Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What does an engineer really do?

  1. Sep 12, 2008 #1
    Ok, so I am wondering what an engineer really does on the job. How much of it is actual engineering, how much of it is paperwork, meetings, talking with clients, or whatever? I would appreciate it if only people that are working in engineering respond.

  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 12, 2008 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    There are so many different types of jobs engineers do, it is pretty tough to answer. You may want to browse the jobs on Monster.com. I'll give a little description of my daily life later when i have more time.
  4. Sep 12, 2008 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    It's all of the above since a typical engineer has all of those requirements as part of their job. For me, it goes in waves. At one point I will be heavy in the design phases. That means meetings. Then I will be heavy in the testing phase. That means more meetings. Then I will be heavy in the post analysis and clean up. That means more meetings. Now multiply that by 4 or 5 projects and you get different phases for different projects happening on any one day.

    You will never get away from paperwork and meetings. Documentation is the name of the game, especially in my area, aerospace. It's the nature of the beast these days.
  5. Sep 12, 2008 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Next week (as a mechanical engineer), my calendar is as follows:

    Run engine test to check out some new settings. Take some new recruits round a tour of our engineering facility. Attend a meeting about a forthcoming project which I will be running.

    Fly to Ireland visit a customer. Fix a big problem they've been having with one of our products.

    dnesdayTrain 6 of the customer's engineers and technicians in some new control systems I've been working on. Fly home.

    Write the site report for the above visit. Catch up on emails (mostly about ongoing projects I've been working on). Finish off producing some data sheets for a new product (lots of calculations). See my "understudy" to review some engine test work he's been running. Sign off his data.

    Blank calendar, so far.

    That's not to say this is a typical week; they're all different for me; but regardless of what kind of engineer you are, work is usually very varied!
  6. Sep 12, 2008 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Like the other guy's have said, it really depends on the job. I would say that for an average day, 1/3 to 1/2 of my day is actual engineering calculation type work, the rest is paper work or reports on my findings. On some occasions, I have vendor equipment to FAT which requires travel. Of course there is the weekly staff meeting and other random issue/problem type meetings.

  7. Sep 12, 2008 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Like Fred, I'm in the aero biz, but unlike him, I'm a newb at my place. Almost all of my day is done doing "textbook" engineering and analysis, with usually one hour of meeting(s) per day, however, I have found with previous coops that most engineering is not like that. At previous coops at production facilities/refineries/etc, much of the analysis is simply empirical (not to say it's bad), dealing with hourlies, etc.

    But again, I'm a newb
  8. Sep 12, 2008 #7
    When you're new out of school, you will probably spend alot of time doing calculations that someone else has told you to do. Maybe they will show you how to run a computer code to get answers. Likely you will have a only few things to work on at any given time. As time goes on you will have more separate tasks. There may be newer people helping you, you tell them what to do. You write proposals, or at least sections of proposals. You get to meet the customers, maybe go to their offices. At first you're with someone older, and you just listen. Sooner or later, you start talking and probably say stupid things and wish you could have kept your mouth shut. After a while you start to make real contributions during these visits, eventually you go by yourself. At some point in this evolution you begin to really understand the business you are in, what it is your company really does, where the money comes from. You start to explain to the customer why the answers aren't good, or why the results are late. Some days you wish all you had to do was do the calcs, run the codes...
  9. Sep 16, 2008 #8
    I've heard it said that an engineer sells confidence. That is what you need to present to clients and employers. Know all of the things you need to do the job, and be confident in your solutions.
  10. Sep 25, 2008 #9
    Ok, thanks to everyone for their replies. They were all very helpful. :smile:
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook