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Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

(OP)
I've been reading through the forums, and there's lots of great advice hinting at what I want to know, but I thought I'd start a post to ask directly: How beneficial/ detrimental would it be for me to start my career as a mechanical engineer by taking a technician job?

I graduated with my BME in May, and I've been sending out resumes for months now with no bites at all.  To my credit, I have a good GPA, some research experience and a short list of academic kudos.  On the other hand, I've no internships or prior vocational engineering experience.  

Academic requirements for technicians are an AA or less, so I've been overlooking these jobs, but I get the feeling that there is a glut of new engineers on the job market and experience counts.  I'm getting zero experience while I continue to work at my non-technical jobs, and I'd really like to be using some of what I've learned just to keep my chops up.

My biggest concern is that I'd be creating a professional dead-end for myself straight of the gate. Ideally, I'd be making professional contacts and demonstrating my aptitudes. Is there a downside? Would tech experience get noticed in future job searches, or is it too unskilled/'engineering-lite'?

Thanks in advance,

RE: Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

One would have to look at the relevancy of the experience gained from the technician job.  Assuming BME means biomed eng., then a technician job in a biomed engineering firm, building prostheses or insulin pumps would at least have some relevancy.  

As with others in your situation, I would suggest that you find someone to critique your resume, cover letters, basic approach, etc. to ensure that it's not your methodology that's at fault.  Since there are new grads that are able to land jobs, you need to explore what sets you apart from them.

TTFN

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RE: Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

(OP)
Thanks, IRstuff, for catching my error.  That should read 'BSME'.
 

RE: Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

Hi, I think it also depends on the company. My company has a path for Technicians who want to move into Engineering after completing their BS. There are also BS holders who started off as techs and then moved into engineering when an opening came up. If there is a path to move up, it might be worth it. Hands on experience as a tech goes a long way.  

RE: Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

When I graduated (BSME), I had a solid resume with experience in military and as a machinist, but no engineering internships (mostly due to military obligations).  I took on a couple short contracts as a drafter to get experience in a field I wanted to be in.

When I interviewed, I made it plain to prospective employers why I took the drafting jobs.  Also, the jobs were contract positions, and it was clear that I made no false commitments or promises.

Points to remember when taking a tech job while searching for engineering job:
  • Pick something relevant to your field of interest
  • Do not make false promises
  • Contract work is a good way to stay employed and meet the right people
  • Make it clear when applying and interviewing the reason for your being in a tech job.

RE: Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

Technician jobs can't be any worse for your marketability than the non-technical one(s) you claim to have for the interim.  Depending on the potential employer it may not count for much or anything, but it shouldn't be more damaging than the current option.

 

RE: Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

You make the assumption that you will get a tech. job.

Suggest you continue applying for ME jobs and also apply for the tech. jobs.

Should you land a tech. job, it can be great experience. As others have stated it is certainly better than no experience or experience that is not technical.

On the downside, it will probably be detrimental to your career at the specific company where you are hired as a tech. Once you are hired on as a tech. you will be viewed as a tech. regardless of what your degree says.
Should you land a tech job, I would continue to send out resumes to other companies for a ME job. When you hire on at the new company as an ME the new company will not have "experienced" you as a tech. so you'll always be an engineer to them.

good luck.
 

RE: Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

mechengdude hit it right on the head,

"it will probably be detrimental to your career at the specific company where you are hired as a tech. Once you are hired on as a tech. you will be viewed as a tech. regardless of what your degree says."

Keep applying for the engineering jobs, polishing your resume, work on your interview skills, etc.

Have you considered a field engineering position?  A lot of the work can be very "tech" like and expose you to a lot of experience in a short period of time.  The downside is a lot of travel.

RE: Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

(OP)
Hey all-

Thanks for all your input.  Mechengdude and spciesla basically filled out my reservations about tech work- that there might be a cultural or institutional 'inertia' that comes with a particular job title or function that eventually gets me nowhere. But the general consensus is that this can be avoided as long as I don't get too comfortable with whatever situation I find myself in... or if I land a job in a company that provides career tracks out of the tech dept.  

It was great to get some feedback. Thanks.

RE: Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

To further expand on what Mechengdude and spciesla said, you can experience this interia in the other direction.  I've worked with techs before that have the education and smarts to get into engineering work, but they can't seem to find time to do that because they are so good at their technician duties.  There is literally no one to fill their shoes should they switch positions.  

So watch out, you could start at a company as a tech, excel, and switch to engineering when an opening comes but forever be seen as a tech and given priority technician work as you are deemed the only one competent enough to do it!

RE: Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

I don't know about the mech-eng field, but in civ-eng, there are many engineers who once worked as techs or CAD drafters upon graduation from college; because they were unable to land an engineering job at the time. This happens a lot in State DOTs. There'll be tech positions open but none for entry-level engineers. But once the applicant has got his/her foot in the door as a tech, they'll be one of the first in line for entry-level engineering spots.

RE: Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

In the electrical engineering field, I used to work for an electrical testing/substation construction company.  We hired many young engineers fresh out of college and put them in the field with our testing technicians for a couple of years before moving them into the engineering end of  the business.

I worked with four of these young engineers.  As I sit here today, one is vice president of the company I used to work for, one is a senior engineer having left and come back to that company, and two are senior engineers for local petrochemical plants, one as subject matter expert in electrical maintenance.

I am proud to have helped them along in some small way.

old field guy

RE: Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

BSME.  If you are not tied to anything here in the lower 48, look for Alaska jobs. I will recommend this to anyone who has trouble getting hired.  

RE: Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

Working as a tech may even aid you tremendously down the road when you begin working as an engineer.  Working with your hands will give you an intuitive sense which will enable you to design practical components down the road.  You won't be the entry level engineer that designs the pentagonal-headed fastener because you have never seen a hex-head bolt.  (don't laugh- I know a guy who did just that.  he said "don't worry, we can sell the wrenches too!")



 

RE: Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

Take a tech job and learn a few practical things.

What you do not, want to do, is end up like my old math teacher in college. He could do differentiation in his head, but could not change a fuse. I used to have to do that for him.
B.E.

RE: Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

Many of the most senior engineers in my company started out as techs in the 1970's before going to get BS degrees. A good company promotes or hires people into the levels where they provide the most value. If you start as a tech in one company, you'll run across someone in another company that remembers his days in that position and offers you the position of Engineer in his organization. Many of the people in management today started with less advantages than today's graduating engineer, and can appreciate the struggle.

RE: Taking a tech job as an engineering career entry

In this climate I would take anything I could get if I was a graduate. Much better showing that you are keen to work rather than staying amongst the unemployed.

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