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Career choice: mechanical engineering or concrete construction

Career choice: mechanical engineering or concrete construction

Career choice: mechanical engineering or concrete construction

Hi to all who reads this.

Right know I have to make a big decision that will probably influence my life.

I have a mechanical background, always interested in every aspect of mechanical engineering, dad used to own a garage. I practically grew up with it.

I want(ed) to go study mechanical engineerig at university, but I have to pay for it myself. So I started working, great to get some experience.

I found a job in a company that builds concrete buildings (prefabricated elements). Just as a worker in the field. The company leader and project manager were very praisefull about my performances and what I learned in a short time. And noticed I have much thinkig potential, and plus: they've heard say by some people that it was my intention to go study at university.

So they asked me if I was interested in a career in this very young company. They wanna train me to be a project manager in case we ever expand, so I'm a reserve. People who know me know I can be very dedicated and a freak about something, once I am involved. I'm such a guy that can marry his job.

Many of my colleagues know about this and there isn't jelousy. I have good people skills. I get along good with almost all of them, it's a really nice atmosphere (small company). Ofcourse there are some remarks about me being young, not knowing everything (that's true), lack of experience, but nothing seriously. They like working with me and will support me.

So now I have 2 choices:

1) Time to grow up, let destiny lead me, maybe I was ment to be involved in concrete construction. I am also secured about making already money (perhaps I have a family to take care of in the near future). I have the opportunity of becoming a project manager at a very young age. And perhaps in the future I can have much proud about my work; we have a lot of prestige projects.

2) Follow my life long dream; go study mechanical engineering. Become back a student with all the insecurities, cause since I started working I became very independent. I know this is not easy to study, there is a lot of chance I won't make it, but at least I tried.

Can anyone give me advice to guide me ?

-thanks, Doryan

RE: Career choice: mechanical engineering or concrete construction

My advice: take the job and study mechnical engineering at night while you're working. Allow six years to get your degree.

There is A LOT of mechanical engineering in manufacturing precast concrete, though, and most likely you'll have a lot of fun and get paid for it, too.

For example: you need machines to pour the conrete, you need mechnical control systems to regulate production, etc., etc.

RE: Career choice: mechanical engineering or concrete construction

What do you want to do?  A college degree is always nice to have in your back pocket, but a skilled and experienced individual, which you have the potential to become, will always make a good living.  Your current company may go out of business or be bought, but that can happen with a company you work for as a degreed engineer.  My degree is in Wood Products Engineering, I served as a Navy Officer and currently work in Electrical generator design.  Because my college degree was broad based, combined with my Naval experience, I am able to work with both ME's and EE's.  Experience and ability to get the job done and engage the right specialists along with short specialty training courses and seminars counts a lot more 30 years after you leave college than the exact things you studied in college.


RE: Career choice: mechanical engineering or concrete construction

Thanks for that prompt response.

You are right about that mechanical engineering envolving construction work. We work a lot togheter with a dutch company called mammoet. A world leader in cranes, heavy transportation, recovery at sea. And that interests me too.

Though study and work a project manager is heavy. They're both fulltime occupations. And the subjects is not close related.

RE: Career choice: mechanical engineering or concrete construction

to TheBlacksmith;

I don't know right now what i wanna do, it is choosing between 2 different work areas.

The one I am in now doesn't need much college credential, but experience an just commitment.
While mechanical engineering requires a university degree.

And I am not worried about the company going out of business. If I start my career here, I can go on in othet companies, cause now I have good references.

The thing I am worried about is betraying my dreams, later I will regret with not going into mechanical eng.

But now I finally found something that I'm good at and for the first time in my life I get respected and thrusted.

thanks for the response

RE: Career choice: mechanical engineering or concrete construction


Whichever path you take, you will always think about what your like would have been like had you chosen differently.  

Think about why you wanted to study mechanical engineering, was it because of your love of mechanical things, a desire to make your father proud of you or an attempt to pass him? Now think about why you want to work in the concrete industry. Is it due to the potential of a stable career, because you really like the work , because you have an offer with a startup company, or ?? Once you understand what it is about each option that you can find attractive you can begin to understand the root of your feelings and sort through this important  decision.

I would not make a career decision based on one job offer.  The economy could change, ownership of the company could change, your desires could change etc. What looks like a good job for life simply might not be there in a few years.

One thing that simply is not a viable option is to wait a few years before you decide to go to university. The reality is simply that you will have a family, like having some money in your pocket, like having your evenings free without having to study etc. I do not know many people who successfully took more than a couple of years between high school and university. I do know a lot who either never went to university or who dropped out within a couple of months because the adjustment was too hard. If you are going to go to university the time in now not later.

Just to complicate matters, why not consider civil engineering with a specialty in concrete? This way you can have the theoretical knowledge of the concrete product you are working with. Your mechanical skills will come in handy in actually producing the stuff and keeping the machinery running.  Will the concrete company hire you on as either a co-op or summer student and round out your schooling with some practical experience ?

Good luck

Rick Kitson MBA P.Eng

Construction Project Management
From conception to completion

RE: Career choice: mechanical engineering or concrete construction


If your lifelong dream is to become a mechanical engineer, I say go for it!  From your posts it sounds like you would go to university full time.  If it's feasible, that's what I would recommend.

You are right that getting a mechanical engineering degree is not easy.  But if you are dedicated, determined, and truly interested in this field, I suspect you'll make it through.

While I agree with many of the posts above, I don't agree with RDK's comment "Whichever path you take, you will always think about what your life would have been like had you chosen differently."

