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Guide to choose the best engineering college and the best branch in India

By on June 13, 2014

It’s that time of the year when results of competitive exams are declared and like every year, I was sure that I would get a lot of questions from curious parents and kids about which engineering college to go for or which branch to take. My credentials of being an IITian always got me into such discussions and every time I had to repeat the same. So I though of jotting down my theory and present my solution to the question “How to choose the best engineering college and the best branch?”

College

Firstly what is engineering and are you really made for engineering?

In India most common choice for kids in 12th standard is to either go for engineering, medical or may be commerce. If you are good in academics (read: maths and science), your natural choice is either engineering or medical. If you are weak in studies, you choose commerce. And one chooses arts if one cannot get any other choice. This is quite ironic because one does not think what he or she is good at or likes doing, but chooses a path that others are going on. Our choices are dependent on what others are doing and not on what we believe is right for us. And I say this because I was guilty of the same crime.

The world is full of various kinds of jobs: Engineers, Doctors, Lawyers, Managers, Teachers, Historians, Writers, Cricketers, etc. And we have heard of success stories in each of them. We have likes of Dhirubhai Ambani in India who never went to a college but was a great entrepreneur. We have successful lawyers, many of whom became successful politicians e.g. Mahatma Gandhi, Jawahar Lal Nehru, and latest breed of politicians as well. We have successful cricketers who had very successful career.

One would argue that there are only few who made their name in these fields. But I would say there are only few who make their name in engineering too. Getting into a top engineering college like IIT is just the starting (and only few top go to the best IITs), but if you do not have it in you, it will be difficult to make a name if you cannot be top-notch in your field.

I always say: The world is ready to pay you premium for your excellent skills (any skill) but being an average is not rewarding. Market pays well to excellent actors, writers, lawyers, historians, doctors and engineers too!

Thus it is always good to do things that you would like and would enjoy. Because remember, you would spend good part of your life (8 hours every day) doing your work. And if you do not enjoy it, life will be difficult and less rewarding; else it will be a smooth ride and quite rewarding.

To choose whether engineering is good for you or not, first you need to understand what is engineering? And before that you should know what is science: Science is a systematic study of laws of nature and the physical world. Which is done through observation and experimentation. Engineering is an extension of science where you combine it with mathematics to create machines, structures, processes and systems.

So to be a successful engineer, you should love doing your Maths & Physics. Chemistry or Biology is important depending on your branch of study. Maths is needed for all engineering branches so you must like it for becoming an engineer. Physics is required for most other branches leaving Computer Science and Biotechnology. Chemistry is required for Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering and to some extent in Biotechnology. And Bio is needed for Biotechnology. So you need to understand which subjects you like and what branches you can opt for.

If you are not interested in all three but have a lot of interest only in one, then you should go for pure sciences or pure Maths. For e.g. if you are interested in learning and finding about more laws of nature, you should go for Bachelors in Science rather than for engineering, because engineering is more about applying science and less about discovering new laws of nature. However at times people figure out their passion for science while doing engineering and pursue further studies in science after their undergrad.

Now you have decided on engineering then which is the best college you should go for?

There are many publications that come up with rankings of engineering colleges and other colleges, rating a few colleges as best ranked colleges. However many a times not all colleges take part and the ranking are based on high level of objectivity and loose subjectivity. So I would say that these rankings give a fair idea of top colleges, but I would not go by the exact rankings to take a college as no 1 or no 2.

However all I can say is that, going to good college is important because:

1)   The best learning happens when you are in a good peer group. You learn more from peers than from professors. And a healthy competition with friends helps building capacity.

2)   Good colleges also have good professors, which certainly helps because their research area are more advanced. Being involved with latest research also helps in building capacity.

3)   Good colleges in general have good infrastructure. However good infrastructure does not mean a college is good. The top two factors are the more important.

We are what we are because of our experiences. To a philosophical question of “Who am I?” , I always feel that we are sum of all our experiences. And good experiences make us better, and a good college can give good experience. And the peer group and professors give a lot in it. But that does not mean people from the best colleges do the best in their lives. In my experience I have seen people from very normal colleges do fantastic in life. A very good example is the current CEO of microsoft technologies. Success depends more on attitude and knowledge of a person and not on which college he or she comes from.

