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How difficult is it to find an entry-level job as a Computer Engineering major fresh out of college?

I'm currently a senior in High School who just got accepted to the University of Texas SA, and I'm wondering about the ability for new engineers in this field to get jobs out of University. I had heard before that it's extremely difficult to attain a job at major companies without first participating in internships that are majority only available for college students, and a majority of the jobs in this field are contained in large companies that would have the funds to develop hardware and such. I'd like to have some clarity as to the field which I wish to be a part of.
#job-search #college #computer #engineering

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Doug’s Answer

I strongly agree with Jennifer and Brendan with regards to doing internships. I've had interns work for me several times and it has many tremendous benefits: 1) you get to try the job out and see if you like it, 2) you get to meet other engineers and learn from them and build a network (which can lead to other opportunities), 3) you will typically be mentored by a senior engineer, and 4) for some internships it is basically a many months long job interview, so if you do well you may be offered a job or asked to come back (if you still will be in school at the end of the internship).

What size of company should you start with is an interesting question. I've worked at large, medium, and small companies. Like with any question, there are pros and cons to any path. I'll give you some food for thought on this. At small companies you will typically have the opportunity to see how the entire company works and learn more quickly how a business works. Additionally, your performance will be more directly tied to the success of that company, which can make you a better engineer (at large companies you can be very far removed from the customer , which is a drawback - this heavily depends on the group you work in). On the flip side, the risks are higher at small companies (in the sense they can fail more quickly and you will have to find a new job). Also, the pressure to ship a product can be much higher since you have to ship in order to survive (this is not always true at large companies since a percentage of their products and fail and the company survives). Generally (depending on your risk tolerance) you can take higher risks earlier in your career (if do not have any dependents like kids), so working at a small company can be a great way to start if you are in a position to take higher risks. At large companies do have the benefit of being able to move around and try many different products and roles. Also, they sometimes provide better education on how the development process works and how to ship higher quality products (this again depends on the group). Personally, I learned how to be more disciplined and how to ship higher quality products at a large company. But, I learned more about how business runs and how to be more customer focused at a small company.

These days engineers tend to move around (every 2 to 3 years). This trend is likely to increase. So, given that I would suggest that you work at various companies initially. At the end of the day, you need to continually hone and develop your skills and moving around (not too frequently though) can be an excellent way to do that (as well as give you more breadth of understanding about the business world).

Finally, I don't believe it is necessarily more difficult to get into a large company. When I was at Microsoft we hired large numbers of engineers straight out of college. Large companies need to continually feed the pipeline. I would strongly recommend that you pay attention to job fairs that are provided at your school - at Microsoft we would send engineers to conduct interviews at many colleges (I did this myself) and I know other companies do this as well.

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Jennifer’s Answer

Hi Nolan,

I have two thoughts I'd liked to share:

1) internships:

I would highly recommend interning with a company that you are interested in or that has a role similar to what you think you will be looking for when you graduate. Internships are not only a great way to show off your skills, but they also give you time to figure out where you want to work and what you want to do. In my personal experience, I interned with one company through a technology development program and I immediate fell in love. I knew it was where I wanted to work and, because it was such a large company I knew there were plenty of opportunities to choose from when I graduated. My husband is a computer engineer and he had a different experience. He interned with three different companies - one small, one medium, and one large - where he performed various roles and worked in different departments. This allowed him to realize the kind of work he knew he liked and the work he knew he did not want to do when he graduated.

2) company size

It seems like you may be hesitant to start out with a large company. I can understand that, it is easy to feel like you are lost in a sea of people. However, when you work at a large company you have many opportunities set in front of you and the ability to work with, and meet all kinds of people. Starting out in a large company can be great - it can give you a few years of work experience and the network to find an advocate for yourself at a different, smaller company. You never know what may come your way :) So make the best of every opportunity!

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