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Does It Suck To Be An Engineering Student? 971

Pickens writes "Aaron Rower has an interesting post on Wired with the "Top 5 Reasons it Sucks to be an Engineering Student" that includes awful textbooks, professors who are rarely encouraging, the dearth of quality counseling, and every assignment feels the same. Our favorite is that other disciplines have inflated grades. "Brilliant engineering students may earn surprisingly low grades while slackers in other departments score straight As for writing book reports and throwing together papers about their favorite zombie films," writes Rower. "Many of the brightest students may struggle while mediocre scholars can earn top scores." For many students, earning a degree in engineering is less than enjoyable and far from what they expected. If you want to complain about your education, this is your chance."
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Does It Suck To Be An Engineering Student?

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  • NO IT DOES NOT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by warrior_s ( 881715 ) * <> on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:43PM (#22846240) Homepage Journal
    here is my summary and my thoughts

    According to the author of the article... inorder for engineering to not suck, we should have inflated grades and beautiful textbooks (whatever that it). He says that the textbooks are awful because they are thick and black and white and contain long equations (i don't know if i should laugh or what).. His other reasons are more related to the school in which he is studying and not with engineering

    Seriously ... I don't think this article is either NEWS FOR NERDS or STUFF THAT MATTERS. Clearly the author should not try to become an engineer and should switch to some other discipline where he gets inflated grades and the incorrect notion that he is bright.
    • Re:NO IT DOES NOT (Score:5, Insightful)

      by electrictroy ( 912290 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:53PM (#22846398)
      If you think the books are boring (black and white and contain long equations),

      wait until you get on your JOB. Engineering education works perfectly; it prepares you for the boredom ahead of you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Then you're in the wrong job. I love my engineering position. Some of it's a bit try (evaluating new sensors) but I get paid to build 'robots' and code them. (Ok, I do mechatronics controls, but it's just a robot).

        I was going to post something along the lines of "Wait until you get your job and they're still looking for theirs." There is a demand for intelligent engineers. How many art history majors have you had help you at Walmart?

        $60k after my first year wasn't too bad either. It's not high, and about av
    • by glueball ( 232492 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:04PM (#22846600)
      New Topic:
      Top 5 reasons it sucks to hire the new crop of engineering students:
      5.) They expect the Statement of work you're asking for completion to be colorful, fun, and well written.
      4.) They can relate how their professor who cave them a B- is soooo much better at solving problems than you.
      3.) They are convinced working as a TA is real work.
      2.) Untraining the bad habits. I block instant messaging for a reason.
      1.) They want me to vote for Obama and incessantly drone on about how horrible life is in the US.
    • Re:NO IT DOES NOT (Score:5, Interesting)

      by p0tat03 ( 985078 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:07PM (#22846650)

      The books do tend to suck a lot more than non-engineering subjects. I suspect it's because engineers who are well-versed in their respective fields have trouble breaking down concepts for relative newcomers. It's not surprising for me to find an advanced concept wedged into the introductory chapters, and helpful beginners' explanations stuck curiously near the end of the book.

      I cannot even begin to count the number of times where I've been doing my course readings, and completely not understanding a concept... and then running across a neat little paragraph explaining it all in a very concise way... in an unrelated chapter, half a book later.

      I've been in school four years now, and I've had maybe 3 textbooks that I felt were truly helpful. The rest were just shameless wastes of my dollars and many trees. In their defense, all the information is in there somewhere, but rarely where you'd expect it to be.

      • Re:NO IT DOES NOT (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Mr Z ( 6791 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:46PM (#22847276) Homepage Journal

        There's surprising variability in text book quality. Some are written for scientific rigor, precision and conciseness at the expense of readability and accessibility. Others give a little on using the precise scientific terms at every turn, focusing instead on being approachable and accurate. For example, consider the following paragraph from my Thermodynamics book, introducing the 2nd law:

        An object at an elevated temperature Ti placed in contact with atmospheric air at temprature T0 would eventually cool to the temperature of its much larger surroundings, as illustrated in Fig. 5.1a. In conformity with the conservation of energy principle the decrease in internal energy of the body would appear as an increase in the internal energy of the surroundings. The reverse process would not take place spontaneously, even though energy could be conserved: The internal energy of the surroundigns would not decrease spontaneously while the body warmed from T0 to its initial temperature.

        That was from Fundamentals of Engineering Thermodynamics by Moran and Shapiro, 2nd Ed., p 160. I took this as an electrical engineering student many years ago (1995, I believe).

        Some years later, my girlfriend at the time was studying toward her mechanical engineering degree. Her textbook (which I don't have handy), introduced the topic in what I thought was a much more approachable manner. Paraphrasing, it went something like this:

        Consider, for example, a cup of hot coffee placed in a room at room temperature. As you would expect, the cup of coffee will eventually cool to the temperature of the room. In the process, it will transfer energy to the air in the room and energy is conserved. The reverse process, spontaneously heating the cup of coffee by drawing energy from the cool room would not occur, even though energy would still be conserved.

        Both are engineering texts covering the same material, but with completely different treatments. Both cover the same range of topics, the same steam tables, the same cycles... everything. But, which text book is more accessible? Which text book is more effective? All I know is I had a really hard time in Thermo, whereas she picked it up very quickly. (I did manage to eke out a B, but she aced it as I recall.) Some of it's aptitude—we each picked our disciplines for a reason—but a big factor is accessibility. I found myself understanding Thermo much better than I had, just reading portions of her book.

        And that's kinda how it goes. Some classes have impenetrable texts, others don't. These days, the wealth of online materials is astonishing compared to what I had when I was in school—1992 - 1996—and so that helps a lot.

        The main thing is to have fun. If you're not having fun doing engineering, then maybe another line of work is better for you. Sure, the projects are challenging, the homework is difficult and often draining, but it's all worth it when you get to the other end and see things come to life. If that doesn't make it worth it to you, then perhaps it's not your field.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pvera ( 250260 )
      Engineering school was hell (U. of PR. Mayaguez [] for me). Most of my Circadian rhythm got shot to hell while studying there. Most of our professors spoke English as a second language, which was a hoot because so did we.

      There was only one guy teaching intro to engineering materials, he was Indian, educated in England and had been teaching in Puerto Rico for over 20 years. The result? Handouts were written in british english (we were taught American English as a second language) yet he taught all of his classe
  • by techpawn ( 969834 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:43PM (#22846246) Journal

    "Many of the brightest students may struggle while mediocre scholars can earn top scores." For many students, earning a degree in engineering is less than enjoyable and far from what they expected. If you want to complain about your education, this is your chance."
    That's true in school and real life kid. I'd like to tell you life is fair... But then I'd be lying and in a management position.
  • by spiffmastercow ( 1001386 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:44PM (#22846256)
    that's more than i can say for my CS degree. All I learned was in spite of my education, not because of it.
    • by SQLGuru ( 980662 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:54PM (#22846410) Journal
      What I got from my CS degree is an understanding of how it all works......I already knew HOW to program (years of BASIC and PASCAL before college) and I didn't learn anything about real world projects, but because of my CS degree, I understood why languages are written the way they are (good old BNF's) and the different levels of the OSI model and algorithms (was I the only one who corrolated the O-face from Office Space with the face someone makes as they try to grasp Big-O notation during their first Algorithms class?) and, etc. None of it applies directly to what I do today, but because of that understanding, I solve problems quicker and I can communicate to the groups that I need to interact with (DBA's, Network Ops, etc.) in their own terms.

    • by GreggBz ( 777373 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:55PM (#22847438) Homepage
      I came into college being pretty good at C++, VB, and having installed Linux a few times, but I didn't know a thing. Let me stand up for the typical CS degree.

