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Old Oct 9, 2012, 10:38 AM   #26
Liquorpuki
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I'm an EE in electrical utilities.

It's important to consider the industry you want to work in. IE an EE can work in semiconductors, aerospace, biomedical, utilities, consumer electronics, etc. Each of these has a unique lifestyle and career path that can make you miserable if you're not down for it. I hated working on semiconductor equipment in Silicon Valley - long hours, a product cycle that refreshed every 18 months (meaning possibility of layoffs every 18 months). Now I'm in utilities and I'm pretty happy - stable industry, well-paid, etc.

IMO engineering in the US is undervalued. Our math education sucks and unlike other countries, "engineer" is not a protected title which is why you got positions like customer service engineer and sales engineer that just throw the word engineer in the title to make them sound technical. Most engineers never break 6 figures and personally I think for the amount of work expected, most are underpaid. And in the US, professional licensing is an afterthought unless you work for the government or want to be a contractor. In other countries, it's a rite of passage (in Canada they give you a ring and you can't even call yourself an engineer unless you're licensed).
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Old Oct 9, 2012, 11:29 AM   #27
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One of my professors was lamenting to me one day about how we don't train generalists anymore in college. We've thrown the big picture out in favor of tiny niches and specialities that become really hard to move in and out of. So here's what I would do. Pick one - it doesn't matter which. Then take classes from the other. Protect your electives. If you don't have a reason to be excited about taking a class, then don't take it if you don't have to! Take classes that push yourself. Take that ecology class. Take a Nuke Eng class or Environmental Law (the one class I wish I hadn't dropped). How about Advanced Debating or Philosophy of Science? Learn how all the pieces fit together. If you are avoiding a class because it might hurt your GPA, your doing it wrong. I'm not saying your GPA isn't important, but the difference between a 3.5 and a 3.6 really isn't important in the bigger picuture.

Suck the marrow out of your education. And above everything, learn how to learn. That will take you further in life than anything they will show you in Math 161.
But if you take those classes and they don't count toward graduation you are wasting money and time.
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Old Oct 9, 2012, 04:10 PM   #28
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But if you take those classes and they don't count toward graduation you are wasting money and time.
I suppose if you count educating yourself as a "waste of time and money," this could be true.
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Old Oct 9, 2012, 07:04 PM   #29
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But if you take those classes and they don't count toward graduation you are wasting money and time.
And that is why I said that he needs to protect his electives so they do count.
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Old Oct 9, 2012, 10:44 PM   #30
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I'm a chemical engineer so I'll throw my two cents in. I can't speak to EE since I know very little about it.

As far as pay goes, ChE and EE both pay towards/at the top of the engineering food chain, I think ChE pays a hair more but it won't matter, you'll make good money and have comparable offers in either.

One serious thing to consider with ChE is that there is a 90% chance you will be put in a less than desirable location, and a very high chance you will be in operations (read: working at a plant/refinery). Think gulf coast, middle of Texas, middle of Nebraska, Iowa, etc. since that's where plants are. On the other hand that may not be the case, I happen to work in an office in downtown, or you could work at 3M headquarters in St. Paul, MN or similar. Just something to think about, most people out of college end up with great jobs but in less than desirable locations. Additionally, I don't know a single person I graduated four years ago with who is happy at a plant. Take that for what it's worth.

Another thing with ChE is that very few people who aren't ChEs really have any idea what it is ChEs do; many people think it has a lot to do with chemistry, and sure it uses chemistry as a basis but ChE is a whole different field. The way I think of it is that a ChE could very likely do a chemist's job, but a chemist definitely could not do a chemical engineering job. Chemical engineering is very heavy in physics and spends most of its time educating you in abstract concepts that are counterintuitive. It's a completely different animal from chemistry. With chemical engineering, you won't REALLY know what it is until you are about halfway through your junior year, when you really are in the thick of fluid dynamics, mass transfer, diffusion, etc.

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I think you're confusing Chemical Engineering with Material Science. Sure Chemical Engineers can help with those fields but the Chem Eng skill set is much more heavily into fluids (i.e. liquids or gases and no dirty minds please ). To start with think heat exchange, fluid dynamics, phase change, separations, computational fluid dynamics (CFD), fluid flow and then you've got the chemical reactions to look at...

Traditionally the oil and petrochemical industry was the no. 1 destination for a ChemE nowadays there's also alternative fuels (bio, fuel cell and other renewables), the nuclear industry, pharmaceutical, water treatment, food, other heavy engineering, fermentation (including brewing....) and thousands of other applications. I'm sure I've not pulled everything out but I hope it sets the scene.

I've as masters degree in ChemE and have been in the industry for 15 years. There's a lot of jobs out there for any engineer I hope you chose what's best for you.

thebiggm
This guy's got it. Materials science is related to ChE and at least at my school was part of the ChE department, but a different major entirely with much different jobs.

I think 50 years ago 3 out of 4 graduates went into petroleum, now it's 1 in 4. That's still a lot and those jobs aren't going anywhere; distillation is and always will be a staple of ChE. There now is a very large focus in renewable energy, so ChE is by no means a dying field; it's changing as society's needs change. For what it's worth, I'm working on a renewable energy project for a major oil company client, so there you go. When you think of oil companies, don't just think of cracking and gasoline production and big bad oil companies in your wallet at the gas pump. They do so, so, so much more than just make gasoline and refine oil. It would be very easy to spend your entire career working for Exxon and never once doing anything with oil/gas.

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IMO engineering in the US is undervalued. Our math education sucks and unlike other countries, "engineer" is not a protected title which is why you got positions like customer service engineer and sales engineer that just throw the word engineer in the title to make them sound technical. Most engineers never break 6 figures and personally I think for the amount of work expected, most are underpaid. And in the US, professional licensing is an afterthought unless you work for the government or want to be a contractor. In other countries, it's a rite of passage (in Canada they give you a ring and you can't even call yourself an engineer unless you're licensed).
"Sanitation engineer" I do wish we didn't throw around the term engineer, sound engineer, sanitation engineer, recording engineer, etc. etc...not really the same as a chemical, electrical, mechanical engineer, etc.

I don't think I would agree that most engineers never break six figures though; I think most wind up around there. It's also important to note though that most engineers will not end their careers as engineers, but rather in management or something else. I wouldn't expect to get rich overnight in engineering though; some do if they are brilliant, most don't--most spend years with steady income and steady raises and promotions. There will be no $1M bonus for shorting a stock sale like there is on Wall Street, keep that in mind.
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Old Oct 10, 2012, 03:14 PM   #31
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my roommate in college did chemical. He said the homework pretty much destroyed his social life.
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Old Oct 11, 2012, 04:05 PM   #32
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Do you even like chemistry? If so, talk to some people who have taken organic.
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Old Oct 11, 2012, 04:07 PM   #33
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Do you even like chemistry? If so, talk to some people who have taken organic.
I think P-Chem (Physical Chemistry) was far worse than Organic.
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Old Oct 11, 2012, 04:45 PM   #34
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I think P-Chem (Physical Chemistry) was far worse than Organic.
Combine them both together and you get Soil Environmental Chemistry - one of the craziest classes I have ever taken.

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Originally Posted by puma1552 View Post
"Sanitation engineer" I do wish we didn't throw around the term engineer, sound engineer, sanitation engineer, recording engineer, etc. etc...not really the same as a chemical, electrical, mechanical engineer, etc.
How about flight engineer, train engineer, and my favorite - access control engineer!
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Old Oct 11, 2012, 06:58 PM   #35
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Do you even like chemistry? If so, talk to some people who have taken organic.
Organic is easy as hell, it's just memorizing a bunch of reaction mechanisms, there's almost no thinking involved.

Bitching about organic is standard practice for all the weak sauce "premed" kiddies getting lab tech biology degrees since all they do is memorize crap in their programs. "Ohhhh organic is SO HARD! I have to memorize all these things and barely have to actually use my brain!"
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Old Oct 11, 2012, 08:28 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by ejb190 View Post
One of my professors was lamenting to me one day about how we don't train generalists anymore in college. We've thrown the big picture out in favor of tiny niches and specialities that become really hard to move in and out of. So here's what I would do. Pick one - it doesn't matter which. Then take classes from the other. Protect your electives. If you don't have a reason to be excited about taking a class, then don't take it if you don't have to! Take classes that push yourself. Take that ecology class. Take a Nuke Eng class or Environmental Law (the one class I wish I hadn't dropped). How about Advanced Debating or Philosophy of Science? Learn how all the pieces fit together. If you are avoiding a class because it might hurt your GPA, your doing it wrong. I'm not saying your GPA isn't important, but the difference between a 3.5 and a 3.6 really isn't important in the bigger picuture.

Suck the marrow out of your education. And above everything, learn how to learn. That will take you further in life than anything they will show you in Math 161.
Speaking as an old college professor -- yeah. Yeah! That's the way to do it. I really worry about over-specialization these days. Almost everywhere I look around me, out there in the world, the lack of generalists is hurting things.
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Old Oct 11, 2012, 08:35 PM   #37
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In other countries, it's a rite of passage (in Canada they give you a ring and you can't even call yourself an engineer unless you're licensed).
Yes to the ring (still got mine.... somewhere), no to the title. Professional Engineer (PEng) is what you are thinking of. Plenty of Sanitation Engineers around here. In Spain you can title yourself like a doctor using Engineer has an honorific instead of Mister.
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Old Nov 19, 2012, 11:36 AM   #38
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I am currently trying to decide if I should major in chemical or electrical engineering. Or both?
Right now my major is ChE, but I am working in an EE research lab. Also, I haven't started any major classes that would be different in the two so changing wouldn't hurt me.
What are the job/pay potentials? Are either of the fields approaching their limit?

I bring this question to here, well because I think some of you probably think like me and could be of assistance.

Thanks
I decided on an electrical engineering degree based on the recommendation of my employer. I'm a non-traditional student which necessitated an on-line degree. Based on the income potential studies I've followed it looks like a made a good decision.
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Old Nov 19, 2012, 12:20 PM   #39
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I suppose if you count educating yourself as a "waste of time and money," this could be true.
Anything you see in the classroom can be learned buying a textbook, or Khan Academy.

You don't have to go to college to broaden your horizons. That's a myth.
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Old Nov 19, 2012, 12:45 PM   #40
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Get an experience instead. Working for 2-3 years in different sectors will not waste your time but it will make you able to choose the most suitable field for you and you will have some experience of doing that so getting further education in that will not be a difficult task. I saw many students spent a lot of time in universities but don't show the performance practically that a less educated but an experienced person shows. However study is still important, it polish your skill and helps you to boost up quickly.
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Old Nov 19, 2012, 03:45 PM   #41
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with EE the focus potential will be in software / CS

with chemical the focus potential will be in pharmaceutical / material science (think aerospace)
I haven't seen that. Almost all the EE's I know are in power generation/transmission and all the ChE's are in petroleum. But hey, who's counting?

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I am going to point out that in terms of Jobs there is a massive and I mean MASSIVE shortage coming for engineering in general. The tail end of the last big wave of engineers are in their 50's right now. It is a big fear in I know the oil companies as their experince is reaching retirement age and they do not have enough people in the pipe line to replace them much less handle ANY growth.

basically what I am saying is engineering is a very safe field in the long term no matter what type.
There's a lot of truth in RP's post here. The oil industry is sucking away so many of our engineers - in all disciplines. If you're degreed (or even better, licensed), you shouldn't have trouble finding employment. Don't worry about pay, if you're working as an engineer you'll do fine.

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As far as oil companies being the biggest employer of ChE, I do not want to work with the oil companies. I rather work against them and find energy alternatives which I think many people are working on.
You can work with alternative energies, including research, with pretty much any discipline, although I wouldn't recommend civil. Mechanical, chemical, electrical, nuclear, they'll all give you a great background for that field.

I majored in mechanical engineering with the idea that I'd work in power generation - engines, turbines, that sort of thing. I ended up designing HVAC systems. Go figure.
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Old Nov 19, 2012, 06:51 PM   #42
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Anything you see in the classroom can be learned buying a textbook, or Khan Academy.

You don't have to go to college to broaden your horizons. That's a myth.
True in part, but you're going to have a hard time learning to critically engage with others across a broad range of topics if all you do is read your textbooks under a blanket at home. Impossible? No. Much more difficult? Yes. Uneven across universities and individuals? Yep. I happen to believe this is the fundamentally important part of "going to college." As you said, most people can borrow a book and learn calculus or read Herodotus, but I think that just reinforces my point: you go to college to critically engage with others across a broad range of topics.

We're allowed to disagree.
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Old Nov 19, 2012, 07:30 PM   #43
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Since you mentioned job and salary outlook, this might help. It's a nice resource to use.
Maybe with a gigantic grain of salt. There are a lot of gross inaccuracies here.

Just for starters, I checked Broadcast Engineers and found that Broadcast Operators were lumped in with them. Broadcast Maintenance Engineers were also lumped in with those two at the same salary (and if that is the median, I guess I'm pretty lucky, but in reality that is very inaccurate). These are very different jobs requiring very different skill levels; A Broadcast Maintenance Engineer designs and installs systems and maintains and repairs them, while a Broadcast Operator pushes buttons. A Broadcast Engineer is also quite a different thing from an AV guy at the local Hyatt, but all are lumped together here.

TV Directors, who make much less than Engineers at the local TV level, were lumped in with those who direct TV programs for Hollywood studios, and so their median salary was listed as higher, not lower, and at nearly twice what it really might be, and seriously less than those who direct top shows. Market ranking is also not taken into account; a top-ten local TV market pays quite differently than what they might in market 200.

So, bottom line, do not take the advice from this link literally. You will either end up being seriously misled, surprised, or disappointed. Maybe a bit of all three. There was little due diligence done here; the government drones who slapped this together did not do their homework first.
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Old Nov 19, 2012, 08:34 PM   #44
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True in part, but you're going to have a hard time learning to critically engage with others across a broad range of topics if all you do is read your textbooks under a blanket at home. Impossible? No. Much more difficult? Yes. Uneven across universities and individuals? Yep. I happen to believe this is the fundamentally important part of "going to college." As you said, most people can borrow a book and learn calculus or read Herodotus, but I think that just reinforces my point: you go to college to critically engage with others across a broad range of topics.

We're allowed to disagree.
Eh, I don't really think that's what happens in the vast majority of universities. You can engage and critically think with people at a book club. It's all about finding the right people.

Most people I've gone to school with are either apathetic or ignorant.

You'll have much better discussions engaging in debate on political forums or elsewhere on the internet than you do in college.

But also, your original point was not to "critically engage with others" but to "educate yourself".
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Old Nov 19, 2012, 08:51 PM   #45
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my roommate in college did chemical. He said the homework pretty much destroyed his social life.
If we're talking about difficulty, it is probably a wash. I know as a Chemical Engineering major in college that I often spent long hours trying to do homework and study for exams, but that's engineering education. There are often times where I felt like I didn't see the light of day for a long period of time, but in all honesty, I still managed to have a good time in school.

Engineering is just a different beast than a lot of fields. The goal isn't always to get A's which I found frustrating. However, I cannot name any of my classmates in college who aren't currently employed. Add to that the fact that the last generation of engineers is in its late fifties (some of the age difference numbers from ExxonMobil are staggering) and Engineering looks like a prosperous field.
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Old Nov 19, 2012, 10:34 PM   #46
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Eh, I don't really think that's what happens in the vast majority of universities. You can engage and critically think with people at a book club. It's all about finding the right people.

Most people I've gone to school with are either apathetic or ignorant.

You'll have much better discussions engaging in debate on political forums or elsewhere on the internet than you do in college.

But also, your original point was not to "critically engage with others" but to "educate yourself".
I happen to equate "educating oneself" with learning to critically engage. I thought that was obvious by now.

As for what people in college actually do, many don't take advantage of the opportunities I talk about. They do exist, however, and are way more accessible than most other options.
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Old Nov 21, 2012, 12:15 PM   #47
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If we're talking about difficulty, it is probably a wash. I know as a Chemical Engineering major in college that I often spent long hours trying to do homework and study for exams, but that's engineering education. There are often times where I felt like I didn't see the light of day for a long period of time, but in all honesty, I still managed to have a good time in school.

Engineering is just a different beast than a lot of fields. The goal isn't always to get A's which I found frustrating. However, I cannot name any of my classmates in college who aren't currently employed. Add to that the fact that the last generation of engineers is in its late fifties (some of the age difference numbers from ExxonMobil are staggering) and Engineering looks like a prosperous field.
my friend was able to find a job working for a pharmaceutical company. So I think they are out there. Just difficult to get. Networking is probably required.
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