How are Engineering jobs?

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  • Thread starter Atoweha
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  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

I'm a Junior studying Mechanical engineering. I am the first engineer in my family (my mom is a Physicist, but shes a teacher).
I don't really know what i want to do with my engineering degree. Most of my family is in business or academia.
One of my engineering teachers used to be an engineer, but he was always a project manager and from what he tells us it seems like engineers sit there and turn knobs all day then leave at 4:30.
I did a research internship (NSF funded REU) and it was interesting but kinda boring. I tested race car and high speed train brake samples for 'Grinding' and 'Stick-slip' but i worked in a lab all day from 9AM till 3PM.
Are there any interesting jobs out there?

On a side note: are the more women in the engineering workforce than in college?

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Being an early on ME student myself, take this for what it's worth. Everything ive read says you're going to need experience before you get put on any exciting projects. Fresh out of school you probably will have boring projects. I can justify the degree because even if it stays boring throughout, I can apply my knowledge and skill set to do exciting things in my free time.
  • #3
... i worked in a lab all day from 9AM to 3PM...
Um, that's like a half day, right?
  • #4
yea thats half a day but it was pretty boring non the less.
any more engineers?
  • #5
Like you, I come from a family of academics. An uncle I rarely saw (he lived on the other side of the continent) was also an engineer, but I knew very little about the field. I blazed my own trail.

You are starting in the right place. Studying brakes for a race cars and high speed trains? That's cool stuff. In your case studying brakes may not seem like a big deal, but one day, when someone proposes a brake or clutch that is ill suited for the task, you'll have the background to say "I spent a whole summer studying that, and I have the experience to KNOW this isn't going to work."

Likewise, you may find yourself studying a specific property of various grades of steel. Again, it's not exactly cool stuff, but it can lead to some very interesting design contributions later.

There is a lot of grunt work that you have to put in to gather experience before you can get to the real stuff. For example, I spent a summer at Naval Research Lab Electronic Warfare lab writing a report on power combiners. It sounds boring, but it is key for building a robust solid state microwave power amplifier. I know the potential failure modes and design trade-offs, so that I can design better parallel amplifier systems.

These days, I work on water and sewer process engineering. It sounds like a very dull and disgusting job until you learn about what's involved. Where I work it's pretty routine --until something stops working.

I found myself studying ultrasonic flow meters using flumes, weirs, open channels, and the like. It seems boring, but one day I found myself working on a design problem involving the effluent flow meter for a plant. The operational license for this plant depended on that meter --and it wasn't working reliably. There are extensive legal responsibilities, reputations, and significant money at stake. I found and fixed the problem.

I found myself studying failure modes of fiber optic transceivers that weren't reliable. With a bit of experience, you'll find yourself in the middle of acceptance testing and start-ups.

But to get there you need the experience that you simply can't get in school. We spend a year training experienced engineers we hire on everything they need to know to work within our organization. Were you to work where I work, you'd probably spend at least three years getting up to speed on what we do, how we do it, who we deal with, likely failure modes, and so on.

I don't know how else to say this: the education you get in school is nothing but a ticket of admission that indicates you've smelled a bit of theory once upon a time. The practice of engineering is fraught with politics, personalities, habits, responsibilities, old designs, and so on.

Believe it or not, you're on the right path. And one day, if all goes well, you'll wake up and realize that YOU are the engineer in charge --and it won't feel like you're ready, but you won't be able to point at anyone else to do the work.

Eventually, you could find yourself in my shoes: I'm a middle aged engineer who has been doing this for 26 years. I can't exactly say when it happened, but one day I realized that I was looked upon as one of the senior engineers in the group. I'm still somewhat in denial about this, because I sure don't feel like I know everything I ought to. However, I do know who to lean on for more information or experience. I do know how most of the practices got to where they are today. So that's how it happened. It didn't exactly occur overnight, but it doesn't feel like a long slog, either.

As for being ____ (Religious, Female, Disabled, Minority, LGBT, Immigrant, recovering addict --fill in the blank) all I can say is that as long as you don't wear it on your sleeve as an excuse for incompetence, nobody where I work will care very much. We all screw up here and there and the sooner we own up to our mistakes and learn from them, the more our managers and co-workers will feel safe trusting us. What we will not tolerate are the arrogant people who won't admit they've done anything that may have gone poorly, or the responsibility shirkers who won't put their name on the line for anything.

I have read that this isn't always the case, and for those stuck in positions like that, you should know that there are employers out there who do their level best to accommodate a diverse workforce.
  • #6
Engineering jobs can be boring sometimes, but what jobs aren't?

Keep in mind that at an internship, you are there temporarily, so you may feel less invested in the workplace and may have a harder time seeing your job as "important" than if you worked there fulltime.

There are less women in engineering than there are in engineering school. Whether that bothers you is something you have to figure out for yourself. The most you can get from forums like this are opinions and personal stories.
  • #7
What job do "Engineering Physics" lead to ?
  • #8
I could only guess, research based jobs.

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