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Old 01-06-2010, 01:23 PM   #1
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Question Electrical Engineering to Electrician

I am hoping that someone might be able to offer me some advice regarding a possible career change.

For the past seven years since I graduated college I have been working as an Electrical Engineer for a large defense company. My educational background includes a Bachelors degree in Computer Science and a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering. Over these years I have grown increasingly bored/dissatisfied with sitting behind a desk for 9-10 hrs per day. I have been exploring some alternatives and I really feel that a career as an electrician would combine my love of electrical engineering with my desire to have a job where I am not glued to a desk day in and day out. I enjoy doing all aspects of home construction/renovation outside of work, so the physical side of being an electrician would not be something I was opposed to.

I am looking for advice on whether such a career switch would be possible given my background. My concern revolves around the fact that I have a wife and kids that I need to support so it would probably not be feasible for me to take a huge pay cut to become a full time apprentice for the next 4 years. Is there any possibility that I would be able to become an Electrician given my situation? My goal is to become a Journeyman Electrician and then gain the necessary experience and training to become a Master Electrician someday. I have had limited success finding any information on how I would go about entering the field so any advice you could offer here would be greatly appreciated also. Thank you very much for your help.

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Old 01-06-2010, 01:27 PM   #2
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I think you'll find that you need to start at the bottom of the ladder just like everyone else. Having an EE paper in your back pocket probably won't help you. If fact, it'll probably hurt you. prospective employers may consider you 'overqualified'.

And you're not going to get $45/hr to start, either.

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Old 01-06-2010, 01:34 PM   #3
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If your problem is the desk job, try to find a field job. Look for a large electrical contractor that employs an engineer. Look into test firms. As far as entering the bottom and working up to be an electrician that's just out of the question for your knowledge level. Look into designing control jobs and being a field rep for those jobs. The list goes on ad nauseum.
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Old 01-06-2010, 04:41 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vikings80 View Post
I am hoping that someone might be able to offer me some advice regarding a possible career change.

For the past seven years since I graduated college I have been working as an Electrical Engineer for a large defense company. My educational background includes a Bachelors degree in Computer Science and a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering. Over these years I have grown increasingly bored/dissatisfied with sitting behind a desk for 9-10 hrs per day. I have been exploring some alternatives and I really feel that a career as an electrician would combine my love of electrical engineering with my desire to have a job where I am not glued to a desk day in and day out. I enjoy doing all aspects of home construction/renovation outside of work, so the physical side of being an electrician would not be something I was opposed to.

I am looking for advice on whether such a career switch would be possible given my background. My concern revolves around the fact that I have a wife and kids that I need to support so it would probably not be feasible for me to take a huge pay cut to become a full time apprentice for the next 4 years. Is there any possibility that I would be able to become an Electrician given my situation? My goal is to become a Journeyman Electrician and then gain the necessary experience and training to become a Master Electrician someday. I have had limited success finding any information on how I would go about entering the field so any advice you could offer here would be greatly appreciated also. Thank you very much for your help.
What are you doing exactly? With an EE, you certainly ought to be able to find a field position? However, if you've been involved over the years with engineering indoor lighting for some office building or something and want a field position at a plant or something, you'll have a difficult time, I'm sure. Same with desiring NOW to be an electrician. Assuming you're earning good $$ on an EE level - compared to apprentice wages - you'll likely drop to squat! Like already mentioned, OVER QUALIFIED - as viewed by some.

That being said, having worked with many EEs over the years, most of them don't know diddly about electrical construction, installation, troubleshooting, or anything remotely related to the WORK (meaning - manual labor) end of the job. Most wouldn't know a Myers Hub from a strut strap. Much less how to operate basic tools. And this ony because they never DID it. I have to explain reality to many EEs and designers constantly.

IMHO - the best EEs should have to work through the ranks from apprentice to master - then go for their EE. But we all know that ain't how things work. Check out www.indeed.com if you're just searching for what's available. Otherwise, personal contacts have always worked the best for me.

