Amelia Scharrer

Amelia Scharrer

Staff Engineer
NM, United States
Amelia Scharrer
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Hi! I am Amelia and I work as a Civil Engineer. I design roads and airports! When I am not at work I like to crew for a hot air balloon and knit blankets.
MS in Civil Engineering BS in Civil Engineering
  • I am willing to be contacted by educators for possible speaking engagements in schools or in after school programs or summer camps.
  • I am willing to serve as science fair judge or other temporary volunteer at a local school.
  • I am willing to host a field trip to my place of employment.
Answers by Amelia Scharrer

Hi Liza - 
1) Sometimes, it depend on the job, if you go into the construction side of it you will travel often to see your job sites. The design side is less traveling.
2) I also was not at the top of my class, it had very little affect on my career. While in college look for other opportunities, I highly recommend co-ops and internships to get work experience, it will make it way easier to get a job.
3) Hands down, civil engineers change the world, literally. In my job we do lots of work for very rural populations, giving people roads that do not wash out, or access to clean drinking water is a huge deal.

Also if you want to travel and change the world look at some of the overseas opportunities for civil engineers, the NGO term is WASH adviser. 
I did civil engineering as a Peace Corps Volunteer and I know I made a difference, doing work that would not have been done if I had not been there. 

Hi Diana - I think some of the answer to your question has to do with what you want to do with your degree. Civil Engineering with an Environmental focus or minor is a great option. Remember you can always get a masters degree to help specialize in the future. 

Hi Kerri - I did struggle through college. I applied to take a leave of absence in my sophomore year I was so overwhelmed. Before I could take the leave of absence though, the best things happened. I got a co-op job. I would recommend them to everyone! The co-op allowed me take a a semester and summer off of school (I worked at a nuclear power plant for 9 months!). Most importantly what it did was give me hand on real engineering experience to get an idea of if I liked. Having that practical idea of what it meant to be an engineer outside of school (it is totally different) made my classes way easier when I got back. 

I can not tell you, if engineering is the right career for you. But if there is anyway you can go and work co-op job it might give a better idea of if you like, while giving you a little break from school.

The other piece of advice, use any tutoring service your school offers. I worked with math tutors, TA's in my engineering classes, anyone who would spend one on one time with me to make sure that I understood the material. It gave me the confidence I needed to do better in my classes. 

Lastly, really sit down and think about which classes you like, and which you don't. I switched from aeronautical to civil engineering because I wanted what I was working on to hold still, it was a great move for me. Maybe there is a different engineering path that will work for you.

I hope it all works out!

Best of luck, Amelia

Hi Kenz - Yes and no.  It is possible to get a degree in just aerospace or aeronautical engineering, and there are things you learn in aerospace/aeronautical engineering that you might not learn getting a degree in a different engineer field. However, aeronautical engineer does have things common with chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering and many of your classes will overlap. 
Let me know if that answered your question.

Hi Grecia - To find out if civil engineering is right for you, you need to try it. You could contact a local firm and see if you could shadow an engineer for a day. Or you could apply for internships and work a few hours a during the school year or next summer. If that is not possible you could read about civil engineering. Go to your college library and look at the different civil engineer magazines (ENR, Civil Engineering, etc.) read about the projects that are going on and see if they interest you. 


Hi Uyen - First things first - You need to stop putting yourself down. If you say, my grades and SAT scores are horrible, other people will believe you, even when they are no horrible. Here is a link showing admission profile for 2013 for the UC schools: freshman/profiles/. You are doing fine with your grades and SAT score (although it looks like you will need to take the ACT). 

Do not worry about your AP scores, here is link showing that AP scores do not hurt college admissions:

Statistics is used in engineering, and most likely you will need to take a statistics class as part of the engineering school curriculum, but you do not need to do while in high school.  The same is true for a computer programing classes. 

If you want help picking what classes you should take next year, I would recommend looking at the college websites, they will have a list of requirements.  You might also want to contact an adviser within the department you are looking at, they can also give you recommendations. 

There is more to college admissions than just your grades, being a well rounded person, who participates in clubs or sports is also important. When planning your classes for next year remember that having fun is a critical part of your schedule, and you need something interesting to write about for your college essays. Your college essay is a great place to show your passion.

Lastly I would recommend you read this article for the Atlantic: confidence-gap/359815/
It talks about the confidence gap between men and women. The take away I took from the article, was that I need to learn to fake it till and make, and that planing is not always the most important thing.

