Would like some perspective on USNA engineering program rigor

Discussion in 'Naval Academy - USNA' started by ders_dad, Nov 28, 2017.

  1. ders_dad

    ders_dad Member

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    First time poster (longer time lurker) here.

    I have a junior in HS who has his sights set on USNA or USAFA. His interest is in engineering (civil/coastal or mechanical at this time) and he definitely has both the academic chops and acumen for it. My two older sons just graduated in ChemE and Bioproducts Engineering (one is entering grad school). I'm an engineer and a senior principal at a major engineer firm so I have some exposure to many engineering programs around the country (albeit limited to my field of expertise and periphery) and I participate on multiple ABET accreditation boards.

    Honestly - how rigorous is USNA engineering program? Is it really comparable to non-military engineering programs (MIT, CalTech, CSM, Michigan Tech, Purdue, etc)? I don't see USNA grads applying for positions (I have hired a couple of USAFA grads and I have worked a bit with the current Secretary of the Air Force when she was president of SDSM&T so I have some first hand feedback on that program from her). We visited Annapolis earlier this fall and have had discussions with BGO but there is some opaqueness about some things.

    From folks familiar with the programs at USNA, could you help us with the following:
    - What engineering fields does USNA excel at (and who are their primary comparables?)
    - What percent (roughly) of USNA engineering grads get sent to grad school by the Navy? I know this is pretty common for USAFA engineering grads.
    - What fields of engineering do grads practice in after their 5 years of service? Who hires them?
    - are FET tests required/encouraged in second semester of 4th year?
    - Do most engineering grads eventually become PE's?
    - How well do the Navy engineering experiences translate to the private sector?
    - Will a USNA engineering grad with 5 years of in-military engineering experience be on par with, say, a CalTech or Colorado School of Mines grad with 5 years of civilian experience? (I'm not talking about leadership/etc. I'm talking about applied engineering experience).

    Lastly (and I mean no disrespect by this because I think USNA is an awesome opportunity) - would USAFA be a better fit for a really engineering oriented service academy candidate?

    Obviously a big commitment - both to apply and to become. Just looking for some perspective, stories, etc. to help him decide.

    Thanks
     
  2. Capri120

    Capri120 Parent

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  3. Old Navy BGO

    Old Navy BGO 5-Year Member

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    I'll leave the hefty lifting to a the engineers to talk specifics about their program, but a couple thoughts to start the show:


    > Naval Officers are encouraged to pursue post graduate degrees, and many do , either through Naval Postgraduate School, or civilian universities during their shore tours.

    > It probably depends what engineering discipline and service selection the USNA grad goes into. A young officer in submarines and/or surface warfare gets alot of practial experience, a USMC infantry officer not as much.

    Keep in mind, the mission of the Naval Academy is not to produce practicing engineers, but instead young Naval Officers. I wouldn't downplay the quality of the USNA engineering major--USNA has world class professors, and frequently shines at the various engineering "contests" and ranking of schools, etc. , but the real benefit of the USNA education and experience as a Naval Officer goes far beyond what you can learn in a book or a lab - its the leadership experience and practical application of that education.

    As for USNA v. USAFA ...again, it probably depends upon the engineering discipline. Both are good schools..but plenty of information on this site about the differences in the Services.
     
  4. Hurricane12

    Hurricane12 USNA 2012 5-Year Member

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    I am not an enginerd, however I can answer a couple of your questions:

    -Very few grads go directly to grad school for engineering, probably in the range of 10-15. I have a buddy that went to Princeton, know another who went to MIT, both right after graduation. It's not something to bet on, and is actually not really a great idea as far as their military career goes. The guy who went to Princeton went Marine Air and is only now getting his wings after 5.5 years in, for example, and won't hit the fleet likely for another year. He's set up for when he gets out of the Marine Corps, but right now those engineering credentials are gathering dust.
    -Most people, it seems like, do not go really go into pure engineering jobs. Some do, I guess, but what's more common is going into supervisory stuff capitalizing on their experience with common "clients" in the defense industry.
    -I remember a bunch of people doing the FET test 1/C year and it was definitely encouraged.

    The overwhelming majority of guys graduating with engineering degrees do not use them right away. There are positions like EDO (Engineering Duty Officer) that people go into that allow for grad school opportunities and specialized engineering work, but those are not common and are usually not available at graduation. A few people, mostly with medical issues, go CEC (Seabees), but I can't speak to what exactly they do. I can say that Marine Combat Engineers mostly do stuff like purify water and build huts.
    The expectation should be becoming a pilot/ship driver/Marine/whatever, and not being a professional engineer.
     
  5. usna1985

    usna1985 10-Year Member

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    I suggest you back up a bit. SAs are in the business of turning out officers -- primarily combat warriors. With the exception of CEC (which you can't do unless you're not physically qualified for line) and maybe subs, your major makes little difference in your career choice. And you're not going to be doing a lot of practical engineering during your first five+ years (other than subs).

    Grad school is available to all officers. Where you go (NPGS or civilian shool) and what you study is based on a combination of your desires, needs of the Navy, and your career field/path. It has little to do with your undergrad major. If memory serves (and it may not), a graduate degree is required for promotion to 0-5. And, if the Navy pays for your graduate degree, you owe them "payback" time.

    If you're already thinking of getting out after 5 and pursuing an engineering career, you're much better off at MIT, Caltech, GT, RPI, etc. None of that pesky service commitment to deal with and you can get started on your graduate degree and civilian work right away.:rolleyes:
     
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  6. ders_dad

    ders_dad Member

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    I definitely get that in exchange for 4 years of world class education, the Navy has a purpose for you. My son is specifically NOT looking at this as his ticket to professional engineering - he wants to do something special with his life, something that challenges him to the utmost and he honestly wants to serve. While neither I nor my wife have served in the military, both of our fathers did, as did my mother-in-law and we are extremely proud and encouraging of our son's goals. To be perfectly honest, I tear up every time I think about his ambitions - I envy him. He has the academic chops to go anywhere (he scored a 36 on his ACT the first shot in the fall of this (his junior) year and only took two practice tests the night before), a two team-sport lettered athlete, an Eagle Scout, works 12 hrs a week etc. Fact of the matter is, a career as a naval officer is his goal and dream. He is not looking to get out as quickly as he can.

    But, as his father, it's my job to help him hedge his bets (while I still can - hence, these postings here). Not everything turns out like you hoped.

    I understand the origins of engineering in the service academies and the needs of the military in the 19th and 20th century to develop professionals with technical capabilities. But it does beg the question, "Why continue to offer engineering programs if those skills are rarely put to use during their years in service?" Would a less-rigorous undergraduate program serve the same purpose (I'm not saying non-engineering is not rigorous but engineering clearly IS rigorous), perhaps with even more emphasis on military and project manager roles?

    I do a lot of work with the USACOE and other than one senior military position in each district, all of the engineers are civilians. Engineering in the military seems to be primarily a project management role and not an engineering role. Is that fair?

    These discussions are very helpful and I greatly appreciate everyone's perspective. This is not a question of "this school" or "that school" - this is a question of arming my son with the information to make HIS decision as clear-eyed as possible.
     
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  7. time2

    time2 10-Year Member

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    You should choose to attend an SA because your primary interest is becoming an officer in a the military. There is also no guarantee you will get your first choice of service selection and it doesn't relate to which major you choose. Picking any college solely based on arbitrary rankings or trying to find the one that has the 'hardest' program won't guarantee success in their chosen career. Even at challenging civilian universities, there will be a range of academic success among any student body. Doing really well in college doesn't guarantee success after graduation. Some very intelligent individuals will struggle in the working world since they don't relate well to others or just aren't leaders of people.

    SA's also impose other demands on your time you won't find at any civilian university. For example, all mids must participate in sports, keep physically fit along with the time demands of various military obligations. All of those factors need to be considered when choosing any SA.

    Too many things needs to come into alignment, many of which you have no control over, to be choosing USNA solely based on what you see yourself doing AFTER you leave the military.
     
  8. usna1985

    usna1985 10-Year Member

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    A few points . . .

    I don't know of a single SA grad who believes he/she has suffered a disservice in career, graduate education or life from attending a SA.

    You seem sure that your DS will want to be a working engineer. How can you be sure of this? Most h.s. students have little idea what being an engineer really means. They do know they like and are good at math and science. There is a wealth of opportunity for such students outside of being an engineer.

    That's fair, but you haven't told us what's important to HIM, vs. what's important to you. It appears you've decided that, b/c he has aptitude for engineering and that you and your other son are engineers, that this son must want the same thing. Maybe, maybe not. If he really wants to be an engineer, then he should go to a civilian school and pursue that path in life. If he wants to be an officer, then he should pursue that path and see where it takes him. If he's as smart and capable as you say, he'll have no trouble being a success in whatever he chooses, if it really is his choice.
     
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  9. ders_dad

    ders_dad Member

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    Actually, I hope I have articulated the difference. What is important to me (as his dad) is to help him have the information to make an informed decision that will affect the direction of the rest of his life and to have a plan B. Hence, the reason for my post. What's important to him? As a 17 year old? To master a fourth pitch before spring training. To drop another 4 pounds so he can wrestle at 160. To pass his upcoming drivers license test. In all seriousness, you are right - a lot of his coloration of engineering has to do with the family he is in (and BTW, he has a really good idea of what engineers do, based on that) and the fact that he is really good at math and very mechanically inclined. What he really wants to do? He wants to be a naval officer and he wants to fight. He wants to be respected and a little bit feared. He wants to lead others in a desperate situation. He wants to prove himself to himself. He wants to prove he's the best at whatever he does. He wants to learn to fly jets. He wants adventure. He wants to belong to a team. He doesn't want to lead an "ordinary life".
     
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  10. usna1985

    usna1985 10-Year Member

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    ^^^^

    Fair enough, but your questions aren't really about Plan B for a 17-yr-old. Right now, he needs to decide whether he wants to attend a SA, attend NROTC, or go to a civilian university -- that's Plan A. Once he decides, Plan B for the moment is the alternative(s) to Plan A. IMHO, age 17 is far too soon to worry about Plan B for the rest of one's life because most haven't even figured out Plan A.

    If your DS said, "I really want to go to Podunk U and study music" and you know he has no aptitude in music nor does Podunk have a music program . . . well, good advice would be to rethink that idea. But if your DS is looking at good schools that offer good programs in STEM, then the best advice is for him to pick a place he likes even if it's not "the best" or "the most rigorous" (whatever those terms mean). And, if it's a SA, add to that the desire to serve and the service to which he's attracted. With a solid foundation, the rest of his life will work itself out . . . even if that means not being an engineer.:)

    Your DS sounds like a great kid. Guide him, but let him decide, even if you don't fully agree with his decision (hopefully you will).
     
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  11. Capri120

    Capri120 Parent

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    ders_dad

    Completely understand, as a parent, which I am as well, your interest in ensuring your son has as much information as possible to make an intelligent decision that may impact him well beyond college, a service academy and a military career.

    In my experience as an AF brat, AF Officer, and now a DOD contractor working with the AF, very few officers retire after 20 or more years and just retire. Most seek civilian or government employment, or become entrepreneurs after military retirement. Having a degree and possibly some experience in that degree field can allow them to pursue employment or business ventures they will enjoy and that will continue to be challenging.

    Where I currently work, we hire a lot of retired military, enlisted and officers, and not only does their career experience matter when determining for which positions they are qualified, but also their post-secondary education and/or degree(s). For example, our company would not hire a person with a BA/BS in History for an engineering position regardless of experience. Our contracts with the government dictate that an engineer will have either an engineering degree or at least a degree in the "hard sciences" such as STEM courses.

    And as other posters have mentioned, most, but not all, 17 year olds don't know for sure "what they want to be when they grow up", as the old cliche goes, but some do look past a few years and have longer term goals and aspirations. These may change or they may not.

    As is true for USNA and USMA, even after graduating from USAFA, the degree does not necessarily dictate the duty to which one will be assigned, the needs of the service override all.
     
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  12. falconchic88

    falconchic88 10-Year Member

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    ders_dad,
    All three of my USNA kids majored in engineering. 2014er was a mechE major, the other two are Ocean Engineering majors. They all three had several civilian instructors that had previously taught at other universities, many of them top tier engineering schools. They all seemed to indicate the caliber of courses were on par with those schools. My MechE's capstone project was done in conjunction with engineering students from Notre Dame. My 2016 Ocean Engineering major is now a Civil Engineer Officer. My now M2C is hoping to go Nuke Subs and is most likely going to do some grad work before she even graduates USNA. Prior to graduating, engineering majors are given the opportunity to take the FE/EIT exam.

    I think you see more USAFA grads going into "engineering" career fields because USNA wants its grads to go into unrestricted line jobs if medically qualified (tip of the spear operational communities), USAFA doesn't do this. USAFA grads can service select support career fields out of the Academy. So USAFA grads can go right into Civil Engineering or Developmental Engineering, or Acquisitions. My daughter is only in CEC because she DOR'd from pilot training and was re-designated into CEC.

    Service Academy Grads, be it Navy or Air Force (my husband and I are USAFA grads, hubby was a Mech E major) are very sought after if they decide to leave the military and pursue a civilian career, not just because of the top tier education they receive, but also because of the leadership training, EXPERIENCE in project management, and opportunities to supervise they receive through their military service.
     
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  13. pleber16

    pleber16 USNA 2016 5-Year Member

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    I was, as Hurricane12 put it, an "enginerd" at USNA. I can say from experience the programs are great. Are they as in depth as dedicated engineering schools like the ones you mentioned? Probably not. Many engineering programs at civilians schools now are 5 year programs, USNA has to do it in 4. On top of that, we also still had to take humanities electives and professional courses like leadership and navigation. That being said, those they send to grad school for engineering immediately after USNA are very well prepared. I imagine those who return after their obligation are still well prepared by their USNA degree.

    All that aside, from what you've said it sounds like your son is interested in engineering, not necessarily in being an engineer. There is a difference. Especially at USNA. Like many others have said, more often than not the Navy will be using you for something other than what you studied for the past 4 years. It's okay to major in engineering and not want to be an professional engineer, that's one of the great things about the academy. When I came into the academy at 18, I thought I wanted to be a nuke and eventually study more engineering. 5 1/2 years later I'm a pilot in training and I have no desire to ever go back into engineering. But even if tomorrow I found out I was disqualified from military service, I'm confident I'd be able to find a suitable back up plan. Your son doesn't need to have a fall back for something he may or may not be doing in 11 years.
     
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  14. SC2015

    SC2015 Parent 5-Year Member

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    +++ to all the posters so far. I will answer with a little different angle building on what falconchic88 ended with.

    A little background first - DS graduated with an aerospace engineering degree from USNA and is currently flying (or at least learning to) the MH-60S helicopter. 2nd DS is currently a firstie at USMA majoring in a non-engineering field (although having to take somebasic engineering classes) who is headed to the Infantry.

    I am the Director of Engineering (with a degree in Physics from a traditional college) for a government contractor and have experience hiring engineers, both recent college graduates as well as experienced engineers. When we interview academy graduates, we tend to consider them for management spots vs "nuts and bolts" engineers. As officers they have mastered the "leading/managing" of soliders, sailors and airmen. The academies prepare them for a career (however short or long that may be) of managing the situation and those under their command. This is an extemely valuable tool for an engineering manager or even non-engineering managers. The basic background they have in whatever engineering field (or non-engineering field, as USNA requires at least some basic engineering courses for every graduate) they graduate in provides them the basic tools they need in their management tool box. This is really different from the mission of a traditional college/university and the graduates it produces. The goal of the academies is to produce those leaders/managers.

    I recently had discussions with DS #2 about project management and the construction management course he is taking at USMA. Although being taught on how to manage projects for the battlefield, these are extremely vaulable skills that will provide him with the foundation for an excellent job whenever he decides to retire. I would hire him today (yes, a little biased) as an project engineering manager - he has the management skills from the responsibilities/training/schooling he has had in the last 3+years, the basic engineering foundation to "talk the talk" and the project management exposure through schooling and in some of his summer "adventures".

    As falconchic88 pointed out as a closure, the leadership training and experience these young men and women gain at the academy is invaluable. We in industry really love them when they want a different career, whether it is right after their commitment or when they are retiring after many years.

    If your son wants to be a Officer, either academy (or USMA ;)) will produce a quality one.
     
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  15. Lazyboy

    Lazyboy Member

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    This is a great discussion! I shared it with my son and wife.
     
  16. Soldiergriz

    Soldiergriz Husband, Dad, Soldier

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    I'd be lucky to have your son serving and leading in my unit - RIGHT NOW!
     
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  17. Sandydesert

    Sandydesert Member

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    DS is currently a 3/c systems engineering major. To give you an idea of just some of the engineering classes, plebe year is basically core classes: chemistry, 2 semesters of calculus, history of the Navy, to name just a few of the classes. For engineering majors, 3/ C year classes include physics, statics ( not statistics, statics), differential equations, dynamics, ethics, and leadership. Apparently, fewer mids choose to major in EE than the other engineering majors that are offered. Many apparently choose ME instead of EE. Double majoring would be a very, very rough program to complete in the 47 months that mids are allowed to attend USNA . DS was interested in double majoring in EE and systems-he was advised to just pick one.
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2017
  18. Patriot4Life

    Patriot4Life Member

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    Der_Dad. First you are a great Dad to your son. And your son did a great job so far to prepare himself for the next journey. I mean that. And as a father you should continue to mentor your son throughout his life to make the best choice available to him.

    The journey after high school will be his own. He becomes a man, a Cadet somewhere either at an SA or at a Top school of his choice. And he will serve our nation as a Military Officer. When entering the service you become a military officer to lead your men and women to safety and fight to win with your men and women side by side. You fight as a unit as a team. You're never alone. You say we did not I did. No matter what your majors were at school, Physics Aeronautics History Economics, you are first leading your men and women to defend and fight to win. That can be in the cyber space, land, ground, air, your mission is to save lives, stay alive, respond to threats.

    If your son believes that the most important criteria in choosing a school is the quality of academic majors offered at SA vs Other top schools then you should not be considering the SA as your first choice. SA have top notch academics not doubt. But its mission is to produce leaders first who can lead men and women to defend fight and win conflict in their chosen branch. So scholars second but all Cadets are expected to excel since they have all been vetted to do rigorous STEM, social science, and humanities. All Cadets need to learn to write well. They want athletes because you need to be physically fit throughout the service. And through athletics you experience adversity perseverance indomitable spirit and team work.

    When seeking employment in managerial and management positions they are no longer looking at grades. They still look at schools but the most important reasons why they choose you for a job is based on your success in your previous jobs. Your grade helps when you are getting your first job and maybe through second.

    So your social skills, team skills, your professional craft skills, managerial skills, and the ability to articulate well verbally and written reports are all the more important. If you're not a good writer and speaker you will not move up.

    I am learning these things by closely observing and interacting with CEOs, senior executive managers, and junior and senior grade officers in the military. O3-O7 and through E-7s.

    I also have a very supportive dad like you. I feel very fortunate to have him. And many on this thread have great dads moms and mentors. I would not be where I am without them.

    I like to ask you to talk to your son to think very hard about the service. It is a profession to serve your country first. If he sees that then pick a service and commission through ROTC or SA. If choosing a major is more important then he needs more time to think this through.

    There are many high achievers applying to SAs and the IVIES MIT CalTech like your son. And they will all do well.

    I will proudly serve my country in one of the service. My academic major can be in STEM or Social Science. I plan to branch into MI with branch detail to Combat Arms in one of the Service and later transfer with at least 3 years experience to Cyber Ops in joint command operations. I applied to all SAs, 6 IVIES, and 5 other top schools.

    I have an LOA from USNA and Appointment from USCGA in Early Action. Once I get my nominations I hope to hear from USMA and USAFA. I will choose a Service in late March and proudly serve my country. And I know I will truly enjoy the service in the military!

    I am an
    Eagle Scout with almost 80 Merit Badges
    Junior Asst Scoutmaster/Senior Patrol Leader
    Summit Rank Award in Venturing
    President of Crew
    In Scouting for 8 years
    Boys State
    Varsity Athlete with 4 Letters including Marksmanship and MMA
    Captain
    Club President
    10 National level awards including
    Medals from the President, Senator, Congressman, Ambassador, Navy Captain
    10 state / intl level awards
    20 Scouting Awards National Council District levels
    Volunteered with the US ARMY for 6 years since age 11
    Volunteer unpaid experience at a global Asset Management Company
    Coach and Instructor during the academic year at Harvard Students led Entrepreneurship Program
    Attended USAFA Summer Seminar as a Merit Scholar
    Attended USMA SLE
    Attended Harvard Summer 2016 - selective program
    Winner of 4-Year ROTC National Scholarship to Army Navy Air Force
    Learned 4 languages but speak 3
    Lived abroad many years
    SAT 1550
    GPA 3.8 Unweighted
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    Above Average in CFA. Topped Pull Ups.
    Educated in British and American schools. Attended USNews ranked equivalent top 0.5% schools in the Nation. Avg SAT at the schools I attended is 1450.
     
  19. time2

    time2 10-Year Member

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    And you were able to do all of this while still in h.s.?
     
  20. Patriot4Life

    Patriot4Life Member

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    Scouting, I started Spring of my 5th grade. But many of the awards were achieved from the beginning of my 9th grade through now. I became an Eagle Scout when I just turned 14. Earned 46 Merit Badges. I was published in 2 newspapers at a young age. All the athletics I started since age 8. It is long dedication and truly enjoying what I do that paid off. The magic is in the cocktail. The combination of long term dedication and the real joy doing what you do.
     
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