There are many engineerring/construction companies out there with Field Engineer positions. URS Corp and Bechtel Corp are a couple. Each has worldwide locations and about 50,000 employees.
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Old 01-06-2010, 06:17 PM   #5
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If I were you I would at least run out your career enough to get your PE. Like others said, there are many hands on jobs for field engineers whereby you could potentially continue to use your current skillset. In order to get your masters you would just need to get your field time in working under a master (in my area - might differ in your area - download the candidate information for requirements for master electrician from your state and read it)
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Old 01-06-2010, 07:34 PM   #6
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vikings80,

I'm an EE myself with almost 20 years of experience at a wide variety of former employers, from government contractors (AC power, nuclear reactor instrumentation), to a variety of manufacturers who made everything from portable electronic instrumentation to wiring harnesses, circuit boards, heavy on-highway trucks, and off-highway construction equipment. Now I'm back working directly for Uncle Sam (back to AC power again, have come full-circle) due to my last private-industry job going away in this shrinking economy. Right now is not the time to switch careers unless you can maintain or increase your income and job stability (now if you're already jobless, different story!).

I'd have to agree with the other posters regarding finding a position in engineering where you are out in the field or at least get to work in the R&D shop sometimes. There are plenty of engineering positions that are more hands-on out there (BTDT). Anything in manufacturing engineering will involve a lot of shop floor time and hands-on work. As has been mentioned, panel-building (industrial controls typically) is an area where you can be both electrician and engineer. Check out test engineering as well, lots of software/hardware challenges and hands-on stuff there too.

Outside sales and technical-support engineering will typically get you out in the field more often as well. Failure analysis is another area where you can play doctor (or mortician/coroner ) on electrical/electronic equipment. So take a good look at other options, starting within your own company. Network. Be discreet. How open is your boss? Is he/she somebody you can discuss your career goals openly with? You need to know the answer BEFORE spilling the beans that you're unhappy with your current position and/or are interested in pursuing another position or area of expertice with them!

Take a lunch with some of the more senior engineers in your organization and see what they have to say. You are sure to have a wealth of engineering and career knowledge in the other engineers at your company, you just have to seek it out.

But be careful before you blindly jump into another job or career, especially considering your family situation. You're one of the lucky ones in this economy and there are literally 1000s of people who would kill to have your job (even at less pay) right now. I am now married and have two small children, so job security and benefits are much more important to me right now than they were 15 years ago when I was single and didn't have a mortgage payment. My kids are my first priority now!
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Old 01-06-2010, 07:53 PM   #7
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I thought it could not happen! A person of intelligence on this god-forsaken,
dregs of a forum. Let's get down to the nitty-gritty. You are having an early
mid-life crisis. You should have ample opportunity to become a field engineer
considering your background. Prepare to dump the wife, kids, friends, homes,
boats, country club etc. if you choose to "follow your dream". I was the 50 year
old field engineer that you should be . I dumped all of the above referenced to
work for the USFS at almost minimum wage. Fast forward a few years and I started
my own contracting business and acquired another wife and family. Now retired
and I'd do it all over again but...... start at your age
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Old 01-06-2010, 08:46 PM   #8
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I thought it could not happen! A person of intelligence on this god-forsaken,
dregs of a forum.
Pardon me?

A) If is so bad here stay away.

B) SINCE WHEN does education automatically equate to intelligence? Or a better question is since when does a lack of formal education equate to a lack of intelligence?
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Old 01-06-2010, 08:59 PM   #9
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............

A) If is so bad here stay away.
PLEASE!
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Old 01-06-2010, 10:09 PM   #10
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>Over these years I have grown increasingly bored/dissatisfied with sitting >behind a desk for 9-10 hrs per day. I have been exploring some >alternatives and I really feel that a career as an electrician would >combine my love of electrical engineering with my desire to have a job >where I am not glued to a desk day in and day out

Vikings80,

I am also an EE with >30 years experience.

I didn't get into engineering because I wanted to push paper, follow brain-dead processes invented by cretins, or check bills of material. But I really like to think about problems then solve them.

Most of my time is spent with my but behind a desk and my brain engaged in some sort of EE problem. Right now I am building a transient thermal model for some electric heaters. I am using Laplace transforms and Maltab; remember those from school?

Please distill the essence of what you like about EE and then try maximizing whatever that might be.

