How is your semester going? Good? Bad? Mediocre? Nonetheless, I hope you guys are taking care of your health!
I assume you all are reading this blog to get some help (or my friends who love my writing 😉) so I am dedicating a post to just how to choose your specialization.
This was written based on my personal experiences/opinions and some info gathered from friends, but at the end of the day, the choice is all yours to make.
1. How did you choose your specialization?
I even got this question from an interview the other day!
Ideally, I would say I was destined to be a mechanical engineer since I was born, but no, sadly, I wasn’t. I did enjoy hard materials during high school, though.
I did say before, but I came through engineering with a very standardized route. I took math and physics in high school, thought I’d enjoy them in my career, and proceeded to engineering.
I had actively procrastinated in choosing my specialization, purely because I had no clue what these specializations do or even what engineering in general was.
I did, however, vaguely think my career would be either mechatronics or mechanical because I was really excited about moving things, like theme parks, trains and boats.
I wanted to keep my options open, so I tried as hard as possible to improve my GPA. (I will discuss this in more detail soon!)
At the end of the day, it was combining my interests (moving stuff!) and avoiding things I didn’t like (electrical was always tricky for me)
2. Different Methods to Find the Right Specialisation.
Technically, I am supposed to be promoting how wonderful Mechanical engineering is. However, the truth is, no matter how much I scream that Mechanical is the best, the sad reality is that mechanical engineering will not be a good suit for some people.
Here are some tips for choosing your specialisations; although you still might not have a singular answer after this post, I do hope it is somewhat helpful.
a. Think about what you like.
Stereotypical, right? But sit down somewhere quiet and ask yourself, what do you really like?
This is not limited in the papers you like, but some of your values and how you want your career to look like as well.
For example, if you want a job really quick, specialisations like civil or structural is probably a good choice since NZ needs a lot of civil/structural engineers. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, try visiting a career expo! 80% of the companies are hiring civil/structural engineering students!)
If you are passionate about particular machinery such as boats, cars, trains, Mechanical might be a good match.
If robots are your number one passion, go to Mechatronics!
To know how your interests link to each specialisation, some research would be necessary. I recommend starting from these blogs (yes, we are writing to help you guys!), going through the course viewer of each specialisation (https://uoaengineering.github.io/courseviewer/) and searching up stuff on youtube. Talking to parts II, III or IV will be helpful, and I’m sure you are receiving emails about specialisation events right now – do attend them!
Some of you might be thinking, Julie, I don’t really have a field I’m that invested in. Which is fine! I totally relate. I admit I struggled to find my pathway, as I lack passion or the fervent interest some of my peers have. If you are thinking this way, the second tip could work better for you/
b. Try to avoid things you do not like
Did you have any papers that made you think, yeah, I’ll never do that again? Then that might be a big sign to not enter that industry field. Of course, we cannot always avoid everything we don’t like – you will likely have parts you don’t enjoy within your future specialisation – but things you find challenging/not fun will not get better as the years progress. Likely, they would actually get worse. A lot worse.
Let me give you an example – ENGGEN 115. Personally, I liked this course because I liked playing around with cardboard and doing group work.
In mechanical engineering, semester 1, we have MECHENG 235 (mechatronics has this course as well), and in semester 2, we have MECHENG 236. These are like ENGGEN 115 but more complex, more demanding, and ambiguous, so if you hadn’t enjoyed ENGGEN 115, you probably wouldn’t enjoy these either.
Personally I always found electricity hard to understand (ever since year 9!) and wanted to avoid it as much as possible. (Big respect to electrical engineering students!) This, combined with my interests led me to mechanical engineering.
I am an individual who find easier to find options I don’t like rather than options I like, so this method worked pretty well for me. I sat down, listed all the specialisations and then crossed them out, and then ranked the remaining options.
c. Think about career opportunities.
Do you have an idea of what industry you would like to work in?
If you want to work with data, engineering science or software could be the way to go.
Working with machines, quality assurance, pipes, and heating systems is an area of mechanical!
I highly recommend going to industry events organized by the university and talking to the engineers about their daily lives. Good questions might be:
- What are 3 things you like about your job?
- What does a regular work day look like for you?
- Would you recommend a first year going into your specialisation? (If not, why?)
3. Other things to consider:
a. GPA? GPA!!!
GPA. It’s probably a term you never even heard about before coming to university! Now, it’s probably a term that fills you with dread.
If you looked around the university page, you’d realise the different specialisations have different GPA requirements for entry.
*note, the GPA requirements are based on demand and the number of students accepted and not a measure of how complex or ‘good’ a specialisation is.
In my first year, I wasn’t sure what specialisation I wanted to go into. This led me to try raising my GPA as high as possible to give me the option of selecting any specialisation I wanted.
To start from the conclusion, I probably could have chosen any specialisation; however, it also had a significant impact on my mental and physical health.
So! My recommendation is to look at the GPA requirements of each specialisation to get an idea of what GPA you would need to achieve to get in. Specialisations such as software, biomedical, engsci and mechatronics generally require a higher GPA.
For future mechanical engineers, I recommend trying out activities outside of your studies, such as doing a part-time job, volunteering or becoming involved in a club.
If you are unsure what you want to do, it is good to have a higher GPA, but please don’t sacrifice your health to achieve those goals! (Don’t be like me!)
b. Selection process
At the end of the year, you will receive an email giving you instructions to apply for specialisation.
DON’T MISS THE DUE DATE!!! Mark it in your calendars! If you already have made up your mind, this will be easy for you, but I debated till the last second.
You will list 5 specialisation, in order of preference. You will be able to edit this list as many times as you like before the due date. Afterward, considering your engineering GPA (excluding gen-ed I’m pretty sure), they will allocate students to their specialisations.
You may not get into your first option, so take care listing out your other options. (List options you wouldn’t mind taking!)
So! That was frankly all the tips I could think of! Choosing your specialisation can certainly be nerve-racking, as it is an important decision in your career.
However! Remember, you can always switch specialisations, and degrees, or even decide that university might not be the way for you! And the engineering industry is flexible. You might start as A and end up as Z. We don’t know the future. For now, choose what you think is the best for you, but don’t feel pressured that you must stick to the pathway you chose as a first-year student. Afterall, we don’t know what something is till we experienced it!
That’s all from me today! Enjoy rest of your mid-sem break!