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Hard decision to be an engineer -- Please Help

  1. Jun 30, 2014 #1
    Hey and thank you in advance for taking the time to read and hopefully replying to this.

    I have been doing a lot of research into becoming a mechanical engineer the past few weeks and this is sort of the last step for me in deciding whether or not to apply to the schools and commit to it. I have 2 questions, without sugar coating it how smart do successful mechanical engineers have to be? and after the all of the studying and hard work in university does the career get easier or is it always just as hard as when you were in school?

    A little of my past:

    I found math and computers to be easy subjects for me in school but science I struggled with although I found very interesting. I graduated high school with honours but took the easy route when I got out and became a welding apprentice for the money. Not sure if it applies but I have relatively no experience with engines so if that is important in mechanical engineering that would be good to know. I found I hated welding and I really need a career to use my brain more. But I'm more of a work to live not live to work kind of guy so I don't want a career that is going to consume me after hours and weekends. If your an engineer of any kind what sort of hours do you work? I'm the type of guy that has great work ethic when I'm at work, I like to work hard to finish things and I pay close attention to detail. Do I sound like a good candidate to be a mechanical engineer or any type of engineer?
    Thank you for reading again I know its an ear full.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 30, 2014 #2


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    Mechanical Engineering encompasses many more things than working with engines.



    If you didn't care for working with engines, many MEs get into structural analysis, everything from machine parts to the structure of large buildings. Others deal with things like HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) or refrigeration. Others combine electronics and mechanics to work with things like robots.

    If you don't want a career which will consume you after hours or on weekends, you should probably look at something other than ME or engineering in general. If you think you suffer from low self-confidence, definitely find another field to enter. Not all engineers work in life or death situations, but if you are not confident you are doing a good job as an engineer, no one else will be confident to hire you or keep you on assuming you do get hired.

    I can't say much about your self-confidence, but a lot of people with low self-confidence, I don't think, would characterize this work as 'easy'. It's a skill which not everyone can master sufficiently to become certified (which is what the professional welder needs to succeed), and you must periodically undergo re-certification to maintain you position.
  4. Jun 30, 2014 #3
    Thank you SteamKing for taking the time in writing me back. Perhaps I should have left out the part about my low self-confidence as it is in mostly just my personal life with people. When it comes to work I am usually quite confident in myself I have never had trouble getting hired. The hours do bother me though, right now I'm used to working 10 hour days but I never have to work the weekend. I would be fine if I have to work late some nights but I really wouldn't like it if my weekends got consumed by work is weekend work a normal occurrence for ME's? Does the job become your whole life?
  5. Jun 30, 2014 #4


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    Weekend work is not standard, but you should be prepared to work outside of normal business hours on occasion. It's kind of expected with salaried work: you're not punching a time clock and you don't get overtime. If you are fortunate, your employer may reward you with a bonus at the end of the year in recognition for your effort, but that circumstance is up to the employer.

    If you are working as an engineer, there may be occasions which arise where a client will come to you late in the week and want a proposal from you the next Monday. You have a choice: work the weekend and get the proposal done, or tell your client that you don't work weekends. Which choice do you think will ensure your continued success as an engineer?

    Or, in another scenario, a client is experiencing a problem and has asked for your help on engineering a solution. This problem is so serious that the client's business is shut down completely until a solution can be devised and implemented. You agree to work with the client to help him solve his problem. Five o'clock comes, and what do you tell him? 'Sorry, I'll be back tomorrow morning." or "I'm staying a while to see if I can't get this problem fixed." Which response do you think will your client would like to hear?

    Working as a professional, whether as an engineer, a lawyer, or a doctor, or whatever, means that you have accepted certain responsibilities in your work above and beyond what most 9-to-5 workers have chosen for themselves. If you are not ready and prepared to accept these responsibilities, that's OK, but find another line of work. I wouldn't want to be treated by a doctor who was watching the clock while trying to do his job, and I don't think you would either.
  6. Jul 1, 2014 #5
    You make some very valid points SteamKing I defiantly would not like a doctor walking out mid examination. I am probably going to take a physics class so I can become an engineer if I decide but while enrolled I will really have to put some thought into how to go from there. I know I don't want to be in the trades but working without getting paid is something ill have to wrap my head around. Thank you for all the information.
  7. Jul 1, 2014 #6


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    Working on salary doesn't mean you're not getting paid: Sometimes, you have to work harder, sometimes less for the amount you receive.

    Professionals don't get overtime for their work unless they work for themselves in their own practice, and sometimes, they may have to make sacrifices and forgo their pay to keep the practice solvent.
  8. Jul 5, 2014 #7
    I agree with your points, SteamKing. [STRIKE]Are you an engineer? Which branch?[/STRIKE] EDIT: Just checked your profile. Naval architecture. Have you made posts about your career? I am eager to see your views on Naval architecture.
  9. Jul 9, 2014 #8
    How practical are you? And if you have a lot of common sense, industry could be much easier than school. This is definitely what I've found out.
  10. Jul 10, 2014 #9


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    The nights/weekends thing varies a lot in different jobs (it's a company culture thing) and also ebbs and flows along with the project. Most engineering work is project based so when there is crunchtime you can be at the office day and night.

    In my current job I probably work on average 45 - 50 hours a week or so. Once a year or so I have a few weeks to a month where I'm there nights and weekends. I had a previous job that was more intense so it all depends.

    The bottom line is an engineer does what it takes to get the job done. Some employers exploit this (I worked at a startup about 10 years ago where unpaid overtime was part of the business plan!) and others don't. You just got to find the right job for you.

    Engineering is a very satisfying career and you will use your brain!
  11. Jul 10, 2014 #10
    I personally don't think engineering is impossible for anyone. If you are willing to put the effort into homework, labs, and studying you'll get through. But it might be a rough few years.

    If you liked and excelled at math and computers look into electrical engineering. We seem to have the most math and computer releated topics :)
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