      Computer org was a fantastic class. So was Physics I and II. So were my software engineering classes. And, I'd say the same for numerical methods.

      They all taught me something. Computer org inspired me to seek the root of a problem. It gave a view of how computers actually work, something I lacked before the class despite knowing how plow around an OS and assemble the latest PC. It taught me logic, and the difference between a megabit and a megabyte; skills that I've used in every tech job, weather it's development or Unix administration.

      Physics I and II taught me the scientific method. This was my most important lesson. That it takes a long time, and lots of hard work to really KNOW something. That if you can't repeat something with relative certainty, it's meaningless.. it's not the real problem. That in order to solve hard things, you need patience, a variety of knowledge to draw from, and resolve. It taught me to RTFM also. It was the first class where I learned the real value of reference material.

      Software engineering taught me to draw a damn flowchart and understand the problem and my planned solution before I start coding. 2nd most valuable lesson from college. So many self taught CS people, they stunningly still don't get this.

      Numerical methods taught me that across all languages, the tools are largely the same. I learned how to translate a math problem into procedural code. I've seen people that can't devise the code to draw a window in the middle of the screen. It's not something we went over in the FORTRAN, but I'm sure I know how to instantly solve it thanks to the style of thinking instilled in me by that class.

  • So lets see... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by clonan ( 64380 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:44PM (#22846264)
    People take a hard major to be challenged and then they are upset when it is challenging!

    I wonder what the incomes of the soft majors that got all A's will look like compared to a good chemical/electrical/mechanical engineer.
    • Re:So lets see... (Score:5, Informative)

      by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:58PM (#22846500) Homepage Journal
      It all depends on if they have some family in with a business somewhere that would let them get dumped into management or if they're going to be asking "do you want fries with that"? Life is unfair like that. The good thing about an engineering degree is that you're almost guaranteed to be able to find a job somewhere. Engineers have useful skills that companies are looking for. Someone who majors in Women's studies and gets all As is going to have a tough time finding work unless they have a network already in place.

      One gets the impression that the author of the article doesn't particularly like math though. I've gotta say he should probably consider switching majors now, because it's not going to be any better after he graduates if he continues on with the engineering degree. There is a lot of math in his classes because there will be a lot of math in his job in the real world with that degree.

      Also, he has a point about the textbooks sucking. A lot of them are written by engineers and really do suck. I recommend not missing any classes and try to correlate what the professor teaches with the book as much as possible. A lot of the time those seemingly incomprehensible sections will actually be fairly simple once the professor explains it, but be warned that some professors are not above pulling test material straight from the book, so you better understand how the author thinks too.
  • by ksheff ( 2406 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:47PM (#22846312) Homepage
    I mean the "Sex Kills! Go To Tech and Live Forever!" bumper stickers weren't created just because they were catchy.
    • by thatskinnyguy ( 1129515 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:54PM (#22846402)
      I kid you not, an engineering student said the following quote that absolutely dumbfounded me and all who heard it. It was not a shock to anyone that he flunked-out.

      "You know why we need more women in engineering? Because women are hot. The End."

      He now flips burgers for a living.
      • by garett_spencley ( 193892 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:43PM (#22847228) Journal
        That's something that most of my (intelligent and well educated) male friends would say in the company of other males to sound funny.

        I'm sure if we knew the guy personally it might be "no shock to anyone that he flunked out", but just reading that sentence didn't dumbfound me or cause me to assume that the guy is an idiot. I could picture just about any male saying that in the right context. I mean, what ... if we're geeks we're not allowed to think that women are attractive and want to see more of them around us ? At worst it's sexist if said in the wrong context. Certainly does not automatically denote lack of intelligence.
  • hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nomadic ( 141991 ) <nomadicworld AT gmail DOT com> on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:50PM (#22846350) Homepage
    "Brilliant engineering students may earn surprisingly low grades while slackers in other departments score straight As for writing book reports and throwing together papers about their favorite zombie films," writes Rower. "Many of the brightest students may struggle while mediocre scholars can earn top scores."

