1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Can I become an engineer? Advice needed.

  1. Must get MSEE, will not get any decent job without it.

    0 vote(s)
  2. MSEE or MS in any IT discpline will be equally helpful.

    0 vote(s)
  3. BSEE with ABET or you can't be an EE. Period.

    0 vote(s)
  4. Pass FE and there is still a chance with technology degree alone.

    0 vote(s)
  5. Don't need grad school, just learn the skills needed for the job and keep applying.

    0 vote(s)
  1. Jan 31, 2013 #1
    Hi Everyone,

    Here's my situation. In 2002 I graduated with an A.A.S. in Electrical Engineering Technology and enlisted in the Navy where I became an electrician. In 2006, I was honorably discharged and got a job as a Field Service Engineer working with installation, troubleshooting and maintenance of semiconductor manufacturing equipment. It is the job that I still have today. I also obtained a Master Electrician license just because I had the education and experience to qualify for the exam, but I'm not required to have it for work. The pay is good but I have to work long hours, a variety of different shifts, and also there is a fair amount of crawling into tight spaces and lifting things involved. All of this is not too bad since I'm 31 at the moment and in good physical shape. But I'm not getting any younger and I know I can't do this job until I retire. This means I will likely need to change careers. I've always enjoyed working with computers, writing programs, and troubleshooting electrical circuits. I'm a good learner and I've taught myself things such as C++, Linux and Cisco using books ordered on the internet and I can learn whatever else that might be needed. I'm leaning towards IT and/or electrical engineering jobs.

    Two years ago and after doing some research on the internet, I've concluded that EAC/ABET accredited 4-year degree is what describes a solid engineering foundation. There is a local public university to which I applied for BSEE and after all my transcripts were reviewed, I was told that only 12 credits would apply towards the degree. Since I have a family to support, I cannot quit my job or work part time so I can go to school full time. This means that the available time I had would allow me to take no more than two classes per semester. Going at that rate, it would take me about 8 or more years to complete the program assuming everything works out in my favor. This was too long and I could not afford to take this risk due to a possibility of having to move and things that sometimes just happen in life. I wanted to explain the logic behind my actions so it can be better understood why I chose to attend a different school.

    After I got my response, I decided to do an online degree program at ECPI University for BS in Electronics Engineering Technology and here's why. The program was online and I was able to do it full time from home on the weekends. It was year round with no breaks. The school transferred in almost 50 of my credits and I used only some of my post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to pay for it, so there is no expense that I incurred. ECPI University is a regionally accredited school. I completed the program and now have a Bachelor's degree.

    However, because it was so much faster, certain sacrifices had to be made. There are at least three disadvantages of this degree that are hurting my chances at getting the job that I want. First, the curriculum does not have an ABET accreditation. Second, this is a "technology" degree which is not "engineering". And finally, since this is a private, for profit school. Fairly or unfairly, but there are people in HR and Engineering departments that believe that degrees from these schools hold no value what-so-ever.

    So here's the questions.

    The main one is what do I do next?

    In order to prove that I know anything even remotely engineering related, I can pass Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam which anybody can take in New Hampshire. At that point, if I have a technology degree, EIT certificate and 11 years of technical experience, do I have a good chance of getting a junior level electrical engineer job at some company? I'm interested in many things including CAD design at an MEP firm, integrated circuit design/testing and many other things. I don't limit myself too much since I want to see what the job market feels I'm qualified for before I get picky.

    I currently have an active application for admission to the same public university that I decided not to attend two years ago. Since only a handful of credits would apply towards BSEE, this time I'm applying for MSEE. The admissions confirmed that they would accept my bachelor's of engineering technology as a prerequisite for MSEE, but I would have to complete some bridge courses to cover the academic gaps they find. It should not be more than a few classes they say, which is acceptable to me. If I get in and complete MS in Electrical Engineering in a couple of years, would it give me a significant boost and put me on the same academic level with someone that has a BSEE or am I forever doomed because of my technology degree from a for profit school at the undergraduate level?

    Also, if it turns out that the school will not admit me into a MSEE program, I can try to get into an MS of some kind of IT at the same school. My philosophy about it is that MSEE would be better since it is so universal and you can do anything computer/electrical engineering/IT or even research type of work with it, but MS in an IT field would only be helpful in IT industry where sometimes even high level certifications hold more weight than a master's degree. In the end, a graduate degree is a graduate degree. Not sure how much help it will be but it's obvious it won't be hurting my chances. Am I right to assume that MSEE would be a lot better for me where MS in an IT discipline would be just a generic master's degree that won't get too many employers overly excited?

    So, looking for some helpful advice here. I have enough GI Bill benefits left to get me through graduate school with no problems, so financial side is not the issue. My main concern is how do I get the job that I want? Do I pretty much have no choice but to get a graduate degree, or there is something else I have not mentioned here that I can do to increase my chances of getting a job without a master's degree?

    I know people who worked in IT for many years who say that after you get five to ten years of experience, the school you went to and its ABET accreditation status won't matter nearly as much as the kind of work you have done since graduation, what skills you have and what certificates you hold. When it comes to engineering field, after I read the forums where people who claim to be experienced engineers share their thoughts, it seems like a technology degree will handicap you for the entire career and you will always be looked at as a second class citizen irrespective of the quality of work that you produce. This worries me because I would like to be an electrical engineer more than an IT professional. If I do become an engineer now and after 20 years of producing good engineering work, what are the chances that I have to see some 24 year old becoming my boss solely because they have a degree in engineering and I have a degree in technology? I might have exaggerated this a bit, but this is an important decision for me and I have to make sure I make the right one.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 31, 2013 #2
    If they will admit you and let you go for an MSEE and that works out to take less time than a BSEE then that is the route you should take. If you have an MSEE from an ABET accredited school no one will really care that you don't have a BSEE.

    It might not be the most glamorous thing but with your past experience if you got your MSEE focusing on power and got your FE and then PE you could make good money working for construction/power companies.

    The non-ABET BS in EET probably won't improve your situation any as you pretty much hit the nail on the head about the perception of it.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook