13 Replies Latest reply on Apr 6, 2018 7:36 AM by james.flynn

    College or work experience

    salesm21

      Dear friends,

      I have a big decision ahead of me and wish to have the community input. I am applying to Florida Tech and they have two education paths available to travel. One is called the protrack option and it involves a co-op between you and another local company where you have a paid internship. This is a 3-4 ratio of semesters in class. So you spend 3 in the internship and 4 in college yet still finish in 4 years with a bachelors. (Mine will be a dual major in electrical engineering and computer science) The other option is called the FastTrack and is where you can obtain your masters in 5 years in an accelerated education plan. Is a masters weighed heavier or is experience weighed more. I cant do both (I asked) and with the FastTrack I could do internships but they would be after school and cut into homework time. I could do it but itd be grueling and I dont know how serious they would take an unpaid intern. Any advice would be great.

        • Re: College or work experience
          jw0752

          Hi Mitchell,

          The actual answers have to come from you but here are some questions that might help you decide. What do you want to do with the degree? Do you envision your future work as primarily theoretical or will you get into actual hands on design and prototyping? Are you the type of student that is perfectly happy in the academic arena or do you like the lab work and the designing experiments better? What have you done to this point to to self educate? What type of company would you intern with? Will they provide a wide range of experience or will you be used in a fairly narrow technology band? You can see the difference between getting through the internship with the experience to go in multiple directions or just as a specialist in fixing and programming the company's product. In the final analysis you will have to evaluate yourself and what you will enjoy doing for the next 4 or 5 years. Whether it is the fast track to a Masters Degree or the Bachelor Degree with a dose of practical experience it has to be fun for you or you will loose interest and drop out. I am not an engineer myself. I took the path of working in electronics and self educated with respect to the theory and physics that were needed to prosper at my profession. This worked for me as I liked to get my hands dirty and take things apart, fix them, and put them back together. Most of the guys on here are excellent engineers and they may have different experiences and be able to give you more insight into what lies ahead. In any case best of luck to you and stay on the forum so you can share what you learn along the way. There was a guy a while back who really lit up the forum with his participation while he was in electrical engineering school. Before he was done he had written a great book and was highly in demand. Check out some of the things he did while he was here. Here is a link to the book announcement on element 14 a few years ago. https://www.element14.com/community/docs/DOC-55378/l/arduino-and-element14-community-expert-jeremy-blum-launches-new-book-exploring-arduino?sr=search&searchId=15b8190b-04c7-42ea-a34b-f64d80161adc&searchIndex=5

           

          John

          6 of 6 people found this helpful
          • Re: College or work experience
            genebren

            Mitchell,

             

            This is an excellent question, with many answers depending on where do you see yourself in the future.  jw0752 offers some very good questions that can help guide your decision.  Let me add a few observations that might also help.

             

            I took a fast track approach to education, as I was not aware of other ways to get where I wanted to be.  I graduated, with a BS, in three years and went to work immediately.  Upon joining the work force I was eager to learn and to take on new responsibilities. My salary and career satisfaction grew with each year, but as I matured as an engineer I my growth seemed to become more limited.  I thought about going back to school to further my education, but never was able to manage that, as I was very dependent on my salary.  Looking back, I think that I should have continued my education immediately upon receiving  my BS, while all of my education was still fresh in my mind and I was still use to getting by without a big paycheck.  Having said that, I fully enjoyed my career, and my BS degree prepared me to learn and grow through my work assignments, in ways that I may have never done by education alone.

             

            We all learn in different ways, understanding how you learn is one of the most important things to help you decide your path.  If 'hands on' is your style, then a fast track approach makes sense (especially the intern part).  Get you degree and find a job that will challenge you to learn each and every day.  If 'book knowledge' is your thing, go as far as you can in school, and then find a job that will allow you to take all of that knowledge and build on it, or stay within the academic world and teach or further build your specialties.

             

            Good luck on determining your path!

            Gene

            5 of 5 people found this helpful
              • Re: College or work experience
                salesm21

                Gene,

                I hope this is not too personal but I am wondering why your learning and growth halted in your career? I thought being an engineer is a constantly evolving field always requiring a new thought and new solution everyday. This may be overly optimistic. Also how much of your knowledge did you use that you obtained in college? Did you find that rolling your job with your college helped solidify that knowledge?

                  • Re: College or work experience
                    genebren

                    Mitchell,

                     

                    I my case it was a combination of things that limited my career.  Location, over specialization and a desired to balance work and lifestyle.

                     

                    Location - I settled in a area that looked to have a lot of promised to develop into a growing market for engineering.  I moved into that market to take a 'dream' job.  I skills and responsibilities grew and I thoroughly enjoy work.  After several years the company was acquired by a large company centered across the company.  Soon all of the choice positions in the company were be taken by employees from the new company and I found myself without a job.  The area I was did not develop as large a market as I had hoped and I struggled to find suitable growth positions.  I took a big step down to find a position and then it took years to rebuild my career.

                     

                    Over specialization - A lot of my work experience was in the development of automated test systems.  I was very well versed in the needs of a shrinking sector of industry.  I needed to translate my skills to better fit the job market.  This took time and effort and going on a lot of interviews to sell my core skills and knowledge.

                     

                    Lifestyle - It funny how life works.  You have everything moving in one direction and then you are dealt a new hand.  I suffer a lot of loses in a short period of time and then needed to pick up the pieces and find a new path.  Suddenly, I could not longer take a demanding position, but instead needed an extra level of flexibility in my work schedule in order to take care of my family.  So I found work that could allow me the flexibility that I needed to be where I needed to be, when I needed to be there.

