2 answers

Is electrical engineering as hands on as I think it is?

Asked Boston, Massachusetts


I am an aspiring electrical engineer and I want to do EE because I enjoy it. My main concern is that electrical engineering jobs aren't hands on. I have heard from multiple people that the majority of the jobs are just sitting at a desk all day.

Also, is EE in Boston viable? To me, it seems like yes

#electrical-engineering #engineering #engineer #job #boston

2 answers

Douglas’s Answer

Updated Easton, Massachusetts

Hi Alex,

From your question, I can't tell if you are already in college studying EE or you are considering it. I will assume you are already an EE student in college. The specific answer to your question is EE can be somewhat "hands-on" or it can be "in an office". In my experience there are several paths a new engineers might go down: design engineering (almost always in an office), field engineering (seldom in an office), application engineering (mostly in an office), manufacturing engineering (largely in an office, but not all of the time), sales engineering (some office time - some time with customers). It is pretty safe to say that 4-year degreed engineers are not going to be actually working with their hands (unless you go into R&D, which is a part of design engineering) wiring something up. Working with your hands is typically what an Engineering Technician or skilled craft labor electrician would do. A 4 year degreed engineer, would most likely be directing the activities of a group technicians or craft labor people. For example if a utility needed a new substation, they would go to a design engineering group (of 4 year degreed Engineers) to design the substation. Once it is designed, a Field Engineer (4 year degreed engineer) would take the design (drawings) and go to the site of the new substation and direct the activities of the technicians and craft labor to actually build the substation and put it into operation. Any large, complicated device (submarine, ship, airplane, power plant, manufacturing facility, computer center, commercial building) needing to be built or maintained would employ the same team of people: Design Engineers - Field Engineers. So if you like EE and do not want to be in an office, there are many opportunities for "other than design engineers" in the electrical field.

To answer your second question, yes there is a need for EEs here in Boston and all of New England. I would suggest you search job postings on the internet for Electrical Engineering Opportunities at engineering firms, as well as utilities and manufacturing facilities. Search for Electrical Engineering jobs and I believe you will find a significant number and variety of EE jobs.

Hope this helped.

Wonderful and complete response Douglas. I'll just add in the life of a consulting engineer that designs buildings for the public (offices, hospitals, zoos, hotels, restaurants, etc). We constantly get to visit construction sites before, during, and after the projects. It can be a nice mix of office and field without really getting your hands dirty if you don't want to.

Ken’s Answer

Updated Cleveland, Ohio

Congratulations on being interested in becoming an engineer. It takes a special person to enter this field and meet the demands which this career area presents. The first step is to get to know yourself to see if you share the personality traits which make engineers successful. The next step is doing networking to meet and talk to and possibly shadow engineers to see if this is something that you really want to do, as a career area could look much different on the inside than it looks from the outside.

You might also want to explore becoming an electrician. The electricians are the ones who carry out the plans that an electrical engineer creates. Do the same exploration as mentioned above to meet and talk to electricians. These are the people who do the real hands on work developed by the electrical engineers.  

Ken recommends the following next steps:

  • • It is very important to express your appreciation to those who help you along the way to be able to continue to receive helpful information and to create important networking contacts along the way. Here are some good tips: ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-informational-interview-thank-you-note-smart-people-know-to-send?ref=recently-published-2 ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/3-tips-for-writing-a-thank-you-note-thatll-make-you-look-like-the-best-candidate-alive?bsft_eid=7e230cba-a92f-4ec7-8ca3-2f50c8fc9c3c&bsft_pid=d08b95c2-bc8f-4eae-8618-d0826841a284&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_20171020&utm_source=blueshift&utm_content=daily_20171020&bsft_clkid=edfe52ae-9e40-4d90-8e6a-e0bb76116570&bsft_uid=54658fa1-0090-41fd-b88c-20a86c513a6c&bsft_mid=214115cb-cca2-4aec-aa86-92a31d371185&bsft_pp=2 ##
  • Next, when you have the results of the testing, talk to the person at your high school and college who tracks and works with graduates to arrange to talk to, visit, and possibly shadow people doing what you think that you might want to do, so that you can get know what they are doing and how they got there. Here are some tips: ## http://www.wikihow.com/Network ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/nonawkward-ways-to-start-and-end-networking-conversations ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-questions-to-ask-your-network-besides-can-you-get-me-a-job?ref=carousel-slide-1 ##
  • Locate and attend meetings of professional associations to which people who are doing what you think that you want to do belong, so that you can get their advice. These associations may offer or know of intern, coop, shadowing, and scholarship opportunities. These associations are the means whereby the professionals keep abreast of their career area following college and advance in their career. You can locate them by asking your school academic advisor, favorite teachers, and the reference librarian at your local library. Here are some tips: ## https://www.careeronestop.org/BusinessCenter/Toolkit/find-professional-associations.aspx?&frd=true ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/9-tips-for-navigating-your-first-networking-event ##
  • Here are some helpful links that will help you to learn more about engineering: ## https://www.engineergirl.org/ ## (not focused on being a girl - best review of engineering I have found) ## http://www.futureengineers.org/ ## ## https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43zVcmTJSKM ##
  • The first step is to take an interest and aptitude test and have it interpreted by your school counselor to see if you share the personality traits necessary to enter the field. You might want to do this again upon entry into college, as the interpretation might differ slightly due to the course offering of the school. However, do not wait until entering college, as the information from the test will help to determine the courses that you take in high school. Too many students, due to poor planning, end up paying for courses in college which they could have taken for free in high school.