Biology and Physics Are Not For Me

I am in High School and have started looking at my options. I enjoy building things and reading. As well, I was hoping I could some how help people (though biology and such somewhat grosses me out - no offense to anyone). I've always loved helping/working w/kids but I'm not sure how I could fit that in.
I think Civil Engineering would be a great job but the problem is that I'm worried about Physics. Usually, I'm a good student but when it comes to this I worry a lot no matter how hard I study. I still want to be an engineer though - I'm guessing that this would probably be a BIG problem - any solutions to how I could fix this?
Also, I'm a very introverted person until I know somebody - does Civil Engineering requiring a lot of working outside of an office? Or can you work in an office? I don't mind group work but I don't like "getting my hands dirty" or such.
Thanks! I really appreciate your help!
posted by Erica, Canada on March 28, 2012

Answer 1 by Ms Barbara H Mulkey

Dear Erica from Canada, I, too, hated Biology! I also found Physics to be very hard. Yes, you do have to survive Physics, but it can be done. The interesting thing is, once I started taking civil engineering courses, I found that many of them had been touched on in Physics but we went so fast and touched on them so briefly that I never could fully understand the concepts. Once we took each concept and dug into it for a semester, I found I understood and really enjoyed it. No one should allow those beginning courses to keep you from the career you desire. In the case of engineering students, those early courses that cause difficulty may be Physics or Chemistry or Calculus. Just because they are tough for you does not mean you should not go into engineering! Just get through them in order to reach your goal, and don't worry if you did not make high grades in those early courses. As for being an introvert, there are many different career choices in civil engineering and many of them appeal to those who consider themselves to be an introvert. By the way, being an introvert does not mean that you are not social; rather, it means you are selectively social and are a really good friend to those you choose to be in your circle. Many introverts are much better friends than extroverts! I hate getting my hands dirty, too, and believe me, that is not part of my job as a civil engineer! There are choices for those who do prefer that environment, but like you, I am not one of those and I have had many career opportunities. I love the fact that you love to work with children! Children, especially young girls, need great role models of women in the math and science fields to show them that they have many career choices. I always tried to model that to my children (all 3 of them), and also have enjoyed working in the community by mentoring teens and young adults. Lastly, I am a total bookworm and love to read! We need more people in engineering who enjoy both the arts and the sciences! Good luck to you--sounds like you will make a great civil engineer! Barbara H Mulkey, PE, FASCE

Answer 2 by Cheeta Soga

Hi Erica! Nice to see an email from a fellow Canadian. As an Engineer, you always have the opportunity to get involved in Engineering outreach. I mentor high school students in an annual model bridge contest that is organized by the local chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (there is also a Canadian Society for Civil Engineering). There are countless other ways you can get involved such as volunteering at local schools to teach students about the field of Civil Engineering and/or helping at special activities that may be organized by a local or national engineering society and/or science group. As for what to do about Physics... I would study and do the best that you can. Physics was not my strongest area of science either. But it is important to the study of Civil Engineering, so hopefully you can stick with it. I found that it started to make more sense after seeing the principles a few times over (first in high school, and then again in university). Finally, about working inside vs. outside... with a Civil Engineering background, you can do either. If you prefer to work inside, you may want to focus on engineering design rather than construction. I spend the majority of my time inside of the office working on the design or coordination of projects (I rarely get my hands dirty). Occasionally, I will venture out to a site to review construction progress and/or meet with a contractor in the field. I also meet with clients, consultants, and city/town agencies at different stages of the project either to discuss the project or work out issues that cross between the different disciplines (architecture, structure, landscaping, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, etc.) - usually these meetings are in an office. Hope this helps answer your questions! Good luck in making your decision! -Cheeta