feel I should go with mechanical as it coincides with my already developed strengths. I like the idea of filling in as many elective courses as I can with EE-related ones. Do you have any suggestions as far as classes go since aero-propulsion is my desired route?

TheTick, you are absolutely right...I don't feel you can go "wrong" with mechanical at all! They probably had some bias towards the EE direction while I was trying to take what they said to me as objectively as I could. It is hard, however, when that is primarily what you hear without any other advice. That is why I am here speaking to all of you! Thanks again for your input!

 

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

I think there is a bias towards thinking EE is more advanced.  It certainly has a lot of flash compared to ME.

Advances in EE are more sparkly.  Computers and automation and neat robots.  Advances in ME are not as glamorous.

I have a friend that can tell you all you ever need to know about the mechanical properties of a popular brand of cookies (think Clark Griswold).  Is that interesting at cocktail parties or video propaganda?  No.  Does my friend make way too much money?  I know I'm jealous.

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

Aeropropulsion, I'd have thought thermodynamics/propulsion/aerothermodynamics classes would be most important, closely followed one suspects by materials and maybe some extra aerodynamics.  As to EE courses, not my strong point, dynamics & control springs to mind thought that's not strictly EE.

Remember, just about every EE component also exists mechanically, the converse is not true.

I've seen a few 'news' articles about how EE's are supposedly doing better at present, especially with 'smart grid', 'green power generation' etc.  However, then there's threads like these thread730-249439: Electrical Engineering being hit hard by the economic downturn which make you wonder.  EE like ME covers a wide range, from the more 'construction' related fields to power generation even into gizmo's etc.  Power gen may be great, EE aspects of machine design may not be.

Also remember, if by 'aero propulsion' you primarily mean gas turbines, these don't just get used on aircraft.  They have power generation & marine applications, heck, they even get used in Tanks.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

As one of my M.E. professors used to say, "There are two reasons we study mechanical engineering. Electricity and Chemistry."

Regards,

Mike

  

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

I will be the first EE to join in.  I think that if you like mechanical and comfortable with mechanical, you should definitely go mechanical.  My theory is that you have to like what your doing, or is it worth going back to school for a couple years, to do something you may not like.

Just my 2 cents

Jonathan

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

Electrical engineering at degree level quickly descends into some fairly heavy mathematics, especially calculus and Laplace. If you have a flair for maths then it might be for you. Plus you won't have to study thermodynamics beyond kindergarten level, which can only be a good thing.

Aside from the educational side of things, I would say that most electrical guys frequently have a better understanding of mechanical plant than vice-versa, not because we're smarter - we'd have done medicine if we were that smart - but because our electrical equipment is usually driving, measuring, or controlling the mechanical equipment so we have to gain an understanding of the mechanical stuff sufficiently to be able to hold an intelligent conversation with the mechs.
 
  

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If we learn from our mistakes I'm getting a great education!
 

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

Of course I might say that most electrical guys frequently think they have a better understanding of mechanical plant than vice-versa, presumably because they can actually see and touch the mechanical stuff and it's not just electrons jiggling in a cable or similar.winky smile

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

I have seen many ME-to-EE crossovers in my time.  On the verge of becoming one myself.  Some people are able to do both.  To succeed in any engineering discipline requires core skills that allow one to succeed in a broad spectrum of disciplines.

On a base level, it's all just different expressions of the need to turn scientific knowledge into something useful.  There's nothing about my ME degree that prevents me from understanding how a transistor works.

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

Note that we don't try to hold intelligent conversations with checkers... but I have definitely learned two things from the mechs: when to hit a non-working item with an adjustable wrench, and when to twist it with Vise-grips. smile
  

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If we learn from our mistakes I'm getting a great education!
 

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

To deal with the OP question rather than propogate the ME/EE discussion. If you have a passion for Mechanical then follow that stream. Supliment it with electrical theory as much as possible. If you are leaning towards propulsion then bias the mechanical subjects towards Thermodynamics (power cycles) and fluid dynamics (turbine/fin/propellor). Although as you have an Aero background the fluids side should be fairly under control.

Electrical can also be learnt along the way in much the same way the EE's ppick up ME topics. We are reliant upon each other. Thought ther is a lot to be said for line shafts/ belts and steam engines! I guess we still need EE to provide light.

Can we trust anything from EE, just ask which way the electrons flow, their basis has been wrong from the start! (Just had to get that in;)

Mark Hutton


 

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

(OP)
Wow, thank you all for your valuable posts! After reading through what has been contributed so far, going ME definitely makes sense to me with my background. I was referring to aerospace propulsion in my original post, but ultimately I would be happy working in any industry using gas turbines! I would like to dabble in EE, and it looks as if I will definitely get the chance to.

I can see the lighthearted rivalry between the MEs and the EEs :)

Jon47532, I couldn't have said it better - pursue mechanical if that is truly what you like. I think I need to buckle down and listen to myself more :)

Thanks again to everyone!  

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

I avoided EE to get away from LaPlace Transforms.

