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Researching Engineering Majors: From Computer Science to Mechanical Engineering and Beyond

Lego model by DG. © 2017 Sameer Gupta.
Lego model by DG. © 2017 Sameer Gupta.

Engineering has become a very sought after college major driven partly by numerous articles in media about how STEM majors are on the rise and graduates find a job and also partly due to STEM graduates being able to land that first job, perhaps a tad faster, regardless of name brand of the college. Engineering has also received a huge push because of the emphasis on STEM education, coding camps, hackathons, STEM competitions, and some of these start from elementary school!

All this focus has resulted in engineering becoming competitive as far as college applications are concerned. However, it is interesting to us that not all branches of engineering majors are considered in the same light by students or parents. We have noticed computer science, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering seem to get the spotlight. This is reflected in the application and enrollment numbers at many colleges and what we have observed at O’s List.

There are many sub fields of engineering and all of them are worth exploring:

Engineering majors list

Based on the courses offered at most engineering departments we can assure you that no matter which engineering major you choose, you will do a lot of similar math, calculus, physics, chemistry, basic engineering principles as well learn to program. We covered the overlap in engineering and computer science courses in freshman year in our STEM post. Specialization in a major begins from sophomore year at some colleges or even in the junior year. The biggest divergence in the various engineering majors is really between computer science/engineering (CS) and other engineering majors. CS majors do more of data structures, architecture, hierarchies as compared to other engineering majors. However students in other engineering majors can take advanced CS courses if they would like to do so at many colleges.

Lets take a look at some career options for a couple of different engineering majors and their starting salary. Most engineering departments at colleges have a lot of information for you to read. The easiest to read description that we found is from University of Illinois.

Industrial Engineering
: Average Starting Salary (Bachelor’s Degree) — $63,328. Our graduates often serve as a link between engineering and management and work in such fields as:
  • Automotive, controls systems, and manufacturing
  • Communication and computer systems
  • Engineering administration
  • Operations and quality control
  • Business systems integration and consulting
  • Construction
  • Marketing and product testing
  • Robotics

Excerpted from https://engineering.illinois.edu/academics/undergraduate/majors-and-minors.html.

Mechanical Engineering
: Average Starting Salary (Bachelor’s Degree) — $66,127. Mechanical engineering graduates work in such fields as:
  • Manufacturing, energy and transportation
  • Aerospace
  • Defense and security
  • Computer software and electronics
  • Automotive
  • Environment
  • Health and biological engineering
  • Research and development

Excerpted from https://engineering.illinois.edu/academics/undergraduate/majors-and-minors.html.

There seems to be quite a degree of overlap, doesn’t it? The only time the overlap reduces is when you look at more specialized engineering majors such as agricultural engineering, bioengineering, nuclear engineering. Students and parents take a look at different engineering majors as you explore majors and careers.

At O’s List we help make it a bit easy for you to understand the popularity index of a major. We show you two numbers:

Mechanical engineering ranks

The national rank lets you know much popular the major is across the country in terms of graduating students. The search rank lets you know the popularity of the major across O’s List. Sometimes the more popular majors can be quite competitive at some of the more “reachy” colleges.

It is always judicious to take a look at different engineering majors as you explore majors and careers. Unless you are focused on a particular major because you really enjoy working in that space, we recommend exploring different majors, as many of the engineering majors have overlapping career paths and there is so much innovation going on in almost every engineering discipline.