"Shadowing" an engineer?

Hello everyone!

How could I gain experience related to engineering, like how pre-meds shadow a medical professional? I know I want to be an engineer, but I have no clue which branch. They all seem interesting, but I narrowed it down to aerospace, mechanical, robotics, and chemical. I feel like if I could get some real life experience (in any of the fields), it would help me decide which field I would like to go in.

Also, I heard that aerospace is too specialized, and that I would to do Mechanical engineering undergrad, then do aerospace in grad school. Is this true?

The only “experience” (if you can call it that) is just being the president of my school’s robotics team. I liked how you had to build a robot to win a competition, and you had to code the robot for certain tasks. If it’s relevant, I’m also going to use my school kit to teach other kids in the area what I know about robotics, I did this 2 years ago, and the non profit that I worked with liked it. There’s also a few colleges really close to me, but most of engineering classes aren’t available for high schoolers and the ones that are have already started. Any help is greatly appreciated.

1 Like

My son met with an engineer that asked him several questions that narrowed his focus. They were quite helpful. Would you prefer to work with tangible things (ME and Civil) or intangible things (Chem E and EE)? If intangible, do you like Chemistry? If tangible, would you like to work on things that move (ME) or things that don’t (Civil)?

After all that, my son chose ME with a Mechatronics concentration and did a Fluids MS. He had zero experience shadowing or otherwise, not even robotics, prior to college.

As for AE, it really depends on your interests and the school’s program. In general engineers of nearly all disciplines work in the aerospace industry.


Looking at your questions, I think I would prefer Mechanical over the other fields that you listed above. However, I heard that people who do ME can’t find a good job because there’s too much supply and not enough demand. I also saw that many people become a mechanic. I want a job that I really enjoy, but being a mechanic seems very limited.


Meant for high schoolers. You meet weekly in groups but have engineering mentors. It’s great and my son did it. Don’t worry if it’s like civil. It’s the idea of working together on a project. Looks great on a resume also. All types of engineers work on this also.


Wow, this program is really amazing. I’ll be sure to sign up right away! Thank you so much!

1 Like

There’s zero relationship between being a ME and being a mechanic. I’m not sure where you read that, but it is completely false.

As for ME and the job market, it is the broadest engineering field there is. The number of things you can do with a ME degree, depending on concentration and coursework is dauntingly vast. MEs work in almost every industry. My son graduated two years ago. He and all of his friends landed good jobs prior to graduation. Not random jobs either. He works for a startup and has friends at other startups, Tesla, SpaceX, Apple, NASA, national labs, etc.


You can also go to a summer camp that helps you figure this out by giving you a little taste of each. Rose Hulman and Missouri S&T are two great options.


Thank you! I’ll look into these today, I hope the deadline hasn’t passed to sign up for it.

1 Like

No problem. My son loved this program and shows you how sorta engineers think. He wanted engineering with business so Industrial it was for him. You can pretty much do anything with engineering. Google some of your interests with the word engineering and see what you find. He was undecided also then found his interest. Even his Augmented Reality students org he help to found on campus was lots of computer science students and business and he got to sorta manage them all and put on conferences so fit him perfectly.

Keep a wide open mind actually. At his virtual commencement the student speaker said “I am still discovering what IOE is” (Industrial and operations engineering)… And I think that’s the point. Most fields tend to be constantly changing…

Also for a fun summer read get “The Goal”… It will give you some insight and you will learn somethings you can apply to any field.
Good Luck.

Thank you, I’ll be sure to read it!

I have a question about the ACE program, it says that I have to sign up for the 2020-2021 season, but I think that has already passed. Should I wait until they release the application for the 2021-2022 season?

Never mind, I found the specific instructions. Thank you for all your help and recommending the program to me!

Np… By the way its a really “Fun” program. Don’t forget to have some fun… You will do similar things that lots of engineering camps do and you actually work on a real project. That’s at least what they did in Chicago. Plus they gave them dinner once a week.

1 Like

I’m not sure what year you are in HS but Purdue has a program for rising seniors called STEP that is an intro to different engineering disciplines. It’s project based and my D had a great time.

I’m a junior(rising senior) right now, and while I would love to go to Purdue(one of my top schools on my list) and do the STEP program, it was canceled for this year. Thank you for the suggestion though!

Seconding the ACE recc. My S did this for two years. It was a great experience, plus he won a scholarship for college through the program. He was also invited to shadow at an engineering firm. Another suggestion is to read the book “Is There an Engineer Inside You?” which is written to high schoolers and has information about all the engineering careers. It really gives you a great background into each discipline.

Aerospace work involves a lot of traditional types of engineering, like mechanical, electrical, and materials, so many people study one of the traditional types of engineering and then go off to work in aerospace. Aerospace engineering as a college major often resembles mechanical engineering with an aerospace bias within the range of subarea options that mechanical engineering majors can choose with their upper level courses.

Other options:

  • Industrial engineering: work on processes and operations (rather than products). Heavy on statistics.
  • Materials engineering.
  • Naval architecture.
  • Nuclear engineering.

Would it be better to do Mechanical with an aerospace bias, as this would give me more career options?

It may help get past hesitation by non-aerospace employers who believe that the aerospace engineering major will leave for an aerospace job as soon as one is found.

Ok, thank you for clarifying! I had no idea that the two fields were that deeply intertwined.

Aerospace is really just a subset of ME. At some schools they are in the same department or a ME concentration. Depending on the program it might be more systems oriented or more in the weeds. My son’s MS was in ME, but it was in boundary layer aerodynamics. MEs with the right courses can work as AEs.