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Power engineering career prospects?

  1. Feb 7, 2016 #1
    Hi,


    I am enrolling in an Electrical engineering program at one of the best schools in Europe (RWTH Aachen, Germany).

    Starting at the 4th semester, I will have to choose one of these fields of concentration :

    -Power engineering

    -Nano and Micro electronics

    -Information and Communication technology

    -Computer engineering


    I am considering the Power engineering field, as it's really diverse and I think my options won't be limited with it.

    Power plants and grids seem to be interesting to me.


    What do you think are the job prospects for power engineering ?? In case I choose this field, I will have the chance to enroll in a master program (Nuclear engineering) as well.


    Looking forward to your opinion and advice on this.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 7, 2016 #2
    As it happens, I'm attending a large convention for power utilities. Power engineering will be needed as long as there is electric power and distribution grids.

    Power Engineering has been a pretty sedate, ordinary field. Until recently.

    The grid itself is changing. Until recently, we were building large and larger power generation plans serving very wide areas with extensive transmission and distribution networks. However, I think that scale of operation may have reached a practical limit. These days the buzz is about micro-grids, and local power generation schemes --some from renewable energy, and some from other sources that can be efficient at smaller scales. An example of the latter are methane fuel cells, and small gas turbines.

    On the other hand, a lot of chatter about "smart grids" is getting stale. Problems with information security, with unauthorized access, and with grid resiliency are rife.

    Nevertheless, I am confident that power engineering is going to be an interesting career for those who don't mind working in a mostly unsung, invisible feature of civilization.
     
  4. Feb 9, 2016 #3

    donpacino

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    Gold Member

    Keep in mind power engineering is not just the grid. Power engineering applies to everything from the grid, to motors, small 0.5 A buck converters. But as you're interested in power plants and "the grid" you can go that route as well. You'll find inside each discipline there are sub disciplines, and inside they are broken up into even more specializations. In many cases there is overlap.

    There aren't a lot of young power engineers.

    that being said nano/micro electronics and computer engineering are solid choices that should have a lot of job prospects, especially computer.

    I cannot speak to information technology.
     
  5. Feb 9, 2016 #4
    What prospects does Computer engineering have in your opinion ?? I have heard that this discipline had an eruption at its beginning but now the situation is different.
     
  6. Feb 12, 2016 #5
    Nearly all Engineering work has good growth prospects. Some fields may be more volatile in their boom/bust cycles, but even that is just a matter of choice as to what segment of the industry you choose. You shouldn't chase employment numbers too closely while getting your degree. When I started studying Electrical Engineering, there was all sorts of defense contracting work that paid really well. Then, six months before I graduated, the contracts dried up and many in my class were without a job. A significant number didn't even complete their degrees.

    You're young. You should be prepared to chase a few jobs wherever they may go. If you don't have any social obligations tying you down to one place or another, feel free to take a job in another part of the world. You will benefit greatly from the experience.

    Bottom line: employment statistics go up and down all the time. You're looking for a place to start. That can happen anywhere...
     
  7. Feb 15, 2016 #6

    Oooh, thanks for this precious word. I have felt like I am so old being 22 years old to be a freshman and I need a reminder that I am not :)
     
  8. Feb 15, 2016 #7
    My apologies, Donello. I didn't mean for it to be read like that. My point is that you probably have very few social obligations tying you to one place in the world. This is a time when you can afford to chase work in other parts of the world. And I think you should.
     
  9. Feb 15, 2016 #8

    Thanks a lot, I really appreciate your comment. For me, I have no obligations to stay at one place at all. Not even for my home country, so in other words, I am ready to go anywhere :-)
     
  10. Feb 16, 2016 #9
    I second Jake's answer. With alternative energy on the rise and the need for more efficient electrical systems there will be big changes coming to the field. With today's technology we are surprisingly only 10% efficient at distributing power (this is mostly due to grid design). However, with decentralized grids which may become feasible with wind and solar applications we can see big increases in grid efficiency and a reduction in energy usage. You might want to consider minoring in nano engineering if that is possible. Battery technology and energy storage is a big limiting factor for many applications (a notable example is electrical drone design in aerospace or electric cars in hybrid vehicles). If we can increase the energy density available to batteries without relying on combustible liquids we can greatly improve many mobile things (cars, planes, phones, radio, etc) which require battery or all-electric operation.
     
  11. Feb 16, 2016 #10
    I'd have to ask for a source on that one.
     
  12. Feb 16, 2016 #11
  13. Feb 16, 2016 #12

    billy_joule

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    Science Advisor

    That article is not about the efficiency of electric power transmission (I assume by distribution you meant transmission)
    Transmission efficiency can be as high as 99.5%
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_power_transmission#Losses

    Utilizing waste heat from thermal electricity generation, which your article is about, is a whole different kettle of fish and isn't really relevant to this thread. AFAIK thermal power generation of all types (except geothermal) is dwindling, so the idea is probably becoming less relevant overall too.
     
  14. Feb 17, 2016 #13

    analogdesign

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    Science Advisor

    I have no idea how this will translate to career opportunities but computer engineering is just now starting a new renaissance with explosive growth. Microprocessors have hit what is called "the power wall" so they can't get any faster. The key metric now is power efficiency, not speed. To continue progress, designs have shifted to parallel with many cores per chip or system.

    Very recently, it has been shown that co-designing the hardware with the software it is expected to run can give more than a 10X improvement in power/performance in some cases. You may be surprised to hear that companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon are designing their own custom chips because power dissipation is so important to them and matching the chip to their software stack can greatly improve efficiency.

    It is an exciting time in computer engineering.
     
  15. Feb 17, 2016 #14
    What I meant to say was overall efficiency. I misspoke. And if I am not mistaken almost everything uses thermal energy except hydroelectric, solar, and wind. I am a big supporter of a decentralized grid. I am really surprised that 95% transmission efficiency can be achieved though.
     
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