School

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by MachineHum, May 15, 2015.

  1. MachineHum

    Thread Starter Member

    Nov 3, 2014
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    Not on topic enough to land in the main forums, but it's still somewhat on the topic of engineering. People one this forum are typically very smart and highly academic... so i'll see what I get.

    I'm 21 y/o, working full time for an engineering firm, we design control systems for heavy machinery, PLCs HMI, panel design, industrial electronics etc... I really enjoy what I do. I'm also fairly good at it (from what I can tell) I've been working this job for about a year, previous, was another company designing/fabricating CNC machines and 3D scanners. I like switching things up every few years to grow my skill and keep things interesting.

    I went to a polytechnic college right after high school (I knew exactly what I wanted to do) for 2 years studying robotics. Learnt all the good stuff, digital logic, analog, uCs, C, C++ and all the math and physics to go alone with it. I was an average student... marking high in classes I enjoy, and lower is classes I didn't. During that program I figured there was no way I would go onto higher education... this program would be it, came out with ~70% AVG, which was okay in a program that started with 36 students (12 of which graduated) Typically schools want higher marks then 70.

    I'm now starting to think otherwise... looking into degree programs, there will be lots of overlap with what I've already done, with new stuff as well. Although... I'm confident any knowledge or skills that come with school, I can learn on my own.

    And then there's the piece of paper, which is the root of my question.

    How useful is it? What type of companies draw the black line at "no degree, no deal" I take my career very seriously, and I don't really want to wind up in the future crushed... because John Doe got the job because he's got the paper and I don't...

    Typically every face to face interview I've knocked it out of the park, it's just getting to the field...
     
  2. MaxHeadRoom

    Expert

    Jul 18, 2013
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    It all depends on the actual field or environment you want to work in, an engineering situation or more of a technical specialist, the engineer is often employed in a design and management areas, whereas the technical specialist works at the ground/shop floor up.
    Based on my technical qualifications I acquired similar to yours I was hired by one large corp to maintain and improve their production equipment, this ended up involved in retro-fitting CNC machinery and converting all the relay logic automation to PLC control.
    I enjoyed not only designing the improvements but actually physically implementing them, although I did have an industrial electrician assigned to me for the bull work.
    My boss was an engineer that oversaw the whole plant maintenance, but he did not have any in depth knowledge of the actual machinery.
    I eventually started my own business where I found I could actually name my own price for many opportunities that came up in the technical field.
    Many interviews I attended it often depended on experience and merit, rather than all academic qualifications.
    Not sure if this helped any.;)
    Max.
     
  3. MrChips

    Moderator

    Oct 2, 2009
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    We've had this discussion before and the final outcome is that you can end up in either camp.

    You don't need a degree to have successful career. Heck, even Bill Gates was a dropout.
    Read about Jordi Munoz, founder of 3D Robotics.

    On the other hand, spending four years of your life working towards a degree is not a hell of a long time. With your skill-set you will find some of your courses boooring. Other courses will be challenging. The important thing is to go in with the correct mindset and make every course a challenge, whether it is easy or not. Push yourself to do the best and even better even on the easy courses. In the end you will be a more rounded person.
     
  4. MachineHum

    Thread Starter Member

    Nov 3, 2014
    70
    4
    Good amount to chew, thanks guys. Sometimes it's hard to get stuff like this straight in my head.
     
  5. Brownout

    Well-Known Member

    Jan 10, 2012
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    Instead of sitting through boring classes, approach you school's professors with ideas for independent study. Write up a few proposals. In that way, you can take learning to the next level.

    On the other hand, I always learn something in class, even if I think it's gonna be boring and redundant going in.
     
  6. JoeJester

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 26, 2005
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    Recent experience will also correlate to credits.
     
  7. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    You sound like you are probably the type of person that engineering students SHOULD be. You have some hands-on experience behind you in the real world and are looking to improve your knowledge and skills. You will therefore be able to approach every class you take from that standpoint. It makes a huge difference and you are much more likely to be the kind of student that learns something new and useful from every class you take. Like Brownout, I can state categorically that I learned something, usually quite a bit, from every single class I have ever taken. I think that I can go further and state that I have found at least one thing from every course that has been useful in my professional life, even the humanities courses. I took a class in Writing Fiction and enjoyed it for its own sake, but I learned some things about story organization and perspectives that was quite useful when I started writing conference papers and journal articles. Plus, a background in writing fiction comes in handy when reading most stuff put out by the government :D .

    Another thing that you will probably bring to the table that will let you get a LOT more out of your courses than most of your peers will be a desire to apply what you are learning to what you are doing today. Most students look at their courses as nothing more than something they have to get through in order to check a box off on a form on their way to a piece of paper.

    As for the value of that piece of paper -- for most people it DOES have significant value if they want to work as an engineer. Most (not all) companies will not consider a non-degreed engineer for an engineering position. If they do, it is likely to be someone that is rising from the ranks within the company and has proven themselves or someone that has amassed a significant and widely known reputation or who can show a significant body of engineering work. For easier to get your foot in the door if you have the degree.
     
  8. wayneh

    Expert

    Sep 9, 2010
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    Ditto. In my career I cannot recall ever seeing a non-degreed person hired for an engineering position. My experience was primarily in chemical and biochemical engineering, so it's quite possible that the situation is different in other fields. Software comes to mind.

    I did see exceptional operators rise to higher positions, but the distinction always remained.
     
  9. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    Very rare. I can think of only a handful (three or so) and I'm not sure that all of their job titles actually include the word "engineer", but they are definitely working as engineers and even supervising and hiring engineers. It's probably more common in highly mechanical fields. It used to be at least not too uncommon for non-engineers to be promoted into engineering positions in the minerals industry. I suspect that that is not the case today.

