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Aspiring Engineer but no technical skills

  1. Mar 13, 2014 #1
    Hi. I am here once again for another question. As I read more and more about engineering I get a bit daunted for the following reasons. Most people who are schooling for the field have built a thing or two using adruino or some other tools. Heck some even took part in actual projects that. I, on the other hand, have never built or designed anything. The idea of building anything seems pretty far fetched right now and I'd like to believe it's because I haven't done any. I excel in the courses that I am taking but school doesn't teach you everything you know.

    Is it possible for a person like myself who doesn't know how to build or design anything yet to get a job after graduation?

    How much of what the average mechanical engineers uses in his/her job comes from educational backgrounds?

    Am I wasting my time just by expecting to get a job after graduation without having prior technical skills? How unlikely is this?
    I am finishing up my pre reqs. Next semester I take, PHY 2, Def Q and some other class, then I'll transfer to a university.
    Thanks for all your answers.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 13, 2014 #2
    Since you mentioned "Next semester" and other hints, I take it that you're undergrad (not MS or whatever). It's really a big problem if someone with an engineering degree lacks technical skill. Though it's possible.

    Don't you have some hands-on classes? We use breadboards/circuits, multimeters, and stuffs in our Instrumentation labs to give us a basic 'feel' on this field. Or you can also try what I did - I bought my own supplies of stuffs (breadboard,meter,resistors,diodes,etc.) and I tinker around with them.You can also try to fix/butcher any broken appliance you see - it's a good start. I also watch DIY projects on YouTube and read mags like Popular Mechanics to give me ideas. I would say it's not that advanced, but definitely it's helping me.

    Also, learn some CAD programs as they're basically what engineers use in designing. You can start with AutoCAD (2D) and later move on to 3D CAD programs like SolidWorks.

    Lastly, make use of your internship/practicum/OJT. Here, we are allowed to extend our practicums (e.g. from 2 months to 3 months). Consult if you can also extend these hands-on courses to further hone your skills/familiarize yourself with the work field.

    Last edited: Mar 13, 2014
  4. Mar 13, 2014 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    There are no personal hobby prerequisites to an engineering degree. Hobbies often reflect an interest and aptitude, but have very little practical application to the book learning you do in college.

    If you want to be an engineer, you are on the right track: go be an engineer!
  5. Mar 13, 2014 #4
    Go to maplin and buy an educational electronics kit, or look up the parts needed to build something like a decade counter.

    If you know any programming languages, do something with them. Approximate the value of Pi, make a prime sieve or a game of tic tac toe.

    There is no secret to learning how to build and design things, other than to do it.
  6. Mar 13, 2014 #5


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    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I don't think the fact that you haven't "built anything" yet is a big deal. There are lots of possible reasons for that, like limited money or opportunity, or just the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day and you are interested in other things as well.

    On the other hand, if you have never had any interest in designing or building anything, that could be more of a problem, because fundamentally that is what engineers do. All the "book learning" along the way is just giving you the tools you need to do that.

    Of course many engineers don't physically "build" anything as part of their work, but use computer simulations instead - but that doesn't change the basic point I'm trying to make.
  7. Mar 13, 2014 #6
    Misguided, harmful advice.

    Just do it man.
  8. Mar 13, 2014 #7
    I have engineering graduates in some of my classes because they didn't gain any real world experience with their degree, it's a pretty common thing.
  9. Mar 13, 2014 #8
    For what it's worth, most professional engineers I know don't have any "technical" skills other than maybe knowing how to run certain software programs really well. That means you don't really need these skills to be successful in your job. You will be almost always designing things on paper for others to actually build.

    Having said that, it seems like the more depth of knowledge you can obtain on a subject the better. I think learning how to build something yourself will give you a deeper insight into why things are designed the way they are and an appreciation for the people that build these designs in the real world. Also the people who have to build your designs will respect you a lot more if they know you have actually built things yourself.

    So not necessary to have this skill but it would enhance your career.
  10. Mar 14, 2014 #9


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    Science Advisor

    I wouldn't worry about it much. Echoing what paisiello2 said, I am a practicing engineer and I never built anything in undergrad. Didn't hold me back in the slightest.
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