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Career crisis

  1. Jul 5, 2011 #1
    Hello, my name is Raul, I'm from Caracas, Venezuela, I came across the website searching for vocational descriptions of what makes an engineer because for the past two months I have been going through a major career crisis. I'll try to be as short as possible.

    I am a 22 year old lawyer (graduated November 2010) feeling the desire to go back to school, specifically into Mechanical or Electrical engineering. When I chose law as a career I was only 16 and incredibly immature, I didn't do too good in mat or physics but it was mostly because my total lack of interest in school. After getting into law school I adapted fairly well, I graduated with above average grades with no effort and now, even though I have a decent somewhat well paying job (which I hate) as a lawyer and have almost completed the first semester of my labour law specialization, I feel like a I need to switch careers before it's too late.

    This epiphany comes from boredom, disappointment over how corrupt the legal field is, and mostly total lack of challenge. I will try to switch jobs asp but in general I feel law has no true challenges for me.

    In order to prepare for this challenge I have to pick up my high school learnings of math and physics for an admissions exam due for March 2012, if I get in I would start school September 2012 and graduate in 2017 at 28 years of age (here engineering is a Licenciatura program so it's 5 years of schooling).

    I would have to stop working as a lawyer for 5 years because engineering is a very demanding full-time program (and this time I wanna devote myself to school), so I would be broke and living form my parents and whatever savings I can amass till September 2012.

    What is your take on such a drastic change?; will graduating at 28 hurt my employment possibilities?; is it true that EE is so much more difficult than ME? and finally, in order to be ready for an admissions exam in March-May 2012, does starting August-September of the present year allow me to catch on the high school knowledge I need to get in?

    I anxiously await your replies.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 5, 2011 #2


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    Have you considered patent law? I'm not sure of the rules in Venezuela, but in the US both a scientific or engineering degree and a law degree are required, making it quite an exclusive profession.

    EE requires a bit more math than ME, EE is often more in demand (but often for non- EE fields, e.g. computer programming). My impression from reading the comments on blogs at EDN (Electronic Design News magazine) is that many EEs would not encourage going into the field now, as they are not well compensated or appreciated compared to the difficulty and worth of their work, they have little job security and are often ill-treated by management.

    If you do go into EE, I suggest focus on analog engineering with a secondary emphasis on digital and SoC (system on chip). Do projects where you actually make complete useful systems including the component selection and board layout. Analog engineers are always scarce and in high demand. Engineers who can actually produce a completed end-user project are always in demand, even for jobs at the component manufacturers, because they have to support their customers when they are using the parts. Try to get some experience in doing a project in mixed-signal chip design, with actual prototypes, verification and testing. This is what the component manufacturers need, and they are where most of the real engineering now takes place.

    To be prepared for an engineering program you need solid algebra skills - 2 years is standard. You also need trigonometry. Having one or two semesters of calculus would be preferable, but that is often part of the program. Linear algebra / matrices are also part of the program. If your algebra is a little rusty, it should be enough time to prepare, but if you aren't good in math don't go into engineering. You won't do much math beyond basic algebra in EE (paper calculations are mostly replaced by computer simulations now), but during school you'll do a lot. I recommend looking at the first few chapters of Horowitz and Hill's "The Art of Electronics" to get an idea of the irreducible minimum of math you'll need to do EE.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2011
  4. Jul 5, 2011 #3
    Unfortunately this is not the case in Venezuela, I had the opportunity of working briefly as an intern in a top intellectual property law firm (De Sola, Pate & Brown, two of the partners are american, funny right?) and such restriction does not exist, any dumb lawyer with a client can do IP law (notice my disdain towards lawyers?) . Interestingly enough, IP is one of the more appealing sides of the law but the window of opportunity to practice it is very narrow.

    I've been checking job ads for engineers since this crisis kicked in and certainly EE's are more in demand with CE's topping them by little, but your point about EE's often misplaced as programmers is true to some extent. Here the EE job market seems to be all about signal processing, power layouts and communications but I guess field of specialization is something I'll worry about after my basic math and physics (not sure but one must be able to be switch between engineering till the 3rd year).

    Let me poise you a question, my alma mater (Universidad Central de Venezuela) is the top college in the country, however, when it comes to science and engineering Universidad Simón Bolívar is more prestigious, demanding and generally one step further. UCV offers an Electrical Engineering program that later on allows it's students to choose a field between communications, power and electronics; on the other hand, USB offers Electrical (mostly power I guess) and Electronics (again guessing, but it seems to be all about electronics, communications and possibly programming) as two separate programs.

    If I do lean towards EE instead of ME, keeping in mind that as a late graduate (28) I'll have to be as marketable as possible (hence the "as general as possible" focus), is it wise to forgo all together the "better" school (The gap is not that big) because of the way too specialized programs meant to distinct an electrical eng. from an electronics engineer?
  5. Jul 6, 2011 #4


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    The main factors I'd consider in choosing a school are:

    1. How do they treat their students. Choose the one that is less rigid in its polices and that is more concerned with instruction than research when evaluating faculty. You need to be able to show employers not just a transcript, but successful projects. Ordinarily an employer wouldn't expect much of a new graduate, but at 28, they will want more. Having a portfolio of projects is a way you can overcome the additional expectations. (The right internship is another.) The school needs to support you in that with advisors, facilities, materials, course credits. This usually depends on developing a mentor relationship with a professor, so you should get in touch with the professors and see if there are some you might get along with well before you choose a school.

    2. Prestige, networking. Going to the other school could give you another pool of fellow alumni. Often the prestige comes from the quality of the students rather than the difficulty of the courses (and difficulty is not a good measure of quality of instruction) - thus one gets more prestige, better contacts and at the same time less difficulty. Knowing more people with more contacts who might hire you is a major potential benefit. Don't think you can escape personal politics and the "old-boy network" by switching from law to engineering.


    Have you considered petroleum or chemical engineering? Those tend to be paid well, and I think they're pretty big businesses in Venezuela compared to most other sorts of engineering. Of course, if nearly all the jobs are with state-owned companies, that might not coincide with your desire to get into a less corrupt and more stimulating line of work.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2011
  6. Jul 7, 2011 #5
    I am a practicing analog design engineer and I would agree with this in general, although the compensation is pretty good. I would only consider myself not well compensated compared to management or people in finance (I've read what two-fish quant writes about starting compensation in finance and it is significantly more than I make with a Ph.D. and 8 years experience).

    Analog engineering has the reputation as being the hardest of the disciplines in EE. I'm not sure I agree with that, but unless you are passionate about it, you probably won't succeed at it. My advice is to keep your eyes open during the first couple of years and then go into the area that excites you. You will better serve your career being excellent at something you are passionate about than being mediocre at something you think is in demand.

    About job security, that is a myth about analog engineering. I know personally over 10 people who have been laid off or had trouble finding work in the area over the last couple of years. Even in San Jose it is currently challenging. The good news is that it is cyclical like everything else and by the time you graduate things could be booming again.
  7. Jul 8, 2011 #6
    Career crisis has to be faced due to lack of qualification, improper guidance. Due to improper guidance in career student has to faced problems as job seeking, improper timing, less salary compared to others.
  8. Jul 10, 2011 #7
    I'm a aware that this an ever present element in any workplace, it's just that in law is much more easier to get by being an idiot than most careers. I may have Asperger's syndrome so that might have a little to do with my overall disdain regarding personal politics (I have learn't wonderfully well to act my way through it though).

    True, Venezuela is a major oil country but I'm given to understand that PE involves lots of geology and CE although not as chemistry heavy as one would think, requires chem knowledge at the very least (my dad is a CE with MBA) and if one thing hasn't changed since I got out of high school is my lack of interest these two particular fields, they just bore to death. Physics on the other hand does seem to fascinate me, whether is mechanical type theories or electromagnetism.

    Also one of the engineering is a global field, quantum mechanics are th same in Venezuela, Th USA, China and Sweden; Law on th other hand is limited to the country where you got your degree (I know validation for international degrees has some requirements in most countries but you get my point).

    Haydendiego, I don't understand your post, are you implying that I haven't given much thought to tis whole idea? Because regarding qualification and salaries I would say I'm doing fine as a lawyer right now, it's the guidance part that probably made me took the wrong turn, I was 16 and incredibly inmature. Job seeking was sort of hard, also I'm job hunting again since I hate my current line of work so I'm going to get a grasp of what the job market looks like but still, a I have expressed in the OP this change comes mostly from: 1) Hating law as a career so far; 2) Total lack of challenge from it (even the most complex legal problems are easy) has made think law is a trade that people who can't do math take; 3) I hate my job (But I will try to get a different one before I enroll in engineering); 4) I have always had certain passion for engineering, in fact when I chose law my father was incredibly surprised because he really didn't see me as anything other than an engineer or sports journalist; 5) I don't wanna hate being a lawyer for 20 years and then realize that it has become too late for a change; 6) My previous bosses, teachers and law friends would tell that I have the potential to become a very good lawyer at the very least, yet I wonder "What if I had become a brilliant engineer?", my brain just seems more suited to a scientific discipline.
  9. Jul 12, 2011 #8


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    Well, don't completely write off your legal training. It may make you much more interesting to some companies, particularly startups where everybody has to wear multiple hats and finding a tech-savvy lawyer is almost impossible. See if you can't do some legal consulting with startups or VCs while you're in school - incorporation papers, contracts, regulatory compliance, dealing with investors are the main things they usually need. Helping with such boring stuff will give you a huge leg up when you want an engineering job.
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