    It IS possible to become a licensed Professional Engineer in most states without an engineering degree based on experience alone, but in Colorado the requirements start with documenting at least twenty years of relevant engineering-level experience.
     
  10. MaxHeadRoom

    Expert

    Jul 18, 2013
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    I always considered I did engineering just did not have the paper, my employer did not question it.
    I had qualified Electrical and Industrial Electronics qualifications and background and was always aware of the various requirements of the regulatory bodies. In N.A. NEC, CEC, NFPA79 etc.
    I also developed electronic control component for the R.R., of which I successfully marketed.
    Max.
     
  11. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    If anything, being aware of the regulatory requirements more likely marks you as NOT an "engineer", since that is so sadly lacking in most formal engineering educations.

    Non-engineers are much more likely to find success doing "engineer" work when that work is in the field instead of behind a desk -- because in the field what matters is demonstrated practical competence which, again, is so sadly lacking in most formal engineering educations.
     
  12. MaxHeadRoom

    Expert

    Jul 18, 2013
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    Back some decades ago this was the result of Siemens Europe setting up Industrial Electrical/Electronic trade schools, because they became painfully aware that there was a large gap in qualifications between the shop floor maintenance electrician and the engineer.
    They often had no one to fill the gap with prevalence of the booming Industrial Electronics scene.
    Max.
     
  13. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    It's also a consequence of the mindset that I have heard, pretty much verbatim, at every engineering school I've had significant interaction with, namely, "We are educating engineers, not training technicians," usually said with a bit of a snooty attitude. I hadn't really given it any thought until I heard that phrase for the first time as an undergraduate, but upon hearing it my almost immediate realization was that I had always though of engineers as being technicians on steroids and that being a solid technician was the best starting point to becoming a good engineer. Thus, since engineering schools were primarily working with students that had no technician-type background, it only made sense to me to assume that part of an engineering education had to include a reasonable technician-level education as well. Wrong.
     
  14. JoeJester

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 26, 2005
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    Oh no ... not the "education -v- training" excuse. That always ends up being an excuse for the degreed individual for the regulatory issues that people must accommodate.

    When I was teaching at a two week course titled "Loran-C Engineering", I mentioned about NFPA requirements with respect to our Halon systems and one of the Officers stated "we don't follow those regulations. Funny thing is, the promulgated instructions referenced them as well, telling me that officer hadn't read that portion of the Civil Engineering Manual nor the instructions written by the Command where he was assigned.

    Yeah, we don't follow them but you can bet if there were a mishap investigation, they would play a leading role when they are looking to have your a$$ in a sling.

    I once suggested that engineering course have defined objectives ... but ... a senior officer brought up "training and education." I asked him "what do you want them to do when they grow up, as most of the attendees were junior officers. He had no answer.

    It was worse when I quoted the FCC rules and regulations and many a technician stated we didn't follow them, even after I demonstrated that the maintenance standards followed them but never actually quoted them.

    Yeah ... I always love the "training and education" topic.

    I get a kick out of all the "traffic light" homework projects, yet none cited their country's regulation for such things. I'll bet not one instructor, nay, professor, mentioned the regulatory specifications. Professors provide education. Instructors provide training.
     
  15. strantor

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 3, 2010
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    I am a non-degreed person in your exact field with the job title Controls Engineer. My sequence of employment went like this:
    US Navy Electronics Technician
    Field Service Technician (controls, oil & gas)
    Maintenance Electronics Technician (Manufacturing plant environment )
    Field Service Technician (self employed, manufacturing plants)
    Field Service Technician (same job as above, working for a company who was previously my competitor)
    Field Service Technician (self employed again, same as above)
    Controls Engineer (in the past year)

    I was hired as an Engineer by one of my clients after showing uncommon engineering aptitude in the course of redesigning the failed electro-hydraulic PLC control system in one of their prototypes that I was initially called out to troubleshoot a DeviceNet issue on.

    My results are not common. I am lucky to have landed the title without the paper. It was a combination of impressing the right people and being in the right place at the right time. I'm not sure I could do it again that way. Which is why i am once again considering going back to school and getting that paper.

    But if I did, it would only be because i enjoy the consistent salary income and the title Engineer. I made more money while being self employed but it came in waves. It is hard to survive when you're busting ass driving all over and working through the night, for money that you might not see for 90+ days. Especially if you suck at managing money like me, and have a family to feed, like me. But if you're single and/or good with money i would suggest going rogue with your skills long before i would suggest pouring money into getting a paper that will earn you LESS money.
     
  16. Brownout

    Well-Known Member

    Jan 10, 2012
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    That's the way Jim Williams did it, and he became a top analog designer and author. But it is uncommon. I came up much the same way you did, except I did get the paper. Since then, I found myself engaged in a number of different roles, none of which I anticipated when I went back to school. Recently, I work in Digital Design Verification, which is a specialty of sorts. I started coming to these forums in order to reconnect to real electronics, which I don't do my of anymore.
     
  17. Brian Griffin

    Member

    May 17, 2013
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    You have the experience. You have the tools too. You look like you can fight through the degree course - get the paper if you need. You'll be sailing there without a problem, hitch and glitch.

    I know it's the age-old debate of "experience vs. paper", but an extra bit of the "paper" won't hurt.

    In where I'm working, the students seemed to struggle with every bit of engineering there due to the lack of experience. From the EEE perspective, students should be messing with electronics and programming way before they tried to enter the course.

    I was messing around with C/C++ and playing with electronic components since 14. That time my parents used to complain that these distract my studies. They were wrong when I hadn't got a problem doing anything electronics during my degree course.

    So, in short, a bit of a paper won't hurt. You got that experience - you could get the paper easier (and sometimes faster), without breaking a sweat.
     
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