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Should I consider consulting?

  1. Oct 31, 2012 #1
    I'm finishing up my PhD in Mechanical Engineering in a field with a rather high demand for highly skilled labor. I was originally planning on working in a national lab or industry in an R&D setting as a full time engineer/researcher, but now I'm having second thoughts. I'm concerned that if I work full time at a national lab or company my daily work is going to be diluted with asinine meetings and paperwork instead of focusing on the actual research and thinking part of the job which is why I'm getting a PhD in the first place. I was thinking consulting might be a better option as my daily work tasks would be focused more on technical problem solving rather than filling out paperwork.

    The question thats lingering in my mind is whether or not I could actually pull it off. I already do quite a bit of consulting work right now during my graduate studies. I'm actually working on my third consulting job this year. This is work that more or less finds me due to reputation and networking, I don't really go out looking for it. However, I'm still rather young (late 20's) and would eventually like to get my PE license as well so I may just reconsider consulting later on in my career.

    So anyone have any experience or strong opinions on engineering consulting? I realize I'll never have any actual job security but will have the opportunity to make a higher salary. Although, a higher salary isn't the end goal.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 31, 2012 #2
    If anything, I think your work day would be *more* diluted as a consultant. After all, you'll have to spend time promoting yourself, looking for work, negotiating contracts, preparing invoices, etc. etc.

    You might want to think about a small startup company. If you aren't one of the founders involved on the business side, a startup is usually very light on meetings... everyone knows the goal, and has their head down pursuing it and doesn't want to waste any time.
  4. Nov 2, 2012 #3
    I will second what TMFKAN64 wrote. Another point: There is education, and there is skill. Though you probably have quite an education you probably do not have much in the way of skills and experience.

    The "asinine meetings and paperwork" are the reality of today's business. You will find more of it in larger organizations, but there is no escaping it.

    The reality is that your work comes from those who perpetrate the very things you detest. Your place in life exists to help them from their ignorance and they in turn will help you from yours. That's right, you're ignorant too. Nobody is going to throw money your way so that you can have quiet nerdgasms in the lab. You have to promote yourself. You have to write about what you do. You have to teach people who know NOTHING about your field of study and have insufficient aptitude to even begin study.

    That's the reality. You exist to help them. They in turn will help you.

    Meet them half way.

    And by the way, you can get your PE only by documenting significant hands-on experience in industry. You are not likely to get that as a consultant.
  5. Nov 12, 2012 #4
    I would also say that "asinine meetings and paperwork" are more than a reality of today's business, they are a requirement. Communicating your work and requirements to others is a key job function. In a Ph.D. you can often put your head down and work on your own project. That is rare in the outside world.

    Also, you need to be supervised by someone with a P.E. to get your own. You can't do that if you're consulting on your own.
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