My advice is to make your decision and never look back.  Act like it was the best decision you ever made in your life, and chances are it will be, regardless of the decision you make.

Good luck


RE: Career choice: mechanical engineering or concrete construction

Get the most and best education you can afford. Experience is great, but education experience is 30% to 50% greater. Even when you leave full time school and gain full time employment, don’t stop part time education. Your employer should take care of (skills) training, but you are probably responsible for your own (knowledge) education.

Of course there are too many courses of study available to you, so remember that the secret of success in any endeavor is exceptional communication. The most successful individuals in any enterprise have superior communication knowledge and skills. So for every 3 technical courses you want to take, enroll in one communication course including:
  • second or third language studies,
  • literature, grammar, . . .writing courses,
  • acting, drama, . . .theatrical courses,
  • sign language,
  • psychology
  • et cetera
well you get the idea!

RE: Career choice: mechanical engineering or concrete construction

I was in a similar situation ten years ago.  When I graduated from high school I was all set to attend school on an ROTC scholarship and was to pursue a degree in aeronautical engineering.  Six weeks prior to the start of the semester, I was medically disqualified and my scholarship was rescinded.  I promptly enlisted in the Army Reserves (medical standards are apparently different for enlisted men than for officers) and received eight months of training in electronics.  I easily found a job where I could use those skills and was making a good living with a growing company.  My hard work and dedication was rewarded with a large promotion in the first year, and attending college didn't seem as important to my success as I had previously thought.

As the company grew I noticed that as the ranks of upper management expanded degreed people were brought in to fill positions that were previously held by people that only had experience.  While I was certain that my skills and work ethic could ensure that I would always be well compensated, I realized that there were limits to where I could go with this or any company without a degree.  I decided to return to school and pursue a chemical engineering degree.

The decision to go to school was not an easy one to make.  I had to give up a lot of things that I was accustomed to, not the least of which was spending money.  I had to adjust to a lower standard of living, and accumulated a significant amount of debt.  Despite those difficulties I would also say that those years were the most fun of my life and I wouldn't trade that experience for anything.

From a career standpoint, I couldn't have made a better decision.  Not only did I not fully appreciate the financial rewards available to a degreed engineer, I know that my career opportunities are only as limited as I allow them to be.

If you are certain you want to work in the concrete business those opportunities will still be available to you after college.  You may discover that there are other areas you would like to pursue.  A mechanical engineering degree will allow you a very broad range of career choices after school, as would a civil degree.  Most schools will provide you some exposure to the different disciplines in your first year and you may decide to pursue another discipline altogether.

Nobody can make the decision but you, but I don't think you will find anybody who regrets pursuing an engineering degree.  For me it was the best decision I have ever made, and I think you will come to the same conclusion.

RE: Career choice: mechanical engineering or concrete construction


When I said that you will always wonder, I did not mean that in the sense that you would regret not making a different decision, just that you would wonder how life would be different.

I was in a similar position except the decision was a lot easier.  In the summer between high school and first year university, I got a job at the local telephone company. Duties were sweeping floors, painting parking rails and helping out wherever I could.

I was offered a job with the linemen. There would be a 4 year apprentice period and based on the then current contract I would have been earning $40 more per year than I ended up getting in my first engineering job.  The boss tried to talk me into accepting the position, he believed that it was the best decision for me, since it was his background.

I still know some of the people who would have been in my trades class. (I live in a small city and I see them 30 years later still running wire into new houses. One guy I have known since grade school.) I sometimes wonder how different my life would had been had I accepted the offer.

I don’t regret it, I just wonder.

Rick Kitson MBA P.Eng

Construction Project Management
From conception to completion

RE: Career choice: mechanical engineering or concrete construction

Thanks a lot guys, these personal experiences are really helpfull.

I'm more into going to university now. I only live once.
Now I worked for about 2,5 years and luckily I saved a lot of my earnings. I can easily pay for 5 years of education now. So that's great too; I'll be a self reliable student. I'll hope I'll make it.

I signed up for evening and weekend education as truck mechanic, that I will follow before the new school year begins. Out of pure interest and passion, but also to have something to fall back on and maybe work parttime in the weekends as mechanic (my father knows several little companies).

I'll know have (in the future: had) the opportunity to become to become a project manager, wich is a nice and confident thing to take with me, and other experiences. I just hope I'll make it.

Thanks to all of you who replied. And ofcourse some more opinions are always welcome.

- Doryan

RE: Career choice: mechanical engineering or concrete construction


Do what you love and you will never have to go to work.

RE: Career choice: mechanical engineering or concrete construction


I think you made the right choice.  As RDK stated, you may look back and wonder, we all do, but make up your mind now to not regret.

University will be hard, if it wasn't, it wouldn't be worth doing.  Your job offer sounded great, but those opportunities will be there if ever you need them again.  People recognise trustworthy hard workers and want them on their team.

You are likely to be offered similiar opportunities regardless of where you work.

I always tell young people to stay in college as long as they possibly can.  Learn all you can now while you are free to make hard sacrifices that are at times required to be successful at some difficult thing.

I too, speak from experience in this matter.  I went back to college when I was married with three children.  I had to go to college full-time during the day when most classes were offered and also worked full-time afternoons which ended at 11:30 PM and when I wanted that precious over-time rate I could work til 1 or 2 in the morning then get back up go to differential equations class.  I can envision scenarios that may not have been as difficult had I gone to college right after the Marine Corps when I was 21 years old.

Yah, I look back and wonder, but I have committed myself to not regret, it is a great relief.

In summary, stay in college as long as you possibly can.

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