AIC Opens Up - Lynda Zhang
A brief look at the different types of engineering majors and what you can expect to do with a, engineering degree after undergraduate.
Lynda 是北京办公室的美方老师。 她毕业于弗吉尼亚大学生物医学工程。
English: Lynda Zhang 中文： Daisy Li.
When I ask prospective engineering students why they’re interested in engineering, I’m usually told that it’s useful. Sometimes well-intentioned parents will chime in with, “It’s easier to find a job in America with an engineering degree.” This is true to some degree, but judging by my experience in the engineering school at the University of Virginia, your engineering major will greatly affect what type of job you can get out of undergrad. Here, I’ll outline the differences between engineering disciplines and what kind of jobs students can expect if they want to stay in America.
Biomedical Engineering is the application of engineering principles and design concepts to medicine and biology for healthcare purposes. Sadly, most biotechnology companies do not hire students without a master’s degree or PhD, so most of my classmates went to graduate school (where they do research for 5-7 years), medical school, consulting firms like Deloitte, or participated in their own start-up companies.
Chemical Engineering is the application of physical and biological sciences by converting raw materials or chemicals into more useful or valuable forms. There are really only two directions for students out of chemical engineering: petroleum engineering for gas companies, or pharmaceutics for drug companies like Merck or Pfizer. At some point, chemical engineers will need to go back to school for a masters or PhD if they want to advance in their field.
Civil Engineering consists of the design, construction, and maintenance of physical and natural built environments like roads, bridges, or buildings. Most civil engineers go into construction or work for defense contractors to build infrastructure in America or abroad. Unfortunately, defense contractors are hired by the U.S. government, so they mostly only accept U.S. citizens.
Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Computer Science are all interwoven. The easiest way to distinguish amongst them is the fact that electrical engineering is mostly hardware, computer science is mostly software, and computer engineering is a combination of both. This is a super popular and useful field in America. If you want to be hired by big name companies like Google, Microsoft, or Amazon (like many of my computer engineering classmates did), you should study one of the three.
Mechanical engineering includes the design, analysis, and usage of heat and mechanical power for the operation of machines and mechanical systems. It’s also very, very close to aerospace engineering. Mechanical engineering is the heart of engineering, and most undergraduates go off to work in manufacturing or at private contracting firms.
Systems engineering is rarely heard of by Chinese parents, but it is an interdisciplinary field and focuses on designing and managing complex engineering projects over their life cycles. It’s very interdisciplinary and actually very popular with employers. Systems engineering is actually the easiest engineering major at the University of Virginia, and their students tend to get the most job offers from large consulting firms like Accenture, Deloitte, and McKinsey. I highly recommend this major if you want to get the most pay for the most minimal work.
Aerospace Engineering sounds cool, but the U.S. government has already cut off funding for NASA, so most aerospace programs are dead. Students who want to study aerospace engineering will have to fight for jobs with the mechanical engineers if they want to stay in America.
Overall, I want to stress that engineering is just a set of problem solving skills. With these skills, you can do anything from consulting to teaching to starting your own company, so feel free to break the existing mold and create your own jobs!
Lynda is a consultant in the Beijing AIC office. She graduated from the University of Virginia majoring in Biomedical Engineering and Business.