Good luck!  I am sure you will do great.

Hi Kingsley - I do not know how Carleton University's grading system works, but I can tell you the GPA is not everything in university.  I had a GPA lower than a 3.4 and ended up with several job offers right out of university.  As for ways to keep your GPA up I highly recommend looking into what services your university provides. For example, mine had free tutoring.  I also utilized the teaching assistance and professor's office hours at every chance.  I also recommend staying on top of your classes, and getting help sooner rather than later. I often did not know I needed help until finals time, and by then it was to late.
Remember to also have some fun!

Hi Racine - So the answer is yes and no.  I am a women in civil engineer and really like my current job, my boss is helping me set ambitious goals and making sure I have to the resource to meet those goals. It 100% possible to find a job where you are respected and treated fairly.  However, it is sadly not a given. You might end up in a job with a boss who is a jerk. 

If civil engineer is where you want to be, go do it. There have been so many women before us blazing a great trail, and we now have unlimited possibilities. If you find yourself in a situation where you are being discriminated against find an ally and speak up. Most companies now understand that diversity makes them stronger, and they are actively working to be diverse. 

I also recommend reading this article from the Atlantic: confidence-gap/359815/
It talks about how women are not promoted as fast because of a confidence gap. 

In short, do not let the fear of men stepping on you stop you from what you want to do. Instead stand up and go do it.

Hi Arieh - Aerospace engineering would be a great profession.  I think the first step is to browse some college web sites that have aerospace engineering programs. See what they are looking for in their incoming freshman and what types of class you would be expected to take. If there are any colleges in your area you might reach out to the professors or students who can give you an idea of what was most helpful to them. You should be taking all the math and science class you can. 

You could also stay current on news articles about aerospace engineering.  The NASA website is a great reference. 

As for the salary I checked out this website:

Hi Abdul - If you applied for a civil engineering position with your computer science degrees, I would not invite you for an interview. That does not mean it is to late to be a civil engineer, but you will need to get some different education.  If you want to purse civil engineering, I would look into getting a second master's degree in civil engineering. 

Hi Joanne - I think you will be hard pressed to get a job as an engineer with a degree in Spanish.  Engineering has a specific set of skills that you need to learn.  You do not need a master's degree to work in the engineering field, in fact most working engineers I know do not have one. 

If you do not want to change your major from Spanish to engineering at the undergrad level it would be possible to finish your Spanish degree and then get a master's degree in engineering, however it will take you quite a while as you will need to take all the engineering undergrad classes. 

If you want to work in engineering an engineering degree is basically required. 

Hi Alaia - Will is be more difficult for you to get a job if you have tattoos, maybe.  I would not worry about the multiple ear piercings or tattoos that can be easily covered by a normal work wardrobe. But Biomedical Engineering is a professional field, and some people see tattoos as unprofessional. You might want to wait on the elbow tattoo till you are working in the field and can get an idea of what type of appearance is considered appropriate. 

Hi Meenu - It sounds to me like aeronautical engineer is a good option for you.  If it is something you are interested in and good at than go for it.  Both my college roommates were women who went into aeronautical engineering and they both now work for Boeing.  The only way to over turn the male majority is for women like you to pursue the career you want!


Hi Sophia - Engineering sounds like a great career path for you!  If you like working with the environment have you considered environmental engineering? Civil engineers get to build really big things, like dams while industrial engineers build assembly lines. If you thought building computer was fun why not look at electrical engineering or computer engineering? 

I am a civil engineering and I design roadways.  I like civil engineering (and really all engineering careers) because every day is a slightly new challenge. I also like design things that get built, when I get to drive over "my" road it is a neat feeling. 

I would recommend visiting some colleges, talk with different departments and meet people who are studying in the different fields, this will give you a diverse range of ideas and maybe help you narrow down an engineering field.  Also keep in mind that you can change majors in college, I switched from aeronautical to civil engineering with no problem while between my 2nd and 3rd year of college. 

Let me know if you have any other questions and Good Luck!

Hi Annie - I can not think of any engineering fields that would allow you to work with animals outside of a lab.  You could look at environmental or ocean engineering which would let you be outside in nature.  I can tell you from working on my grandmother's farm that there is a huge need for large animal vets.  You did not say why you changed your mind, but if you are still interested in livestock vet I think that could be a great career choice. 