                     

                    Even with these issues, I rebuilt my career, learned new skills, strengthened other skills and finish out my working years strongly.

                     

                    Being an Engineer is an evolving process. A lot of the times you are taking incremental steps, based on your last project.  While other times you get great opportunities take much bigger steps. While at others times you end up going in a new direction that you never expected.  The knowledge you obtain in school is a tool set.  It prepares you to enter the market and begin the real education of working within the complex relationships in a company.  The more experience that you have in actual 'hands on' working during your education, the quicker you will be in understanding and functioning within a company

                     

                    Good luck,

                    Gene

                    5 of 5 people found this helpful
                      • Re: College or work experience
                        salesm21

                        Gene,

                        It sounds like a lot of your frustration came from the fact that you parent company combined with someone else which will inevitably create friction. How would you recommend not going down the path of specialization? Sometimes Ive seen where becoming really good at something makes you in high demand. Why was your becoming a dying field? Lastly I have a more controversial question. I am currently married and am wondering if this will hold me back in my engineering career.

                          • Re: College or work experience
                            genebren

                            Mitchell,

                             

                            Over specialization is really only problematical when it involves an industry that winding down.  The automatic test equipment industry that I was most involved in was based on the concept of a bed of nails making contact with an assembled printed circuit board (in-circuit testing or ICT).  The issue was one of geometry.  As surface mount became more popular and the pin spacing tighter, it became to dense to get good coverage (without a lot of special layout), so the value of ICT tester took a big beating.  Prior to that time, the key for ICT was that you did not really have to do anything special in manufacturing to utilize this technology. Long story short, the division that I worked for eventually was closed down and later the products were discontinued. A lot of what I knew was still valuable, but my personal stock dropped as no one needed an expert with my exact skill set.

                             

                            As to you second question, I can safely say that marriage never held my career back.  If anything, my marriage (at least my second one) allowed me the freedom to take on higher risks positions, like working in start-ups or even starting my own venture.

                             

                            Best of luck,

                            Gene

                            3 of 3 people found this helpful
                            • Re: College or work experience
                              james.flynn

                              Mitchell, I've been married 32 years, would do it the same way given the opportunity for a do-over. It is illegal to use marriage, race, or religion as a factor in job placement... and while that sounds good, we all no it sometimes happens as an unspoken thing. But if you are working for someone that is using that as a factor, my suggestion would be find a different employer, if they will use that against you who knows what else they would use.

                              2 of 2 people found this helpful
                      • Re: College or work experience
                        shabaz

                        I wouldn't want to give bad advice, since this is your career and I hope you find the best decision for you.

                        The things you'll learn at college, and the things you'll learn on the internship, will likely be quite different, and I can't say which is better, so many factors are involved, not least the teaching and the internship particulars.

                        Some employers may be quite disciplined, and have a good plan for interns, but maybe others might not. So if you're considering that path, it could be handy to dig a lot deeper into the internships that will be available to you.

                        At college I did something in-between, which was full-time education, but during summer hols I worked as a paid intern, on a fairly disciplined program (they moved you to different areas and departments, do exercises, training etc.. and keep a training record book and so on).

                        5 of 5 people found this helpful
                        • Re: College or work experience
                          dougw

                          Statistically the Masters degree will earn you more salary in the long run.

                          But, it is usually easier to get a job coming out of a co-op program.

                          When you are just starting out, it isn't always clear what you will really enjoy or be good at. A co-op program probably provides a bit wider experience to discover what you really want to do. (which may be to complete a Masters after the co-op program)

                          5 of 5 people found this helpful
                          • Re: College or work experience
                            mcb1

                            My view of the world comes from the non-university/degree aspect.

                             

                            I agree with genebren that life sometimes takes you in a different path and I see that in my own children.

                            My son started on a degree path and then got sucked into full time work doing mostly what he would be doing anyway, at the university.

                            I've encouraged him to start thinking about returning before he meets someone and ends up with a family to support.

                             

                             

                            It strikes me that a mixture of real world work and academic will give you a better foothold.

                            Otherwise you come into the job market at 20 something as a professional student.

                             

                            Here we're starting to see employers wanting some experience, which if you're fresh out of varsity with a degree is hard to convince you have any sort of work ethics (even if you know everything   ).

                            As a consequence we see many young people with degrees working in retail, fast food or something unrelated to their knowledge, which really is a waste.

                             

                             

                            When I was at High School (many years ago) our school started two programs that were a first.

                            • Adult students ... adults returning into High School along with the 13 and 14 year olds.
                            • Work Experience ... this was aimed at those struggling with the academic part. and they would go out one day a week into their area of interest and lessons would be tailored around this to improve their academic work..... it worked very well and as a bonus most had job offers before leaving school..

                             

                            So having work experience as an intern may have advantages after you finish, and may also give you an insight into waht areas you want to continue your career in (or alternatively which ones to avoid)

                             

                            Cheers

                            Mark

                            4 of 4 people found this helpful
                            • Re: College or work experience
                              james.flynn

                              First off, congrats on going to Florida Tech (I am biased, I graduated from there when it was called Florida Institute of Technology).  As to the 'should I co-op while getting a degree', my experience is that it is far easier to get the experience employers like to have plus it gets your network of colleges, friends, and business world contacts started.  I have found that having a good network is by far the best asset to have when looking for a job... but take it for what it is, just my opinion.  

                              6 of 6 people found this helpful