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Engineer For a DOT

Engineer For a DOT

Engineer For a DOT

Does anyone have experience working as an engineer for a DOT.  I am recently out of school and thinking about getting a job with them.  My concern is I want to be a designer and I am worried I will review plans and inspect construction sites, but not design roads.  Anyone think this is a good career path or should I stick with the private sector?

RE: Engineer For a DOT

I think you should get whatever you can get and work your way to where you want to go .  Your first job/company will not be your last job/company.

"If you avoid failure, you also avoid success."  

RE: Engineer For a DOT

Doing design in school is not the same as doing design in the real world. Take a job as reviewing someone elses designs, and ask loads of questions. It is a quick way to learn some of the tricks of the trade.

Haveing seen some of the DOT designs around here, I want someone with experence.

RE: Engineer For a DOT

for what it's worth, I have worked as a consultant on numerous DOT projects and have buddies that have worked on the other side of the aisle for the DOT. State and county (don't forget City either) employees do very little design and consultants do about 95% of it. Not only that, but working for a consultant you may get other design experience besides just roadways. You may or may not get an opportunity for field work or plan review, but many consultants do that also.

RE: Engineer For a DOT

The 95% seems really low.  Our "city engineer" has an associates degree in marketing.  Not sure he can even add and subtract.  If he "designed" anything I'd be nervous.  At the county level, the guy making the decisions never finished high school.  At the state level there are engineers, but they (without a PE) administer programs that require a PE signature.  Our DOT farms out 100% of engineering.


RE: Engineer For a DOT

The amount of design you will do working for a DOT, depends on the state. In CA for instance, most of the design is done in-house; albeit, over the years, the amount done is decreasing, while the private sector share is increasing.

RE: Engineer For a DOT

Agree w/ what was said but must add that pay is usually rather low, benefits great, great retirement and a lot of holidays.  Oh yeah - in many states you get to drive the snowplows when the time comes...

RE: Engineer For a DOT

going back to 2ball's post, get what you can get, make the most of it, and move on !

it is (IMHO) extremely hard for someone inexperienced to review someone else's work.  maybe you guys have a document that aligns requirement with analysis (ie report para ref).  this would be enormously helpful but quite difficult to prepare and would potenitally miss the interactions between requirements.

maybe i'm wrong (and i'll take my hits) but i think most governemtn oversight is little more than a rubber stamp, the technical know-how has been outsourced and i think most is done on the personal relationship between appliciant and overseer.

if it's the only/best job going, take it, don't expect to design anything.  take the opportunity to learn something of the business and to make contacts.


RE: Engineer For a DOT

It really depends on the state.  Some, like NYSDOT, do a lot of design and employ hundreds of engineers.  Generally they really know their stuff because they see projects from start to finish, and they they see how things worked out during the service life.  They purposely keep people doing design to keep the know-how that allows them to review consultant designs intellegently.  They also have groups that focus on specific construction materials.  You could do a lot worse than starting out with a DOT like this.

I work for a public electrical utility and would not recommend this to Civil Engineers just starting out, Electrical maybe - Civil no.  Our group is very small, and most of our work is done by consultants.  We have to formulate the scopes and make sure the designs are appropriate.  This takes a lot of experience, and often we have to wade through conflicting recommendations from different consultants.  We defininately do not just rubber stamp plans.  I wish we could!  It is pretty tough to know how much to review and how to hold consultants accountable for their mistakes.  We can't just say a PE sealed it so we are off the hook if a chunk of concrete falls and kills someone, or if a lengthly generating outage occurs as a result of a mistake.  We have the deep pockets and will certainly bear the brunt of such things.

RE: Engineer For a DOT

I really appreciate all of the information.  It seems like it some locations, I might could do design.  However, I will look more into the private sector for a more assurance of doing this.  If anyone else has perspective, I would like to hear that also.  I need all the advice I can get these days.  Thanks.

RE: Engineer For a DOT

Go to work for the DOT , study job plans and contracts. Inspect job sites. Watch how "designs" get translated into actual on-the-ground activities. Talk to the contractors ; monitor costs and change orders. See how close the final product matches the original design.

DOT  employment will also show how designs hold up over the years...how the project functions and what maintenance is required .  

