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How much do enginners work? How do I stand out from other students?

Joe1294Joe1294 Registered User Posts: 83 Junior Member
edited March 2011 in Engineering Majors
I've heard varying answers. Some say they work regularly, and some say they work 60+ hours a week. I'm still confused. If I got my degree in electrical engineering, what hours would I likely work for an entry level job? I want to be able to have enough time for my family and my hobbies. It doesn't matter if I have those occasional weeks where I work a lot, but I don't want my life to be work.

And, after I graduate, how can I stand out to employers against other engineering students? Do employers care if you were in an honors program? I'm about to finish high school with my AA degree, so when I go to a university (as a freshman, not a transfer), I'll have most/all of my gen ed requirements (including up to Calc 2 and Physics 1). My point is, I may have time to do a double major. Which I know may sound like A LOT for an engineering major, but I will have a lot of classes out of the way, and am willing to take some classes each summer, and to maybe spend an extra semester or 2 (I know a lot of engineering majors do that anyways). And I'm pretty smart, I have a 4.0 from high school (easily), and almost a 4.0 from my community college. So do you think employers will be interested by my having 2 majors? Would EE + CS be a good combo? Do you think I could double major in TWO different eng degrees, like EE/CompE + ChemE, or EE/CompE + Bio, or would that be way too hard? I have a feeling I'd really like EE and computer stuff, but I also do like life sciences, to a lesser extent. Which *do-able* double major do you think would be the most versatile and give me the most opportunities?
Post edited by Joe1294 on
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Replies to: How much do enginners work? How do I stand out from other students?

  • johannes1430johannes1430 Registered User Posts: 299 Junior Member
    Bump this butch
  • noimaginationnoimagination Registered User Posts: 7,054 Senior Member
    The answer to your second question is here: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/10868570-post11.html
  • ken285ken285 Registered User Posts: 3,931 Senior Member
    I've heard varying answers. Some say they work regularly, and some say they work 60+ hours a week. I'm still confused. If I got my degree in electrical engineering, what hours would I likely work for an entry level job?

    You probably won't get a better answer than that. Some will work 40, some will regularly work more than that. It will probably vary even with the same job with the same company throughout the year. An important deadline that's looming may necessitate you to work overtime. I've worked as few as 40 and as many as 70 in a week.

    If I were you, I would focus on getting work experience (internships) instead of getting a double major. Employers need to know you can do more than just school work.
  • Joe1294Joe1294 Registered User Posts: 83 Junior Member
    So I'll put a focus on internship, but also try and see if i can handle a double major. According to that article that noimagination posted, it said that EE + CS = CompE, and that is bad? I know that CompE is a mix of EE and CS, but the double major would still provide a lot more opportunities, wouldn't it? So, what major do you think will make me look really good with EE or CompE?
  • SimbotSimbot Registered User Posts: 60 Junior Member
    I'm an engineering manager in Silicon Valley, I've worked at quite a few differnt companies. Around here it's not acceptable to work only 40 hrs per week. If you work at a start-up, you will be expected to work 10hrs/day all the time, week-in, week-out, sometimes more to meet deadlines. Of course it varies by company.

    In my experience, large well established companies will not require you to work as many hours as a start-up. Of course these are generalities, not all large comapnies are created equal. I worked at a large medical device company, and the hours required were not high, about 45hrs week. I have friends at Cisco, and they expect a lot from you, 50-60hrs/wk.

    There's no way to give a one size fits all answer. It depends on teh company and what kind of goals they are trying to accomplish.

    As far as double majoring goes, I'd say, yes, it will make you stand out for the first couple years of your career. After that on the job experience is everything. After about 5 years, employers will pay little attention to what school you went to, won't care what your GPA was. They will care what your major was. Sometimes hiring managers will give some preference to their alma mater.

    The bottom line is "do you have the skills and experience to fill the job I have open?" Just as important, can you sell your skills and experince to me as a hiring manager? Many applicants do a terrible job of selling themselves, they may have the skills but don't know how to communicate them.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,219 Senior Member
    As far as working hours go, it is not true that everyone works 10-12 hours per day every day every week, even in startup environments (at which I have worked at a number). There will be bursts of that, though.

    However, it has been noted that in software development, productivity differences between the best and worst can be 10 or more times. So it is easily possible for the best software developers to not be working that hard, but be far more productive than the worst software developers who are constantly working 10-12 hours per day every day.

    There is also the phenomenon where people start something, go home, and check on it later remotely. This is not so much putting in a lot of hours, but spreading work time around in small chunks around the clock. It is one element of working efficiently -- if it is late and you start something that will take a few hours to finish, no sense in waiting around the office for it to finish when you can head home and just check on it later from home.
  • Joe1294Joe1294 Registered User Posts: 83 Junior Member
    Thanks. Will the biggest thing convincing me not to be an engineer is because of all the work and stress in their lives. I don't care about the tough schooling, it actually sounds a little fun. But I really, really don't want a job where I'm working everyday for an insane amount of hours. Maybe I need to explore other careers. Or how do I get an engineering job where I work an average amount of hours?
  • you_of_ehyou_of_eh Registered User Posts: 753 Member
    You should not have a hard time finding an engineering job that has you working 40hrs/week provided you have the grades to get the jobs. If you're willing to potentially turn down a higher paying position/a position at a more desirable firm, like I said finding a 40hr/week job shouldn't be very difficult.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,219 Senior Member
    Note that stress and working hours can vary considerably by company. In some companies, where the processes are very inefficient (perhaps because they get bottlenecked at particular people who cannot handle the load as the company grows from a small startup to a significantly larger company), working hours can be long and stress high because one is spending a lot of time waiting for approval to do something -- and if it is not approved, it must be resubmitted for approval to wait for another long and unpredictable amount of time. The stress comes from your ability to perform your job in a timely fashion being out of your control for much of the process.

