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Need some insider info from automotive engineers

Need some insider info from automotive engineers

Need some insider info from automotive engineers

Hi everyone,

I recently started exploring the idea of going back to school for a master's in automotive engineering. I have a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. I am not interested in thesis and research master's. I would like to concentrate on courses that I could apply the second I'm out of school. I am leaning towards specializing in vehicle dynamics. My ideal job would be to design various vehicle systems, see them through to the "test mule" stage and tweak them to get everything just right at an OEM. Working in a performance division would be ideal but I am getting ahead of myself. I have no interest in manufacturing. Before I get too excited about this, I desperately need some insider info. I don't hate my current job and leaving it wouldn't be the smartest thing I have ever done. I am a car fanatic (the reason I went into engineering in the first place) and suppressing this dream has been taking its toll recently.

The only relevant experience I have is 1 year on my uni's FSAE team and a final mech eng project converting an ATV to electric power. I cannot apply to new graduate positions at American OEMs in Michigan as I am a Canadian citizen. Job offer clearly states visa sponsorship is not available.

Taking all this into account, I figured a master's in automotive engineering especially at a US university would give me access to internships in the US while pursuing my degree and eventually open the door for a permanent position. Experience, experience, experience...

My question is what would you do in my position? (any and all comments greatly appreciated) I know there is an automotive master's program offered at UOIT in Ontario Canada. Attending a Canadian program would save me boatloads of money. How important is the program you graduate from? I hesitate because I wouldn't be eligible for an intership in Michigan while at UOIT (same visa issue as above)

What other training should I pursue? (Catia V5, matlab, I already have introductory knowledge of both)

I really appreciate you guys reading this monster of a post,


RE: Need some insider info from automotive engineers

Given the way engineering work is apportioned in auto companies, or at least the way it was when I worked in one 40 years ago, you are basically expecting to become an entire department.

You can do that only in a tiny company.

In a tiny company, you just flat can't say there's any part of any job that you "don't want" to do; you do whatever you can do of what has to be done, and then you learn how to do the rest.

Didn't Bombardier start as a tiny company up there in the Great White North? I'm under the impression that they've done fairly well over the years.

Adjust your attitude in a "can do" direction.
Find the next Bombardier.
Sign up.
Let them pay for whatever extra schooling you need.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Need some insider info from automotive engineers

I am leaning towards specializing in vehicle dynamics.

Excellent choice, all the nicest people work there.

My ideal job would be to design various vehicle systems, see them through to the "test mule" stage and tweak them to get everything just right at an OEM... I have no interest in manufacturing.

Hmm, the M in OEM doesn't stand for Mucking-about.

I think you'd be better off working for a smaller manufacturer or Tier one, but again the M word will bite you even harder.

I don't know what you think you'll gain from a masters, if you get an internship without doing one, I would. Experience in industry is vastly more important than book learning.


Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Need some insider info from automotive engineers

I should specify that when I said I don't want to work in manufacturing didn't mean I wanted nothing to do with it. Consideration has to be given to manufacturability of everything at all times but I just wanted to convey the fact that I was more interested in the product development side of things. Bad choice of words I guess.

RE: Need some insider info from automotive engineers

you are going to have a tough time, as Mike said, you're looking at a job description that normally would encompass a large number of different people.

You must know how to manufacture things to design new products and see them through the prototype, beta, and into production. In fact for the description you provide, you're going to have to be able to run various types of manufacturing equipment. Particularly if you want to work at a very tiny company.

Be forewarned: Startups don't have big budgets normally, and thinking/drawing/designing is often far less valuable than doing/making/building. Expect a pay cut, and a possibly steep one. Expect to work a large amount because you want to, not because you're getting paid.

Everything from sweeping the shop floor to handling supplier quality is going to have to get done, and you can't just say "that's not my job"

It's pretty cool though, and if you and the startup are successful the rewards can be great (or so I hear).

That's my current work, I'm metallurgist/quality dept/designer/copywriter/engineer/bike mechanic at a new startup manufacturing company. It's way better than when I was in automotive, and there's no quarterly to hit (yet.)

I went straight through after my BS to my MS, a full research masters with thesis and publication; some light seminar teaching and a couple recitations. It hasn't really helped me get a job, ever. People seem impressed, but when it comes down to it that's just the qualifications for entry, what you do in your work is what really matters.

How much actual on the job engineering experience do you have?


RE: Need some insider info from automotive engineers

First off thanks for all the great information. Everything discussed will help me put things into perspective.

I have a year and a half experience at a major Canadian consulting engineering firm that has absolutely nothing to do with the automotive industry. We design/build industrial treatment plants for the mining industry all over the world.