But as discussed before, it is more important to like what you are doing before choosing where you are doing it. And thus it is more important to choose the branch before choosing the best college, because it is the branch that will stay with you all your life and not the college.

So how to choose the best branch?

Some people say that computer science is the best branch, some say electronics. People ask me “Which is the branch with best scope?” but all I can say is that all branches have good scope and every branch is best branch. There are few reasons why I say this:

1)   I got a JEE rank of 850 and I searched for the best branch as per my JEE rank. I took Chemical Engineering, but I never enjoyed it. Not because the branch was not good or professors were bad, or anything of that sort. In fact I was in the IIT known for its Chemical Engineering and in fact it was a great department. But I never developed liking for the branch. I moved to IT after my undergrad, but after 10 years at the hindsight I feel that had I taken a branch of my liking, I could have studied beyond undergrad and could have had a different path. But no regrets :).

2)   When I see people in my batch from various departments, I do not find people from any specific branch doing exceptionally well or exceptionally bad. People have grown as per their ability and everyone is doing well leaving those who did not have the right attitude. So it is not the branch that defines success, it is the attitude and will to learn and work that define success.

3)   I always had passion for logic (Maths). I loved computer science when I was in 12th. I could have taken Computer Science in IIT Guwahati. But I did not go for it as I thought, that I need to go for a higher ranked college (BAD because my ego prompted me not to take admission in lower ranked college). I would have done wonderful had I taken computer science in IIT Guwahati as I eventually ended up in IT industry only (destiny has its way 🙂 ). I could also have taken Civil Engineering, as I was exceptional in the mechanics part of physics where it was all about balancing forces. I could have done great in structural engineering. But again my bad that my ego said: how can I take a lower ranked engineering and when everyone takes Chemical Engineering at this rank, how can I take Civil Engineering?. Well we need to subside our egos, forget the societal norms and pick things that we like. Interestingly we had a few courses from Civil Engineering in our first year and I did exceptionally well in them. But I had Chemical Engineering :).

4)   There is no branch with best scope because there is need of engineers in every field. We will never stop making infrastructure, so there will always be a need for civil engineers. We will never stop using electricity, so electrical engineers will always be in demand. Computers have become part of our lives so computer engineers will always be needed. But what is important to remember is that if you are a good engineer in your branch of choice, you will be in demand, but if you are pathetic, then it will be difficult. Again to give an example: I did try to apply for some core chemical engineering companies during our campus days, but I had horrible interviews 🙂 and never ever got selected in any of them.

So an important lesson, first understand what you like and what the various branches have to offer. Talk to your seniors who have been to engineering college to find out what each branch involves. Once you have finalized on a branch (or couple of branches) of engineering, try to see the best college where you can get those. If you apply this strategy, then you will get the best college and best branch for you. To give you some idea on various branches, check out the write up mentioned below.

Various branches of Engineering:

Civil Engineering

This is the oldest of all engineering and dates back to the beginning of civilization. The civilization wanted house, road, bridges and dam etc. to begin the civilization. The structures were built because of common sense and learning through experience. With the development of natural principle of science and mathematics, the people started exploring and understanding the science of these creations and worked to come out with solutions that it does not remain an experience but an area of engineering which can be studied by anyone and practice it. One will study subject such as soil mechanics, structures, hydraulics, strength of materials, With the development of computers and material science it has opened up vast opportunities for practicing engineers.

With the development of new and new branches of engineering, today it is the last priority branch. Why one should choose Civil Engineering as a career?

This is the oldest of all branches of engineering and will always remain ever green as the demand for road, bridges, housing, irrigation and dams will never diminish. It is much easier to understand the concept of civil engineering as it is easy to visualize as compared to other branches where one has to imagine the concepts . The job opportunities may fluctuate but will never diminish. This is the best branch to study if you are intending to prepare for IAS/IES etc. The works will involves site visit even during summer, winter, rains etc. which may be tough call for few. Even in this case, one can migrate to the field of computers application.

