Should I pursue Eng PhD or other option?

(I’m American) I’m not too hot in math. I got a 24 in mathematics on my ACT. I understand linguistics and I want to be a professor, but I understand that that is a competitive market. I want to be safe in terms of getting a job. I don’t understand a bit of programming. Would it be wise to attempt to pursue computer science or engineering instead, or is that the sort of thing in which it is better to have a bent toward it beforehand? In pre-calculus I had a hard time conjuring trigonometric relationships outside of the most basic ones. I forget whenever I look at things like x^2-4 that that can be split up (I forgot the name of that system). Figuring out parabolas is twisting to me too. This wouldn’t break me, would it? What do I need?

I begin next fall. When will it be too late to change my major?

Are you actually interested in engineering?

(Oh, and reported for forum change).

While this is still in the Pit, it sounds like you are completely fucked regarding engineering, even a bachelors. Have you ever considered Kiddie Ed and working in the inner city? Perfectly respectable, even saintlike, and you’d do more good than most engineers.

ETA: I know and understand a bit (a very small bit) more math than you and was embarrassed to be called an engineer for decades. I was a drafter or the CAD guy. A man’s gotta know his limitations.

I started to write a response but then started to wonder if you got the terminology right.

If you have difficulty with basic algebra I find it difficult to believe that you would have been accepted into a PhD program in engineering, as I presume they would require you to have taken substantial engineering courses that would have required a fluent understanding of calculus if not higher maths.

What is your current level of education. It sounds more like you are wondering what direction to pursue as an undergrad with the idea that you eventually think you want to get a PhD. As far as what to pursue with the goal of getting a PhD, you need to follow your passion or you don’t have a chance.

Unless you love the subject that you are pursuing so much that you would gladly eat, sleep and breath it for years on end you shouldn’t try to get a PhD in it. In all likelihood you will burn out and waste a number of years that could have been spent earning money get getting work experience in an actual job. You don’t get a PhD to get a job, you get a PhD because you love the subject so much you want to devote your life to it.

It sounds like maybe you should consider something other than computer science or engineering. You should talk to a counselor or advisor of some sort. Have you considered accounting? They make good money, I think. Or maybe library science?

PhD? Certainly not. Didn’t mean that, no.

I didn’t say “freshman year.” Let’s begin again. “I begin freshman year next fall.” Sorry for the confusion.

It’s never too late to change your major, the worst that can happen is that you wasted your time taking classes that won’t count to your new major. Of course, that wasted time costs money.

But if you’re an incoming freshman, just take the hardest freshman math class you think you can stand. If you flunk that, then forget about engineering. Your freshman year you’re mostly taking intro to this and intro to that, and most of those classes will count no matter what your major ends up being.

Trust me, lots and lots of freshmen think they’re going to be engineering students, and pretty quickly get disabused of that notion.

I know two people who were interested and had aptitude in language/linguistics and who did very well in software engineering, but for both of them it was kind of a passion. I think possibly they understood how language works at a structural level, and that helped them understand programming languages and protocols.

I see someone has recommended library science. I would say no to that one. Fewer jobs as libraries become more automated and the focus changes to electronically stored knowledge bases.

How about majoring in linguistics, or in some language that is not English? Any other language you study will help you out if you want to go into linguistics. And it could prove illuminating in many other ways. Being multilingual opens lots of possibilities.

You can change your major any time. If you’re going in as a freshman you probably don’t even have to declare one for a semester or two. So you can experiment a bit.

Ah, thought so much better.

By the way welcome to the Dope. You accidentally stumbled into the pit which is not the proper place for a nice young thing like you This thread will hopefully be moved by the moderator to a more suitable resting place where you are less likely to get yelled at, insulted, or otherwise berated for no good reason. But don’t let that discourage you snoop around read some stickys rules threads so you don’t make the mistake again and enjoy your time here.

As to your question: Follow eulalia’s advice and get thee to a counselor. They are much more likely to have helpful advice than a bunch of random to smart asses on the internet who don’t know you from Adam, and will tell you what they have learned from their personal experience which may not fit your personal situation at all.

However being one of those said smart asses I do have some personal advice: While you can change your major at any time, keep track of the required courses for the majors you are considering so don’t change your mind and find that you need to spend an additional year to finish.

I also generally agree with Lemur866. Good math skills is going to be a must for any of the hard sciences, and Math courses can be brutal for the unprepared. I TA’d math for a number of years and crushed the dreams of many an aspiring engineer. They probably hated me for it, but if I had let them pass they just would have been over their head in all the classes they took going forward. Pre-requisites are there for a reason.

Although I don’t know the policies of the University you are going to, there is a good chance that the Math department will have a pre-test to determine which math class you are qualified for. Whatever you test into is what you are going to take. It may be that you test into a class that covers material you already understand. Don’t take that as a indication that you were misplaced and so can blow off the class. The number one most failed class in the University when I was a TA was Math115 pre-calculus. It was filled with aspiring engineers who tried to test into calculus but failed. Most of these students thought they should be taking calculus and so when we started off teaching them about polynomials which they knew already they decided that this whole class was a waste of time and stopped paying attention. But at some point in the semester we started teaching them the things that they failed on the test, and since they weren’t paying attention they failed again, and next semester had to re-take the course and sit through a lecture on polynomials for the third time.

Oh and one final bit of advice that was told to just before I graduated from high school.

you go to college you learn how to think
you go to graduate school you learn about your subject
But you learn what you actually need to do your job once you start your career.

This I think is very accurate.

Your undergraduate major only matters in so far as it shows you can think and can get you into a graduate program where you will actually learn enough about the subject to usefully apply it. For those jobs that can be obtained with a Bachelors it really doesn’t matter too much what your degree is in. You can’t learn enough in undergraduate engineering to be useful as an engineer. You are probably going to need at least a masters degree for that. Then once you get your Masters degree you know enough to put your engineering skills to work in a career making left handed spork chargers. But you didn’t actually learn anything about the subtleties of charging sporks until you started working at United Sporks ltd.

Hmm. Good question. I wonder how much intrinsic math and science aptitude one needs for engineering?

For example the X^2-4 that you want to split up? Sounds like factoring to me. The people I know who did engineering were doing that type of math in 8th grade algebra. But could a prodigious work ethic compensate for lack of intrinsic talent? I really don’t know.

How hard did you work at algebra and pre-calc? I have an engineering degree. I didn’t find it that challenging for the amount of work I did to be honest. But I have an aptitude for math.

I’d disagree with that. Most of the engineers I know did just fine with a BS.

If you have neither aptitude nor interest for maths and science, I’d steer clear. That path leads to failure.

Aiming to be a professor is not compatible with being safe in terms of getting a job.

In terms of linguistics, remember that automated translation gets better all the time.

I am sorry I don’t have any good advice for what to do, but steering clear of trap options is not bad either.

Or the forum you post your OP in.

I’ve done pretty well, with just a B.S. in electrical engineering. The Masters and Doctorate are certainly useful if you want to move up the ladder, but are not absolutely necessary.
In my career, I’ve worked electrical engineering and software engineering, on various defense and NASA programs, and have reached the point where I can retire any time I choose… the tipping point will be when I’ve “maxed out”.

Heck, my B. Eng. required knowledge of ordinary and partial differential equations, among other stuff. If the OP wants to pursue this, better find a good calculus primer and study it until you have it down pat.

Yes. I had to work at it, to graduate. That shit wasn’t easy.

The mind boggles at what combination of google searching or random link clicking led Yonathon to believe that “the pit” was the appropriate place to post this.

But anyway I agree with the above, know your limitations, and perhaps being a humanities teacher is your strength? Or study business admin or real estate, both lucrative industries. Not everyone can be a programmer / engineer.

Why the hell is this thread still in the pit?

Yeah… something just doesn’t add up!

Well, something other than the OP, that is.