In short, I have zero actual on the job engineering experience with respect to the auto industry. That is the main reason, I assume, I would need to get training more specific to the automotive industry as well as an internship(s) during my studies and FSAE participation. I need the qualifications to be considered once I apply for jobs.

Wanting to take a project from design to reality is my dream. If it is unrealistic, that is fine, at least I know what to expect. That is the whole point of this post and the great feedback I have already received. My main concern is getting "pidgeonholed". Can someone chime in on exactly what I would be doing at an OEM in an entry-level position and where I could be X years after that in terms of expanding the scope of my work in my department?

I guess the real question is, taking my situation into account, what is the best plan of action to get into the auto industry?

RE: Need some insider info from automotive engineers

A year and a half experience basically means you can find the coffeepot, and might be able to make decent coffee. Sorry; you need to stay a few more years so you won't be labeled a job-hopper. Trust me on this point.

In the meantime, try to get friendly with mining equipment manufacturers, and/or try to slide into the part of your company's practice that deals with design of, or troubleshooting, of, custom equipment, or something that has moving parts.


On second thought, even if you feel "stuck" designing process plants and material flows, remember that a car factory is a custom building that has a huge number of flows within it. The flows are mostly not in pipes, but they obey similar rules and are economically important down to the last detail.

In short, even if you can't slide into some kind of product design right now, whatever you learn where are now could still be of use to you in the auto industry.


On third thought, I don't think you're going to find what you want in the auto industry. Again because the cool work is so thoroughly subdivided among a huge and specialized (and talented, like Greg) staff, you will probably never have as much autonomy and as broad a responsibility as you had in FSAE.

One of the coolest engineers I knew in the auto industry spent his work time reviewing blueprints of current and proposed axle parts, and answering stupid questions from idiots like me. On weekends, he built, owned and raced what was then "Michigan's Quickest '60 Ford". In other words, he drag raced to keep his brain alive.

Consider an automotive hobby. If you do well, it might pay for some beer.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Need some insider info from automotive engineers

What about the performance/aftermarket industry?
For that matter, racing and/or hot rodding as a hobby can be a path into paying work in those arenas.
(at least, I've heard stories of such)

Jay Maechtlen

RE: Need some insider info from automotive engineers

A few thoughts:

-Have you investigated employment opportunities with Multimatic Inc.? If you are not familiar with them, they are a Canadian company that works in the automotive and racing industries. Look through their website. Maybe try to network with some of their engineers via LinkedIn, etc.


-With no direct experience in automotive, you may benefit from getting a Masters in Automotive Engineering. I would certainly investigate UOIT, or the MEng Mechanical (Automotive) program at the University of Windsor. Don't worry so much about specifics like CATIA vs. Pro/E vs. NX. Figure out if you really like vehicle dynamics (Greg's comments notwithstanding). Testing, especially virtual testing and simulation, is an area of growth.

-Go to the engineering library of the closest university and look for anything published by SAE: the monthly magazine (Automotive Engineering International), technical papers, books, etc. Lots of information on all topics, including vehicle dynamics. You can find some stuff directly on the SAE website:


RE: Need some insider info from automotive engineers

I'm not convinced that the rather cursory syllabus of an automotive masters is really much of an advantage. While it is handy to know what other areas get up to it is usually pretty obvious what they are doing and why, and in your own department the brief overview you get during the masters is unlikely to be more than about 2 weeks of on the job training. This of course assumes that the course is even given by somebody who knows what they are talking about, which is not a given. If they are basically reading a textbook to you then your time is better spent elsewhere.


Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Need some insider info from automotive engineers

Here in the UK I work for a train building company and we have lost a lot of good young engineers to Jaguar/Landrover whilst others have gone to Rolls Royce and various nuclear power related companies. In many respects engineering is engineering regarless of the actual discipline and employers are looking for flexibility of approach rather than unique product knowledge. After all a firm's product knowledge is what gives them the edge over their competition and if it was just a matter of reading it in a book or going on a training course anyone, anywere could do it.
Get some general experience in the field you are in for a year or two - unless the USA is very different to the UK you will be able to change to an employer in your chosen field when you have a known work record.

RE: Need some insider info from automotive engineers

I would suggest getting into a small motorsport development team, (where hopefully they have some money to spend).

I worked in such an environment and it was a case of getting stuck into everything from prototype design, prototype manufacture, prototype assembly, prototype testing.

It really was a case of skipping from the Catia design terminal to the lathe, to the mill, to the build shop, to the dyno, to the track.

It was great while things were on a small scale.

Once the company grew, it all became more political and it just lost it's buzz.

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