Mechanical Engineering

While Civil engineering deals with static bodies, mechanical engineering deals with moving bodies. Wheel is the first creation of mechanical engineering with no historical background, initiated the beginning of Mechanical Engineering. Study of Diesel, Petrol and steam engine, turbine and pumps, refrigeration, materials, machines etc are some of the subject one has to study. One should understand that you will not be able to repair your car just because you are a mechanical engineering, but your study limited to principles, mathematical modelling etc. which will provides foundation to understand and develop new designs. The branch offers good opportunity of Govt. Job through IES/IAS etc. There is wide range of opportunities in industry in any field. If you are having general bent enjoying study of physics, mathematics and possess ability for logical thinking this branch is the write profession to choose with.

Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace engineering deals with science involved in building aircrafts and spacecrafts. It is a specialization of Mechanical Engineering which deals only with flying vehicles. And it is the true “rocket science”. This branch deals with thermodynamic, fluid dynamics, propulsion, control engineering and material engineering of working with flying vehicles. It also deals with instrumentation and programming involved in handling the flying vehicles. A person who has studied Aerospace Engineering is not just valuable to industry making aircrafts but also to industry making vehicles like cars, etc.

Electrical Engineering

Electrical Engineering was a part of Mechanical Engineering but considering the advancements involving transmission, distribution, utilization and electricity becoming prime source of mechanical power, it became a separate branch in India some time in 1950s. No one can see electricity except its affect in the form of its conversion into other form of energy. Therefore, visualization of voltage and current and its effect makes this engineering slightly different as compared to Civil and Mechanical. In case principle of Physics, mathematics and logical analysis interest you, and then you may choose this branch for your professional satisfaction as well. The scope of study involves study of a system through mathematical modelling with variables of voltage, current, impedance (resistance, inductance and capacitance), frequency, magnetic circuits, electrical motors of different types, generation, transmission, distribution, utilization, electronic devices, microprocessors, control systems etc.   The branch offers good opportunity in Govt. job through IES/IAS etc. The industry also offers almost similar job opportunity as that to Mechanical Engineers.

One should understand that even though mechanical and electrical engineering are two different streams, but when it comes to development of any product, they go hand in hand.

Electronics and Communication

Electronics and Communication is an offshoot of Electrical Engineering. Where Electrical Engineering deals with big power systems, electronics and communications deals with more of smaller electronic and instrumentation devices. Imagine designing a TV, mobile phone, laptop, tablet, etc. Or a electronic small control system that can communicate with your mobile phone or laptop. Where Electrical Engineering deals with big power systems such as distribution transformers, electricity grids; Electronics engineering deals with diodes, transistors, capacitors, inductors. A lot of physics, maths and a bit of computing (programming languages) are required for this engineering. If you are one who is interested in robotics, then this is the branch for you. If you are someone who wants to make futuristic systems that provide automated control of things in your life, then this is the branch for you. If you are someone who does not like physics and especially the electronics part of it, do not go for this branch.

Instrumentation

Instrumentation is a subset of Electronics and Communication where it specifically deals with systems related to pressure, flow and temperature. Here you learn to design systems that can act to control flow, pressure or temperature. Imagine a thermostat of your air conditioner. It acts to switch off the compressor of AC when the temperture has been achieved, or switch it on again when the temperature increases. Imagine controlling flow of water in a system where it is absolutely necessary to maintain the pressure flow. An electronic system that can measure and control the flow is what an instrumentation engineer will design.

Chemical Engineering

Chemical Engineering involves dealing with systems that are used in Industries during chemically reactive processes. Imagine yourself in a petrochemical plant, or a medicine manufacturing unit, or a cement making plant where chemicals are being mixed to generate the final product. You have to deal with: mass transfer, heat transfer, fluid dynamics, thermodynamic and electrochemistry in the Chemical reactors. Typical industries that involve chemical engineering are: polymers, plastics, medical, pulp and paper, ceramics, etc. The engineering is all about designing processes and systems that can handle these chemically reactive systems efficiently. At times while working with medical systems it also tilts towards biotechnology where it can get into genetic engineering, microbiology, bioprocess engineering.

