1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How hard is it to freelance as a Mechanical Engineer?

  1. Oct 28, 2007 #1
    I'm almost 25 years old and I've finally started going to college, for a bachelors in mechanical engineering. I feel like it's the perfect major for me: I love math and physics, and I love creating things. My only problem is that I'm not wild about the idea of having a 9-5 job, working 5 days a week, for 50 weeks a year. My girlfriend, who graduated over a year ago and has been working in advertising ever since, has become VERY disenchanted with the working world recently, and it's rekindling this old fear i had when I would look at my parents and how they've lived their lives, doing a 9-5er from the time they graduated college until retirement, working for people they didn't like, and hating their jobs by the time they were out. Don't get me wrong, I have a huge amount of respect for people that can work that much, especially those who support kids on minimum wage, but I can't stand the idea of having only 2-3 weeks of personal time a year, every year, until I'm 62 years old, even if I'm being paid well.

    So, to get to the point, I was wondering: Is there much of a market for freelance mechanical engineers? I wouldn't mind doing the 9-5 thing for five or ten years before going into business for myself, but the thought of doing a daily grind for the rest of my life is extremely depressing. I would love to be able to travel and live in different countries, working on and off on different jobs... is this a pipe dream, or something that's plausible(maybe even common)? If it is in fact a pipe dream, are there any other math/physics related fields of study where it's common for people to freelance? If anyone has any thoughts or insights, please respond! Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 28, 2007 #2
    There is always the possibility of discovering what credentials you require to act as a consultant to law firms as an expert witness, in something like analyzing car accidents. I know from working at law firms as my job during college, that there are many people who consult as expert witnesses for both the plaintiff and defense, or prosecution and defense, depending upon the context of the case, and have pretty lucrative salaries. One case, involved an expert witness who was a slip-and-fall expert, and he simply went the fall site, and used a simple machine that he said any teenager could use, to analyze the friction coefficient of the surface, and determine whether or not a person would be likely to fall there and whose fault the fall was.

    That is one thing that might interest you, and possibly build towards that as you work the 9-5 you do not like.
  4. Oct 28, 2007 #3
    Plenty of engineers have to go to job sites. It might still be 9-5 or whatever, but it's better than being in one place.

    A friend of the family builds bridges (one of the head guys, dunno if he's an engineer), so he's always away somewhere on the site. It's very likely that you could go to different job sites if you go towards that direction.
  5. Oct 29, 2007 #4
    You could go into Sales. I heard they really like to ship them around a lot.

    So you wouldn't be really in an office but your basically living out of your suite case.
  6. Oct 29, 2007 #5
    you are almost always at a different site in engineering. Well, I guess it depends on the type...but if you went into construction or industrial....you would be. You just need to look for that job, that suites your needs/wants. Sometimes it might take a while to find, or you might have to work to find it.

    If you want to do something by yourself.....and sit at home....you could possibly try mastering the ProE program, which can be used in lawsuits....or so I've heard....and those engineers make a nice lump of change too.
  7. Oct 29, 2007 #6
    If you want to freelance you will need to obtain PE licensure. This will require you to pass the FE and PE exams and it typically requires 2-4 years of experience as a practicing engineer (working under a PE). The specific requirements varies by state.
  8. Oct 30, 2007 #7
    Schlumberger came to do an expo at my school a few months back and if I wasn't married I would be working for them as a field engineer the second I graduated. As it is, I'm going on to law school. =P

    Schlumberger takes any kind of engineer, it seems. I'm EE, but they said they also hire ME's, PetrolE's (of course), ChemE's, etc. They start by training you for 5 months and then they put you out into the field under an experienced engineer for anywhere from 6-12 months. At this point they put you in charge of a crew of workers and you're solely responsible for a particular oil-field site.

    The guy I was talking to did jobs in Siberia, Dubai, Northern Africa, etc. For places that are located in the middle of nowhere, like Siberia, he worked 7 weeks on 3 weeks off and they payed for his round-trip plane ticket to where ever he wanted when his 3 weeks came up. In addition, the pay is adjusted by a geographic coefficient. In Siberia, he got payed 1.75 times normal pay. There are also bonuses for finishing jobs early.

    Given, this guy's job was to sell me on the company, but from the people I've talked to who have no vested interest in the company it seems like a great job for someone who doesn't want to work a 9-5. I would take it in an instant if I wasn't married with a child on the way.

    edit: Here's a link to what I was talking about:

    http://www.slb.com/content/careers/needs/field_engineers.asp [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook