What Engineering Major Should I Choose?

woman engineer examining an airplane wing

All types of engineers are problem-solvers at heart — individuals who look for ways to improve existing technology or to create new technologies that are intended to solve problems or improve some aspect of society. Within the engineering field, there is a long list of subfields, and each type of engineer specializes in a particular area.

If you’ve decided that you want to become an engineer, you’ve just begun your decision-making process. You’ll also need to answer questions such as, what engineering major should I choose? and what field of engineering is right for me? First, let’s look at how to choose an engineering school.

In This Article:

Choosing an Engineering School 

One factor that may influence your answer to the question, which field of engineering should I choose? is the school you attend. Schools with engineering programs tend to offer multiple concentration options. Because there are so many subfields within engineering, however, it’s not likely that you’ll find a school that offers all or even most of the available concentrations.

Even within one particular subfield, you may find multiple concentrations available, such as the following concentrations for a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree program:

Take a look at the list of degree programs available for the schools that you’re considering attending to get a sense of what your options are. Read the description of the degree and see if anything captures your interest. If a particular school offers concentrations that you find appealing, then this can be a good way to determine which school you should attend.

As you work on choosing the right engineering college that fits your needs and career ambitions, consider asking yourself these questions:

What Are the School’s Resources? 

Does the school offer plenty of resources to support student success, particularly in STEM areas? For example, has the school invested in modern labs that are fully equipped with innovative technology and equipment like computer-aided design (CAD) software and electron microscopes? If so, are the labs available for freshmen to access from day one, or would you need to wait until you are a sophomore or junior? At GCU, students have access to labs starting on day one.

How Large Is the Engineering School? 

There are both perks and potential drawbacks when attending a large school and a smaller one. If you attend a larger school, you may have access to more resources and enjoy more opportunities to build a professional network. On the other hand, a small school may offer opportunities to work more closely with professors and get more individual attention.

Where Is the School Located? 

These days, many degree programs can be completed entirely online. However, engineering is not one of them, as you will need to attend in-person labs. The locations of the schools on your shortlist may influence your enrollment decision.

What Engineering Major Should I Choose? 

Once you’ve decided which engineering school to attend — or you’ve narrowed your choices down to just two or three — you can work on figuring out which specific concentration is best for you.

1. What Field of Engineering Is Right for Me? 

There are so many subfields of engineering available to choose from. Above, we took a quick peek at some of the concentrations available in mechanical engineering; however, there are many more to consider. They include:

  • Biomedical engineering 
  • Computer engineering 
  • Electrical engineering 
  • Industrial engineering 
  • Software engineering

You could also choose a general Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree that has a concentration in a specific area, such as robotics and project management. Take some time to research each subfield and determine if one or two in particular appeal to you.

2. Consider How Your Interests Align With Your Options 

As you conduct your research on the different subfields of engineering, it can be helpful to think about your other interests and how they might be blended with an engineering major. For instance, let's say you are also interested in medical sciences. A Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering might be ideal for you.

Similarly, a degree in computer or software engineering can be a good choice for someone who primarily wants to work with computers. Another way to narrow down your options is to consider your career ambitions. If you think you might want to pursue career advancement later down the road, a BS in Engineering with an Emphasis in Project Management could be a good fit for a future engineering supervisor.

3. Identify Questions To Ask an Engineer as a Student 

After you’ve done some background research and considered all your interests, you may want to inform your decision-making process with insight from professionals. How can you go about finding and contacting working engineers?

First, consider whether you may know someone who knows an engineer. Talk to your family members. Your friends’ parents might also know an engineer.

Another option is to chat with your high school counselor, who may be able to connect you with local engineers who are willing to speak with students. Additionally, consider getting in contact with a professional engineering organization to see if someone there can point you in the right direction.

Before having a chat with a professional engineer, it’s helpful to know which questions to ask. It’s a good idea to tailor your list of questions according to each engineer’s subfield. In general, however, some questions to ask an engineer as a student can include:

  • Why did you choose your particular subfield? 
  • What do you wish you’d known about your subfield before you entered it? 
  • What’s a typical workday like for you? 
  • Do you spend most of your time in an office, or do you travel? 
  • What types of projects have you worked on? 
  • What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered? 
  • Which hard and soft skills are necessary to do your job well? 
  • What is the career path like for this subfield? What qualifications are necessary and is there room for advancement?

4. Explore Job Possibilities Within Each Subfield 

After you’ve spoken with a couple engineers, visit a few job boards and spend some time scrolling through job possibilities within each subfield. Do the job options for one particular subfield excite you?

Choose a few job possibilities and do a deeper dive into them, identifying the career requirements and options for advancement. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook is a great resource for reviewing job growth and salary potential information for various engineering jobs.

5. Consider the Requirements and Classes for Your Concentration

By the time you reach this step, you should have a fairly firm idea of which subfield most appeals to you. One way to ensure your decision is the right choice for you is to consider the academic requirements for your chosen concentration.

Visit your intended university’s engineering department page and find your intended major. Review the list of graduation requirements and the classes you’ll take. To do an even deeper dive, you could search for the college’s course catalog and look for more detailed descriptions of the engineering classes you’ll take. 

Now that you have a better idea of the answer to the question, which field of engineering should I choose? it’s time to find the right school for you. At Grand Canyon University, you’ll find a diverse range of engineering concentrations, such as the Bachelor of Science in Engineering with an Emphasis in Project Management degree program. Explore our tour options for prospective students, including our all-expenses-paid campus visit.1 When you’re ready to pursue your dream of becoming an engineer, fill out the form on this page and learn more about becoming a Lope.

1Travel reimbursement is only available to students who demonstrate their ability to meet admissibility for the traditional campus, plus one legal guardian, from a student’s home city/state to Phoenix, AZ. School/district/organizations staff, faculty and/or personnel are also eligible. To participate, the program requires a signed MOU by both the student and parent/guardian or personnel, approval of travel dates by GCU and receipts submitted per GCU requirements. Travel reimbursement thresholds vary based on location and education sector. Only one form of travel will be reimbursed, air or ground. GCU does not reimburse hotel expenses, baggage costs, early check-in or travel insurance fees. Travel reimbursement usually occurs within 45 days.

Approved by the assistant dean of the College of Engineering and Technology on March 5, 2024.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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