automotive engineering courses

Focus On These Engineering Courses for Success in Automotive

AEHQ Essential Non-Technical Advice for Engineers, Introduction to Automotive Engineering 2 Comments

Our education as engineers is an incredibly eye opening experience. Just choosing which school to go to can be a major obstacle.  It is a challenging world of knowledge that determines what initial path we decide to take in our career. For Automotive Engineers, the most common major is Mechanical Engineering. However, you could be in automotive, electrical, industrial, manufacturing or any other technical field depending on how you are starting out and what your college offers. So what types of engineering courses should you focus on while you are in college to make sure you get that sweet job when you leave?

Well, first do yourself a favor and remember this throughout your college education:

Instead of worrying about what subjects and topics you need to focus on to get a job that you like, figure out what subjects and courses you like, to find out the ideal job you should focus on.

I really wish someone told me that before I went to college, because then instead of worrying so much about getting that all mighty degree, I would have been more focused on finding what topics that interest me the most. I would have focused on my passion for automotive design much sooner. College is about exploring what you like and don’t like. Have fun with it.The risk associated with trying something new or different is very low and college is a great environment for learning your strengths. Looking back, I vaguely remember finding my mechanical classes very easy and fun, and always loved automotive topics. However I wish I got more involved in the many automotive groups that were around because I would not only have really enjoyed it, I would also had essential college experience to add to a resume.

That being said, these are the core fundamentals of mechanical engineering that you will need to know for any job you get, beyond just automotive. Every engineer in a mechanical field should absolutely focus on:

The Fundamentals:

Calculus – The bedrock of engineering. Calc I, II, III and sometimes IV are very useful after school. You will probably only use about 10 – 20% of the complex calculus you learn in your future job. However, calculus is like Special Forces basic training for engineers. It gives you a foundation of knowledge that hones your default mathematical reflexes. This way, when you have to calculate the gap between two parts at an angle, or are studying a graph of data points, your mind instantly knows how to analyze the complex information without wasting too much time.

Physics – The science of how our world functions – pretty obvious why you need this one.

Statics and Dynamics – These were the first classes I took that made me realize that math actually serves a purpose in this world. If Calculus is the foundation of engineering, then statics and dynamics are the walls of the building holding everything else up. It’s a course that breaks down how everything mechanically interacts with everything else. Free body diagrams, torque/moment equations, forces and vectors. It is the science of our physical world. Know these subjects inside and out, because you will use them almost anywhere.

Mechanics of Materials – The ways that different material properties affect how a material operates. You should know why an aluminum shaft in a steel bushing is a bad idea, and how heat treating parts makes them stronger. There are a variety of materials used in automotive engineering. Knowing how to deal with their properties is crucial.

Design – You must take a few basic courses of fundamentals and design methods –regardless of what career path you take. There is a tried and true process for how to go about solving a problem that engineers must know. You should take one course on design theory and one or more where you can get your hands dirty in a real world project.

Critical Automotive Courses

Courses You Must Absolutely Focus as a Degree in EngineeringNow if you want to go into automotive engineering, it is very important that you take one or two of the following courses or at least learn about them. When I have sat in on interviews with potential engineers, students with the following automotive knowledge stood out as being the most competent and best fit to work in the automotive industry.

A Manufacturing Course: If you want to be in the automotive field you need to know how things are manufactured – plain and simple. This should be done even if you want to go into research and development. You should focus on different methods of machining and assembly. Also, be sure you understand why dimensions have tolerances and how they are controlled. This course really can pay off because it can teach you about the delicate balance between dimensional tolerances and cost. Speaking of tolerances:

GD&T and Tolerances – This may or may not be covered in your design courses, however, it will be knowledge you will have to use daily, regardless of whether you are in quality manufacturing or design. GD&T is a huge focus in the automotive industry, and if you cannot understand it you will get very lost.   Learn how combining multiple tolerances works (tolerance stacks) and learn the basics of Geometrical Dimensioning and Tolerances. I cannot stress enough how sweet it is when a new engineer knows this and how quickly they grow in their career.

Statistics: This is the one that I overlooked when I graduated. Never would I have though I would use statistics so much as an automotive engineer. However in a field where thousands of parts are meeting thousands of others and each has a specific tolerance, you cannot possibly calculate the worst case scenario. This is why you need to take into consideration statistics. Your job in automotive will most likely have a focus on Statistical Process Control, so avoid my mistake and learn it now, because you will be using it in automotive engineering.

So, all you automotive engineers: Did I leave any critical courses out that you use on a daily basis? Let me know below!

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