careers advice

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by Adamf001, Jul 12, 2012.

  1. Adamf001

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 5, 2011
    67
    2
    Hello people of the AAC forum
    first a bit about me, I'm 15 just starting sixthform (2 yrs before Uni) I've been playing around with electronics for a couple of years now and I have grasped a fair amount thanks to you guys...

    I'm planning of going into electrical engineering, circuit design, robotics. this sort of field
    well basically I'm not sure in which direction to go in perusing this type of career
    could any of you share how you got into the jobs/ fields you are in now,
    what have been the highs and lows and do you have any future plans?
    what kind of qualifications do you have,

    in case you ask I'm going to be studying A-level maths and physics and IT, but plan to do a course in mechanical engineering in the near future.
    Thanks
     
  2. MrChips

    Moderator

    Oct 2, 2009
    12,442
    3,361
    Build your strengths in Math and Physics. (But don't ignore proper communication and social skills.) Don't learn by rote. Learn by understanding. Keep asking questions. Have fun.
     
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  3. Adamf001

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 5, 2011
    67
    2
    Thanks I see what you mean, I'll just keep doing the things I love and see were it takes me, might lean something on the way....
     
  4. JMac3108

    Active Member

    Aug 16, 2010
    349
    66
    Adam,

    You'll find out what direction you want to go once you get to university and start taking your EE classes.

    One piece of advice ... EE curriculum can sometimes be theoretical and can seem far removed from the circuit design that you seem to want to do. Stick with it and don't be discouraged. You'll get through the theoretical stuff and eventually you'll find that it did you some good!

    OK, one more advice ... Keep working on side projects in electronics once you get to university. This will put you miles ahead of the other guys when it comes to knowing the practical aspects of electrical engineering, and will help in getting your first job. Save some of your best projects and take them to job interviews for your first engineering job.
     
  5. jwilk13

    Member

    Jun 15, 2011
    228
    12
    Much like yourself, I made the decision to go into engineering when I was a sophomore in high school (I'm guessing that's our equivalent of what you called "sixth form"). I had a great course in electronics that I took all four years of high school. This propelled me into university with a head start not only in practical knowledge, but also in my oral and written skills (we were required to report on and present all of our projects in high school). Like MrChips said, those skills can be just as important as the theoretical stuff.

    Also, try to get an internship! A lot of students don't take advantage of them, but they're a great opportunity to network and to learn practical, real-world skills. I know that the internships I did directly impacted the job I have today, and I'm extremely grateful for those experiences.

    Above all, it's important to do something you enjoy. Chances are you're not going to love it every day, but that's the way it works. I love to design stuff (which I get to do), but I end up doing quite a bit of paperwork as well for project management purposes. It's important to realize that those kinds of tasks are just as important, even though they may not be just as fun :)
     
  6. #12

    Expert

    Nov 30, 2010
    16,294
    6,805
    Great idea. Having done that myself, I kept finding that I could out-perform people with more formal education than I had. After 6 years of "roughing it", I went back to school and left the people beside me wondering how I did the work like it was something I had done before.

    I recommend building a few kits because they produce a machine that you can keep and use. Among my first was an oscilloscope. Today's 'scopes are much better and more elaborate than the vacuum tube 'scopes I assembled. Whether you build one of those depends on whether you can get a kit with modern features. However, things like a bench power supply and a function generator will give you experience and start your workbench on its way to being useful. One of my most recent was a naked eBay Variac that I put in a metal box and added a DVM.
     
  7. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
    17,747
    4,796
    While much of what I have to say will be an echo of what others have said, these are some thoughts off the top of my head:

    Engineers are, when everything is said and done, problem solvers. You bring value to a project because you possess the ability to solve a problem better, faster, and/or cheaper than the person with the problem. If that weren't true, they wouldn't be paying you to solve their problem. That means that you need to love problem solving, in general. It also means that you need solid written and oral communication skills in order to reach a solid understanding of what the problem is and what the customer is asking for (not a trivial part of the process, in most cases) and in conveying your solution to them.

    Learn all the math and science (particularly physics) that you can -- and make the effort to truly learn and understand it, not just the mechanics of how to turn a crank on a recipe to solve particular types of problems. You will probably have some course that will try to only give you this type of shallow understanding. Calculus seems to be the worst offender, so when you get there always be quick to ask "why". If the teacher just wants you to "learn" that the derivative of x^n is n times x^(n-1), insist on knowing WHY that is what it is.

    Get your hands as dirty and as often as you can. Building your own lab equipment (power supply, function generator, frequency counter, etc) is extremely good experience.

    One thing you will find (I expect, could be wrong) is that your formal education will be very lacking in meaningful hands-on stuff. So take/make every opportunity to learn about practical circuits. Many of these are extremely simple -- learn how to turn LEDs on and off when they are in an array, learn how to interface to a keypad array, make a circuit generate DTMF tones and then make a circuit to decode them. Make an audio amplifier for small speakers (or large). Getting into ham radio (and actually building the circuits) is an excellent way to go. Learn to program in languages high and low, from Java and Perl to C and Assembly. Learn to work with basic microcontrollers and FPGAs. There are lots of low cost kits that will let you get your feet wet in all of these things. Make a basic digital alarm clock using discrete ICs, then make it using a microcontroller, then make it using an FPGA.

    Learn how to talk to a computer using a serial port, USB, and ethernet. Learn how to interact directly with a keyboard and mouse hooked directly to your board (no computer). Learn how to generate a VGA signal to drive a monitor directly.

    Programming simplified versions of old arcade games (Pong, Tetris, PacMan, etc) can provide hours of frustration -- err, I mean fun and excitement -- and let you challenge yourself along many fronts.

    If you can't get interested in doing any of these things just for fun, then you'll want to rethink the whole notion of becoming an engineer altogether.
     
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