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Which engineering branch is better for starting your own business?

  1. Feb 28, 2016 #1
    Hey guys! How are you? This month I have to decide which engineering branch I want to study. The ones I like most are civil and mechanical. But I dont hate any of the other branches. My goal is possibly to become an entrepreneur and start my own business. Which one would be better? Thanks a lot for your advice!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 29, 2016 #2

    russ_watters

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    Staff: Mentor

    [moving to career guidance]

    Most engineering fields are so broad, there are a large variety of opportunities, including entrepreneurship. Rare exceptions might include highly specific high financial barrier to entry fields such as aerospace, but even then it could be possible to carve yourself out a small niche on a big project.
     
  4. Feb 29, 2016 #3
    If you're looking to start with Civil Engineering in North America, someone will need a PE (or P.Eng certificate if you live in Canada) in the firm. To get that, you will need to pass the FE test for the EIT certificate, and then qualify to sit for the Principles and Practices exam.

    The details of what each state or Province requires to sit for the P&P exam vary. However, it generally involves working with another professional engineer and to be signed off by three others. In other words, you won't be doing this right out of college. You REALLY should have some work experience before striking out on your own, and preferably professional registration. It is very hard to be a contract engineering consultant without professional registration these days. See http://ncees.org/ for more details.

    Nevertheless, some fields require this more than others. Public safety is expected in most Civil Engineering projects, you'll hardly be able to avoid having one. However, telecommunications or aeronautics may not affect public safety as much if things go wrong. You may be able to get away without it.

    Choose wisely...
     
  5. Feb 29, 2016 #4

    russ_watters

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    Yes, PE or not (field dependent, as you say), I'd never recommend trying to start a business without at least a few years of experience (5-10, probably) unless you've invented something so good, so early that you need to hire someone to catch the bags of money people are throwing at you.
     
  6. Mar 1, 2016 #5

    StatGuy2000

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    As a (slight) correction, in Canada, to start to work in any engineering career field with the job title of "engineer" (not just Civil Engineering), you will need a P.Eng in the said firm. The only exceptions I can think of to this would be jobs with the title of "software engineer", and perhaps a few others.

    Here is a quote from the Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO) website (the regulations and licensure for engineers in other Canadian provinces are similar):

    "Individuals may only call themselves a professional engineer, or a P.Eng., or use a similar title that may lead to the belief that they are qualified to practise professional engineering, if they are licensed by PEO. People or companies may only offer or provide engineering services to the public if they hold a Certificate of Authorization from PEO."

    http://www.peo.on.ca/index.php?ci_id=2149&la_id=1
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2016
  7. Mar 1, 2016 #6

    russ_watters

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    The way you worded that sounds odd - are you referring to the company or the person with the last bit?

    You can start a company called "Applied Astronautics" and call yourself "President/Chief Engineer", with just a bachelor's degree, for example. Two reasons:
    1. There is no aero PE. The concept and law does not apply
    2. The company name doesn't imply it.

    If you are in a relevant field where the PE applies, you can't call the firm "Applied Engineering" without a PE on the board. If you have a PE on the board, you can generally call yourself a "project engineer" as long as you have an engineering degree. It may not be technically accurate, but since it has no effect on the company's liability, it is overlooked as a useful colloqialism.

    The law you quoted is pretty much the same as how it works in the US.
     
  8. Mar 1, 2016 #7

    StatGuy2000

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    I admit that I'm not particularly familiar with the laws regarding certification for engineers in the US. It sounded to me that in the US anyone can call themselves an engineer, whereas my understanding is that only licensed professional engineers can be employed in Canada as engineers.

    My understanding also is that your hypothetical example will work in Canada as well. Although I'm puzzled that you say that there is no aero PE. Isn't aerospace engineering an ABET-accredited engineering program? In Canada, graduates of any ABET-accredited engineering program can ultimately be certified as a P.Eng (if there are any engineers from Canada here on PF, please correct me if I'm mistaken).
     
  9. Mar 1, 2016 #8
    In the US, you can call yourself anything you want. However your business can not have the word Engineering in the name unless there is a registered professional engineer on staff. This is one reason why you don't see many firms with the word "Engineering" in the name even though they do practice some form of Engineering. It's a legal hassle that nobody wants.

    It is not the certification of the curriculum that matters. It matters whether the state itself has a registration for that kind of engineering. For example, not all states have Control Systems Engineers, though Maryland does. The state of Maryland doesn't have a corrosion systems engineer discipline either. We rely on certification from other states for that. Yes, there really is a corrosion engineering discipline. It's a big deal for water utilities, tank farm owners, and the like.
     
  10. Mar 1, 2016 #9

    russ_watters

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    Right: in essence, the registration is required for certain engineering disciplines to interface with government regulations, most often with respect to building systems (architecture, structures, HVAC, civil/site work, electrical systems), to get building permits. But if you are an EE and you are designing an electronic gadget, the government doesn't care if it works or not. That's why most engineers never earn a PE: it simply isn't relevant to most.
    Except of course for misusing the letters themselves: you can't say you are a "PE" or "Professional Engineer" if you are not. As I was describing above, it is best to not come off as presumptuous in the use of related words in fields where they matter, but while there seem to be conventions, they don't seem to be that strict. In my company, a degree is enough to have "engineer" in the title, and nobody quibbles about using "EIT" or anything else: if a person is a PE, they use it and everyone else who doesn't, isn't. But we have one guy though who is about 35 and a better engineer than most engineers, except that he's a designer and has no degree. His business card says "Mechanical Project Lead".
     
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