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''Social'' careers with engineering/science background

  1. Mar 24, 2014 #1
    Hello everyone, I know this is kinda long but hope you help me out in the end.

    I'm a student in physics engineering with 2 years remaining (took an additional year for a total of 5). I've been worried about the kind of jobs an engineer/physicist can get after college. Let me explain real quick.

    For work during summer I've been doing different typical little jobs that usually require to help customers and inform them (sales, information, guidance, etc.) and I disliked other jobs that lacked this aspect. I would then say that this is something that really motivates me as a person (helping people or feeling like you made a difference in someone's day), but naturally, I'd prefer if I could just get over with college and move on to something else, which means potentially finishing my bachelor's degree in physics engineering if possible. The thing is, I'm really not sure science or engineering is a field where I will get to do that kind of social interaction with customers or strangers, especially in physics engineering where science and research are a big part of our domain.

    As we go deeper into physics and engineering courses I tend to get frustrated by the absence of non-social/useful context. It's like I sometimes reach the limit between what is actually interesting and what is pure madness. The thing is, I actually have good scores but I just endure my courses.

    So yeah. I don't know if it's crazy to ask this but are there any jobs out there with a engineering or physics bachelor's degree that require some sort of social interaction like I mentionned? Are there domains for instance that are open to engineers that are not conventionally meant for engineers (or physicists)? They say you can do anything with a engineering bachelor's degree but I wonder how much. I saw business and law for instance but I was hoping you guys maybe had some personal experience relating more to my situation. Or am I just studying in the wrong domain? I'd like to think not since I find some of the stuff we learn interesting at times and I tend to assimilate pretty well the concepts of physics. And I already got 3 years in. Gah.

    Thanks, hope you guys help me out.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 25, 2014 #2


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    Two areas of engineering that involve customer interaction are field service engineering (i.e. you are working at the customer's location fixing problems etc) or the technical side of sales (i.e figuring out what customers really want to meet their needs, rather than what they think they want).

    For both of those, you would need to spend some time working inside a company learning the specifics about its products etc before you would be dealing with customers on your own, but it might be a target to aim for.

    In other roles like product testing, you will probably have a lot of contact with "customers" inside the company. In fact very little real-world engineering gets done by one person working on their own and not talking to anybody else.
  4. Mar 25, 2014 #3
    Contrary to what most students of the humanities believe, Engineering is VERY social. Assessing customer requirements is not something you would delegate to a salesman with no technical background. Discussing technical problems with a customer is not something you would do with an account executive.

    Furthermore, even commonplace production engineering has a social aspect. An Engineer is a leader. They don't teach this in colleges much. However, if you're trying to express your vision to a group of people so that they can build it, you need every bit of those communications skills they teach to students of the arts and humanities.

    One of my mentors early on pointed out that an engineer who is not well versed in the humanities is nearly useless. The notion of a little person hiding away in a lab building monstrous machines all by himself is not the reality at all. Engineers need to sell their concepts and designs. They need to support them once they're in the field. This is not something that you can hand to some office gnome, bereft any social skills, and expect good results.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2014
  5. Mar 25, 2014 #4


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    In general, there are two kinds of engineers....the social kind and the ones who tend to stay in their "cubes" as much as possible.

    The ones that sit in their cubes rarely go any further than their cubes.

    The ones that get around to all the other cubes tend to get promoted, sit in the corner office, get promoted to project manager, vice president, president...even CEO. These guys are also fluent at running meetings and talking to top tier clients.

    Being outgoing in life almost always leads to good things.
  6. Mar 25, 2014 #5
    You sound a lot like me - I'm a current student and I'm also thinking of future careers. I don't know too much about engineering, but some kind of quantitative sales or marketing job might suit your skill set and interests. Some of my friends are going into science policy if they can get jobs (they have summer internships, but the job market is tough).
  7. Mar 26, 2014 #6


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    Some people prefer to tinker with equations and abstract ideas, others prefer to tinker with people.
  8. Mar 26, 2014 #7
    First, "tinkering with people" is nonsense. Call it what it is: Leadership. In any case, there is no such choice here. Engineers must learn to do both.
  9. Mar 26, 2014 #8


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