Hi Oyenbhen - I am so glad you wrote in.  So I will admit I know very little of software design, but I do know a little about aerospace engineering.  If you want to design software regardless of where it goes, I would look into software engineering.  I also encourage you to find a university that has both programs, because than you can talk with the professors about the possibility of a dual degree or a minor. You can also take classes in both programs and make sure you enjoy the work. Also if you love space why not look at astronomy as hobby, most universities have a telescope and an astronomy club. 

Hi Chrissy - You need to DO IT!  If you want people to take you seriously, you need to believe that you are worth being taken seriously. If you love math and science, if you want to be an engineer then you are good enough.  It sounds like you know how to work hard and be creative, you have everything you need.  Now stand up tall and say out loud - I am awesome, I can change the world, I will make a difference.  And do DO IT!

Hi Shaina - I like your list of interest!  If you like being outside you might want to look into being a civil engineer, some civil engineers get to do lots of construction inspection, which will have you outside looking at awesome engineering projects.  Environmental engineers also get to spend lots of time outside doing field studies and maybe counting animals.  Biologist are not engineers, but they are pretty cool and all they do is study different types of animals.  As for making things, almost all engineers make things, what you want to make depends on what type of engineer you might want to be. For example civil engineers might also make roads, mechanical engineers might make cars, and aeronautical engineers might make planes. 

Hi Alyssa - So two piece of advice. 1) Follow your own dreams.  I love being an engineer but if that is not of interest to you, then look else where. Maybe you need a job as a fashion designer or a make-up artist.  Don't sell your dreams short.
2) Being girly does not having anything to do with being an engineer. I spend a majority of my time in front of computer.  I can do that wearing a dress and heels with my hair curled and a full face of make-up just as easily as I can do it in jeans and t-shirt. What you like to look like, does not impact how well you think. 
Engineering is mostly problem solving if that appeals to you then you can learn the science and math and succeed. As for ways to tie your interest in fashion into engineering. Engineers design the loams that make fabric, and the dyes that create color, they do create make-up and hair care products.
If those types of careers do not interest you have you though about engineer adjacent careers, such as interior design or architecture. 

Good Luck, let me know if you have any other questions.

Hi Mary - My advise to you, is one step at a time.  It is true, some engineers in some jobs work very long hours. However, some do not, that is choice you can make for yourself when you are looking for a job.  I know women who work 32 hours a week and never more so that they can have time at home with their children. I myself often take two hour lunches to get things done and make up time when I can. 

So my advise to you is that if are interested in civil engineering do it. Find a job you like and work hard. Then take one step at a time, find a partner to have kids with, take about the fact that maybe your partner want to stay home full time, or talk to your company about an abbreviated schedule, or find a job with flexible hours, or stay home full time. You get to make these choices, but don't skip out on a career you like, because of things that might happen in the future. 
Good Luck!

Hi Maura - Yes, your B+ is going to be more than good enough.  It is true that colleges look at grades on your application, but they also look at what type of classes you got those grades in.  Honor per-calculus sounds like a great class to be taking and B+ is a very good grade. Remember colleges also look for well rounded people, not just at your GPA.  So make sure you are having fun, get involved with a club, sport, or other extracurricular activity. 
Good Luck!

Hi Pj, I did not find it important to know any drafting skills before going to college.  However, I would highly highly recommend taking as making drafting or design classes as possible while in college.  Being competent with as many different types of software as possible is going to give you a huge leg up applying for jobs. 
Good luck!

Hi Rhapsody! Civil engineers impact your life every single day! Civil engineers design the roads your drive on to get to school or shopping, they also design the site plans for those same schools and shopping centers. They make sure you have clean water in your house and that when you flush the toilet your waste is disposed of properly.  Civil engineers make sure that the foundations of buildings and bridges hold the building up. 

If you want to learn more about civil engineering I recommend the American Society of Civil Engineering website:

Hello Wawa!  First off congratulations at being accepted into colleges! It sounds like you have some very exciting choices in front of you.  Let me start by telling you that math and physics in a very small part of engineering.  I still do not under differential equations, and I am very good at my job.  I can also tell you that I had several classes that required me to spent many hours sitting with the professor or TA or tutor going over the material until I understood it. Any university you choose will have resources for you to get the tutoring you need. 

My last piece of advise is to follow your own dreams and skills.  You say your parents are very good at math and physics and your dad is a civil engineer, but you do not talk about your excitement for the field.  I love being a civil engineer, but it is not the right career for everyone. If you are not excited about it you could look at some of the other engineering fields, or maybe a different field of study all together. You can get through the difficult classes, and being excited about what your learning will help. 

Good luck!