Advice regarding ME and MET

I'm going to apologize up front for this being a long post.
I am just beginning my study at a community college, where I am majoring
in Mechanical Engineering Technology. I plan to complete my associates degree there; in order to complete it, I need to take Calc I, General Physics I and II, two CAD courses and a solid modelling course, and several "applications" classes: Statics, Strength of Materials, Kinematics, a manufacturing course, and a robotics course. Here's a link to the curriculum:
http://www.middlesexcc.edu/future/academics/programspdf/32.pdf
I plan to continue onward to complete my Bachelors. Here is the curriculum for the university I was planning on attending (obviously I will have completed many of these courses at the associates level):
http://catalog.njit.edu/undergraduate/programs/mechengtechnology.php
My understanding is that the MET program is oriented more towards "practicality" as opposed to theory (i.e. not as much advanced math (BS only up to Calc II), general as opposed to analytical physics; most courses are algebra/trig/basic calc based as opposed to the higher level calc in a traditional BSME program). I am a non-traditional student (35 yrs old, 4 children). While I like the practical aspect of the degree, and would love to not only design but actually build things, I am concerned that the BSET may be limiting as far as career choices. If I am wrong in this point, please let me know - talking to people in industry, I've gotten responses ranging from, "you'll actually make more at the entry level with the BSET because we don't have to spend as much time on training you how to use the equipment" to not having even heard of the degree. I'm not completely sure what my career focus would be, but I am interested in robotics as well as biomedical.
My question is this - would I be better served:
1. Completing the BSET degree, and maybe adding some more courses to fill in the gaps (I already have a B.A., so I have some extra room. I was thinking of adding Calc III and Diff Eq, Analytical Physics III, and Engineering Mechanics I and II, and possibly some more electronics courses), and then perhaps going on to a masters program in Mechanical (the university has a bridge program, has had BSET students attend the Masters program before, and I would already have the math out of the way, so I wouldn't have to take many extra courses). Would the Masters degree alleviate the limitations that might be placed on me with a BSET undergrad? I do realize that Masters programs in Engineering are very difficult. In NJ, I believe I can sit for both the EIT and PE with the BSET.
2. Continuing past the associates and transferring into a straight BSME program - I will prob have to take some extra courses (I took Chem I back in 1988, so maybe that and Chem II), and may have to take some, if not all, of my applications courses over, as they not based on higher calculus (I'm not super worried about this, because exposure to the courses may give me a better chance of doing well in them when I take them again at a more rigorous level). Obviously, this will take longer. This option would allow me to attend a MS program later without worrying about the bridge. The same university where I would attend my BSET has a BSME.
The reason I am doing the MET as opposed to a straight pre-engineering associates degree is that I will need to secure employment in order to pay for school and help support my family. The first two years of an engineering curriculum are great prep for the last 2, but telling an employer I passed Calc, Physics, and Chem isn't necessarily going to get me hired.
Obviously, I am concerned about handling the rigor of the math and applied BSME courses. If I can't pass Calc III, well the decision is made, I guess. As far as the rigor of the courses, if you are not a whiz at math up to diff eq, are you basically screwed, or is it just a matter of putting in the hard work and study time, and then you'll get through? I have seen some Thermo, Statics, Electrical and Dynamics texts, and they seem like they're all Calc, so I don't come even close to understanding them -- to be fair, I haven't taken Calc yet, and I'm guessing a freshman in a BSME program wouldn't get them either. I would be attending on the Bachelor's level part time and working, and I have already been told to expect to put in very long hours studying either way. I am not downplaying the MET courses BTW, they're going to be a lot harder than the liberal arts I took back in college, but I'm guessing just not as hard as the BSME. Getting the BSET and the Masters may take the same or even less time than getting the BSME, so it's easier -- I'm just interested if it's the smart thing to do in the long run.
If you guys were me, what would you do? Please feel free to answer here or via e-mail.
Peter
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I'm also a non-traditional student, 34 years old, married with one child, and starting in Mechanical Engineering at the University of New Orleans this fall or next spring. I also have struggled with Math and I have been told that you just have to put in the time and you CAN learn it. If you spend some time in the labs and are willing put in the effort I'm sure you can master calc and diff eq. I've had engineers tell me that in most cases they don't even use calculus on a daily basis as much as algebra. In a lot of cases the equation is already there for you to use you just need to be able to isolate the variable you want to solve for, that's algebra. You actually have one up on me, in that you already have a degree. I'm starting back with only about 40 hours and only about 27 of those hours apply to my program. I've included some links to my program below:
http://coe.uno.edu/me%5Fweb/coursesCurriculum.htm http://www.uno.edu/%7Eengr/coe_web/undergraduate/curriculum/flowcharts/me_2005-06.pdf
PK wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Chris -
Thanks for the post; I've heard that hard work as opposed to innate ability is the key too, and that just about everybody struggles with the math. I'm really thinking of going the BSME route - I know it will be hard work, but I figure it will be hard work either way, so I might as well do something that is worth it. For me, I'm looking at the AAS in MET as training for the BSME; if I can't handle the advanced math, I can pursue the BSET degree instead; my career would be different; not necessarily better or worse, but different. I'm not sure if a BSET+MSME is equal or superior to a BSME career-wise.
Good luck with your studies. I'm guessing UNO is a real interesting place to be given that Katrina wasn't really that long ago. I bet that there will be plenty of opportunities for engineers down there for a while, as a lot of damage was done. I know a lot of civil folks are probably heading down that way or planning to.
BTW - I think it's pretty cool that you take a Biology elective in your last semester; in addition to making you more well rounded, it might provide some foundation for people who decide to work in biomedical, which seems to be pretty hot right now. I took two smesters of Bio in college, and I found it pretty interesting.
As we're both about the same age (I turn 36 in October), I wonder this -- has anyone said anything about what happens when you come out of the degree at 38, 39, 40 or more years of age? Do employers tend to pick the 22 year old over the older guy because they think they can get more years out of him, or do they value the maturity that comes with age? I used to work in the Internet field when I was younger, and at some companies, there was definitely a "don't trust anyone over 30" vibe.
-Pete

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I'm 35, just finished a 4-year BSME, I'm also a parent (3- 2 teenagers, one 8-y-o). It was TOUGH but doable. Lots of sleepless nights, sacrifice of family time, but if you love the subject and are fascinated, you'll be motivated to stick with it. Some of the math was hard, some of the other classes were REALLY hard- but none were impossible to pass. enjoy. There were more than a few non-traditional students in my program, which was a good one at a good state U. regards, karinne
Chris wrote:

http://www.uno.edu/%7Eengr/coe_web/undergraduate/curriculum/flowcharts/me_2005-06.pdf
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Are you finding employers receptive to 30+ year old grads or do they seem to want younger graduates?
Chris
k wallace wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Dear Chris:

When visiting a campus, they are looking for GPA.
If your work history looks like it is direct support of a career in engineering, they are happy to gain that experience, for the price of a new graduate.
Since engineers are almost never retained until retirement, there *should* be no reason that someone 30+ would not be as attractive as someone 20+. It is not like they are going to retire in 5 or 10 years.
David A. Smith
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
dlzc1 D:cox T: snipped-for-privacy@nospam.com> wrote:

I always take GPA with a grain of salt. Some of the best engineers I ever hired had average GPAs (3 - 3.5).
Of course this is just my opinion.
Most of the "high" GPA guys went into analysis. I'm looking for design engineers. You can't measure creativity with GPA.

And this is much more important to me than GPA: track record. Once you have a job history established, that is more important to a potential employer than the grades you got in college XX years ago.

30+ is not a problem for almost all employers.
--
Harry Andreas
Engineering raconteur
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@computer.org (Harry Andreas) wrote in wrote:

I like the idealism.
The problem in many organisations is that there is an expected pay vs age curve. As a late starter you will upset this curve.
This leads to the (observed) situation where the 30 year old late starter (eg a PhD) gets rapid pay rises to bring him up to parity with his peers, yet does not have the experience to back that up.
Now, to be honest this is not the fault of the late starter. None the less, it is a good reason to observe some caution when employing late starters.
Few organisations have the discipline to pay engineers based on actual performance, even if that is their stated goal.
Cheers
Greg Locock
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Chris wrote:

actually, no. I was offered the second job I applied for, and my GPA was only 3.55. ( I say 'only', but I worked my ass off for that 3.55, and am proud of myself for doing as well as I did.)
The feedback I've gotten has all been good. One employer said to me at a career fair that if she could hire all people with the life and work experience I had she'd be extremely happy. (I have experience as a line worker, team leader, and middle manager in a manufacturing environment, and have also co-owned a small business.)
I now work for the gov't, in my field, and while I have the same pay grade as people 15 years younger than me, that's fine. The gov't pay scale goes by years employed and job description, and while the pay may top out less than in the private sector, the benefits are better than anywhere I'd interviewed.
One company I spoke to did seem to be a "younger" set, but it also was a computer-parts startup and actually their business plan didn't impress me, and their benefits kinda sucked, so while their starting salary was about 5K higher than what I accepted w/the gov, I think I still am getting a better deal. For someone with a family, benefits/401(k)/life insurance matter a lot, as you know.
But that was the only company that seemed less receptive to an 'older' grad. No one else batted an eye, and everyone I spoke with (at career fairs, etc) seemed impressed with my experience and communication skills.
regards, karinne w