Three to five years of this field experience will then make you a much better designer and engineer for the DOT or a consultant

RE: Engineer For a DOT

I guess I have the opposite view than many.  I started working for an A/E designing power plants, then after 5 yrs I went to work at a utility.  My background as a designer was fairly unique among the utility engineers, who had little design experience.  I could review the designs coming to us from A/Es in a more meaningful way, and when in-house design opportunities arose (repairs mostly) I got the nod.  The owner side of the house (or DOT in this case) is not likely to provide you with any training that is design-related, nor any tools to do design.  You will not get any experience that qualifies for a PE, either. So I heartily recommend you go to a design firm.

RE: Engineer For a DOT

I started my career with a certain large West Coast DOT.  At that time, probably over 90% of the design was done in-house, providing ample opportunity for design experience and learn "their" way of doing things.  This often makes one valuable to private consultants after a few years.

The smartest people I have ever worked with were at that DOT.  So was the opposite end of the spectrum.  As a whole, the state workers deserved every joke you've ever heard about them.  State workers are very difficult to fire.  I think the documentation needed just isn't worth the effort.

A lot will depend your attitude.  I felt the bar was set pretty low, so I took that to mean I could perform however well I wanted and rise however high I wanted within the organization.  This also made me feel better about the days where I was running on only 3 cylinders (due to illness or whatever).  At least I wasn't bring down the curve.

Individual performance is often times less important the "time-in-grade" for promotions or raises.  Some people don't handle that very well.

Your pay will generally be less and you benefits will be better.  Your work/life balance will probably be unmatched.

As far as design work, that can vey dramatically between DOTs.  You'll have to figure that out for your specific DOT.  Asking what percentage of design they do in-house should provide all you need to know.

Working at a DOT is what you make of it, but mostly it depends on whether you can do what you think you want to do (i.e., design work).


RE: Engineer For a DOT

back in the 80's a lot of work was done by consultants working for Caltrans (aka "certain large West Coast DOT"). Then in early 90s, the state unions pushed to get new rules passed that did not allow Caltrans to hire consultants and required state employees do their own engineering. Of course, their was a big push to hire and they hired a lot of former consultants, the rest all moved to Arizona to work on ADOT consulting projects instead...

RE: Engineer For a DOT

"You will not get any expereince that qualifies for a PE" is a rather broad and inaccurate statement.

I and many, many others gained our licenses while working for a DOT.

That said, everyone above is right when they talk about DOT design work moving increasingly to consultants.  If design is the be-all and end-all for you, that may not be the job for you.

If, on the other hand, you want to experience more of the real world and not just your structural analysis software, a few years in a DOT can really get you a nice varied background that, as others have said, will make you even more of an asset when you run away screaming to a consulting firm.  The trick there is to make sure you get to do enough design that you're still employable by a design firm when you get out.

Another thing to consider is that if you do go to a design-heavy DOT, you might end up encapsulated in their design office and don't get that broad experience after all.  But they nevertheless should have cross-training opportunities that you wouldn't get in a private design firm.


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RE: Engineer For a DOT

I am working on a project that has a DOT street for the frontage.  I would say its very interesting with the coordination between us, the City and Caltrans.  On top of this I interned for Caltrans about 9 years ago while in school.  So I can understand all the jokes I hear.

But when it comes down to the project, everyone really is trying to figure out the best way to go about getting it done.  This could be a positive depending on how you go about trying to get more experience.

Myself, I am glad I went private the whole way after graduating.

B+W Engineering and Design
Los Angeles Civil and Structural Engineering

RE: Engineer For a DOT

I've worked for the government. Nobody ever leaves there, it's like a black hole. The benefits, job security & pay are great and overtime was almost unheard of at my job. Time off? Who gets all of the government holidays? The government, of course. That part was great.

But, most of the engineers simply manage engineering projects (not to say there aren't bright folks working there). Almost clawed my eyeballs out with the lack of meaningful work coupled with the incomprehensible devotion to stupid policies. Perhaps it's not the same every government job, though.

I've found that my overall job satisfaction has been higher working at companies doing design work. That's why I got an engineering degree in the first place.

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