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Thread: Moving from one engineering discipline into another

  1. #1
    Associate Engineer
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    Moving from one engineering discipline into another

    Has anyone tried or succeeded at moving from one engineering discipline to another? There's a bit of a schism between electrical and mechanical engineers, obviously, so I was wondering if this is at all possible in my particular situation:

    I'm currently studying mechanical engineering because my father works in the industry and has a lot of contacts (and I enjoy it). However, halfway through my coursework somewhat by chance I stumbled upon an opportunity to work on a project doing acoustic signal processing at a major international company (I have a background in that field). I'm not doing any engineering, however I work with the engineers and I more or less tell the engineers what needs to be adjusted in the models and they handle the engineering side of it (if it helps, this is software for text-to-speech).

    The problem is that it seems like computer science or electronic engineering is a more common discipline for this kind of work, meanwhile I'm studying mechanical engineering and am too far into my coursework for it to make any sense to change disciplines. I understand the basics of the signal processing and am certain I can learn the engineering side of it through self-study and work experience. However, it seems like it would be difficult to convince employers that I have the requisite knowledge and skills given that they mostly want electronic and software engineers for these roles.

    I would love to be able to segue my work experience into this field and get a big head start by graduating with an engineering degree as well as already having two years of work experience. But it seems like the two fields -- mechanical engineering and signal processing -- are somewhat contradictory. Has anyone successfully made such a large interdisciplinary jump? Or, similarly, does anyone have recommendations for how I might be able to leverage my work experience into my degree field or my degree into the field of my work experience?

    Short version: I currently work in an industry outside of my degree field. I need advice on how to merge a mechanical engineering degree into the software engineering field or vice versa.

  2. #2
    Administrator Kelly Bramble's Avatar
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    Well, I changed careers from an in-the-trenches mechanical design engineer to a publisher, trainer and consultant.

    So, yes one can change engineering careers. However, once you get established in one discipline it can be challenging to change engineering disciplines.
    I do know of one engineer whom has degrees in both electrical engineering and mechanical engineering – he works as a test engineer.

    Moreover, I don’t think engineers have the career mobility many educational institutions claim. In general, you’ll take whatever opportunity is presented and likely stick with it.

    Sorry ….
    Last edited by Kelly Bramble; 02-19-2013 at 09:42 AM.

  3. #3
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    Well, I would be the black sheep of this family. I worked for a large part of my career as an Engineer traveling the world on short term contract design jobs in the oil and mining industry.

    In the mid '70s I got involved with a small home computer and was frustrated with the software available so I taught myself programming, first in BASIC (not shouting) then Pascal, C and turned it into VERY (yes, shouting) lucrative career and businesses.

    The programming led me to be asked to write some technical articles for daily papers and that morphed into full time journalism in the computer industry for 12 years.

    As I always respond to your kind of questions, do what you love. It really doesn't matter what that is, as long as you do not waste your time doing something just to earn an income. If you are hard working and reliable then you can earn money in any of about a zillion jobs. However the best idea is to work for yourself as much as possible. No one else to take any of the hard earned cash or kudos.

    A "plan" is the worst waste of time and effort. Don't make them, don't follow them. They always need tweaking and you may as well have just gone off in an ad hoc direction.

  4. #4
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    One thing you can consider is just taking a few extra classes in EE or CS. You can probably (depending on how helpful your advisors are) get a minor in EE.

  5. #5
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    Unfortunately in this university system there are no minors.

  6. #6
    Senior Engineer
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kelly Bramble View Post
    Well, I changed careers from an in-the-trenches mechanical design engineer to a publisher, trainer and consultant.

    So, yes one can change engineering careers. However, once you get established in one discipline it can be challenging to change engineering disciplines.
    I do know of one engineer whom has degrees in both electrical engineering and mechanical engineering – he works as a test engineer.

    Moreover, I don’t think engineers have the career mobility many educational institutions claim. In general, you’ll take whatever opportunity is presented and likely stick with it.

    Sorry ….
    Same here. One of the tutors at my school has a dual MS in CE and EE. He is working on his ME right now.

    I can't imagine being halfway done with school then completely changing the career path. Good luck to you.

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