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Just wanted to say as a returning adult student myself I have enjoyed reading all the posts from us old farts. I will be completing a double major in Atmospheric Science and Mechanical Engineering in the spring of 2008 at age 32.
Best Regards Charles
k wallace wrote:

>>>http://www.uno.edu/%7Eengr/coe_web/undergraduate/curriculum/flowcharts/me_2005-06.pdf
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Look at what your potential employers require for an engineering position. You will find there are some employers who require a full engineering degree for certain positions. The US government is one such employer. -- Ed Ruf ( snipped-for-privacy@EdwardG.Ruf.com) http://edwardgruf.com/Digital_Photography/General/index.html
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Thanks. As I may one day wish to work for the government, that is surely something to consider.
I guess part of the issue becomes what each job entails; I can definitely see the distinction between "engineer" (BSME) and "technician" (AAS in ET) jobs. "Technologist" jobs, that usually allow for a BSET, are harder to pin down. In some cases, it seems they're doing the same work a new BSME would do, in others, it seems like mostly lab work, and closer to a technician's duties. I know every job is different, and a BSME occasionally gets hired for "technologist" jobs, but do BSME's really spend they're whole day doing complex calculations, and technologists get to build? That seems like an oversimplification, but I am curious.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Dear PK:
...

Yes, do. A very large percentage of engineers are employed by the government, either directly or with external contracts.

The entire issue rests solely on why you are getting into engineering. What do you want to be when you "grow up"?

Lower pay, but a smaller hit to the bottom line of a hiring company.

No.
Not necessarily.

Who you are, and how you will express your desires, will control most of your future experience. Your degree will decide who you work for, how much you get paid for it, and the specifics of what you will be doing.
David A. Smith
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I'm getting into Engineering for a few reasons. Most importantly, I have a natural curiosity to learn more about how things work - machines, sure, but also the natural world. I'm one of those people who loves to learn. That's one reason I've gravitated towards Mechanical as opposed to Electrical. The concepts I learn in Mechanical will help me make more sense of how things work in the world; or I should say, it's more analogous, at least to me, to natural, everyday processes than what I would learn studying circuits (which i still find interesting, BTW, and will have to study). I feel going the Mechanical aspect is transferable to other areas, because I'm learning more general concepts. If I decide to later study electrical, civil, or even chemical, I should have the basics down. In my eyes, going electrical or chemical, and then later switching to mechanical, would be harder. The second reason is that it would provide me with the opportunity for a pretty decent income and some job security. Of course that's important, especially having a family, but I'm getting into it more to satisfy my innate curiosity as opposed to the $$$. I'd rather make less and be happy than be rich and miserable.
Everyone has always told me about the "hands-on" aspects of ET, vs. the theory aspect of straight engineering. My feeling is that if I learn the theory, I can probably also do the hands-on, but not necessarily vice- versa. I could of course be wrong there. I would love to actually work with things, as opposed to just see them on paper, but I also like the idea of design, which often seems the realm of the degreed engineer. To me, the difference between the two programs is the rigor of the mathematics. I am taking Calc I in the fall, a course in which I fully plan to bust my rear to the highest degree possible - we shall see how it goes. Being an older student (35), I now have the maturity to do this; I don't believe I had it when I graduated with a B.A. in 1993 at 21. There's no way I could have handled it then.
I really don't know what speciality I would go for when I "grow up" - I think (hope) that would come out in my studies. Right now, I'm interested in robotics and biomed. I see those two areas integrating even more in the future, with nanotech possibly being the forum in which that happens. I would love to be able to be there when that happens.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Dear PK:

Biology and chemistry are the natural world.

Electrical people do learn, and electrical people do interface directly with "the natural world". Just FYI.

... or *don't* work, and you figure out why and how they don't work.

Every turn as a mechanical engineer, I am faced with processes that are enhanced or completely taken over by either chemical or electronic systems. You will do well to learn a lot about circuits, yes.

True of any discipline.

The same can be said of any "direction change".

Not really. If you want that, take nursing or physical therapy. Nurses are in very high demand, can walk into any town in the world and have employment in hours, and get excellent pay and benefits. You only have to learn to live with *lots* of overtime.
Since I graduated with my degree, I have had six different jobs in 20 years. I have been without a job for up to a year (and as little as walking out of ome place and into another). And I am making less now (with inflation) than I did when I first started in mechanical engineering. Every company I went to work for folded entirely, stopped doing what they needed engineers for, or moved operations far from *here*. My *problem* is my choice of places to live, and not wanting to be boss.
I don't think my experience is orders of magnitude different than others...

Rich people are not miserable Rich people do have to worry about their children being kidnapped.

You need to allow yourself to be all you can be.

Agreed.
I also went back to school for my degree in my 30s. You will find that you can kick ass, now that every third thought doesn't involve "skirts".

Excellent choices. Combine the two.

Will require mathematics.
David A. Smith
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

True. I think that's one of the things that attracts me to Biomedical Engineering.

I know they learn, but could you expand a bit on the second part?

Either one is good by me. :)

Do you think this is more of an issue in mechanical, and less of one in electrical, or "up and coming" areas like biomedical or chemical, or is this something that happens in engineering in general?

I agree. What I don't want to do is be sorry about the choice I made ten or more years from now, when it will be a lot harder to catch up. That's why I'm spending so much time doing the research now.

Good point. I do think my maturity will be an asset; family responsibilities may cut down the advantage I have a little bit, but then, I'll have a concrete reason for working hard (feeding my family) that should help carry me through.

Kind of what I envisioned. Is mechanical the best realm in which to do that in your opinion? It seems most robotics programs are in the ME dept in the universities I've seen. Biomed varies; some have their own dept, some put it in ME, and some in EE.

Agreed. May end up requiring advanced biology and chemistry too.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Dear PK:

Look around you at the electonics. All of them interface to the real world. From process sensors (conductivity, Hall effect, proximity sensors, switches) to power supplies (providing DC power from chemical storage, with minimum weight and size) and more. What we can do, is defined in part by electronics. And that part is not getting smaller.

Given that all businesses are cyclical, as are the needs for any particular discipline, it is engineering in general. Now if you are doing civil engineering, that can be considerably more stable. People always make waste, always travel, and seem to always make more people. Just don't look for instant satisfaction, since most civil projects are multiple years in the making. In mechanical engineering, you can fully develop a product line, and have final product in your hands in months. In electrical engineering, you can do the same, and have finished product in your hands in weeks.

Anything you can do, you (and others) can find fault with. Hindsight is simply a fermentation of yesterday's wine. The worst fault is not doing anything, or doing what somebody else told you to do.

More than you can now imagine...

... and hopefully keep them out of your hair.

Get to a academic/course counselor.
Find out who is hiring engineers in your area, and interview some of the human resources people. Ask them what you need to know/have in order to do the things you like for their companies. It might cost you lunch...

Ask yourself, "What would R. Buckminster Fuller do"? Or pick your own direction, or your own "distant marker", and start towards it. Live the song "I did it my way".
Become an engineer because it makes your blood race, and fires your imagination. Because any other reason will not sustain you through the hard times.
I have tried to never make weapons. I have seen the fruits of my labors cut up with a torch and discarded, so the competition didn't get their hands on it.
You don't need to respond further to me.
David A. Smith
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 6 Aug 2006 09:05:49 -0700, in sci.engr.mech "N:dlzc D:aol T:com

Also, be careful about titles. For instance I work for NASA as an Aerospace Technologist, or AST. The AST position requires a full engineering degree from an ABET certified curriculum for the most part.

Depends upon the specific position. There are those which do and those which don't in both cases. In my specific case

Agreed. Ahh, just realized my sigs are messed up. As an example you cane look at what I do at http://edwardgruf.com/Me/index.html I can go for many months not touching hardware on a given project, such as when we finally got to the X-43 flight tests. Other times, dealing with running a facility and ground tests I can touch hardware, wrench bolts deal with instrumentation almost every day.
Another thought. given a ET degree it may be impossible to enroll in an MS program without a lot of makeup course work as well. -- Ed Ruf ( snipped-for-privacy@EdwardG.Ruf.com) http://edwardgruf.com/Digital_Photography/General/index.html
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

That is confusing to me as well.
As an example you

That seems like a VERY cool job. :)

Good point. My understanding is that if I go to NJIT, they would let me in provided I took the 4 math courses, plus a "few" extra courses (about 4 more, I think). That doesn't mean I wouldn't necessarily have one hand behind my back the whole way, though, struggling to complete the courses. Plus, some other schools (such as Rutgers, where I got my BA in 1993), won't even talk to me with the ET degree.
As you're in Aerospace, I'm guessing you use a lot of math? Did the math always come easy to you, or did you have difficulty with it as an undergrad?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
As a Mechanical engineer working for a government contractor, I would suggest that you get the BSME. From what I have seen, having a Technology degree puts up a lot of roadblocks when working with the government.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.