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Engineering Engineering Career Guidance needed

  1. Nov 3, 2016 #1
    Hi Everybody,

    I have often found myself reading through the discussions on these forums but never ended up taking part. I came here today because I desperately need career path/education advise. Many of the people who regularly post on these forums appear to be very knowledgeable so I cant imagine a better place to post. I will try to highlight the situation the best I can and will happily answer any questions for elaboration. All constructive opinions and advice are welcome!

    A brief about me: I am 28 years old and have been working in the metallurgy industry for close to 6 years now. More specifically I work in the commercial heat treating industry where I fill a supervisory technical role where I lead a small team. I do not come from an engineering background, however many of my job duties are typically filled by a metallurgical or materials engineer. Although I have hands and experience in just about all aspects of the company, my primary roles involve coordinating and scheduling production, technical review of engineering requirements (a.k.a contract review), quoting job requests with clients, inside sales, troubleshooting process failures/ corrective actions, reviewing technical specifications for conformance (in relation to AS9100 and NADCAP), and acting as a technical adviser for many of our customers. I have a strong practical and technical knowledge of the mechanical properties of many materials (ferrous and non-ferrous) as well as there capabilities and limitations. In addition I am involved other aspects of quality, training, and root cause analysis. Day to day I could be doing anything from calculating labor and energy cost for a job to helping XYZ company improve the wear resistance of some gears, to solving issues with the manufacturability of tight tolerance components.
    Through the years I gave developed a deep technical knowledge in my field and have gained respect as a professional from many of the manufacturing companies Iv worked with. I have 5 industry related certifications including the metal treating institutes "Young Executive Series".

    Here is the thing though... I never graduated college. I dropped out at 19 years old. Back then I was was studying creative writing and wanting nothing other than to be a novelist. After randomly falling into my work It took me the years of working with what I do to realize I should have been an engineer all along.
    Fast forward to today: I am a year and a half in working towards a bachelors degree in mechanical Engineering. I work full time 40-45 hours and take 12-13 units in school. Needless to say life is busy, however I currently have a 4.0 GPA and letters of recommendation from teachers so its panning out well so far. I opted to go the mechanical engineering route when I realize that I did not want to do what I'm doing forever and I wanted a broaden my education.

    By the time I graduate I will have officially close to ten years of experience in my field and at my company. My worry is that by the time I have graduated my "limited" experience will actually backfire on me. I would like to ideally be able to step into an entirely different role, yet I have little to no real experience outside of mettalurgy or manufacturing. I have considered leaving my work and finding something different, however my current job lets me leave whenever I need to go to school. I make a decent (but underpaid) salary and I can afford to put myself through college without any student loans whatsoever. On top of that I live in a very expensive area in the country. We make a decent living, however a one bedroom can go for over 2000 here so you get the idea. Its a truly hard choice to stay or look for something else. The decision is made worse by the fact that the work culture can be fairly toxic.

    What opinion do you all have about how I should move forward from here?. Should I be willing to accept a hit on my financial situation and quality of life to accept some type of internship related more towards mechanical engineering? My wife has expressed she will support whatever decision I make so I have the ability and support to change if need be. Should I look for another company that will put me in a technical role and work with my school schedule? Or should I just keep down the same path I am on now? If so would future job prospecting be hurt post graduation? My understanding is that past a certain number of years you don't gain much of an additional benefit. I don't see any higher promotions than what I have now coming my way as its not a huge company. I could potentially gain more experience with the metallurgical laboratory side of the business and perhaps even heat treatment fixture design. Not much more than that. I may just be seriously over thinking everything but I honestly don't know which path to take. Any Advice would be greatly appreciated!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 3, 2016 #2

    Dale

    Staff: Mentor

    At the rate that you are going, how long until you finish your degree?
     
  4. Nov 3, 2016 #3
    Carry on, finish the degree. While you may achieve high levels of competence in your area, you will fall into that unpleasant and sometimes unfair debate later on of being "non-degreed." Your comments indicate to me a high level of practical knowledge and operational expertise. Would I ask you to sign off on an advanced metallurgical analysis critical to a New Product Introduction launch? Ummmmm....

    I know of a number of guys who chose to do the work and get the degree, never regretted it. But they complained about the work load along the way, though, as would be expected. It simply ain't easy, and ain't for everyone. Some companies I know require a degree before advancement into management ranks. A few I know even require an advanced degree before advancement.

    Having said all of that, modern education does offer alternatives to a BSME that are less rigorous: BSMET, BSMfgT, other things like that.
     
  5. Nov 3, 2016 #4
    My experience is that most jobs are more about the people side of things than the technical skills. When considering whether to make a career move my biggest questions are: Am I being treated well? Am I being asked to do anything dishonest? Do I have enough free time to care for my family?

    It is easy to get caught up in the idea that an increase in salary or improvement in working conditions would make one happier. My recommendation is to remember that the grass might not be greener on the other side of the fence. Lots of employers these days think they "own" you, not only your best professional efforts for 40 or so hours per week, but your conscience and family time also. The more you can be content with a job that doesn't, the less likely you are to run into an employer that does.

    Get that degree to have more options when the time comes. But contentment can likely prevent more heartache in the long term.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2016
  6. Nov 4, 2016 #5
    I think the answer to this is very important. I know people who did a 4 year bachelors at night while working and it takes a long time -- and it takes a very strong person to stick through it.

    Sounds to me like you could probably get hired by any of your present customers. Any appeal to that? Or are you looking to move on to an entirely different field? Employees with practical experience are very hard to find.
     
  7. Nov 4, 2016 #6
    In my opinion, I do not think you need an internship to pad your resume. The reason I think this is I look for internships with new college graduates because that is where they gain experience in the world of work, in distinction to the world of school. Internships give you an opportunity to see how a candidate can work with others, what their communication style is, and whether they can get stuff done. Your work experience can be used to demonstrate those things instead. The one thing an internship can get you is an introduction to a particular company. Oftentimes, former interns are considered first when it is time to hire new college graduates.

    Sometimes the technical content is important, but not always. If you have work experience, and have done well in school, then you should certainly stand a chance in an interview. Nothing is guaranteed of course.
     
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