What's the point in majoring in engineering at a Service Academy?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by SamAca10, May 14, 2012.

  1. SamAca10

    SamAca10 Ensign - DWO

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    Some of my friends and I were discussing this today. Someone brought up a fair point as well. Engineering generally decreases your GPA, making it less likely that you'll get the billet you want, and everyone is guaranteed a job after graduation. You're not going to be using the degree after you graduate...so what's the point in majoring in engineering if you won't use it in your military career?
     
  2. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    I can't speak for other academies, but for the air force, half of the class wants and WILL GET a rated slot such as pilot, nav, etc... Generally speaking, it doesn't matter what your major is in. You can be a history major and become a pilot. Out of 1000 graduates, you can be #750 and still get a pilot slot. Why? Because many don't want the 10 year commitment and many can't qualify physically.

    Now; to answer your question of why take the difficult major where your GPA is affected; the answer is simple. For what you want to do AFTER your military service is over. For half of air force, if you want pilot/nav/etc... it doesn't matter what you gpa is. But if you don't want those jobs, you'll still have a quality education in a field you want, when it comes time to get out and find a job.

    Problem is; you assume that everyone who graduates an academy wants to stay in 20+ years. A large percentage will stay 5 years and get out. Another large percentage will get out before 10 years. That's why you go for the career/major that you want.
     
  3. Chockstock

    Chockstock "Forever One Team"

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    Generalizations are bad...besides same goes for whatever your major is too and anything else non-engineering. Are you going to be using any part of your major as an officer?

    Think about it...it comes down to what you enjoy and what you want to do after the military - not everyone will stay 20. Regardless of what people say, its still a college and at a college you pursue a degree. Declaring that you won't be using engineering in the military seems to me a pretty bold thing to say - I dont know about the coast guard but you should come over and talk to the instructors here because it doesn't seem like you understand how engineering can, and probably applies way more, to the military than English Literature ever will
     
  4. SamAca10

    SamAca10 Ensign - DWO

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    I'm an Electrical Engineer, so I certainly do see how the discipline can apply. But people do raise valid points. Even as an Student Engineer aboard a boat you're not going to be doing derivatives or anything like that - it's less design and more maintenance based. And if you don't get out around the 5 year mark with an engineering degree you could be limiting your potential without related work experience.
     
  5. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    Allow me to interject my own experience in this.

    As many folks here know, I left active duty after 11 years and went to the active reserve as an IMA. This mean that I was a "traditional reservist" which means I needed a job!!

    My first job was for $8/hr answering technical support questions at a global computer manufacturer...I moved up to Director of Government Sales within 2 1/2 years...Why? The CEO asked me at lunch one day what my background was and I told him...the next day I was out of the phone queue.

    Fast forward a few years...I'm looking for a better position and I interview at Motorola in a division that makes micromachined devices. These are on the order of 80u x 100u (u = microns here). These are TINY and used in automotive safety applications.

    I am NOT an electrical engineer!!! I'm a "Mechie" but...Motorola hired me as a Staff Electrical Engineer. Why? (I asked the VP that hired me)

    "Steve...you have an engineering degree from the USAFA...haven't applied it but I know what it takes to get that degree; what I need YOU to do is apply that logical thought process, that knowledge of procedure, methodology, and logic to situations that need resolution. We have "techies" that will do the math...you solve the problems!"

    High paying job, great global exposure...all because I had an engineering degree from USAFA.

    The value of that degree you're getting now is what you learn GETTING it, not the "definition of an Ohm, what's an A-D converter, how does an op-amp work..." but "...gee...we've got this problem here...how do we go about putting together a plan to attack this and get everyone here in the USA, over in Taiwan, Korea, and Malaysia on board with the processes?" Your logical thought process, the "design of experiment" skills you learn can be applied to ANY situation...not just a circuit board test.

    Just my 10 cent ramble....

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     
  6. usnabgo08

    usnabgo08 USNA 2008/BGO

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    I'd also add that a lot of the engineering majors revolve around a great exposure to critical thinking, problem solving, planning and logic skills, of which is of great value, both in and out of the military.

    Similar to what flieger83 stated, I work in an environment where what I am doing is not dependent on how much I know about specific systems but requires problem solving skills and which/what resources to use --- I do draw some of my technical knowledge from my B.S. (I was a math/science major), but I am not paid for my technical (non)expertise.
     
  7. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    You prefer X-Men action figures to girls.... that's the main reason someone majors in engineering.
     
  8. sprog

    sprog Member

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    Oh, I don't know about that. Mr. Orwell's perspective seemed pretty apropos during some points of my military service. :shake:
     
  9. Packer

    Packer Member

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    I am an ME not an EE and have spent my entire engineering carreer of 23 years in the private sector. I have not solved a differential equation, taken a derivative or anything of that nature in the last 15+ years. Today I solve problems, troubleshoot and do product design involving mechanical and hydraulic systems primarily. Even though I don't do a lot of those basic engineering calculations and functions anymore I could not do what I do today without having that basic understanding. Early in your career what you learned in school is your most valuable asset but as the years go by your experience becomes the most valuable.
     
  10. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    And I would like to thank engineers everywhere for enabling my toilet to flush. I was always sure to thank my roommate at CGA for doing his part.
     
  11. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    whoever invented the trap in a toilet so the smell and fumes didn't come back in he's a genius.
     
  12. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

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    Neither do you need an Engineering degree to become a Student Engineer aboard your cutter upon commissioning.

    MES, ORCA, MGT, and GOV majors were all assigned EOIT on Billet Night.
     
  13. osdad

    osdad Member

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    "Poli Sci and Fly"

    Do what interests you and your gpa will reflect it. The reverse is also true.
     
  14. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    One reason in the AF world the cadets major in engineering is also tied to AF rated goals.

    To attend TPS (Test Pilot) you must have an engineering degree, poli-sci won't open the door, not even crack a window.

    As CC stated, if you attend AFA and want to fly, med.qualified to fly, you will fly as long as you graduate...historically stating of course.

    If you major in poli-sci and want to be a TP, stepping stone for NASA, it won't happen because you are not an engineer. You can go to WIC, become a T-Bird, but you will not go to TPS.

    To me, your 2nd career after the AF is just that, 2nd career. Your experience in the AF will be a factor regarding employment opportunities just like Flieger has stated in his post.

    A rated AF officer owes 10 yrs after winging. UPT is 1 yr., that means before you can bolt, you will be 33-34. Attending TPS occurs at a young officer age and has a concurrent commitment with the UPT time owed. It is traditionally no harm, no foul, no more time owed than if they didn't go.

    It also is an ADAF feather in you cap for promotion purposes.

    You may never get NASA, but if you get TPS, more doors open for you, be it AD or 2nd career compared to just any rated officer.

    I am not someone who would say go Engineering because if you don't have your heart in it, it is not just 4 yrs of academic misery, it could be a lifetime as a 42 yo starting their 2nd career.

    I am stating there are reasons why in the AF world some will opt this path for career opportunities that would not exist if they didn't go Engineering and a higher cgpa is not a factor in their decision process.
     
  15. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    Take the long view, as indicated by several posters, and think about the arc of your working life. Some amount of years in uniform from 5 to ??, or getting out along the way and entering the civilian work force. The leadership and management skills you have acquired as a junior officer will be enhanced by the ability to "talk engineering," should you go to work for a defense contractor or technical firm.

    If you want to do something heavily engineering-centric during your active duty career, than an engineering major makes even more sense.

    As an example, we had a USNA sponsor daughter, a Systems Engineering major. She went on to be a Marine transportation/logistics officer, oversaw convoys in Iraq, worked at a supply depot and finished her career as a company commander at Parris Island. No hands-on engineering, didn't supervise engineers. Got a great job with a major global tire manufacturer as a Quality Process Engineer, primarily because of her proven leadership and management abilities, but with her undergraduate SA engineering degree, her employer knew she could handle technical aspects of the job. She is now several promotions onward in her career, with plenty of engineers working for her. Similar story of another sponsor daughter, an Ocean Engineering major, served as a Surface Warfare Officer, got out at 6 years, became an FBI agent (see "proven leadership and management abilities," above) - she was just chosen for the highly competitive bomb squad, with a major factor being her SA engineering background the assurance she could handle technical aspects.

    Now, since all SA grads receive a B.S. degree, there is always a strong technical background which will have weight in future job applications. Plenty of our sponsor sons and daughters have been History or English majors, and gone on to excellent positions in technical fields. An engineering degree could be evaluated by certain employers as a an even stronger indicator of ability to manage technical aspects of a position.

    There is no way to know how your life is going to roll out, or what surprising bends in the path await you. The SA gives you a great start in terms of a technical college education in an immersion military setting, your active duty years provide invaluable leadership experience, and the opportunities just open up from there...
     
  16. Packer

    Packer Member

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    This is a big deal.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2012

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