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Rating Engineering majors difficulty-wise

theripcurl1969theripcurl1969 Posts: 1,100Registered User Member
edited December 2005 in Engineering Majors
i would go with:

1.) ElecE/ChemE
2.) CompSci
3.) MechE
4.) BioE
5.) AeroE
6.) CivilE
7.) UndecE

Post edited by theripcurl1969 on

Replies to: Rating Engineering majors difficulty-wise

  • karthikkitokarthikkito Posts: 1,387Registered User Senior Member
    1.) ElecE/ChemE
    2.) MechE/AE (they're really almost the same major within a few classes...and actually are combined at some schools)
    3.) BioE, CivilE, StructE
    4.) CS
    5.) UndecE

    Just my view, nothing scientific of course ;)
  • ashernmashernm Posts: 986Registered User Member
    What about Industrial & Operations Research? Or Nuclear?
  • redbeardredbeard Posts: 308Registered User Member
    This question comes up enough in this forum that it might work as a 'stikie' at the top. Everybody ponders this question, and the answers are all over the map. As an engineer (at once nuclear, now systems and operations research), I always wonder how I can answer in a way that is helpful to a student. I only know my experience--I can't tell you about courses I did not take! So, let's try to 'deconstruct' the question, as the film studies majors would say....

    All engineers will (or should) take the same math courses: diff equ, statistics, multivariate calculus, linear algebra.

    The introductory courses for all the majors are about equally difficult. So, the question is, how hard are the 300 and 400 level courses in these majors?

    Nuclear engineers will have to learn fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, and physics of solid materials (materials science) along with the mechanical engineers. They will have to learn power systems, circuit theory, and control theory along with the EE's. They will need to know risk analysis, simulation and modeling, and optimization along with the systems engineers. So, I would submit, nuclear engineers (and aerospace engineers, which are similiar) have the 'worst' of all worlds.

    But, really, you need to get a feel for what YOU might be interested in. What types of technology float your boat. I suggest looking at the curriculum for each of the majors--the actual names of the courses. Then, spend an afternoon at the engineering library. Look through the books on that subject. Are you drawn to that application of technology? If you find yourself immersed in a book on concrete load calculations, then civil engineering might be your 'bag'. If you are intrigued by a signal processing book (meet Monsieur Fourier!), then you are likely to have a leaning toward electrical engineering. Courses are harder if you're not interested in the subject. (The converse is not true. Even if you're interested in the topic, the course can still be a struggle. But, at least you get off to a good start!)

    And, by the way, we're all geeks here. It's okay. You can talk to us. If you confess that you really were intrigued by a technical book, then we are brothers (or siblings!).

    Remember, you are a big part of your education. It's a personal journey, and it's hard for us to advise you on what you will find challenging. It's nearly impossible to predict what will go beyond challenging to be overwhelming. So, first, know thyself. Then you will be better able to ask questions about different engineering fields.
  • aibarraibarr Posts: 4,248Registered User Senior Member
    Some good points in there, Redbeard.

    Structural is nearly identical to aero and mech, fyi. I'm taking the same classes as my friend in Colorado who's working on a PhD in optical physics, and I'm in this so-called "easy" structural field. I have to do everything that mechanical engineers do (dynamics, materials, thermo, fluids, etc), all the risk/consequence stuff that systems engineers do, all the econ stuff that most other engineers don't have to deal with, and while I don't have to deal with circuits that often, I have to deal with government restrictions and codes, so therefore I have to do everything that a law student has to study, too! So, my field is harder than advanced physics, mechanical engineering, systems engineering, economics, AND law school, COMBINED! (You can spin this any way you want, is my point.)

    All engineering majors are difficult, just in different ways. No matter how many college freshmen think civ eng is easy, studying tensor calculus and theoretical structural mechanics is still a pain in the butt! ;) So, to reiterate what Redbeard said, check out what sorts of things *you* like, ask questions about various engineering majors and how they're each difficult, because anything worth doing's going to be tough, and engineering certainly falls into that category. Just work to figure out which you'll like the best. This whole 'ranking engineering in terms of difficulty' thing doesn't really accomplish anything.

  • Russell7Russell7 Posts: 1,414- Senior Member
    I've heard that Engineering Physics is the hardest, followed by ChemE and EE. Then most everything else. Then environmental and civil are the easiest.
  • karthikkitokarthikkito Posts: 1,387Registered User Senior Member
    aibarr, i've heard 'through the grapevine' so to speak that civeE is one of the easier engineering majors for undergrad, but it quickly gets ratcheted up during grad school...does this seem like the case for you?
  • theripcurl1969theripcurl1969 Posts: 1,100Registered User Member
    good points to the above posters. how is computer engineering? is it on the level of EE or more towards CS?
  • mrnovamrnova Posts: 297Registered User Junior Member
    At my school (Cornell), Comp Eng is combined with Elec Eng, we call it ECE, verry similiar. I would like to submit my ranking of difficulty
    Eng Physics
    ECE (My original)
    Operations/Industrial (My Major)

    Any other engineering such as nuclear I feel I do not know enough about to comment.
  • aibarraibarr Posts: 4,248Registered User Senior Member
    Karthikkito- There are easier courses and harder courses in civ eng for undergrad. Some of the required courses in civil engineering have to cover so much material (eg, ALL of environmental engineering in one semester...) that you don't have time to get terribly in-depth or mathematical about things, so that may be where the rumor comes from. Civil engineering's just a really broad topic. It encompasses transit, traffic, water resources, pipes, land development, HVAC, architecture, economics, project management, hydrology, water purification, sanitation engineering, bridge design, building design, airport design, earthquake design, wind design... the list goes on. A civ's got to know about all of these things.

    Once you decide which area you're going to specialize in, though, (ie, I decided to specialize in structural engineering, which, as it turns out, is actually really complicated... think "systems engineering meets mechanical, but bolt everything to the earth, which sinks and moves, and then make the structure stand still and carry extreme loads"...) then it gets really complicated, really quickly, because instead of a broad, survey-like curriculum, you're getting into the math and science of whatever specialization you've decided upon.
  • live-live- Posts: 810Registered User Member

    Wow, hah, I always wanted to major in ECE (and that's now my "anticipated major" after getting in to Cornell ED), but I am pretty sure now I'm going to go with Operations Research.

    So you think OR is definitely "easier" than ECE was? As in it's not too hard to keep a decent (I just want to try and keep a 3.0+, 3.5+ and I'd be ecstatic) GPA or anything?

    Also, how would you describe Cornell's OR program in general? I have always liked computers and math/science stuff but also like econ/business/history so I'm thinking OR would suit me better than pure ECE.

  • karthikkitokarthikkito Posts: 1,387Registered User Senior Member
    aibarr, makes sense...later specialization, so by the time things get truly frightening, people in other majors have already made up their minds about the difficulty?
  • ashernmashernm Posts: 986Registered User Member
    "Also, how would you describe Cornell's OR program in general? I have always liked computers and math/science stuff but also like econ/business/history so I'm thinking OR would suit me better than pure ECE. "
    I have similar interests, including economics/political economy, mathematics, physics, business and some philosophy.
    With that in mind, how does computer science compare? CS pays more than all the other disciplines at Cornell, with an average of 66k, so that's an added benefit if it's relevant to my interests.
  • illini4eva86illini4eva86 Posts: 68Registered User Junior Member
    Yeah i am quite surprised myself at how CS has been ranked in the bottom by a lot of people....i always thought it was right behind, if not on par with ECE and ChemE.
    Anyways when people say "difficulty" i like to measure it with the total hours of work you put in for your classes since thats what it ultimately comes down to for me and i think it is probably the most reliable way of measuring "difficulty". Since CS people spend countless days and nights coding shouldnt they be right on top?
  • theripcurl1969theripcurl1969 Posts: 1,100Registered User Member
    definately agree ^^^^. is CE harder than CS?
  • Russell7Russell7 Posts: 1,414- Senior Member
    MrNova... that looks right. EngPhysics is definitely the hardest. That's pretty well known. It's what I'm going into next year. It's supposed to be a real grinder.
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