Choosing a major?

Discussion in 'ROTC' started by DukeFool, Dec 28, 2011.

  1. DukeFool

    DukeFool YahooUser

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    Is there any benefit in majoring Mechanical Engineering to Chinese Language? I know there is a benefit for either over History or any non-technical degree but does either majors have an advantage over the other?
     
  2. patentesq

    patentesq Parent

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    I know that I'll probably get flamed for this, but here's my view:

    Mechanical Engineering = Job

    Chinese Language = No Job

    If I need someone with Chinese language skills, I go to China for that. But I may be in the minority here.
     
  3. pilot2b

    pilot2b Candidate Appointee

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    If you're just asking in the context of ROTC scholarships (and not a civilian career after the military) it may depend on the branch. AFROTC and NROTC Navy option weight technical degrees very highly, while it matters far less in AROTC or Marine Option NROTC.
     
  4. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator

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    I disagree with patentesq to this extent:
    Mechanical Engineering = job
    Chinese language = job in China

    You need to pick a major based on what you love and what you want to do after you leave the military. Sure, ME is a Tier 1 major and Chinese is a desirable language. But if your not in love with exploring and using those skills you'll be a very unhappy camper at some point. Heck, I've been a software engineer for 38 years and have loved it... but after 38 years even that is getting old. Go with what you love.

    I would add IMHO that there are plenty of American kids of East Asian parents who have spent every Saturday morning in Chinese school. I would anticipate competition for a Chinese LREC scholarship to be intense. Again, JMPO.
     
  5. DukeFool

    DukeFool YahooUser

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    I really appreciate the opinions. I'm going for an AFROTC or AROTC scholarship just to clear things up. After taking a few engineering classes my interest in engineering dropped, but I still think about how much job security I would have once I get out of the military. Another thing I want to know is that does your major affect your branch slot/afsc? If I was to major in Chinese would the Army/Air Force make me become a translator or intel officer? Would they make me become an engineer if I major in Mechanical engineering? When I looked at the Air Force officer jobs at military about, I saw many career fields with degree requirements so I wondered if they assign jobs by degrees.
     
  6. bjkuds

    bjkuds Parent

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    As Mom of an Elec/Comp Engineering major... Unless you are one of those strange people that can learn anything regardless of how much interest you have in it, I would not go the Engineering route unless it was something you REALLY wanted to do for yourself. I am sure there are many out there that can get a 4.0 as an Engineering major even if they hated it, but for the average ME or ECE student that is not the case. It is a lot of work and effort to put in to something that you are feeling "so-so" about. It is arguably the hardest major, and if there is anything else out there that you REALLY want to do don't settle for ME, because that is what you would be doing to yourself. DS and I spent a long time deciding and he wasn't even sure until the end of this first semester that he wanted to stay in it. I wanted him to be in ECE because HE wanted it for himself.. Not NROTC, nor anything but "Do you find it interesting and can you see yourself enjoying going to work for the next 40 years in that career field if the Navy isn't your career? Just my thoughts.. good luck.
     
  7. DukeFool

    DukeFool YahooUser

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    I really never thought of myself 40 years from now. With all of the frustration I've had trying to study engineering I just realize that I can't really see myself being an engineer for the next 40 years. I do though, see a degree in Chinese may be helpful as I would be fluent in three languages (Mandarin, Vietnamese, and English). Thank you for that insight ma'am.
     
  8. Aglahad

    Aglahad Member

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    Two completely different worlds

    Engineering in any form is almost a guaranteed foothold into the job market after the military (especially if you pick up a masters while in). Computer, chemical, PETROLEUM, aeronautical, mechanical civil and electric engineering are always in demand. Starting salary for most engineers where I live is around 60-70k and over 100k for petroleum guys. But you HAVE to enjoy what you do, it can't be just for the money or 4 years of college will not be enjoyable. Engineering is hard and that is why there are monetary pay offs after the military.

    Chinese (Mandarin) is the most spoken language on earth. To top it off many Chinese speakers are also English speakers, because of this saturation I just don't see the demand. Why a Chinese major? You know you can take a few classes or minor in Chinese without majoring in it. Perhaps combining the major with business or finance could help but I see a Chinese major by itself as a dead end.

    For AROTC majors do not matter, but you do extra points on your ranking/OML if you go science/math/engineering. Foreign languages give you a little incentive stipend while in school but other than that there is no advantage.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2011
  9. cb7893

    cb7893 Member

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    My son is an AROTC MS I at a big 10 U, in Chem Eng. He spent HS junior year in Brazil and gap year in Taiwan. It was total immersion in both places. You will find no bigger advocate of foreign language learning than me. I did the same thing in the 70's behind the iron curtain. Its where his mom and I met.

    That having been said, despite his knack for languages, there are only a few avenues for the pure language major: teach or go get a degree in something else. Only one of those options doesn't involve learning a new trade. It doesn't have to be Eng. It could be business, Econ, or even Recreation Science.

    Our advice since the beginning was to learn a real skill, like engineering, but every chance you get, go hard as heck after a language. I mean go all the way. The military has all kinds of summer programs like CULP, language schools and ROTC will even pay you to take certain strategic languages during college. There are all kinds of summer immersion programs that are cheap or free.

    The entire world thinks Americans are arrogant about learning other languages, so folks are pleasantly shocked to meet an American who can speak another tongue. I lived it personally. I witnessed it yesterday. We went to the neighborhood chinese restaurant. They all remembered my son from the summer as the blond hair, blue eyed midwestern kid, who asked for a job in Chinese. It would work the same if you are working for Pratt and Whitney and trying to sell jet engines. It also works the same with girls.:wink: I have two sons and a wife of 31 years to prove it. It may even help you with one of the gazillion university teaching assistants who barely even speak English.

    It can be chinese or any one of many languages, but whichever one you choose you should use it to augment your career, not be your career. Believe me, the dinner invitations and free beers are great. It is an excellent way to challenge yourself and to learn what makes other people tick. However, when you look for a job, you will be much better served with the Mech Eng degree.

    If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask and best of luck.
     
  10. Packer

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    I don't know what year you are in school but you really don't take any classes that will have relevance in a future career until your junior and senior years. The classes you take your freshman and sophomore year are foundation courses that are necessary for your upper division classes but don't really provide any insight to skills you will develop and use as a mechanical engineer. I would suggest seeking out a few mechanical engineers and see what they do. I think you will find them doing everything and you may find more in technical fields doing non-engineering/design type work than you will find doing engineering/design work.

    It is hard but my experience was that the first 1-1/2 to 2 years were the most difficult.
     
  11. DukeFool

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    Never heard of CULP before. I'm going to take a look at that. I agree on the concept of a polyglot engineer. Thank you for your insight.
    I'm currently a freshman. From the older engineering students and professors I've talked too, they all said that the first 2 years are the hardest and they say if you can hack through the 2 years, you can succeed in the engineering world.
     
  12. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    The introduction - a broad general question about "benefits" of a particular degree. Not specific about what a "benefit" is. Results in generalizations about employability in replies.

    The followup - now looking for generalizations about second careers for specified majors (after an undefined length of military career) and looking for what the ramifications of the specied majors while in the military.

    Now we are starting to see where OP is looking and it is troubling. Desiring both security in the desired long term career with the flexibility of changing one's mind (while still retaining that long term security) while in the initial military career.

    Third cut at it - Admission of a lack of looking at the total picture including the long-term ramifications of the decision (honest) while moving onto the perceived advantages of the alternative that lacks a clearly defined (and therefore hard to be troubled with) long term outlook.

    The way I see it - You (OP) are going through a normal process, sorting out how you are going to provide for yourself with an eye to what is on the near horizon and an eye on the long term. This isn't necessarily a bad thing at all, but taken in a vacuum (without actually taking the time to analyze how YOU will live that life) will only lead to decision that you will not enjoy.

    Let's face it, we'd all like to be a (fill in high paying occupation here) when we grow up. Not only does it fufill the lower level needs (food, shelter, etc.) but it also moves up the pyramid to fill the needs of social respect, etc that come with these "proven paths to success". Makes you feel good when you are struggling with the studies to say "Some day this will pay off when I am a engineer/doctor/lawyer/etc. Doesn't feel good when you are the engineer/doctor/lawyer/etc. when you are still struggling with the continuing studies necessary to contine to be a successful engineer/doctor/lawyer/etc.

    You said you hadn't considered how this would pan out in 40 years. That's OK because very few people fall in love with an vocation (notice I didn't career) at your age. Most of these few are people who have a talent or obsession that drives their daily lives (think musicians/artists/clergy) whose skill or mission is driven by a desire to produce social goods. I will argue that career soldiers fall into that category as well.

    This concept of "how will I serve others" being well defined makes the career choices easy. When we focus on how we will serve ourselves (looking at what WE get out of what we do), it becomes much more difficult to make that career decision. Now it becomes a calculated decision where the trade-offs (how much work for how much money) become the driving factors. With the unknowns of the job market (especially these days), this makes the calculus much more challenging and quite frankly IMHO impossible to get right. Let's face it 40 years ago (1971-72), if you set out to be a COBOL programmer out of college with a degree in Computer Science, you were going to be in one of those "can't lose" careers. Guess what? That 1971-72 college degree and $.25 will get you an operator on a pay phone (if you can find one). While the basics of mechanical engineering haven't changed, the specifics that you work on in your final years are geared to today's employment market, which history tells us looks nothing like the employment market of 40 years from now.

    Now if your true love is "making things work to solve people's problems", then the labor necessary to stay current in engineering isn't a struggle. This same thinking applies to any profession or major including Chinese. If you are not excited about solving the issues of making the cultures work together (requiring the understanding of Chinese in a depth where you get the idiom of the language), keeping yourself current in cultural relations is going to be drudgery.

    It sounds like that isn't the case for you at least with engineering. I'm also sensing an ambivalence regarding Chinese as well, although I may be reading a bit much into your words.

    Now if you are worried that you haven't found your love in life, don't worry. Most kids your age haven't and many adults my age haven't either. My best suggestion of how to move forward is to study something that comes easy to you and contemplate how you might use that skill to solve the problems of others. You seem to have a desire to serve your country (laudable). Think in terms of how being able to do X subject well can help the do Y task that is exciting to me. While you won't see the "40 years from now" solution, it is likely that if you are doing something where you like to work on improving yourself because you see tangible results that others value, you will have no shortage of opportunities to expand that skill set going forward. While there are no guarantees of "job security" even with this approach, at least you will be in a state where you are not out looking for a job in a profession you despise because it is the job you signed up for decades ago.

    Time to get off my soap box. If I haven't confused you thoroughly, feel free to contine the conversation. I think this is an important conversation for all young people to consider.
     
  13. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Duke-It is a good question- what to major in and why. From the military standpoint- the Army won't really care what your major was- but for certain the AF and Navy will, and they want technical people for a technical world. But even more -you have to think about the employability factor in the civilian world. The truth is that at your age anyone who says that they "know" that they will be a career officer is talking thru their 4th point of contact because until you have been in for a while and experienced the whole package, you have no idea whether or not you will want to serve for 30 years or 36 months. You need to consider what the world looks like and how you will make your way in it independent of the military. Everyone will tell you that you need to do something you love. Yes but- often people mistake "Loving" for something that doesn't require working at it (and for certain a degree in Engineering will require a lot of work).

    What does the world look like? What are the skills that most of the world's growth fields value and what does virtually every commentator on the state of the country comment on? We are not short of liberal arts majors in the US- in fact you can go to every diner in America and find an unemployed 24 year old Psychology, history or stand-alone Language major. "Loving" that major doesn't payoff the student loans. On the other hand- even in the lousy economy of the day, good luck finding an under-30 ME waiting tables at "Red Lobster". The US is short engineers and the world is short US trained engineers- and engineers who have some fluency in Chinese are fewer still. (I recently hired an new Engineer and had to get an H1B visa for her- which is easy for an engineer - it's a bonus that she is fluent in 3 languages, but we went to that trouble because she is an Engineer with multilingual abilities- a double shortage. That wouldn't fly though for our Industrial sales positions - we could never justify getting an H1B visa for those positions- way too many Liberal Arts grads available from US schools now to justify a foreigner in one of those positions.)

    If you get into the field and decide that you hate engineering- that's ok you are in the door and can lateral around from there- but IT DOESN"T WORK the other way around.
    Chinese language skill is a valuable commodity- it is the fastest growing economy in the world. But it is mostly valuable in conjunction with something else. There are after all lot of Chinese who speak Chinese and English already. What they need is someone who can do so and bring something to the table as well as the language skill.

    I obviously have a bias here (despite my own undergraduate and graduate degrees) . But I find far too many people who get all dewy eyed about "doing what you love" with very few concrete examples of how you do what you love and make a living in 2012. I believe that this type question is not a philosophy question but much more a cost benefit analysis, and the focus should be much less on "doing what you love" from the get go, and much more on doing what will allow you to get into the game at a reasonable level and then learning to love what you do.

    Nobody can answer the question of what you can do- but you should think about this with more than just a nebulous term like: "love". Everybody will have an opinion- you just got mine, I hope it helps.

    Good luck- look before you leap.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2011
  14. DukeFool

    DukeFool YahooUser

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    Thank you for your replies goaliedad and Bruno. I really appreciate the opinions. I think it would be the best for me to continue on the engineering major for the sake of having safety career paths when I get out of the military. Learning Chinese is still my interest but I can wait once I'm in the military to learn the language.
     
  15. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    In the AF world the engineering degree will open some more doors, but these doors maybe something like Test Pilot School. To become a TPS candidate you must have an engineering degree, it is a condition of eligibility.

    Now if you don't want to be a Test Pilot they couldn't care less what your major is in the rated world. DS is a Govt/Int'l Relations major and he has a UPT slot.

    It will come down to your OML. If engineering is dragging down your gpa because you despise it, change your majors. By remaining in it you are hurting yourself regarding your ability to be commissioned.

    The gpa as a C200 will be a player in the selection process for SFT. You can't afford to get a ding there.

    As far as Chinese, I totally disagree with anyone that says it equals no job. However, I live in No VA, and that may be the reason why. In this area, especially with a TS clearance that you would get via the AF, you wold be able to call your salary with many companies, including defense contractors.
    Look at China's AF and how they are bringing out their new generation fighter jet. Booze Allen is going to want someone who can interpret Chinese for their company.

    Govt agencies and Lobbyist will need them for the exact same reason.

    I do agree that companies like McDonald's or Apple may send them to China to work there, because of that language experience, but there are also many jobs here stateside, and very very few of the applicant's will have that golden ticket known as Top Secret Clearance.

    Now here is the negative flipside, you actually may pigeon hole yourself into a career, probably Intel. For example, if they need 10 Lts. with Chinese as their degree, but only have 5, you can bet they will place you into a career that is to utilize your assets, which is Chinese. If you want to fly, you may land up not being able to even compete for a UPT slot because your career field is under manned.

    If you don't want to fly, but go Intel, I would tell you go for it. You will enter with a degree that has less supply than the demand, which is what you always want to have.

    You may also find yourself rotating less often are to specific places due to the needs of the AF. For example, they may place you at the Pentagon or PacAF HQ often.

    If you do go this route, be smart and get a Master's as soon as you can because more than likely you could also later on get one of the sweetest deals out there...AFA instructor. You would also want to get your doctorate at some point, but if you plot your career correctly the AF will pay for you to get it somewhere around your LTC point. Several of our friends got theirs from Harvard, not in Chinese, but you get the drift, if your career field will benefit from a doctorate, that means the AF will and that is why they will pay for you to get it in residence.

    Finally, understand that you need to decide which career path you want rated or non-rated because that is truly the biggest factor for you currently.

    Bullet was an engineering major, flew fighters for 21 yrs, now works on the 35, but not in engineering per se because he is sr. mgmt as a GS at the Pentagon for AF. He does not design anything on the 35, Lockheed engineers do that. His degree in college as an engineer was never utilized to it's potential because he went rated. It helped him in the flying world from a flying perspective, but it didn't get him a rated slot, just like our DS who is non-tech. What got him that slot was success in ROTC, and a gpa.

    Good luck
     
  16. paradoxer

    paradoxer Member

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    Another opinion: Gauntlet

    Your bachelors degree is like running the gauntlet in many ways: it shows others that you are capable of learning and completing a series of tasks.

    Some 30 years ago those training in engineering disciplines basically were told that the completion of the degree had little to do with what you would actually do but was an indicator that you could learn what was needed for your first job. I doubt that has changed much today but others can certainly respond.

    DH would disagree with the easing of the coursework during years 3 and 4 having trained in chemical engineering, maybe mechanical engineers would disagree, but I wouldn't base the decision on this data. Instead I suggest you explore the field by shadowing/talking/reading regarding possibilities.

    Seems many young people say, "I like math and science, I'll do engineering." Exceptions to every rule but engineers generally are cut from a certain cloth with a love for detail, precision, processes, closed end projects and applied ideas. Ask others and yourself if this is naturally you; not can I be this way but am I wired this way. I like the book, Do What You Are, it's explores personality preferences in the work place.

    Keep gathering information from as many sources as possible as you explore your options.
     
  17. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Curiosity how do you plan to do this?

    Your 1st few yrs AD will be about learning your career field. Secondly, just being devil's advocate here, but where will you learn the language from an academic pov?

    Even, if you can take night classes on base for your master's the courses offered are select, I highly doubt every base or even the majority of bases will have Chinese classes. You can go off base to the local college, but what if you are stationed at Mt Home Idaho, Boise is 51 miles away. Seymour Johnson AFB is 35 miles from ECU, the closest 4 yr college. Andrews is only @15 miles away from UMDCP, but good luck getting to a 6 pm class when you leave there at 5. We have yet to even discuss if you are stationed at Mildenhall in the UK or Eilson in AK.

    Many, many AF military bases are in the middle of nowhere, mainly due to the fact that people don't like hearing the roar of freedom...jets:smile:

    I am not sure if it is all AFROTC cadets, or just scholarship cadets, but AFROTC requires 12 credits of Foreign Language, so in college you will have the opportunity to decide.

    That being stated, I know from our AFROTC DS Chinese, and Persian languages are difficult to get into at his college if it is not your major. The reason goes back to supply and demand, there are just too many students that are majoring in these areas to allow non-majors the upper level classes. He does not go to a small college, his college is in the ACC, and 1 of the top 20 public universities in the nation. He wanted to take either Chinese or Persian, but was forced to take Italian and German to fulfill his requirements. He even tried for Latin, because he had taken in it in HS to no avail. In the end, DS between HS and college, now has French (4 yrs HS), Latin (2 yrs HS), German (2 yrs college), and Italian (2 yrs college). If he is ever stationed in Europe he will be able to ask in 4 languages where are the bathrooms, but not much more than that.:shake:

    As others have stated, engineering is not what HS kids think it will be. Just because you like Math and Science, esp. Physics, doesn't equate into you will enjoy engineering. DS had 4 best friends enter engineering, they are all graduating now, only 1 will graduate as an engineer. I am not trying to slam engineering or say go another route. I am trying to illustrate why as Bruno stated engineer grads are highly demanded. It comes down to kids when in the program decide it isn't their path. I suggest this to you and every student, we live in the day of the internet, go to your number 1 school dream choice, from there look at the mandated curriculum for that major. They will show every required course you will need to take over your college career for engineering, and read what the course entails.

    You have time to do this now, and the more you educate yourself regarding the curriculum, the more you will be able to decide which path is a better fit.

    You also need to understand the AFROTC scholarship process. @80-85% are STEM majors, and if you accept the scholarship as an engineer, but later decide you want to go to a non-tech major, you will need their approval, and in today's world it would be rare that they grant it. If you apply as a non-tech major, but want to switch to tech, you will also need approval. However, in the current AFROTC world, it is a given they will grant it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2011
  18. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    I should point out- that the huge majority of the jobs in the United States ARE NOT in the government or the military contracting jobs and anybody who thinks so has lived in Northern Virginia for far too long. Who does actually employ the vast majority of the population here and around the world? The private sector does, and the jobs that actually are value added- and pay accordingly are mostly in Industries that design or build hard goods or digital products. Boeing; Pratt & Whitney;Sikorsky; Siemens; Emerson; Bechtel, Parsons; Ford; Thyssen-Krupp; Northrop Grumman; Saint Gobain; 3M; Alcoa; Microsoft; Apple ;etc... (the list is almost infinite) - ALL employ millions of employees around the world (My company has 255,000 employees alone). They move people to locations around the world, and they can get employees from around the word who speak a language. What they need are people who possess the skills they need First and then can speak the language as well. They value engineering backgrounds - in fact

    The world of 2012 is not the world of 10 years ago. The soft, money-shuffling, nonessential consulting or administrative "general" kind of positions that valued undefined management skills are far fewer today than they were in the past and continue to shrink as overheads are squeezed hard. That trend is going to continue, and unless you completely avoid the news- I surely would not expect that the small universe of government program management is going to expand or should serve as a model for the economy of the present much less the future . So my advice continues to be- unless you really can not be successful in the major- stick with the Engineering major.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2011
  19. Packer

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    First off, Brunos advice is very good. I would pay a lot of attention to what he said. That engineering degree will give you a lot of options in terms of employability.

    Years 3 and 4 are difficult but the foundation was built in years 1 and 2. I am an ME and have friends that are CE, EE and Chem E. All of our gpa's improved significantly during years 3 and 4 but we would all say it was a LOT of work. The time required during years 3 and 4 is greater than years 1 and 2 but if you complete years 1 and 2 , years 2 and 4 are very doable.
     
  20. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Bruno,

    We have lived here only 3 yrs., so to answer your question, no that is not why I posted those comments. That being stated, I could also throw in NYC if you want because of the UN and Wall Street banking.

    China will be a dominant factor in the next 10 yrs., and it will touch upon every facet of the business world, including engineering. As you stated, this is not the same global economy it was 10 yrs ago. 10 yrs ago Japan was buying up everything in this country.

    I believe we just have a difference of opinion regarding engineering for DukeFool. I believe it is a highly demanded career field just like you, but DukeFool as an AFROTC cadet will need to go to SFT, SFT currently has a selection rate of 55%.

    75% of tech majors are selected, that leaves 25% not selected. Typically those are cadets who went into engineering because the AFROTC scholarship selection process gives an edge to candidates if they go tech, but carried a gpa below 3.0.

    What I read from DukeFool was this:

    That says to me it isn't his cup of tea.

    Says to me he will stick with it only if it is about his AFSC selection, not because this is something he enjoys. Followed with this:

    Over and over again, he has stated only negative comments about engineering, and his motivation to be in it is for future career options.

    Maybe it is the Mom in me, that sits here and sees he doesn't want to be an engineer, thus I tend to illustrate how following his love can also create success if they think outside of the box. Maybe VA or NYC are not in his wheelhouse, maybe they are and he never thought about it from what I just posted.

    I think you and I are coming from different perspectives.

    For me, I am coming from the perspective in AFROTC that gpa will matter for SFT/EA selection as a sophomore, which will only include the 1st 3 semesters of gpa. He can be an engineering major with a 2.6 gpa, not on academic probation for college, but in AFROTC he has a snow ball's chance in Hades for selection. His AF career will not occur because if he doesn't go to SFT he can't be a POC, and if he isn't a POC he is dis-enrolled from AFROTC.

    His goal is not only a degree, but to be an officer in the AF. Would you tell your child that must serve at least 4 yrs after commissioning, 11 if they go UPT to major in engineering knowing that for over a decade they would not be working as an engineer to be an engineer? As you stated the world has changed in the last decade, and surely will change in the next decade.

    I wouldn't. I would tell them that even in the AF as an aerospace engineer you won't be designing planes or upgrades. Lockheed, Boeing, Pratt and Whitney do that. Will it give you an edge in the engineering world? YES! However, DukeFool stated point blank I can't see me doing engineering for the next 40 yrs.

    Again, if he stated he wanted to be an engineer as a career even after the AF I would say go for it.

    JMPO, I get your position, job security pays the rent. I just disagree that because your degree is engineering will equate to job offers, especially if the gpa you graduate is a 2.2 from Timbucktoo college.

    Remember, nobody here knows his gpa or college. Assumptions are being made by every poster.
     

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