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Recent college grad question about job market

  1. Apr 20, 2010 #1
    I'm a recent college graduate with a B.S. in electrical engineering and another B.S. (in june) in computer engineering. I've noticed in a lot of my searches that: software is the big thing in demand beyond all else, and below that companies want hardware people who will write software. I've been trying to get into a hardware job and the interviews I've had have almost exclusively been for "applications engineering" type jobs or test development engineering type jobs, no research and development or design engineering jobs. Can any of you seasoned industry vets comment on this? Is there a downturn in the demand for design engineers and an upturn in demand for test engineers and apps engineers? Or is my search-fu just too weak? Do I need to get a M.S. or M.Eng to get into my desired hardware design job?

    Note: this isn't a what should I do question, but an am I observing the market correctly and why is it the way it is and when/how will it change in the future kind of question.

    Much thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 20, 2010 #2
    R&D jobs are generally reserved for people with graduate degrees. Most people that start out right out of college are usually placed in a technician or similar entry level position. If you're strait out of school and have no experience, you are basically worthless to any business out there except for in competent labor. Thats why tech and application like jobs are a good place to start until you get experience and learn the ropes.
  4. Apr 21, 2010 #3
    Very good info. That is what I've found as well. Having an MS makes a huge difference over a BS, and a Ph.D. even better yet. But a Ph.D. makes one over-qualified for some jobs, not so much with an MS. Those who wish to do R&D/development type engineering where they are pushing the envelope of latest technology need an MS or Ph.D. A BS just isn't enough.

    After grad school (MSEE) back in 1980, I was very glad I went for the extra degree. It made a difference. In the late 70's, with a BEEE, I was a summer intern with a large company while working on the MS. My job duties were basically technical "labor". The work wasn't bad, but just not what I wanted to do for the rest of my career. Once I got the MS, things did change for the better. It opened doors that were closed. Definitely go for an advanced degree if you wish to do R&D. It pays off handsomely.

  5. Apr 21, 2010 #4
    Thank you for the information.

    I have known for a while that an M.S. or M.Eng would be needed for me to get into the kind of work that I really want to get into, I am just surprised that the ONLY kind of work I can get with a B.S. is apps and test. Where I would like to be in say 5-10 years is IC design (analog, digital, power, I haven't specialized yet but will likely have to). So I have a few questions.

    Is apps and test a good way to start and move into R&D (after getting an M.S. part time)? Or is it a pigeon hole away from where I want to be?

    Should I get a job for a few years and then get my M.S. or start on that right away? Will working for 2 years with my B.S. in a job doing apps and/or test engineering be of any use to me? I can either A: get a job and go to grad school part time starting now, B: just go right to grad school, or C: get a job and wait a few years then go to grad school.

    I am interviewing with about 5 different companies that do IC design, for apps engineering or test engineering jobs, there is also an internship I was offered for this summer.

    And finally, where to get my grad degree? If I take a job in another city that changes my options for where to get a degree. My B.S. is from Oregon State, and I applied to the graduate program there and at Portland State. Should I go to one (which) of those or take a job in another city and go to school elsewhere? PSU is lower ranked than OSU, but the classes sound much more interesting (and the internship I mentioned is right next to it). But there is a full time job I am interviewing for today that is right next to OSU. Opinions?
  6. Apr 21, 2010 #5
    My advice is B - just go to grad school, if financially feasible. Next would be A - get a job and go to grad school part time starting NOW.

    The longer one waits, the harder it gets, and you may marry in the near future (assuming you haven't yet). Should kids enter the picture it makes it very hard, especially when they are really small.

    I went for the MS shortly afterward. But, I waited 27 years after the MS to go for the Ph.D. I'm well along the way, but it is really tough. It takes a young body to keep late hours studying. After work, my 54-year old body is tired and studying is hard. Do it when you're young. There is no time like the present.

    The longer you wait, the HARDER it gets. BR.

  7. Apr 21, 2010 #6
    Unless you already know what you want to specialize in, I would work for a while to see what you want to specialize in. Another thing to keep in mind, most companies will pay for your grad degree. A BSEE will 9/10 not get you a design job out of the gates.

    Another thing to keep in mind is a lot of big companies, especially defense, are slowly migrating away from in-house design. A majority of these big companies, Lockheed, Raytheon, and Northrop are becoming "systems integration" type business models. They outsource, or subcontract a majority of the detailed design work to smaller companies. You will have a much better chance of getting a (enjoyable) design job at a small company, and most likely better experience.
  8. Apr 22, 2010 #7
    Looking for career advice in electrical engineering

    I posted this question in the electrical engineering section but I realize it should have gone here, apologies to the mods.

    I am trying to find out what the options are for a BSEE+BSCpE in design engineering, and from what I can tell not very much, so I know that I want to go for an MSEE or MEng (if someone can recommend one over the other for someone looking into IC design I'd appreciate it). It is a complex question but this looks like a place where that is acceptable, so here goes (so that you don't have to read the original post).

    How much will where I get it matter between Oregon State and Portland State (the two places I applied for), OSU seems more research focused and PSU more practical knowledge focussed (and has better sounding classes), but PSU is lower ranked.

    Should I start now? Should I wait a few years and get an employer to pay for it? Will a few years of work experience in applications engineering or test engineering even be useful towards my goal of being an IC designer?

    I was also looking into what is in demand, and it seems like testing and applications and software in in huge demand and design is down somewhat, can anyone comment on that?
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 22, 2010
  9. Apr 22, 2010 #8


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    Re: Looking for career advice in electrical engineering

    No problem, I merged the two threads here.
  10. Apr 23, 2010 #9


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    Re: Looking for career advice in electrical engineering

    IC design in North America is a dying field. Especially in the digital design domain. These jobs are outsourced to China and India. Its better to get into analog IC design as these jobs tend to remain here rather than India. Frankly speaking, its next to impossible to find a position in digital IC design right now for me (new grad). I'm doing an M.Eng and had I known it would have been this tough then I would have probably gone for a MS instead. I'm hoping that after taking some courses in mixed-signal design then my chances would improve.
  11. Apr 23, 2010 #10
    Has the difference between M.Eng and M.S. been that stark? How did that play out?

    My plan has been to focus on both analog and digital IC design so I can work for a company like Maxim IC or National Semi who do their IC design here in the states. One option I thought of was to do my M.S. and take 2 digital IC design classes, some RFIC classes, some power supply design classes (emphasis on IC DCDC converters), and then some VLSI and ASIC design to cap it off, and I don't yet know what my thesis would be.
  12. Apr 23, 2010 #11


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    I'm a mixed-signal integrated circuit designer with 10 years of experience in a number of the most influential companies in California's Silicon Valley.

    Generally speaking, BS graduates are not started in design engineering, simply because they are not experienced enough to be trusted with million-dollar design decisions. Almost all new hires begin in the applications or test engineering departments. I personally began my career in apps, and the experience I gained there was invaluable. After about four years, I moved into design. Applications and test engineering can be very challenging, and you will learn a lot in either field. Honestly, it is too much to expect to be hired into your "dream job" with no experience and a bachelor's degree. A couple of years is only a fraction of your entire career, so why worry about it? Just get it done like everyone else. :smile:

    Also, keep in mind that a MS degree doesn't necessarily mean you'll be prepared to be a designer. About half of my company's technical staff have masters' degrees, including apps, test, product engineering, even marketing.

    I don't know much about the two schools you've mentioned, so I cannot really comment on them. All I can say is that ranking does matter, but your individual knowledge matters much more.

    I also have to strongly disagree with ranger that IC design is a dying field in North America. The semiconductor industry is one of the most resilient industries in the US, and one that was least affected by the recession. Silicon Valley is currently experiencing one of the fastest recoveries in hiring activity ever observed. Yes, there are many design centers in third world countries, but the quality of such work is often very poor. I have no doubt that a bright young person can enjoy a stable career for his or her entire lifetime in North American companies.

    - Warren
  13. Apr 24, 2010 #12


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    Our company does all of our mixed-signal IC design here, and uses off-shore resources for back-end integration tasks (and foundry volume aggregation). With what we do in silicon (there is a LOT of IP in what we do), there is no way we could outsource the design part.

    Hang in there Ranger! As chroot says, your first few years out of school are very much formative, learning, and building years.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2010
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