    Who cares? You're not competing against film majors for fellowships, scholarships, graduate programs and jobs. You're competing against other engineering majors. And honestly, the vast majority of engineering majors seem to have greatly exaggerated notions of their own brilliance; engineering profs do give out As, if you're not making them maybe you're not quite as smart as you think you are.

    I think the only majors with a higher general opinion of themselves are philosophy majors.
    • Re:hmm (Score:4, Funny)

      by realisticradical ( 969181 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:03PM (#22846560) Homepage

      I think the only majors with a higher general opinion of themselves are philosophy majors.

      Now that all depends on how we define one's ability to form a general opinion. For more information read my paper for Philosophy 416, "Our ability to form opinions, real or not." It's clearly an excellent paper, I got an A++++. I'm right because I'm smarter than you are, I have a 4.83 GPA.

  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:51PM (#22846362)
    It's been a few years since college, but what I loathed was having to almost learn Mandarin, or Hindi to understand my math teachers.

    • by eggoeater ( 704775 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:12PM (#22846726) Journal
      I had a similar problem with several of my CS professors (I was a CS major.)
      I complained to my adviser I couldn't understand them, but he said that I should basically be more sympathetic since they probably
      had a tough time understanding me as well. I was shocked by this; I'm the student... if I don't
      understand what the prof is saying, I fail. Plus, I'm PAYING FOR THIS CLASS. A LOT!!

      One of the things that always pissed me off about academia is the sense of entitlement the professors have.

    • My first joke when I walked into a new class was, "You're in luck. I speak English." Lots of people laughed but not because what I said was funny.

  • by chillax137 ( 612431 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:51PM (#22846364) Homepage
    The trick to staying happy is to mingle with the women on the other side of campus
  • by DJ Jones ( 997846 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:52PM (#22846380) Homepage
    #6: It doesn't get you laid.

    You're in college to learn. Get over it.
  • It was (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joeflies ( 529536 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:53PM (#22846394)
    the best of times, and it was the worst of times.

    In my experience, engineering school isn't geared specifically for content. It's designed to teach you some basics (electronics, math, logic, assembly language in my case), and everything done above and beyond that was designed to teach you how to solve problems. I may not know how to build an amplifier anymore, but I do know how to build a circuit, simulate it, how to adjust properties, and develop an answer.

    I think the same thing goes with Calculus - Everything you did in math was done to give you the 'aha' moment that occurs when you learn derrivatives. You suffered endlessly computing deltas manually, but then you learned what a derivative is, and all of a sudden your world changed. There are other ways to solve problems. And when you realized that, then your approach to math suddenly changed - it's not about slogging through a procedure to get the answer, but to look at problems and see new ways of solving them.

    The importance of college isn't what you learn there. It's whether you learn HOW to learn.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wass ( 72082 )
      I agree. Even within college this became quite apparent.

      Going along with your calculus example, I did well enough in the calculus courses I took, but I still didn't get the big picture. Until I got to more advanced physics courses (I was a physics major), where I had to actually apply calculus as a tool to do the physics. Then calculus suddenly made sense.

      Same with linear algebra, the whole concept of an eigenvalue, or why diagonalization is useful, didn't make any sense to me, and just seemed to be arbi
  • Whatever (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EMeta ( 860558 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:54PM (#22846418)
    We designed and built Potato Guns, for credit, in an upper level engineering class. In another we designed and built autonomous Lego robots. Engineering classes==awesome. I just wish I could afford to go back and take more now.
  • Lack of theory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xRelisH ( 647464 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:54PM (#22846420)
    I have a lot of friends who were in Engineering when I was an undergrad. The biggest complaint that they seemed to have was that they felt like they were just being fed equations and not taught to think for themselves. The second they came across a problem that was a slight deviation from the questions mentioned in class or from the textbook, they had some trouble, because the underlying theory was lacking. I suppose it's no surprise that the students who do the best in math or programming competitions like Putnam or ACM are typically under the math faculty. Don't get me wrong, I know lots of brilliant engineering graduates, but they often feel a little cheated.

    It's for this reason why I chose Computer Science, which is a math-based program at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Although I can't recite as many equations from memory as my engineering colleagues, I know how derive them, and am able to handle curveballs that come by way because I developed logical thinking. As a plus, I was able to get a minor in physics with a specialization in quantum mechanics with the extra freedom in courses I had.

    I'd really like to see real math and theory return to engineering. Some formula-feeding might need to be dropped, but a lot of that stuff isn't useful in the workplace anyway.
  • by zboy ( 685758 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:55PM (#22846434)
    I'd agree with all the points, but in the end, most of them should be expected. After leaving engineering for art (or maybe while leaving.. since a had a couple year transition), I realized one of the things I hated so much about it was how "strict" engineering is. In the sense that, if you're given a problem to solve, there's only one correct answer, and only one (or maybe 2) correct ways to arrive at that answer. If you take an art class (or a writing class, as they use the example of writing papers), when you're given a problem to solve, there's a nearly infinite number of correct answers. You can do some of your own thinking. Even an answer that one person feels is completely wrong could actually be correct and get a good grade.. it's much more subjective. The freedom to break the rules and think outside the box is one of the reasons I left engineering. That, and I didn't want some little mistake in a calculation to cause a catastrophic structural failure of some sorts that led to the death of innocent civilians...
  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:56PM (#22846446)
    If you think being an engineering student sucks, wait until you graduate and have to actually get an engineering job!
  • Meh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:57PM (#22846488) Homepage
    1. Every Assignment Feels the Same

      Write a short story. Write a slightly longer story. Write the story in rhyming verse. Write a non-fictional story. Write this story. Write that story. Writing assignments look boring to me. However, I saw challenges and differences in the engineering stuff I did. Maybe this guy is just ignorant of the necessary knowledge to see those differences.

    2. Other Disciplines Have Inflated Grades

      Why chose a major you have to work for where you can find correct answers, when you can have one where you just have to BS enough that the teacher can't tell the difference between BS and insight? Clearly, you should just chose you major based on your possible GPA. I know they hire CEOs based on what their GPA was 30+ years ago.

    3. Dearth of Quality Counseling

      Really? I had some wicked smart professors who could help with this. And I heard plenty from other students who thought this kind of thing about their non-engineering courses. I smell an anecdote.

    4. Professors are Rarely Encouraging

      I had encouraging professors. I had interesting professors. I also had boring professors. Why is that every Engineering professor is a stodgy old bore, while the Lit students get class after class of Dead Poet's Society teachers? Oh, that's right, they don't. Besides, maybe if you were interested in the material instead of in it for the $$$, you wouldn't have this problem. You've never seen a teacher engage some students who are interested in the subject, while called terrible by the students who didn't care about the subject? I've seen that since at least middle school.

    5. Awful Textbooks

      My Literature textbooks weren't very good at all. I've seen history books that were a joke. There were almost no good textbooks. Blame the publishers, blame the teachers requiring their own text book, blame the difficulty of writing a good one. Again, Engineering shouldn't be singled out

    I call blog spam on this. You notice it's just a blog entry, not a real story at Wired.

  • by krog ( 25663 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:59PM (#22846510) Homepage
    Bad professors were a big problem for me. I attended MIT and a state school. Most courses, especially on the bottom rungs, were taught much better at the state school. MIT, like many engineering schools, focuses on its professors' research more than their teaching skills. I failed MIT's differential equations course three times, yet earned an A at the state school. Did diff eq change sometime in the three intervening years, or the 35 miles from one school to the next?

    Bad textbooks often follow from bad professors. Beware especially the profs who insist upon using their self-written textbook. That goes double for the ones which can't get the book published, and in turn force you to buy a crappy GBC-bound xerox from the campus duplication center.

    I never had a good counselor. Good counselors can give you career advice. My counselors were already-overworked professors clamoring for tenure; not only did they lack the insight a good counselor could provide, but they also lacked much time.

    I would not have the non-inflated grades any other way. I also don't trust grades to be a very good diagnostic figure for a student's effort, aptitude, or potential.

    And as for homework... engineering is ingenuity (same root word), rooted in math and reality (which we usually call "physics"). The math bears repetition. It's not that I liked doing math exercises all the time, but now that I am on the other side, I fully appreciate its necessity. There were math concepts which I did not totally grasp until I had hammered on them for years.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JohnFluxx ( 413620 )
      I speak to a retired professor every week. He said that one of his biggest makes was trying to be a good teacher. He put a lot of time and effort into teaching and as a result he didn't manage to publish many papers. After almost losing his job because of this (cutbacks target those with the least number of papers first), he learnt that students come last.
  • by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:04PM (#22846580) Homepage
    • ... every teacher thinks that his students may be able to improve the Navier-Stokes equations.
    • ... the dude that didn't start to study engineering now is the dude that has five years of work experience and is hiring you when you have finished.
    • ... all the beautiful girls (boys) are studying something else that doesn't require that you run your head full of formulas.
    • ... all the math involved makes you an introvert nerd.
    • ... you have a perfect understanding of what Isambard Kingdom Brunel did but can't fill in your tax form.
    • ... that you fail to understand why energy-efficient technology is taxed harder than technology that wastes energy.
    • ... you can calculate the distance to a star but fails to understand the astrological terms that the girl of your life is talking about.
    • ... you see the flawed thinking of intelligent design and find out how many jerks you are surrounded with.
    • ... people don't know what the Coanda effect and the Trench effect are.
    • ... you know why a matter changes state from warm and fluid to solid and icy but not why your girlfriend does.
    • ... you still haven't understood why not the whole world has gone metric yet.
    • ... you understand the futility of software patents.
    • ... you know how a Katana is made and why it's so good and still with all that understanding your car breaks down too often for no apparent reason.
    • ... things that you encounter that breaks down due to bad design and you see that "I could have made that better"
    • ... the guy that looked doped-up in the grammar school that got low grades in everything now is a famous artist earning millions.
    • ... you don't have a clue regarding the behavior of the stock market but you have full control over your wallet.
    • ... for a party you calculate the "bang for the bucks" party when buying the alcohol and forget about the taste.
  • by coolmoose25 ( 1057210 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:07PM (#22846632)
    This is nothing new. I got a ME degree from UCONN in the early 80's. My first class had a professor who barely spoke English. His first quote was "I teach you Engineering, You teach me Engrish". His second line (in broken English) was the classic "Look to your left, look to your right. Neither will be with you when you graduate" We assumed he meant ONE of them won't be there, but he turned out to be correct. 2/3 of the entry class flunked out or transferred to PolySci or some other squishy humanity degree. I graduated with a 2.7 cumulative - with a 3.5 cumulative in my non-engineering classes. My roommate was a ChemE who went to PolySci - he graduated with a 3.5... studied about half as much as I did. I ended up going to graduate school because the smarmy recruiters didn't think a B- average was good enough to be a real engineer... Got an MBA in IT and Finance... never looked back. It's too bad because I would have made a pretty good engineer - actually am a "Software Engineer" now... Bottom line is that the grade inflation that took hold of all the other disciplines never translated to the engineering schools... So even though my degree was probably 4 times harder to get, it didn't count for squat due to the costs of inflation. And now America is SCREAMING for more engineers...
  • by oddaddresstrap ( 702574 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:10PM (#22846698)
    Freshman & sophomore years: pain in the butt!
    Junior & senior years: kicks ass!
  • by athloi ( 1075845 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:14PM (#22846780) Homepage Journal
    From what I've seen lately, the hype over web technologies and our service-based economy has degraded the salaries of engineers relative to other professions, and the inflation of our currency.

