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Masters in communication or CISCO

  1. Jul 21, 2011 #1
    I graduated on May with the degree of Electrical Engineering. I worked as co-op students as a software tester and outside plant engineering on my second and third year of my studies. Anyways, I applied for any possible elect eng position but not one company called me back. I think the problem is as an undergrad you learn a bit of everything but not specialized. I'm wondering getting a master's degree wil help me get job? how about getting cisco certificate?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 22, 2011 #2


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    Welcome to PhysicsForums!

    I assume that, given your username, you're from Canada and are seeking work in the same (job opportunities, salaries, and economic outlook vary vastly from city-to-city, let alone country-to-country). When you say you applied for 'any' electrical engineering position, do you also mean that you applied for every position that you came across (including ones that are just looking for some sort of engineering degree?)

    At some point (and perhaps you've already crossed this Rubicon) you have to decide whether or not you'd be willing to take a more generic engineering-degree-required job and, say, work in Fort McMurray as a field engineer or to work in a specific technical field (e.g. telecom hardware design engineer at RIM). Jobs similar to the former will probably be easier to find (and often higher paying) than the latter. It's not impossible to switch specializations, but it does become more difficult (because, presumably, you'll be older, may or may not have family, and will have to be hired on at a higher pay-scale than the new grad, regardless of specific knowledge: them's the breaks). If you don't have any preferred specialization, some companies (like ATCO) will rotate you through their various divisions.

    It's disheartening to hear that you didn't hear back from anybody, especially since you bring some degree of experience via co-op. If you're seeing this from many of your fellow grads, it's probably that the market for EEs isn't so hot at the moment. If not, you may want to make double check your resume (and DEFINITELY ask your friends whether their companies are hiring). Regardless, you may want to have your resume and cover letter / sample application checked out by your school's career and placement centre (hopefully, there is one).

    If your school is like my school, the people at the co-op office work their butts off getting jobs for undergrads, and you may not have had the full job-applicant 'experience' (think well-intentioned parent...) The regular career / job services centre (or engineering-specific one, if available) will probably have a number of opportunities available. Don't get discouraged, and apply, apply, apply. Many of the friends that I graduated with (this was in the slump right before the most recent boom) sent out resume after resume, one in excess of a hundred and fifty (and yes, he tailored and custom-wrote cover letters).

    Actually, before going further: have you talked to your former employers and co-workers? If you did a not-horrible job (don't take this as a backhanded compliment), you've automatically got an in (if you / they want to go back), a reference or few, and, if they liked you but don't have any openings, opportunities elsewhere.

    Now then, back on track: engineering degrees barely have enough time to cram in the technical basics (I think), let alone the 'soft' courses (business, management, technical writing), or the arts elective courses (granted, most people take fluff, but it's the chance to further round out your learning and further develop the more right-brain skills). Nevertheless, did you gear your technical electives in a special direction, or join any extracurricular technical clubs (like Formula SAE or the likes)? If so, you could highlight these (and assuming you get interviewed on these bases, be prepared to talk about them).

    An undergrad friend of mine (from the robotics project I was part of) took his electives in robotics and controls. When he graduated, he went to the local trade school and took a PLC (programmable logic controller) programming course. There's a world of difference between, say, VHDL and fancy control schemes and the ladder logic and simple control schemes frequently used (but the underlying theory and background should make you that much better at it). I use this as a demonstration that you might not need a full 'nother degree, especially if there's a particular specialization you want (and assuming you want to do technical), and there's an equivalent of NAIT/SAIT close by.

    As my advisor told me, a thesis-based master's demonstrates that you have the capacity to tackle new start-up projects (and to do the research and background necessary for these), but still allows you to do more generic engineering jobs (a plus). Chosen correctly, they're also usually quite short (2 years) A Ph.D. gives you more specific knowledge and skills, but may limit your opportunities (since you'd be hired higher up on that salary structure, and there are still all those newly-minted grads about). Then again, I knew a fellow who did sensors and nanotechnology for his Ph.D. and now works in the planning and project management branch of an oilfield service company. A course-based master's usually allows you to gain specific knowledge in a particular specialization, or to dabble in a different discipline (e.g. chemical engineering), and allows you to do so really quickly (approximately a year).

    I'd probably skip the Cisco certification (or MCSE, or similar), as they're dime a dozen. Unless you're getting it for free and/or really have time to kill (or, perhaps, a burning desire to do IT, and even then, practical experience is worth way more).

    So, that all said, take what I said with a grain of salt: I opted to go to grad school instead of slogging it out, and have yet to get a real non-grad-school engineering job (though I have had offers, inside and outside of the field that I went to grad school for). Much of the above comes from discussions I've had with my classmates (and students I TA'd) who did go get real jobs (or went to grad school, graduated, and then got jobs--yikes!)

    I'll go ahead and put in my standard disclaimer: this advice is probably Canada-specific (and possibly Alberta-only), and based upon my impressions and experiences. On the upside, even if it is, did I mention that Alberta is starting to heat-up economy wise, again...?

    EDIT: ...And as I alluded to, make sure you network, network, network! Schmoozing may get you the lead that your experiences and background can then secure. Unless you're a really, really good schmoozer, in which case, you probably don't need any of the above!
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2011
  4. Jul 25, 2011 #3
    Nice write-up

    However, I think there is ALWAYS a market for EE's, but you should be willing to relocate. There is no room to be picky about location if you want your dream job.
    There were people in my graduating class that make me afraid that they are engineers, and they had no problem getting a job, keep at it. It's all about having a solid resume and being confident.

    I'm 1 year into my M.S.E.E. (thesis) work and I will say that I learned more practical skills in my first month here than in most of my undergrad. I would recommend it.

    Also, take the FE exam.
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