I gather from your post that you would rather be outside moving around than camped behind a desk. That's fine but consider what it would be like digging a trench on a 95 degree day, or hauling pipe at -12.

To get an EE degree you had to spend a lot of time at your desk studying so I would be willing to bet that there is more to it than "outside vs inside".

Hope this helps.

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Old 01-06-2010, 10:29 PM   #11
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You are not going to like being a electrician in the field. People you work for are not smart, don't care if you have better ideas, if you are bright or much of anything but keeping your mouth shut and doing work fast thier way. Sorry to lay it on you like that but it's the truth. Maybe you should try to get some kind of field position as a EE? Being a electrician is for the most part being a production monkey working in adverse environments for jack asses.
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Old 01-06-2010, 10:29 PM   #12
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My vote, stick with EE work, but find something more field related if you can.

In my opinion, those who work as electricians are far too expected to also be EEs and I think it drives the trade in a bad direction. I think projects should be engineered by engineers and implemented by tradesmen such as electricians. I've known many good electricians with only a meager knowledge of electricity, but a wealth of knowledge involving the trade, methods, and materials. They need EEs for design knowledge and EEs need them for trade knowledge.

And, having one's own business is again about business, not electricity. I've seen far too many companies go down the tubes because their owners were good trades people, but not good business people.

Go ahead and get your license and work at it on the side.

And good luck!
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Old 01-06-2010, 10:36 PM   #13
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You are not going to like being a electrician in the field. People you work for are not smart, don't care if you have better ideas, if you are bright or much of anything but keeping your mouth shut and doing work fast thier way. Sorry to lay it on you like that but it's the truth. Maybe you should try to get some kind of field position as a EE? Being a electrician is for the most part being a production monkey working in adverse environments for jack asses.

Right on. I'm tired of working for jack asses.
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Old 01-06-2010, 11:49 PM   #14
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Being a electrician is for the most part being a production monkey working in adverse environments for jack asses.
If this is your life I feel sorry for you. My world is not like this at all.
Well OK, it's not like this that much. Still far better and more satisfying than your dismal description.
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Old 01-07-2010, 12:45 AM   #15
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Hey EJ

Come to Ohio. The land of unlicensed contractors

Your basically in as follows

License Qualification Process
The Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board (O.C.I.L.B.), Department of Commerce, Division of Industrial Compliance, issues state commercial licenses to the following contractors: electrical, HVAC, hydronics, plumbing, and refrigeration. To receive a state license, an applicant must meet the following requirements:

Be at least 18 years of age
Be a United States citizen or a legal alien-must provide proof of being a legal alien
Either have been a tradesperson in the type of licensed trade for which the application is filed for not less than five (5) years immediately prior to the date the application is filed, currently be a registered engineer in this state with three (3) years of business experience in the construction industry in the trade for which the engineer is applying to take the examination, or have other experience acceptable to the appropriate section of the board
Not have been convicted of or plead guilty to a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude or of any felony
Pass the examination in the trade
Carry minimum $500,000 contractor liability coverage
Pay the applicable fees

Basically, your almost grandfathered in if your can prove a little work. If not, just do residential for 3 yrs and then your in for commercial.
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Old 01-07-2010, 01:09 AM   #16
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You are not going to like being a electrician in the field. People you work for are not smart, don't care if you have better ideas, if you are bright or much of anything but keeping your mouth shut and doing work fast thier way. Sorry to lay it on you like that but it's the truth. Maybe you should try to get some kind of field position as a EE? Being a electrician is for the most part being a production monkey working in adverse environments for jack asses.
This is probably the most honest and down-to-earth assessment of the electrical trade I have ever seen.
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Old 01-07-2010, 01:18 AM   #17
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You are not going to like being a electrician in the field. People you work for are not smart, don't care if you have better ideas, if you are bright or much of anything but keeping your mouth shut and doing work fast thier way. Sorry to lay it on you like that but it's the truth. Maybe you should try to get some kind of field position as a EE? Being a electrician is for the most part being a production monkey working in adverse environments for jack asses.
I need a beer now..
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Old 01-07-2010, 05:08 PM   #18
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i did the same as you. i was an electrical engineer, then went to a field engineer, then an electrician... and now im a field engineer/sit at a desk like thing engineer.

you will extremely frustrated dealing with "managers and supervisors." it is a real bitch when you have some one telling you how to "properly" fix the things you helped design.
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Old 01-07-2010, 05:29 PM   #19
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Let's look at your question by first examining your assumptions. Or, if not your assumptions, the assumptions of many people.

