The Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science (FEAS) is the second largest faculty at Ryerson, and for good reason! Engineering is a profession of immense scope. Eight undergraduate engineering degree programs are offered by FEAS: Aerospace, Biomedical, Chemical, Civil, Computer, Electrical, Industrial and Mechanical. However, many first-year students struggle with choosing their engineering program. There’s even an Undeclared entry option that allows students to take the same first semester engineering courses as everyone else before making a decision.
I was one of those students that struggled with choosing just one engineering program. In fact, I switched programs three times! But now I’m in my fourth year of Mechanical Engineering, and I can happily say that I’ve found the right program for myself. I’d like to share the journey on how I came to that conclusion with all the future engineers out there.
Why I chose Undeclared engineering
When I was applying to Ryerson, I knew I wanted to do engineering but I didn’t know exactly which one. Undeclared Engineering caught my eye because it provides students the opportunity to learn more about the various engineering disciplines before selecting a program of study. Since all engineering programs at Ryerson share a common first semester, you won’t be out of sync with your classmates once the second semester begins.
The process for declaring my program was super simple. All I had to do was complete the Plan Change Form with the First-Year Engineering Office by December 1. I did not have to re-apply for admission into my desired engineering program.
Why I promptly switched out of Chemical Engineering
A poorly thought-out decision led me to mark the checkbox for “Chemical Engineering Co-op” on the Plan Change Form. You see, my train of thought was, “Chemical Engineering has a lot of chemistry and physics—I’m good at those. The 16 to 20 months of work experience is nice too.”
Less than two weeks after I completed the form, I signed up for a student banking plan. At the bank, I met a financial advisor who told me that she graduated from Chemical Engineering. Confused as to how she ended up working in finance, she told me that since most chemical engineers work at plants and handle raw materials, much of the jobs are far away from the city. She didn’t want to move out of Toronto. Realizing that I hadn’t really put much thought into my future work environment, I knew I had to re-evaluate my choice.
Why “interest” does not equal “passion”
The Plan Change Form was back for another round. I thought harder this time. I realized that from my time on my high school robotics team, I loved seeing the machines which I worked on come to life. Around this time, SpaceX had also conducted a number of record-setting launches. I was fascinated by it all. It only seemed natural to combine my interests of machines and space, and pursue aerospace engineering.
It wasn’t long after starting my first aerospace course that I felt out of place among the rest of my classmates. I didn’t debate in the group chat about the best fourth-generation jet fighter. I didn’t invite over my friends to watch the rocket launch livestream. I didn’t fantasize about one day going to space. The interest was there, but the passion simply wasn’t.
I practically spent the entirety of my second semester extensively researching the aerospace industry—something that I probably should have done way earlier. I learned that the pace of research and development (R&D) in the aerospace industry is very slow, which probably wouldn’t have suited someone like me who enjoys working on new projects constantly. I also learned that transitioning from a traditional engineering background (i.e. mechanical engineering) to aerospace engineering is much more common than the other way around. Not exactly something that someone who wasn’t super passionate about aerospace wanted to hear.
My suspicions were later confirmed when I got an internship through the Ryerson Institute for Aerospace Design and Innovation with an aerospace company. R&D could cost billions and often took decades to complete. Many people in the company had spent their entire professional careers working on only one or two major projects. While I am grateful to everything that I learned during my internship, I knew that it wasn’t for me.
Rediscovering my passion
Round three of filling out the Plan Change Form: I made the switch to Mechanical Engineering in the spring after my first year. Though I did have to take MEC 222 over the spring to catch up with my other peers in Mechanical Engineering, it was well worth it. Mechanical Engineering seemed like the perfect program for me. The program was broad enough that I would feel capable working in any number of industries in the future. It offered a similar range of technical courses as Aerospace Engineering—just without the focus on aerospace. I also liked how after second year, the Mechatronics option gave me an opportunity to further explore my passion for robotics. After all, robotics was the very thing that made me want to do engineering and go to Ryerson in the first place. I recommend reading my blog post, Why I Chose Ryerson, if you’re interested in that.
The bottom line
Do not rush your decision. You will save yourself a lot of time and money if you carefully evaluate your options. Please consider what kind of work you want to be doing, where you see yourself working and why you wanted to do engineering in the first place.
I know this was long read, but thank you for reaching the end. I hope I was able to give some clarity to those deciding on the right engineering path to take.
Bye for now!