interested in engineering, need info

Hi, I'm thinking about going back to school to get a mech. eng. bachelors. I'm wondering what kinds of jobs people get out of college - good and
bad (what the odds are of landing those "cool" jobs everyone covets in every field). What has attracted you to ME. What it takes to design. And if I have to love cars and airplanes to be successful in ME.
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There are a ton of ME's that just make the world go round. Pretty much all products have an ME involved at some stage to make sure that things don't break, they can be built, they can be maintained, etc. HVAC and any kind of design/production firm needs ME's. The "cool" jobs that everyone covets are pretty few and far between, but they exist. Unfortunately, a lot of them are based on prior engineering experience so they're even harder to get straight out of university.
There are also a lot of non-ME jobs that hire ME's, such as patent lawyers or oilfield service engineers...good work, if you're interested.

I like planes. But that's just me.

Experience, experience, and more experience. Being a good designer is something you can really only learn by doing...you can get the process from school, but actually knowing what's good and what's bad just takes a long time of seeing what's already been done that's good and bad, and knowing how to apply new technology to old problems. Good designers are very very experienced generatlists (within whatever field they're designing in).

Nope. If you're going to work on cars or planes, it can't hurt, but if you love computer modelling, or engineering analysis, or problem solving, or just talking technology, you can make any of those things work to allow you to enjoy what you do. I hated the field I used to work in, but I loved the job because I got to work with some really cool technology (offshore oil rigs).
Tom.
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Laura Get your degree. What kind of job you get really depends mostly on two things: what you are interested in (ME is a big field) where you want to live (don't look for aerospace jobs in Iowa for instance) A degree is essential, and the better your GPA the more choice you'll have on your first job. (After the first job, previous experience is more important than GPA)
Here in SoCal we hire a lot of MEs right out of school and they are involved in mech design of airborne electronics systems such as radar, electronic warfare systems, optical systems, etc. No automotive around here anymore though.
You certainly do not need to love aircraft or cars to be a good ME. AAMOF a lot of the engineers I deal with have crap cars and don't know sh*t about the aircraft that they are building equipment for.
By the way, what is the current definition of "cool" jobs?
--
Harry Andreas
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Straight out of college you are pretty much useless as an engineer. But that's OK, we were all like that once. Within two years you'll be a useful and dependable engineer, within 4 years you'll be looking for a senior engineer's job. Then you either carry on in that job (or variations thereof) until you peg out, start your own company, or become a manager.
The trick (I think) is to carry on learning throughout your career, if you decide on the technical track, and mech eng certainly provides that.
I design new cars, and am involved typically from the start of the program
That's cool
I design suspensions
That's cool
I use more difficult maths now than I did at university
Ooops, that's not so cool. More accurately, the maths is not more difficult, but solving complex real world problems needs a different mind-set to solving maths problems that you know are solvable.
In order to get this job I would say required 12 years of experience in technical jobs in the automotive business.
Work in a field /you/ are interested in.
You should be aware that a good engineering degree is difficult and had the highest workload other than medecine, vet sci, and law(!) at my university.
Cheers
Greg Locock
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This info is great. It's reminded me of a few more questions. What are you doing currently in ME, do you like it? Is there anything that frustrates you about the field? How much hands-on work do you do and how much is sitting on the computer (I like using the computer, but I don't think I want to be on one all day long) or I guess, what kind of tasks do you see mech. eng's doing? I know it's diverse, but tell me what you know. Thanks so much.
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I do engineering support for commercial airliners. Yes, I like it, but there's other jobs at the company that I covet more.

Aerospace, at the OEM end, involves huge companies. You're treated as a number by everybody except those that know you directly. That can be annoying, compared to a small company, but there are advantages to a giant company too.
Customer support is also frustrating for me, since I'm a hands-on personality, because I have to do everything by remote control when I could fix something more effectively if I had it right in front of me.

It depends what you mean by "hands-on." If you mean walking around the factory and generally getting away from the computer, quite a lot. If you mean actually turning wrenches, basically none, but I'm at a unionized company where the engineers and the mechanics are separate unions and never the two shall meet. I used to work oilfield where I was the only pair of hands on site...I've been up to my shoulders in pumps, covered in grease and cement dust, getting about as "hands-on" as it's possible to be.

Most engineering these days, unless you're working solo, involves collaboration so you're always going to have some level of meetings, review, etc. But the computer is going to figure in big no matter what you do because it's become the standard tool for communication (email), design (CAD), data access (web apps), and pretty much everything else. Now that they integrated our phones with our computers, we really don't need a desk other than as an object to hold up the compute.r
Tom.
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Tom Sanderson wrote:

Not sure of where you live Laura but in Alberta Canada there is a drastic shortage of ME for the oil industry. Whgile your goung to school you may want to check out work terms and employment there. The money is good and generally long hours. Only draw back is the housing shortage.
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Let's see. Right now, mostly I design automation. I also build said automation (hands-on). I install it, integrate it to other equipment and I support it in the field. Currently do 95% with robots, (cool factor there). It is somewhat amazing what you can do with one or eighty. Also: Design or redesign machining processes (Process improvements/cost reductions). Design fixturing for machining operations. Design custom perishable tooling for the above. Troubleshoot processes, machines, and the aboved mentioned automation. Program CNC equipment, program robotics. I also work with the maintenance departments to come up with solutions to machine problems that cause unscheduled downtime. Review product designs for manufacturability and work with product design to reduce costs.
I strongly suggest after you get your degree, you take some night classes at your local adult vocational education facility in the field of machining. It is very difficult to design parts that can be made cheaply and efficiently if you do not know how to make them yourself, how the machines that will make your parts work, what tooling is available for them and what the manufacturing process of the parts will likely be. Along those same lines, it is imperative that you understand what is functionally important in a part design and what is not. I've worked with a lot of young ME's that if they designed a paper bag, it would cost $3000 to make each one.
I also suggest you get some hands-on with fabrication, mechanical, pneumatic, industrial electrical (PLC) and hydraulic systems. The above skills will be invaluable in your future and will set you apart from the crowd. An ME that is a very good generalist, knows machining, knows mechanical, pneumatic, hydraulic and electrical systems and can truely think on the foot are few and far between, and they command a high price.
Now, not to scare you off, but you do need to know the truth, it isn't glory. The job is extremely hectic and stressful most times. I have six major projects on the table right now simultaneously, and this is a slow period (pretty much out of capital money this time of year). We started the year with 71 major projects divided among the four of us. I've completed 21 of those so far, that total will climb to 25 by year end. You have to learn time and project management. It is not as easy as it seems.
Do I enjoy what I do?..yes, I do. Even with the stress and (more often than not) long hours, I very much enjoy what I do. The robotics and process design parts are the most enjoyable.
Good luck to you in the future.
--
Anthony

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