Many see the EE as 'superior to,' or 'out-ranking' the electrician. This view is even enshrined by statute, in those places that allow a EE to hold an electrical contractors' license. That's plain wrong. They're two entirely different trades.

Remember, ours is a 'construction' trade. It's far more about building things than being able to do calculus. We don't 'move a wall' by erasing it and re-wrawing it on a set of prints ... we actually move the wall.

Since we're a construction trade, that means we get to stand in that muddy ditch with a shovel, climb that icy roof in bad weather, wriggle like a snake through tight spaces. Most of us have never even seen a drafting table.

I've been to 'engineer school,' and the EE today is taught to design microchips. Even 'power' topics that would be relevant in a power company are given short shrift. Code classes? Construction classes? Not is any curriculum I've seen.

Indeed, I've been amazed at the engineering students who talk of being 'consultants,' as the curriculum has not a single course relevant to running a business - no bookkeeping, insurance, marketing, ... nothing.

If you're an engineer, get your PE first, or you've got nothing. If you have a PE, one of the big firms might teach you estimating, job management, and all the other business skills you'll need when you start your own firm.

Architects generally use a PE to sign off on the plumbing, mechanical, and electrical drawings. You might find a slot there.

Some town might be misguided enough to hire you as an inspector (trainee).

Actually working the trade, though, you start with a shovel in your hand. There's no 'short cut' around that.

You might have better luck if you look into industrial maintenance. Factories generally want someone with an engineering degree to manage their maintenance crews- though I'm not sure why .
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Old 01-08-2010, 09:14 PM   #20
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Let's look at your question by first examining your assumptions. Or, if not your assumptions, the assumptions of many people.

Many see the EE as 'superior to,' or 'out-ranking' the electrician. This view is even enshrined by statute, in those places that allow a EE to hold an electrical contractors' license. That's plain wrong. They're two entirely different trades.

Remember, ours is a 'construction' trade. It's far more about building things than being able to do calculus. We don't 'move a wall' by erasing it and re-wrawing it on a set of prints ... we actually move the wall.

Since we're a construction trade, that means we get to stand in that muddy ditch with a shovel, climb that icy roof in bad weather, wriggle like a snake through tight spaces. Most of us have never even seen a drafting table.

I've been to 'engineer school,' and the EE today is taught to design microchips. Even 'power' topics that would be relevant in a power company are given short shrift. Code classes? Construction classes? Not is any curriculum I've seen.

Indeed, I've been amazed at the engineering students who talk of being 'consultants,' as the curriculum has not a single course relevant to running a business - no bookkeeping, insurance, marketing, ... nothing.

If you're an engineer, get your PE first, or you've got nothing. If you have a PE, one of the big firms might teach you estimating, job management, and all the other business skills you'll need when you start your own firm.

Architects generally use a PE to sign off on the plumbing, mechanical, and electrical drawings. You might find a slot there.

Some town might be misguided enough to hire you as an inspector (trainee).

Actually working the trade, though, you start with a shovel in your hand. There's no 'short cut' around that.

You might have better luck if you look into industrial maintenance. Factories generally want someone with an engineering degree to manage their maintenance crews- though I'm not sure why .

We are not just a "construction" trade, especially to all the fellows who work in industry. Also many Master Electrician's are just as good at designing systems as many of the engineers out there. My suggestion is if you want to work with your hands, then one place you need to look at is, apply for a position in Maintenance at Manufacturing or Process Facility, if you want to work as an electrician, you need to go through the ranks, from the ground up. As a fellow electrical engineer, but one who went the opposite route of you, meaning I started as an electrical helper, moved to apprentice, then journeyman, then master and then engineer, I would suggest you find a Control Systems Integration company to work for.


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