Hi I am interested in mechanical engineering. I recently graduated with an associates degree in drafting and design. I really want to work in the mechanical engineering field, but while I enjoy drafting I am going to continue my education. I am wondering what your opinion is on going to school to get a degree in mechanical engineering vs. going to online school to get another associated degree in mechanical engineering technology? What would be the benefits either way, what opportunities would they provide? It is a big decision for me, not only two years of online school vs. 4 years of university school but also my career path for the rest of my working life. Any information you can offer being professional engineers would really help me out.
on March 28, 2012
Let me start by saying that my opinion may be biased since I have no experience with online schools. However, I'm going to try to be as unbiased as possible. When I started engineering school I needed a lot of help (and I still do). For this reason, I am very glad I went to school instead of taking online classes. I'm afraid (and again, I don't really know) that online classes wouldn't provide the support that you might need with your work. Living on campus was the only way I made it through some of my classes. I was able to walk down to the library for help, or simply walk down the hall to a classmate's room to find a study buddy. And, I'll tell you now, being able to talk to your professors one-on-one is INVALUABLE. If you are an independent worker and excel at teaching yourself from a text, then you might not have the problems that I did.
Also, whichever school you decide to go with should provide you with opportunities for work after school (internships, permanent jobs, whatever). I have made many contacts with business professionals from meetings held on my campus. Again, I'm not sure how this would be handled with online classes. But, be aware that a big part of the engineering world is networking, and being on a campus is an easy way to accomplish this. I'm sure that online classes would be cheaper, which is probably a concern you have. Let me assure you, as a 21 year old who is already over $65000 in debt (don't worry, most school aren't as expensive as mine), I understand monetary concerns. However, I have never once felt bad about signing a loan paper. I know that in the end it will pay to go to a great school. But, not all people feel this way. This is more of a personal decision that you'll just have to weigh out. I think the biggest thing that should weight into your decision is your work ethic. If you are able to teach yourself and motivate yourself to work (don't need a study buddy, etc.), then you would probably do just fine with online classes.
Concerning Bachelor's vs. Associates: it greatly depends on what you want to do when you are done with school. A Bachelor's would probably provide more opportunity (go to graduate school, etc.), but may not be required for the job you would like to do. To find out, I would suggest finding someone who does the job, or a job similar to, what you would like to do and talk to them about it. This is really the only way to find out. Since I am still a student I cannot tell you what kind of jobs require which degrees.
Please don't hesitate if you have any other questions, or if I didn't answer your question.