Question for engineering graduatesWatch
When you graduated and got your first engineering job did you use anything you learnt in your uni life on the job?
But a shorter answer is: yes and no. It's going to vary depending on the job one goes into: those who go into roles that require the use of calculations, for example design roles, and particularly analysis and FEA/CFD roles, are probably going to use more of the material taught during the degree than those who go into, say, manufacturing engineer, projects engineering, work in operations, quality etc.
Now back onto the longer answer.
Those who teach engineering degrees, and decide the content that goes into them, are, generally, academics; i.e., research scientists, rather than practising engineers, or those who have at one point practised engineering in a (non-research) professional context for a decent length of time.
This isn't a slight on academics: they are very intelligent people who we, rightfully, hold in high regard for the work that they do. But we must also recognise that being an academic, working as a research scientist at a university, is not the same as being a practising engineer in industry.
However, the result is that engineering degrees at university are generally more focused on the training to become a researcher within the field of engineering science rather than becoming a practising engineer. To lecture at a university, you generally need to be an academic (although sometimes lecturing may be deferred to PhD students), and the job of an academic is to produce research. Universities are probably more likely to employ someone who can submit high quality research to the kind of high impact journals that will boost their research rating, and hence help with their funding, than someone with twenty years of engineering experience, but no research experience.
To move onto some more concrete examples, academic research is generally very mathematical. This means that engineering degrees are generally very mathematical - in fact, I think I have remarked before that engineering degrees are generally applied maths/physics degrees with bits of CAD, project work and labs bolted on. A strong foundation in calculus is considered essential to study engineering at university, because the maths at university does heavily utilise it, and beyond.
But from my experience in industry, I would probably make the argument that advanced maths is overemphasised. It has been my experience that calculus is seldom, if ever, used in calculations that one would perform on the job. Certainly, a lot of equations used are derived from calculus (although an awful lot are empirically derived, but I think that the unconscious bias towards research is what overemphasises the maths involved.
The overemphasis on maths may have also lead to the (massive) under-emphasis on drawing skills and spatial awareness ability. Drawing is the language of engineering: it is how engineers communicate ideas and designs with each other. It is difficult to understate how important the drawing is engineer, yet it's noted that it's not something that is given much importance in the degree. Spatial awareness. the ability to lay out components, equipment or plant in the most efficient space possible, is also highly important for engineers, particularly those in design.
Basically, it seems to be the case that the material covered during the earlier stages of the degree is quite useful for those who are going to be performing calculations. But overall, the degree isn't necessarily a good introduction to what engineers in industry do, and as such I don't think that most graduates are going to be using much of the later material covered during the degree.
But, you need to pass your degree, often with at least a 2:1 these days, in order to secure a job, so you definitely need to study and work hard at your degree.