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Engineering vs. Accounting

MarcieMarieMarcieMarie Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
edited October 2016 in Business Major
Currently, I'm a high school senior. I have recently been accepted to East Carolina University and from what I have researched, it is a pretty decent school as far as business and engineering goes. My older brother graduated from there recently with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and he has a well paying job.
My dilemma is that although I come from a school who emphasizes in STEM, I'm not really fond of engineering, especially the math prerequisites. I excel in STEM courses but I'm just not heavily interested in it to study those fields.

Neither of our parents have went to college and they both make minimum wage, I love them a lot so because they have provided so much for both my brother and I. So you can imagine my face when I told my dad that I was accepted into college with the intent of majoring in accounting, and he says "Your brother majored in Engineering. Engineers make money, you should follow in your brother's footsteps. You need to pick something more stable!" He wasn't even proud of me. I know East Carolina isn't really that selective or prestigious but from where I'm from, getting accepted to college is a feat in itself.
Anyways, when I submitted my application, I put Economics as my major because I enjoyed an internship I had over the summer that emphasized community economic development and public policy. However, after looking more into it, I decided that I should pick a more practical major and maybe minor in economics (or IT because of my interests." Accounting seemed interesting enough.

I guess my question is, which major, Engineering or Accounting, seems more practical and useful? What are the disadvantages and advantages of each major as far as classes and job opportunities? (Sorry if this seems like a rant! Thanks!)

Other schools I am applying to are NC State and UNC Chapel Hill, which are reach schools for me.

Replies to: Engineering vs. Accounting

  • happy1happy1 Forum Champion Parents, Forum Champion Admissions Posts: 22,641 Forum Champion
    If you do well studying engineering or accounting you should be in good shape for a career. But keep in mind that to become a CPA you will need 150 credits -- most BS programs are 120 credits -- many go on for a one year Master's degree.
  • MarcieMarieMarcieMarie Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    @happy1 Thanks for the info. Do you believe that an extra year would be worth it compared to just doing an undergraduate major in engineering? How does undergrad accounting majors fare in terms of job prospects without the CPA certification?
  • happy1happy1 Forum Champion Parents, Forum Champion Admissions Posts: 22,641 Forum Champion
    edited October 2016
    Engineering and accounting are two very different majors and you need to do the research to see which is the better fit for you. I'm not an engineer so I can't speak to that field -- all I know is that engineering is more STEM oriented than business Spend time talking to your brother about the coursework etc. he took in engineering and consider if you think the field is a fit for you.

    I don't know the job market for non-CPAs from that college. Again that is something you need to research. You would not be recruited to work for any public accounting firm without the 150 credits you could probably work in private or government accounting. Try to talk to someone in the accounting dept. or in career placement at the college.

    In general getting a job will depend not only on your major but on how well you do in college, any work experience you get, how you interview etc.

  • MarcieMarieMarcieMarie Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    @happy1 I see. Thanks for your insight.
  • happy1happy1 Forum Champion Parents, Forum Champion Admissions Posts: 22,641 Forum Champion
    Good luck. And I should add that in general I do think the extra year is worthwhile (if affordable) if you do go the accounting route.
  • UCBUSCalumUCBUSCalum Registered User Posts: 781 Member
    In accounting, the jobs are more steady and stable. If you begin your career as an accountant, there is a good chance you can end your career in accounting. In general, the accounting work is similar from industry to industry. That is not the case for engineering. You might be a nuclear, chemical, aerospace, petroleum engineer and later become out of favor if there is a downturn in the particular industry you are working in. Even if you are able to work as an electrical, mechanical or civil engineer for 10 to 30 years, your salary can become too high and it may be cheaper to hire an engineer fresh out of college for a lower salary and up to date technical skills. Engineers working in government are less prone to this. You might want to talk to older people who were engineers or current engineers about long term prospects. Many engineers I know end up reinventing themselves to a new career at a later stage in life. Some do it in an earlier stage in life by getting a MBA or a law degree.
  • ChardoChardo Registered User Posts: 3,090 Senior Member
    These are two completely different paths with very different skill sets. Engineering is the more lucrative and stable career for most grads, however it is extremely difficult. If you don't like math, forget engineering. You will be using the highest levels of math on a daily basis, along with physics or chemistry or other sciences depending on discipline. Engineering is, literally, using advanced math to solve problems. Accounting is very misunderstood in that people think you need to be good at math. There is no advanced math in accounting. Nothing beyond basic arithmetic and maybe a little algebra. Accountants need to be organized and think logically, but don't need advanced math skills. This should be an easy decision for you. If you're not fond of STEM, you'll never succeed at engineering, so choose accounting.
  • happy1happy1 Forum Champion Parents, Forum Champion Admissions Posts: 22,641 Forum Champion
    edited October 2016
    ^^^^ While I agree that engineering grads typically have a higher starting salary as compared to accounting, my experience (through my own experience as well as friends and family in both careers) has shown that engineering salaries often level out fairly quickly and the CPAs catch up. I do think accounting is at least as stable as engineering (especially if one picks a narrow branch of engineering) as noted in post #6.

    Bottom line is both are fine and stable professions and the important thing is for the OP to find the right fit.
  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn Super Moderator Posts: 36,284 Super Moderator
    My husband and I started our "mom and pop" engineering firm in 1999. At that time, our CPA's hourly rate was identical to ours. In the 17 years since, his rate has gone up over 100%, while we've been able to raise ours only 50%. We also have the added expense of professional liability insurance, which is expensive for structural engineers! So if I had it to do over again, I would seriously consider accounting.
This discussion has been closed.