In the very first minute of the very first class (dynamics) on the very first day in my chosen discipline (ME), the professor said:

"Everything we are concerned with in this course is a mechanical system that can be modeled using an electrical analog and solved by LaPlace Transforms."

So, you see how well that strategy worked for me.

In retrospect, though, if you know some EE and controls stuff as well as the ME stuff it opens huge doors for you, seriously, especially if you ever have to commission a plant or troubleshoot a pump circuit or control loop.

Regards,

SNORGY.

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

One of my favourite opening questions in an interview for an electrical engineering position in a power plant was to explain how an internal combustion engine works. An EE who has no idea about common mechanical things is about as much use to me as a chocolate frying pan is to a chef. Reactions to that question have varied from rabbit-in-headlights to 'are you serious?' to a bit of banter about 'I thought this was an electrical job' followed by a good explanation. Guess which one I was interested in.
 

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If we learn from our mistakes I'm getting a great education!
 

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

Do you want to worry about dying from electrocution or from being crushed/mangled?

These are the questions you should be asking yourself.

Also, the math is very similar in both ME and EE.  The same partial differential equations that describe (exactly) how an electrical system works also describe (exactly) how a mechanical system works.

You should really be concerned about what you like and want to do.  Typically if you ask an ME your question (s)he will tell you to go mechanical.  If you ask an EE they will say go electrical.

There are PLENTY of opportunities right now in both fields.

As an EE i just want to say that don't think all EE work is done at a desk.  I work in the field and love it!

.....

.........


?


sorry... lost my concentration.... saw some lights blinking!

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

Is it true that electrical engineers rarely shift to mechanical because they can't handle all of the associated conversions of units?   

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

yes

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

SI units don't need conversion...
  

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If we learn from our mistakes I'm getting a great education!
 

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

Do both. One engineer is 1/4th of what he/she could be if one sided.
Mechatronics is the wave of the present and future.

Ignore the rivalry comments. That is an indication of equal rigor.
Math? Well, if you don't like math then engineering in general is not the suit.

peace
Fe

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

I must add that in my experience, especially in robotics, the sparkies don't understand the complex dynamics and as a result, can get frustrated. The mechanical's, on the other hand ,don't have the trouble. But most mechanical's wouldn't know where to start when attempting to control the robot.
(just a simple example)...smile

peace
Fe

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

Why not study physics? Material science, condensed matter, thermodynamics (statistical mechanics)...All hugely interesting and applicable fields. Combine that with some chemistry, and you'll be way ahead of the curve as far as advanced propulsion systems go.

Physics is really the mindset you want to start from. I know it may not be a popular choice, but that helps you also. Physics is truth, and the rigor (math) it takes to understand the concepts will better position you to derive thoughts on your own. Whether they be advanced field theory for ion propulsion, or whatever.

Just my opinion. (physics undergrad, EE masters, working as an ME)

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

I switched from physics to ME freshman year.  Mostly because I knew a BSME would be more marketable in my post-navy career.

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

hmm, this all seems really interesting to me because ive always like electronics and mechanics and im getting ready to go to college... maybe i should look for a "mechatronics" degree somewhere... some really good points in here.

pulsating combustion rules!

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

Don't get hung up on the term 'mechatronics' it's not always called that, worry about the contents.  In the UK it was normally called electro-mechanical.  I know here in the states we got interns with 'mechantronics' degrees and some managers didn't know what it was.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

Bear in mind that traditionalists often apply "Jack of all trades, master of none" to mechatronics degrees, just as they do to 'multiskilled' technicians. A little harsh perhaps but also an element of truth too. Personally I'd go for a full mechanical or full electrical degree.
  

----------------------------------
  
If we learn from our mistakes I'm getting a great education!
 

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

Mechanical engineering is more broad, in my opinion and offers a greater depth in understanding engineering in general. Electrical quality issues are often mechanical in nature, with the exception of EMI there is are a host of issues that are mechanical in nature: heat sinks, vibration, smiconductor manufacturing, etc.

I graduated electrical engineering, but I do more work in mechanical by training. I work in fire protection, so I do alarms and suppression.

Its good for an ME to take a few courses in EE though. I would advise circuits, digital circuits, electro-magnetics. All the rest is programming, which you got in your curriculum anyway.

 

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

Good options. There are degrees such as a Mechanical Engineering B.Eng. with a mechatronics option. In your fourth year you will take 3-4 courses on electrical engineering.
These may include: circuit theory, electro-mechanical energy conversion, advanced mechatronics, control systems.
(at least I know they do this in Canada and some places in the US)

peace
Fe

RE: Should I Choose Mechanical or Electrical?

If you want to looking into a Mechatronics option in Mechanical. For the most part it drops alot of the thermodynamics and fluid mechanics courses (3rd and 4th year levels at least) and replaces them with electrical courses.
I took core mechanical so I cannot give much more information on this, if you would like to check out the course break down you can take a look here http://www.unb.ca/ME/mechatro.html  University of New Brunswick - Canada,  and might be able to find a similar option near you if your interested. gl

-Bean

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