Chemical Engineering is not Chemistry, but it deals with a lot of chemical reactions. One does not have to remember chemical reactions or molecules, but one has to understand the mass, energy and fluid dynamics of such reactions to design systems. Studies of petrochemical systems do involve some organic chemistry as well. Bottom-line: if you have some liking for chemistry (more inorganic and some organic), this branch can be good for you. If you are not the one who gets excited by it, do not think about taking this branch.

Metallurgical Engineering

Metallurgical engineering is one engineering that is closest to Chemistry field of science. In this engineering on studies about structures of metals and materials, their thermodynamic, mechanic and electromagnetic properties. In this engineering one deals with chemistry of polymers, semiconductors, magentic materials, biological materials, etc. Metellurgical Engineering is true hardcore implementation of Chemistry. So if you love chemistry, this is the best choice for you. Else avoid it.

Computer Science and Engineering

If you are someone who loves Maths and likes taking up logical challenges, then this is the branch for you. This branch is all about algorithms, data structures, and databases, programming languages, computer architecture and all Maths in general. Computer Science is more of science than engineering, because the output of this engineering is logical systems rather than physical systems. There is no physics, chemistry or biology involved in this engineering and is pure maths and logic. If you love Maths, then this is the branch for you. If you do not like it, please stay away from this branch. However Maths is integral part of all engineering branches.

Information Technology

There is a high degree of overlap between Computer Science and Information Technology. However Information Technology is more industry oriented practical use of computer science (just as other engineering are practical application of science). Here the focus is more on programming languages, use of databases, internet, software development and testing, whereas computer science is more of theory behind everything. So for learning how programming languages are developed, one should take computer science, but to learn how programming languages can be used, one should go for Information Technology. Again Maths is the main focus and there is no physics, chemistry or biology involved in this field.

Before I end this write up. Let me put a quote from Radhanath Swami of ISKCON:

If only, like the running stream, I just follow my calling, nature may whisper her secrets and guide me to my destiny.

Follow your own calling on what you like to do and do not depend on others to tell you which is the best branch and college for you.

Author: Abhishek Jain

Abhishek Jain is a B.Tech in Chemical Engineering from IIT Bombay (1998-2002). He worked for Deloitte Consulting for 10 years before venturing out on an entrepreneurial journey. His interest lies in using his skills in IT for sustainable development and education in India. He run three intiatives: 1) Bijli Bachao (www.bijlibachao.com) where he helps people in adopting energy efficiency and renewable energy. 2) Villcart (www.villcart.com) where he helps people from rural India market and sell their handicrafts and organic produce online 3) A Science Website (Science ABC) where he writes about fun and interesting science concepts.

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There Are 28 Comments

  1. loyed odazie says:

    Can a civil engineer work in aeronautical industry

    • Mahesh Kumar Jain says:

      Yes you can but it will not be the core field but only in civil engineering works related to air strips, building, roads etc. Don’t look for job profile which is not core.

  2. Thanks for sharing this information.This post will guide so many students out there who are looking for take admission in Engineering college and want to make their career in Engineering field.Sarvottam Institute of Technology & Management,Noida provides best classroom facility with professional faculty and secure future of their students by providing 100% placement.
    Sarvottam College

  3. akash says:

    Sir
    I want to study engineering .so which branch give me better result for railway job.

  4. dipti naik says:

    dear sir/mam,
    actually i am interested in sound engineering and i want to get graduation in that field . but i m unable to find real and true information regarding this abut college as well and the course about that some says it is of 9 months as some says that it is of 2 years
    please help!

    • Mahesh Kumar Jain says:

      I don’t think any institute conducting degree course in sound or audio engineering. This course is of certificate course generally related to film, television institute etc.

  5. ikrar says:

    Sir how is aerospace engineering is useful for me I wanna do it and after graduation which job I found

    • Mahesh Kumar Jain says:

      I suggest to interact with the Placement Department of the Institute in which you want to study the specialisation course. The placement department is in the best position to guide you.

  6. nithish says:

    Well it was gud hearing ur advice but I am very much confused as I opt to take eee BT my interest lies in AE is it interconnected as I take eee wil I get job in aero field????

  7. Abhishek vispute says:

    Dear Sir,
    i have just passed 12th.i am extremely interested to do some fantabalous experiments with my gadgets.i have little knowledge about what we call programming .with my rank of jee main/adv i hope i will get cs in top nits at least.sir here are my doubts
    1- does top institutions abroad offer any distance education courses regarding cs which i can access from my table?
    2-does there are any add-ons which i should do with cs eng ?
    3-does there are any sort of championships/quiz/contests which i should participate during 4 years?

    • q says:

      ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    • Mahesh Kumar Jain says:

      I will suggest to check MIT, Stanford, Yale, Oxford University Website and they provide distance learning education.

  8. Rejini says:

    Is aeronautical engineering good for girls?

  9. Krishan kant says:

    Sir i love organic chem and electricity part in physics. I dont like maths a lot. It is so-so. Organic is my passion. Ive got good ranks in various engineering tests after 12. But i dont like engineering though i can study it. Ive got options. I can get into a good engineering govt college, can get some iit and many options of nits and iiits. I can also easily get in du good colleges for bsc as ive 94% in boards. As ive taken coaching classes for iit im under some preasure of doing what everyone do after such results in eng. Entrance exams but i want to study chem as i love it. But everyone is telling me that bsc has not as much career options as eng.. And i ve good chances of studying in best colleges for eng. So i must do eng. Please help me soon. Also plz tell me the possible career options after bsc as im from a medium family background so i have to help my family too

    • Mahesh Kumar Jain says:

      Don’t develop crazy like interest and passion for any branch of science or engineering. The fact of the matter that they all unite to deliver technology. All sciences are important to understand the natural behavior and ways to harness the best for the society. You are in Class XII and develop equal interest for all streams of science. The career with B.Sc. or M.Sc. in Organic will be painful with not much job opportunities, and if there is, than called technician. You can also join Chemical Engineering and still pursue further studies in Organic Chemistry and technologies there on. However, with passion and interest, one can be successful but will be a long drawn process and if ready to wait for passion to turn in money spinning fortune, than it is ok.

  10. satyak kumar says:

    Best engineering college in raipur

    • Mahesh Kumar Jain says:

      No idea about the best as difficult to define the same. In general, ranking is in order of Old IITs, new IITs, NITs etc. As regard, pvt engineering colleges, it is difficult to define the best and if there is any grading done by anyone, it is more subjective with many if and buts attached. You should make a visit to all the engineering college, talk to the students there to get the first hand feel and decide.

  11. Soniya says:

    Very informative

  12. Arpit Jain says:

    If I want to be a designer so should I choose Science or Commerce. I am really confused about this. Please help. I am good at Graphic designing because I have learnt and designed many things at my school.

    • Mahesh Kumar Jain says:

      Graphic designing is your passion and can help in presenting education you gain in science and commerce. Both graphic desining and studies relating to science and commerce can go simultaneously.

  13. Adwait Joshi says:

    Respected sir, I am very much interested in Electrical Engineering but I am also very passionate about trains all around the World. Will I be able to become an Electric locomotive & E.M.U Train Set Designer if I pursue this field or should I opt for Mechanical Engineering to become a designer?

    • Mahesh Kumar Jain says:

      It is good to learn that you are interested in this field. You may choose electrical, mechanical, computer to be a designer in this field. Locomotive or Train set is a technology encompassing all field of engineering. After completing your engineering in any of this field, join the leader in this field i.e. Alsthom, Siemens, Bombardier etc. and the journey shall begin thereafter. You may also join Railways through UPSC, but than your field shall be Mechanical or Electrical and you can achieve your goal.

  14. Yes, There are lots of candidates who are confused about choosing the best engineering branch which has a good scope and fetches you a job with handsome salary packages.But this is the right information you have provided here which is going to be very useful for aspiring engineering students.Thank you.

  15. Tasleem says:

    I like to make machines ,bikes,etc and i also wants to do mechanical eng._ But iam not good with numerical and weak in maths and chemistry too should i take mechanical. Or not?

    • Mahesh Kumar Jain says:

      u make take mechanical and in the mean tie build your knowledge of maths which is very important for understanding any subject of engineering.

  16. Hi
    Exactly this type of post i was looking for
    keep posting informative articles.. You Rocks \M/

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