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Engineering Electrical Engineer or Electrician

  1. Sep 13, 2017 #1
    I'm 24 and graduated with a masters degree in electrical engineering in the UK last year. I had it in my head that I would get a masters degree and then get a graduate training scheme position in something like power/energy and enjoy it while earning decent money, but I haven't been able to get something like that yet. I have had two different jobs, both for a few months each since then, however I enjoyed the practical electrician/technician level work a lot more than the office design engineer work.

    To summarise my opinion of my first two jobs;

    Maintenance Engineer in a factory
    +Every day was different and mentally stimulating, practical hands on and active walking around a factory (time passes much quicker), meeting all sorts of new people and feeling the satisfaction of fixing problems, more sociable and had a lot of laughs and good stories to bring home, night shifts were usually quiet and allowed for free time to browse the internet and watch TV
    -Fast paced during busy times and a lot of pressure to fix problems when a line is down and everyone is waiting, coming across a machine I didn't have familiarity with and not knowing what to do (I don't have great fault finding skills since I haven't been trained in that), not much opportunity to progress my career to a high level and make the most use of my masters degree

    Building Services Electrical Designer Trainee
    +Satisfying to come up with designs
    -Stuck in the same small office with boring people, sitting down and staring at a computer almost all week (only get out for site visits literally 2% of the time, would be a little bit more if I wasn't a trainee), repetitive

    I am not a fully qualified electrician so I don't meet the entry requirements for most maintenance engineer jobs, it is a bit of a grey area here because sometimes they will only ask for any engineering qualification and some experience and then provide extra training but some will ask for a fully time-served electrician or at least to have passed the 17th edition wiring regulations test.

    I am not sure what my next move should be. To retrain to become a fully qualified electrician might be like taking a step back for the next 4 years unless there's a way to do it faster.

    I was earning £40k pro rata for the maintenance job (because it was a short term contract), I only earn £18k pro rata in my current trainee position and I don't see this going up much in the near future. Currently in my area the electricians that we work with are earning more than even the senior electrical designer at my company.

    I don't know if it is just my current designer job that I don't enjoy because it's a small company and the only other electrical engineer is too busy to give me much training. It's too solitary and isolated, I'm at the same desk for the whole week, the people are miserable, I feel ignored and like I'm not learning anything and only given the tedious jobs, and a lot of the time I have no work to do so just waste time on the internet.

    Does anyone else have a similar career and could comment on this? Would a graduate engineering scheme in a larger company be a lot more mentally stimulating than this or just the same? Would it be worth trying to become a maintenance engineer while I'm young and then go into an office job when I'm older? Ultimately I want a satisfying and mentally stimulating career that will allow me to make good use of my masters degree and earn a decent amount of money.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 13, 2017 #2

    jim hardy

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    I was a maintenance engineer in a power plant. I worked side by side with electricians and technicians. Because of the union rules i could only advise but the guys soon learned i was not out to minimize their work or status and we got along great.
    I did envy the office engineers who dressed nicely didn't get calls at midnight on weekends and had plush offices . So i tried a stint at office work.
    I was miserable. paper paper paper, office politics, deadlines, bureaucratic silliness. Parkinson was right.
    I went back to the plant and spent twenty more years very happy.

    First hand knowledge of the machinery is a resource for an operating company. To keep the wheels of industry turning smoothly is IMHO a noble undertaking.

    Eric Hoffer wrote:

    But it's a lot of midnight oil and weekends away from the family.

    Maintenance friendly design is one of my drumbeats. A decade in maintenance would be a good background for moving into a design group.

    Best wishes in your career.
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