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Foreign engineer (Mexico) that wants to get out of mfg. to apply for graduate school in the USA

Foreign engineer (Mexico) that wants to get out of mfg. to apply for graduate school in the USA

Foreign engineer (Mexico) that wants to get out of mfg. to apply for graduate school in the USA

(OP)
Good afternoon people from Eng-Tips.com. My name is Marco but you can refer to me as Marcus or Mark. I'm an engineer from Mexico and I resort to this forum for some advice about how to apply for a graduate engineering school in the U.S.
Background
I'm 26 and currently work at a local pump manufacturing company in my hometown. I'm currently employed as a manufacturing automation engineer and I've been working for almost a year. I have to say that I don't fulfilled with my job. I work with PLCs and restoring old machinery back to life. I regret getting into this job because of how monotonous and boring it is. I got bored working with relays and ladder logic because of how easy and simple it is. Most of my job revolves working on site with electricians and PLC technicians and reading product catalogues all day. I would like to be involved more on the research, design, and implementation of the new product instead.
The problem is that most job positions for undergraduates in my country are manufacturing-related, or quality-related, but not so much related to engineering. It's so frustrating because I'm applying almost nothing of what I learned in school. I graduated as a mechatronics engineer and in my college studies I took courses of many subjects, including electronics (analog, digital, and power), control theory (classical and modern), mathematics (calculus, differential equations, signals and systems, algebra), robot control, modeling, etc. I get that PLCs and relays are the daily bread in manufacturing and automation, and the thing is that it's virtually so different from I was taught in university. To say it in a humorous manner: it's all switches and some feedback and that's it. Everything is a variation of that.
In college my love was focused on researching and designing new things, mostly in electronics and robotics (e.g. drones, mobile robots, signal processing, and power electronics). My job involves nothing even remotely similar to that. It's all about wiring relays/PLCs to buttons/switches, setting some timers, and occasionally designing HMIs when I'm working on the plant, and back in the office it's all about doing spreadsheets and reading catalogues for searching more relays/contactors. As a reminder, I do not need people to tell me that grass is always greener on the other side and that I should be grateful for my job. I'm simply not happy with my job and I don't see any positive aspects for it, so avoid that.
I have to admit that I made a bad mistake by accepting the job offer. I was pressured by my family because they couldn't afford to help me with a master's degree (MSEE) for continuing my education, and I don't blame them because their economic situation was strained back then. I was also told that accepting the job was a good move because I could learn and get experience, but it's been the same exact thing since I got in: putting out fires again and again. Now I'm stuck in a job that I don't love, that I don't have a passion for. I hate myself over how much of a failure my career has become, and the worst part is that I can't leave my job right now because I have to bills to pay, so essentially I'm trapped.
What I'm looking for in my career
As I explained above, my passion is to design and innovate (to actually use my degree). I've been looking to work for a company like Tesla, Boeing, Ford, NASA, SpaceX, Boston Dynamics, or the like at an R&D/Eng/Tech job, but the thing is that some jobs are requiring people to have at least a master's degree or many years of professional experience. For example, this job at Tesla (Power Electronics Engineer, Inverter), they're soliciting a Master's Degree or equivalent job experience. Many of the jobs that I would like to apply for are advanced and require a MS or many years in experience. My job will definitely not help me to go for these advanced roles, and will only land me into more manufacturing and automation roles. So the sooner I get out the better for me.
I'm looking for a grad school in the USA because of the prestige this country has on its engineering programs. I'm looking for public research universities like UT Austin or UC Berkeley, but I'm also looking for private universities like MIT or Caltech. For private universities like those, what are my odds of getting accepted under my current situation? Is it a pipedream? If it's not, is it very hard? If it is, how could I fix my situation to get into one?
My GPA
I get that in order to get into some universities, especially prestigious ones, they require a minimum GPA in order to be accepted. The thing is that I'm from Mexico and we don't use GPA. Instead we use an average between 0-100. My overall average I had in university was 86.4. I don't know if that roughly equates to 3 out of 4 in GPA, and I would like to know if there are any necessary procedures for having my undergrad degree and average validated in the USA.
TL/DR. I'm currently working in industrial automation (manufacturing) and I don't like my job. I would like to be in engineering/R&D in more advanced roles that either require MS or years of experience, so I'm looking for a grad school in the USA (preferably a private university) and I don't know my chances of getting in under my situation.

RE: Foreign engineer (Mexico) that wants to get out of mfg. to apply for graduate school in the USA

Marco,
- lots of foreign students come to the US every year,
- first you are going to need to understand the visa process for the US, in particular the student visa process
- second, do you understand the cost of US graduate schools, particularly private ones? Not cheap. You might be able to get some sort of research scholarship thru the schools.
- yes, top private schools will be very competitive. Can you get good references from your undergraduate professors?
- suggest you contact the admissions department at a few schools to get details of their requirements and process.

RE: Foreign engineer (Mexico) that wants to get out of mfg. to apply for graduate school in the USA

It's likely that you might need to take and pass the GRE to get into grad school. Nevertheless, it's unclear whether you actually need grad school to get a job here. You are ostensibly 5 years out of college; what were your other jobs?

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Foreign engineer (Mexico) that wants to get out of mfg. to apply for graduate school in the USA

(OP)
IRstuff, I've been a couple of years out of college. This is my first job. Getting a job was a very difficult process, and the vast majority of jobs in my country are manufacturing roles.
I'm considering grad school as a route because I've seen that having a masters might help me to get into better, more advanced roles (e.g. engineering/technology/R&D roles). I don't think manufacturing/automation is bad, but it's not my passion and it gets repetitive and dull very often, plus it is very different from what I learned and loved in college.

RE: Foreign engineer (Mexico) that wants to get out of mfg. to apply for graduate school in the USA

OK, I'm just trying to ascertain whether graduate school is really something that makes sense, given the likely expense of full-tuition in the US for a couple of years or so and whether you'll ever recoup that cost in your home country.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Foreign engineer (Mexico) that wants to get out of mfg. to apply for graduate school in the USA

Sounds like bad stereotyping. Advanced degrees are rarely required in engineering stateside bc most simply don't have them. In most niches junior engineers learn more on the job before their first promotion than they would in the couple classes required for a MS. If your primary goal is to get off the shop floor and into the design office then I would apply for whatever roles are both appealing and align with your resume. If you want to pursue a relevant advanced degree after hiring, most companies stateside will cover some or all of the cost for employees.

Chasing "prestigious" degrees without an employer paying for them is generally counterproductive. There's no real benefit, few in management put any weight on where your degree is from bc in reality 1. every school has great and lousy engineering grads, 2. ABET standardizes curriculum across schools, and 3. bc they're more interested in a candidate's skills and successes. More importantly, HR policy generally excludes candidates who are deeply in debt from being hired so if you personally assume a large student loan then you may not be able to get hired. The median student loan debt at graduation is $30k, none of my employers would consider grads owing over $50k.

RE: Foreign engineer (Mexico) that wants to get out of mfg. to apply for graduate school in the USA

Hi Marcus,

You will need a student visa so that's the first step.

I got my MS in engineering from the University of Pittsburgh's main campus. It enabled me to do things for my employers that my BS would not. It was also a great experience and the only thing I regret is not getting my Ph.D. It also opened doors that would have otherwise been closed.

I earned my MS while working, which means my employer, PPG Industries, paid for it. I have long thought education is the best investment we can make in ourselves. Education coupled with experience is a powerful combination. Getting an employer to pay for your education is not a bad idea but it does mean a lot of work. I worked a full-time job, which was demanding, and took a full load most semesters at the graduate level. Lots of work but it was a great experience.

Getting a degree from the most prestigious school possible is not a bad goal. It demonstrates to others that you are intelligent and can make it. It will also provide you with connections that could be important to you and your future. My undergrad advisor wanted me to get a Ph.D. from Stanford. I lacked the confidence but he didn't. He said it would probably be the first time in my life that I would really have to work academically but he knew I was more than capable of doing the work. He mentioned the importance of graduating from elite schools because of the connections made, which are important. The intelligence piece I learned from an HR guy, who wouldn't have taken me on for career coaching had I not earned my MS from Pitt.

Do some research on universities across the world because there are many that are highly ranked. Some may be in Mexico, which, in my mind, would be easier for you to attend than complete upheaval to relocate to another country. You don't need to graduate from a Top 10 school, from my experience. Any Top 100 school will help you.

I would also encourage you to continue working with the techs and others because you have a lot to learn from them, too. They can make you and they can break you. They are not engineers but they have seen stuff you have not. Working with them effectively should teach you leadership skills.

Manufacturing isn't all about switches and some feedback across the board. There are other aspects that are control theory heavy, which I really enjoyed. I love Laplace Transforms and other advanced math so control theory was very interesting to me.

Don't look at earning an MSEE as the ticket to bypass paying your dues, as an engineer. Everyone has to do it and if done right, you'll learn a lot along the way.

I am sorry you are struggling with your current situation. It takes a lot of work to analyze our attitudes and adjust them to get the most from where we are. Good luck in your endeavors!

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

RE: Foreign engineer (Mexico) that wants to get out of mfg. to apply for graduate school in the USA

Two other resources I forgot to tell you to investigate are ABET and NCEES. If your undergrad school is ABET accredited, that may help entry into a US school. If it has an agreement or accord through NCEES, that may help, too. Those are predominantly for licensure efforts but it doesn't hurt to do the leg work to see if they help you in any way.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

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