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RQ: How Much “Engineering”?

with 4 comments

This installment of RQ deals with the highly entertaining question posed by a reader:

I assume you have an engineering degree.  What kind?  How much “engineering” is actually involved in your job?  Does anything you did in college apply to the job?

I do indeed have an engineering degree.  Like many of my colleagues, I graduated as an Electrical Engineer.  I even took the PE exam and was licensed for a while.

I’m of the school of thought that “engineering” is more of a mindset than a skillset.  As an engineering graduate, I think the most important thing college teaches you is how to make a logical progression from start to finish when presented with a problem.  Our systems tend to have a few common points of failure; with a little know-how and some logic, you can design tests to figure out what’s wrong (and therefore how to fix it).  Engineers are capable of this kind of thing because that’s what their education has taught them to do.

As far as “pure” electrical engineering skills- I don’t think I’ve actually done anything I did in college since college.  You don’t design circuits, you don’t solder components, there’s no SPICE or MATLAB (thank god…).  If you’re lucky you get to put a resistor across an alarm terminal.  Most of the time if you’re not at your desk you’re either pulling wire or changing lock combinations.  Yeah, not very exciting sometimes.  We, as government employees, are consumers of electronics and technology… not originators.  If you are looking to actually develop new devices or electronics this is definitely the wrong field for you.

So- the answer is generally “no” as to the specifics of my degree, but “yes” to the “larger picture”-type things that a standard engineering curriculum- hopefully- teaches you.

Be sure to check out past Reader Questions in the Archives.


4 Responses

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  1. How much math do you use on the job? I realize that in my engineering classes that I enjoy the math and graphs more so than the concepts (I still dont get the superposition theorem!).


    25/09/2011 at 22:39

    • Not much. Budgeting (adding and subtracting), occasional ampacity calculations, totaling up how much conduit/cable you need, occasional voltage and/or current calculations are usually as advanced as you get. You won’t be using Lagrangian Mechanics or solving partial differential equations, that’s for sure.


      26/09/2011 at 10:40

  2. Are you mostly managing physical, computer, and other security programs for US embassies as an SEO? Would you say you feel more like a handyman/technician?


    26/09/2011 at 19:57

    • Most of what we do involves imminent danger/emergency notification systems, doors, locks, and procedural security.


      26/09/2011 at 23:21

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