    This is why companies seem to like mediocre scholars, because they can buy them cheaper, throw a bunch of them at a problem and solve it more cheaply than having superstars. They like disposable employees because they never get slowed down when someone quits, leaves, goes into rehab or dies.

    Colleges know this, and so they're relaxing standards and caring less about who makes it through, because they're more interested in churning out the inventors of the next FaceBook(tm).
  • Bullcrap! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:18PM (#22846854)

    It does NOT suck to be an engineering student. If - and here's the big part - if you like engineering. If you're in this because you parents told you to do it, or because you think there's big money in it - there's the door and don't let it hit you in the ass.

    Complaining about how engineering is hard work is like someone studying to be a proctologist and coming home from the first day at work and complaining about all the assholes. How could you possibly be surprised by this? Anything that requires you to learn differential equations is going to be a little taxing.

    As for myself, I loved being an engineering student. Having a building full of PhDs that would explain anything, absolutely anything to me ROCKED. I miss college.

    In fact, you only needed about 8 credit hours of extra engineering classes to graduate out of the electives. I graduated with over 35. Took extra classes in antenna design, digital number theory, non-linear name it. I loved it all and dearly miss college.

    On the flip side, you know what actually does suck? A mortgage. That's what.

  • by 192939495969798999 ( 58312 ) <info&devinmoore,com> on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:28PM (#22846978) Homepage Journal
    While slackers may be able to skate by in certain courses, they will not get A's forever and despite what our country's leadership might suggest, slackers generally are not that successful in their careers. Bright students, on the other hand, generally end up extremely well after the dust settles. So hang in there, my bright bretheren!
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:29PM (#22846992) Homepage

    The trouble with studying engineering today is that it used to pay better. In 1970, the IEEE reported that electrical engineers and lawyers were making about the same salaries.

    I had a quite good undergraduate engineering education. What sucked was going through Stanford CS for a Master's in the mid-1980s. I went through just as it was becoming clear that expert systems weren't going to lead to strong AI, but many on the faculty didn't want to admit it. Yet the expert systems people were still in charge. This was just as the "AI Winter" was starting, and the first-round AI startups were going bust. The whole experience was disappointing. I was fed way too much bullshit, and I knew it at the time. I have the Stanford diploma, but as an educational experience, it sucked.

    Stanford finally had to transfer computer science from Arts and Sciences to Engineering and put in adult supervision. It's much improved now.

  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:35PM (#22847084) Homepage Journal
    With suggested answers, for those who do not wish to think.
    1. Do you want to be engineer? If the answer is not hell yes, with all my heart and soul, and I know that is more work than any other major, and I have building robots since I was 5, and I love basements, then run away, quickly. College is not high school where the students smell fear on a teacher and then bully grades out of them. Professor smell fear on freshmen, then fail them before the first week is out. This is reality. In general there are many more qualified engineering students than are needed, and no prof wants to waste time with a dumkompf. Especially those students who think that engineering to too hard should choose another major.
    2. Did you get in a state school with automatic admission? If you did not get into the school though a competitive process, if you are not at the to 20% of the exams, if you think that you are hot stuff just because you managed to eek at the top 10% of you little pond does not mean you are qualified for the privilege of engineering school, or at least not a real one.
    3. Do you like to read and do math? Again, if the answer is not yes, with all my heart, that is all I ever do, then run away fast. This does not mean that you can't drink and party and be a college kid. Some one the highest educational areas also sell the greatest amount of alcohol. But there must be a balance. I recall our class complaining to an engineering teacher who came into our midterm wearing a t-shirt from a concert held the previous night. We all complained why he got to go and we had to study. He said we could have gone if we had not waited to the last minute to study.
    4. Can you do work without supervision? This is not high school. No one is going to beg you to do work. No one wants to hear your excuses that you use to not do work. The prof is not going to do all the work for you. You might need to do all the learning yourself if you get a bad prof. That is life. Class time is at most 20% of the time you will spend learning the subject, so the prof is at most a guide to the important bits. The textbook is one resource. Motivated students who will become engineers are able to find other resources, and copy each others homework to help understand important topics.
    5. Are you, or have you ever been, a whiner. No engineering firm wants a whiner. No intelligent person who has a choice of where to work wants to work with whiners. Nearly every other social malady is acceptable. Be arrogant, rude, or even borderline psychotic. Be a managed druggy. By if you are whiner, don't waste you time in engineering. No one cares.
    6. And one more thing. A Ti Silver Edition is not a real calculator. It is a toy given to kids who can't do math to keep them busy during math class. I know the 'plus' makes it seem like a real calculator, but it is not. It is most useful for passing notes. Get and HP.

  • by lancejjj ( 924211 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:36PM (#22847112) Homepage
    Hmmm, maybe this guy simply isn't cut out to be an engineer.

    I remember my engineering program in college. It was loaded with a bunch of student that often complained about the instructors, the program, and the lack of leniency. In every case I can recall, the whiners were the lousy students.

    The short of it is that not everyone who gets into a great engineering program is really cut out to be an engineer. [Also note that many who once failed to get into a great engineering program are great engineers now]

    The fact is that engineering requires a lot of hard work. Complaining about how other majors have it "so easy" is just ignoring the fact that you're a lousy student that gets a deservedly poor grade. If you aren't getting excellent grades in your courses, my wager is that you either (1) don't have what it takes, or (2) aren't studying enough, or (3) have too many other obligations to study enough.

    Yes, some instructors are lousy; some are fabulous. Most institutions let you pick your courses. Choose wisely. If there aren't enough good options, you picked the wrong institution - find a new one. And unless you're currently a top notch student, stop whining about your own failings.

    By the way, I don't hire whiners.

    Good luck.

  • For the record (Score:3, Insightful)

    by edalytical ( 671270 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:50PM (#22847362)

    For the record my girlfriend is an advertising major. Her classes require her to do the insanely difficult tasks of glueing gummy bears onto paper and cutting up magazines to make ransom notes. Her classes grade on curves and she's usually allowed to redo assignments for higher grades. She does everything the night before it's due.

    On the other hand I'm a CS major, my professors usually start the semester off with the statement "I don't believe in grading on a curve." That's often followed by "late work is not accepted." I usually have a non trivial project do every week. I have to start early or I wont have time to finish the projects. I have to try to balance my time between math, science and computer science classes. My girlfriend has told me an innumerable number of times that I work too much and my major is difficult, she's right. But I don't care because I love the work and I love my major.

  • by Rhys ( 96510 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @02:19PM (#22847936)
    Or maybe accounting? Looks like some sort of depreciation calculation run against a "lock box". C'mon Wired, you think you could have at least found a picture of engineering homework...
  • by dbc ( 135354 ) on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:10PM (#22849400)
    As an engineering manager, I've hired a lot (and fired a few) engineers and tech writers.

    I don't give a rat's behind what your grades are. I care if you can think. Yes, I've rejected 4.0 "homework machines" and hired lesser GPA candidates who showed me that they could problem-solve, not just answer homework. And major doesn't matter much either, if you can show you can do the work. One of the best programmers I know has degrees in linguistics, not engineering.

    So, here's some advice to all you still in school: 1) Don't confuse getting good grades with getting a good education. 2) Hiring managers are looking for people that solve problems, not cause problems.

Did you hear that two rabbits escaped from the zoo and so far they have only recaptured 116 of them?