    More efficient processes can keep error rates low without bottlenecking work and causing excessive time spent waiting for long and unpredictable amounts of time.
  • PurdueEEPurdueEE Registered User Posts: 705 Member
    As has been mentioned, the amount you will work in a week will vary from job to job and even week to week sometimes. There are definitely people who work 40 hours per week every week. There are others who, faced with some important task, might work 80+ hours per week.
  • SimbotSimbot Registered User Posts: 60 Junior Member
    "There are definitely people who work 40 hours per week every week. "

    This is true, they are known as slackers.

    It's true some people work only 40hrs/wk at high tech companies, usually they are not engineers though; accounting, HR, quality. Every place I've worked (about 10), engineers are expected to routinely put in more than 40hrs/wk. If you work efficiently you can get a lot done in 40 hrs, and you probably won't get fired, but you'll most likely be viewed as a slacker and won't get the career advancement opportunities that others get. As mentioned, different companies have different cultures, some strive for a better "work / life" balance.

    This is probably not true at every company on the planet. but it's been true at almost every place I've worked over the last 23 years in silicon valley. There was one exception, a company run by hippies, it wasn't very successful though due to widespread laziness and mismanagement. There I worked only 40 hrs, and I put in more hours than just about everyone.

    If you're avoiding studying engineering because you don't want to work a lot, you need to re-evaluate your priorities. There are plenty of other professions that will require long hours. If you like engineering, and you're good at it, then be an engineer, don't worry about the hours.
  • cosmicfishcosmicfish Registered User Posts: 4,273 Senior Member
    To share a personal experience, I have had three engineering jobs, all at the same company (a Fortune 100 defense contractor).

    My first position was doing systems support work, and was very laid back. We were all engineers but did very little actual engineering - the job mostly entailed running around and making sure that the design engineers were paying attention to certain things, and occasionally helping them to make the changes. NO ONE in this department worked more than 40 hours a week. EVER. On the down side, it was considered hard to advance from this department into positions of greater authority, and the pay was mediocre compared to other engineers in the company.

    My second position was doing component-level design work (I am an EE). We were all engineers doing real design engineering, much of it R&D. Level of work varied tremendously across the department, because the focus was on RESULTS, not how long it took to get them. If it took you 60 hours to meet your goals, you worked 60 hours. If you could get it done in 40 hours, you either worked 40 hours or else worked longer hoping that your extra effort would in some way spur your advancement. I saw no one penalized for their work schedule one way or the other (although one friend, a 60-hour guy, was advised by our boss to get out of the office more often). I was a 40-hour guy, almost never went over, and was still getting great raises and promotion prospects. The 60-hour guy was well-respected but not advancing any faster than anyone else.

    My third and current job is doing system architecture work. This is more time-demanding, but much of that stems from the fact that it is closer to the customer, and I still typically work about 40 hours a week, maybe 2200-2300 hours in an entire year. Since my work "bookends" the design process, when programs run late I can face 60-80 hour work weeks (for short periods) to put the final touches on a product. However, the pay, perks, and advancement opportunities are among the best in the entire company.

    From my own experience and that of my friends in this company and others, I would say that there are plenty of engineering positions out there that offer 40-hour weeks with good pay and reasonable advancement. At the same time, great pay and great advancement will often require an increased commitment. It's all up to you!
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,219 Senior Member
    Simbot wrote:
    Every place I've worked (about 10), engineers are expected to routinely put in more than 40hrs/wk.

    In my experience, that is true, but not as much as you have said (probably 40-45, not 50-60 all the time). The most successful company among the various I have worked at tended not to have particularly high work hours (although there were bursts at critical times, as at any company), but had more efficient processes compared to the others, so that people got more and better quality work done in less time.
  • aibarraibarr Registered User Posts: 4,249 Senior Member
    You should not have a hard time finding an engineering job that has you working 40hrs/week provided you have the grades to get the jobs.

    Hrm... In my experience, the 40hrs/wk jobs are the ones done by people who have lower GPAs. If you're working for a top-notch firm or company, you're more often than not going to be the person working 60-70hrs/wk.

    Then again, the best firm I've worked for is my current firm, and I've only worked for them for three years. I basically caught the train at the peak of business and rode the economic skid all the way downhill, and have spent my tenure here dragging my ass along the rock bottom, along with the rest of my (remaining) coworkers (we went from over 400 employees when I started, to a smidge over 300 right now). When things suck, you have to be more competitive when you bid projects, so you end up getting less money for the projects that DO win, and you have to do those projects with a smaller number of people because you've had to lay off a quarter of your workforce. That results in a large number of out-of-work professionals, and the professionals that ARE still employed are pretty much run ragged.

    So... it varies between companies, and it varies based upon the economy and how things are going. When times are tough, you usually have to work a lot harder.
  • SimbotSimbot Registered User Posts: 60 Junior Member
    I'm not saying you guys are wrong, just giving my experience. Bottom line, is that it all depends. From my experience things are a little different here in SV. I don't know what part of the country you guys are in. I worked for a forture 500 a few years back. While visiting another site back east (same company) I was amazed at the very different culture there. People worked 8am-5pm like clockwork. That would have been unacceptable in San Jose. Sure the occasional 8 hr day is fine (or 5hr, 6hr), but not every day.

    They also made employees pay for coffee, that's just crazy! Out here the coffee is always free, sometimes sodas are free, popcorn, etc. During the height of the boom (late '90's) the startup I was working for provided free lunch and dinner everyday, and on Saturday's. Yes, we were expected to work some Saturday's. Anyway, I'm getting all nostalgic, those days are long gone unless you work for Google or Apple.
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