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What does a day in the life of an engineer look like?

I have always been passionate about engineering, but I want to see if the daily work done by an engineer would match my personalities and strengths.
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Zack’s Answer

If you like to solve problems, with a side of time/project management, then I believe the current passion you have for Engineering will remain indefinitely! My background is in Electrical Engineering, and my work experience has been mostly with Semiconductor MOSFET Reliability.

A typical day for me involves two things. How do I work towards solving the current technical/business challenge, and how do I make the best use of my time. The day's activities will naturally revolve around these two things.

1) Technical/business Challenge: There are always a few large projects that I'm working on. This is the fun part of the job, and involves lots of learning. I learn through getting in the lab, and getting hands-on with the machines. I learn by talking with my colleagues and working through the challenge together. I learn by researching industry-related papers, and discussing the ideas with colleagues.

2) Time/Project Management: In order for the technical work to be done efficiently, I have to spend some time to plan out my day and focus on the urgent tasks. I spend roughly the first 30minutes of my day preparing for the rest of the day. Realizing what to focus on, and when to ask for help, has made a huge difference in my efficiency and the quality of my work.

Thanks for your question, I hope your career will be a great and successful one!

Zack recommends the following next steps:

If you are interested in Quality Engineering, having a good grasp of applied statistics will give you an advantage.
Physics will help you think through and solve technical challenges.
I believe time/project management skills are critical to Engineers.
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Drew’s Answer

My daily work has always been exciting and fun. I started at US EPA where I provided technical assistance to state and local air pollution control agencies, managed a team collecting water samples from about 100 lakes from helicopters with pontoons, served as a regional expert on acid train and provided meaningful input for the Clean Air Act Amendments. Then I became a federal enforcement officer for waste water where I participated in developing cases for civil and criminal enforcement. That is a sampling of my first twelve years.

Thirty years ago I went into private practice helping manufacturers solve a very wide range of environmental problems; designing a total enclosure for a web press, noise and air monitoring, storm water permit, plant wide safety health and environmental program, etc. Because of my enforcement background I was drawn to forensic engineering. This is where the real fun began. One early case was so intriguing I wrote a peer reviewed paper that was published in a professional journal. That was a case with a single plaintiff. Years later the elements of this case became a class action suit and I was called as an expert witness. In deposition, the defense attorney tried to question my qualifications and he asked if I had ever written a Journal Paper on this particular pollutant in this particular part of the country. I delighted in saying yes and handing him the Journal with my paper. Recent cases I have worked on include a derailed railcar fatality, an explosion in a pyrotechnics factory, and a case where workers had been exposed to a chemical for thirty-five years before it was identified as harmful.

Drew recommends the following next steps:

I think it important to study engineering at a school with an ABET accredited program and to get licenses as a Professional Engineer as soon as possible.
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Richard’s Answer

heres how its done:
find a job that you like ... get in touch with the engineer and or company and request a "shadow day" and see the whole thing first hand.
people love to show off thier professional workday and students can certainly learn alot from that effort.

good luck

Richard "the truth is in the shadows" Wolf
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Nadir’s Answer

It really all depends. If you are in design and development of products, and again depending on the company's established processes, you may be doing computer aided design such as solid modeling, analysis, simulations, testing, etc. Lot of time may be going into meetings with your own teams, outside and inside vendors. You may need to do some cost analyses, obtain quotes, make presentations. If you are involved in plant maintenance, then the procedure may be different. In consulting firms, most of your day may be spent with clients in understanding the requirements and communicating the work being done, planned work, etc.

My advise will be to chose a potential are where you want to work and then spend a couple of days with an engineer.
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Robert’s Answer

Wow. Hard to answer. It's more what you do with it. It's a great skill set. One of the best. Be inventive, be an inventor. That will Always help you in life. