Should I switch into chemical engineering or stick with mechanical?

Hi! I am in a huge dilemma. I am currently a 3rd year mechanical engineering student at my university. It is impacted, so I decided to stick with it.

But, I really miss chemistry and I'm starting to think that maybe I like chemistry more than I like mechanics. I don't want to work on engines, cars, etc.,but I want to design power plants, work in the pharmaceutical or food/chemical industry, and my ultimate goal is studying materials science in graduate school, since my university doesn't offer that major. I'm not a very "hands on" person and I've never really built anything in my spare time (most other people in mechanical seems to have an advantage over me in that respect). I am in such a bind, because my mom is getting angry because I'm always changing my mind about which engineering I want to go into, and I'm over here thinking about chemical engineering constantly. I would most likely graduate in about the same time for both majors.

Do you think that I should just stick it through with mechanical? Will I be able to go into chemical or materials science from mechanical in the future? Can I work in the pharmaceutical/medical/chemical industry with mechanical engineering degree?

Thank you! (Sorry for writing so much! I am so lost and sad, I don't know what to do anymore)
posted by Aamna, United States on October 3, 2013

Answer by Tricia Berry

Aamna, You really aren't in a terrible situation! Mechanical engineering is an extremely broad field and you can go into all the areas you mention with a degree in ME. If you are interested in power plants, ME is a great place to be. And the pharmaceutical and food/chemical industries need lots of ME's for a variety of jobs. Understanding chemistry and the properties of materials would be invaluable for many ME jobs and I think once you get into industry you will find that all the engineering disciplines blend together and overlap anyway. In my work at Dow Chemical, I worked alongside ME's, Petroleum Engineers, Chemists and Chemical Engineers...and you really couldn't tell who was what major in college as we all overlapped in our efforts.  

My suggestion is to stick with ME since you are already so far into it and see if you can take some of your electives within the ChE space or materials space...or even within the power area if that's an interest. 

I also encourage you to intern or co-op so you get experience in ME and see what all there is out there for you. Also check out these cool ME role models and see what they are doing:

1) http://www.engineeryourlife.org/cms/6196.aspx  
2) http://www.engineeryourlife.org/cms/6198.aspx  
3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9JBt-3COFI
4) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppL_um7VmXY

Hope that helps a bit. Again, ME is incredibly broad and really what you are doing is just getting the engineering foundation and learning how to problem solve. You can write your own story of where you go with your degree! Feel free to ask more questions...I'm happy to help!