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Engineering Engineering Masters or Law School?

  1. Jul 23, 2012 #1
    Hey guys. I'd like some advice.

    I graduated with a B.Sc. in physics this past May. I am working in a research capacity in a Nanotech Lab at a university in the Department of Electrical Engineering, being paid below minimum. I have applied to start a Master's in Electrical Engineering in January, and believe I have been accepted.

    I wrote the LSAT in June and received a good score. My parents would very much like me to pursue law school (for entrance next September) since my father sees it as a) More likely to get me a job when I graduate and b) with a greater potential for a high salary.

    I won't find out whether I have been accepted to the law program until I have already begun my Master's. The expectation is that I will drop out of the Master's program if I am accepted to law.

    Which would you do? Continue your Master's in Electrical Engineering, pray that you can finagle a P.Eng. designation without an Engineering undergrad and get a job in the field that pays well, or drop out of the Master's and enter law school, take an extra year and a half in school and come out with (hopefully) a job in that field?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 23, 2012 #2
    First, I'm not sure what the regulations are in your part of the world for taking the FE exam. Some places allow those with Physics degrees to take the FE, and others, don't.

    Second, what kind of law would you like to practice? If the answer is not a technical one, such as Intellectual Property law or Patent law, I would think you're wasting your talents.

    Third, tell your father that while you appreciate his concern, the final decision must be yours. YOU are the one will have to live with this decision, not your father.

    All that said, I know many more underemployed and unhappy lawyers than I do underemployed and unhappy engineers. The ignorance factor between law and technologies is frustratingly high and the cases are rarely ever the sort of thing that will help make this world a better place. There ain't enough booze on this planet to make me ever consider practicing law in a technical field.

    But that's just my personal opinion. Your experiences and feelings will be different.
  4. Jul 23, 2012 #3
    Question is: what do you *want* to do? Some people enjoy engineering and others enjoy law... they are very different fields, and you might hate one and love the other.

    Secondly, things are not exactly rosy for new law school graduates. If you just google "law school salary statistics", you can find any number of articles that describe how much the average pay has gone down for new lawyers over the last few years *and* how that number is misleading in the first place because the distribution is bimodal. (There *are* lawyers who start out making >$150K. But there is an equal number that start out making <$50K.)

    I'm not saying that things are great for engineers... it's a tough economy, but law is by no means an easy ticket to a good life.
  5. Jul 23, 2012 #4
    I came to a conclusion that all parents are materialistic. Of course they want the best for you which in their mind it’s financial security only.
    I’m in a case similar to yours except I’m still an undergrad student doing something that I don’t enjoy for the sake of money because my parents told me so. I’m seeking for a change now
    You should focus on what you would like to do for the rest of your life.. I know it's a hard decision I still can't make up my mind actually but this is the best advice.
    If money plays a big factor in your happiness then go for Law school, but if you’re willing to suffer a bit and you see yourself happy in the engineering field only then go for the EE masters.
    Just don't do it for the money, my uncle is a lawyer, don't think that the big salary is the solution of his happiness.. he's way too unsatisfied in his job.. ofc this is just a small example
  6. Jul 23, 2012 #5
    First of all, the PE license is generally not needed for most fields of engineering, except for civil engineering. Second, the job market for lawyers s terrible and to get a shot at a "big-law" position at a major firm you have to go to a top 14 law school.
  7. Jul 24, 2012 #6
    Thank you all for your replies.

    I think at the moment I am leaning towards the Masters. The good news is, I can apply for law school, and if I get in next year, re-evaluate at that point, after having completed a few months of the masters. That should give me a good idea of whether I'm enjoying it.

    I'd like to ask another question. Obviously money is important to me, but so is personal contentedness. From your experience, is engineering a highly stressful job?
  8. Jul 24, 2012 #7


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    ditto what TMFKAN64 said. Most lawyers don't make nearly as much as people think they do. The ones that make huge bucks are 1) few in number or 2) work 60-80 hours a week (the equivalent of two jobs making a large salary not as impressive). It's also very tough to get a job as the market is saturated. There's plenty of information on the web about what law students believe is the law school scam in where schools report rosy outlooks on employment that are inaccurate representations of reality.
  9. Jul 24, 2012 #8


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    As a side note, when one talks about the saturated job market for lawyers, is one taking into consideration the fields of intellectual property or patent law? Given the technical knowledge that is required to practice these fields, I would assume that there would be greater demand for these areas of the law.
  10. Jul 24, 2012 #9


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    Yeah, I am an IP/Patent lawyer. There are way more applicants than jobs. I had a hard time finding a job 6 years ago. When I went to school 9 years ago everyone was telling me how "hot" IP was and that the demand was so high that firms were paying people to go to law school. I think that must have been the scenario 15 years ago because it was a very different picture when I was in school and it has not improved today. I know it's still tough because we get tons of resumes, I also attend many industry events where students also attend and my husband is also just out of law school. I'm not saying it's impossible to find a job, but it certainly isn't easy or anything you can count on. You just have to set yourself up with a stellar resume and work hard on networking.
  11. Jul 24, 2012 #10
    There isn't a job in the world without stress. But generally speaking, I would say that engineering is not so bad. However, there is a huge difference between working for a startup and working for a Fortune 500 company. If you are in a cubicle at IBM or Cisco, you can rest assured that if you blow the Friday deadline, the company as a whole is going to be just fine. That's a little less clear at a startup... the stakes are a lot higher and there is a lot more pressure to perform.

    So I suppose my real answer is that the answer depends entirely on the particular situation you find yourself in.
  12. Jul 24, 2012 #11
    It is as stressful as you want it to be. There are jobs where deadlines are brutal and short every day. And then there are jobs where expectations are low except that every once in a while you have to pull off a miracle.

    Choose whatever fits your lifestyle needs.
  13. Jul 31, 2012 #12
    I had a whole response typed out about but I deleted it in favor of a simple question: Do you like doing LOTS of paperwork and working LONG hours? That's what most successful lawyers do.

    I had two math teachers in high school that had their JD's and raked in a whopping 50k a year. On the other hand, the two attorneys that handle our real estate transactions make 500k-1mil a year. They both run their own firms, work long hours, deal with a ton of stress, etc. The one guy was found unresponsive by his wife last week...He thought he had a heart attack(he's 38 btw), but that wasn't the case. Stress related or something.

    Keep in mind, getting your JD and passing the bar doesn't entitle you to a huge salary. It's just a license to practice. You'll more than likely end up running your own firm or buying into someone else's. If you're great with business, marketing, etc AS WELL AS doing all the fun lawyer stuff, go for it.
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