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Dazed and Confused About Career Direction

Dazed and Confused About Career Direction

Dazed and Confused About Career Direction

I'm a senior year BSEE with 2 co-ops at a nuclear plant under my belt. I'm really torn between entering the electronics industry (circuit design, analog, etc) or the power industry (high voltage). I feel like I'm getting pulled by some strong force into power, as I've had some cool experience now with high voltage stuff. It's too late to get more co-op experience working with electronics before I graduate, BUT if I do choose to "pull out" of power I can specialize really hard in electronics with my next 2 semesters and graduate with a bunch of electronics coursework completed-- but no experience in it. I feel extremely conflicted as I enjoy both industries, but I'm drawn more to the (relative) glamour of electronics and am afraid I'd be miserable working in the relatively stagnant power industry.

Does anyone have any thoughts or guidance for someone who's been mulling this over for about a year now?

RE: Dazed and Confused About Career Direction

My advice is just keep on livin, L-I-V-I-N.

RE: Dazed and Confused About Career Direction

Easy for you to say. This decision is going to drive me to madness! M-A-D-N-E-S-S

RE: Dazed and Confused About Career Direction

Also, just caught that that's a mcconaughey quote. Well-played

RE: Dazed and Confused About Career Direction

Now, I'm not in the power industry, but there is a lot of electronics connected with the power industry. Just check out technologies like SCADA or the kinds of products that companies like Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and others make. Sometimes the route into these areas first involves having some knowledge of the power industry.

RE: Dazed and Confused About Career Direction

Consumer electronics has always been savagely competitive, and as of late has been mostly exported. Go that way, and if you don't end up actually living in China, you will spend a lot of time on really long airplane flights, which has to get old after a while, even if you like travel. You will also change jobs a lot, as the bottom falls out of various market segments pretty regularly.

Similarly for medical electronics; you will join and starve with a hundred startups, and the one that manages to survive going public or being swallowed will probably send your job overseas anyway. So sorry; just business, etc.

Relative to that, power may not look so bad.

Either way, learning a little of a couple of Asian languages wouldn't hurt. Got any electives open?

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Dazed and Confused About Career Direction

Power Engineering is HUGELY in demand. It is the degree program I went into in 1997, at which time my alma-mater cancelled the program because there were five of us who signed up for first year. Yes, FIVE (5), in a freshman intake of ~2000 engineering students. *sigh*

RE: Dazed and Confused About Career Direction

Thanks for the replies. I think I'm going to stick with power, since I do enjoy it. Also, it will help me in my quest for this.

RE: Dazed and Confused About Career Direction

You will certainly be dazed after you get that.. wink

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." L. da Vinci
- Gian

RE: Dazed and Confused About Career Direction

Just spotted Kenat's comment above. smile

Yes, power is in huge demand after a massive under-investment in both infrastructure, plant and personnel in the 1980s and 1990s. Suddenly all the experienced folks in the industry are retiring within a few years of each other: there's an entire generation - my generation - almost completely missing from the industry. That self-made problem is creating huge problems for the utilities as they try to recruit personnel to replace their core engineering staff while they try to rebuild their aging hardware assets at the same time. It's a tall order and they are privately panicing about the lack of experienced power engineers, which is why they are poaching each other's staff and driving salaries upward. It's a good time to be a power engineer, and for my generation it's making up for the poor salaries and dire employment prospects which we survived early in our careers when telecoms was king and power guys were ten-a-penny.

Go with power: it's reasonably well-paid, going to be needed for the foreseeable future, and it's hard to offshore too.

RE: Dazed and Confused About Career Direction

That's what I keep hearing-- that the power guys are all going to retire, and there's a demand for new ones. I honestly feel like half the department at my school is specializing in power. We do have a pretty good power program with a killer high voltage lab, but I honestly think that most of the people who are specializing in power are doing so because it's easier than the other specializations. That's not to say that power is easier, but that's my only explanation of what I've just casually observed (and might not even be true). Most of the people I talk to don't seem like they're actually passionate about power.

What happens when it becomes so well-known that there's a need for power engineers that too many go into the field, and than all of a sudden there's way too many of us? Doesn't that happen a lot in industries (e.g. what happened with IT in the mid 2000's).

RE: Dazed and Confused About Career Direction

"I honestly think that most of the people who are specializing in power are doing so because it's easier than the other specializations."

Wow. I have ** never ** heard that about a power class before.

Most folks think that, between transmission lines and rotating machine theory, power is yet another advanced maths class. Most kids of my generation figured that a difficult course with high fail rate and lousy employment prospects was a really bad combination. Now it should be a difficult course with a high fail rate and decent prospects for the survivors. If it isn't still tough then there's something wrong because I don't recall the theory changing much since the days of Tesla, Parsons and their peers. Today's grads aren't getting smarter, put it that way. winky smile

Engineers who actually understand synchronous machines at a detail level are incredibly rare, and good protection engineers are thin on the ground. Just a couple of ideas if you look to specialise.

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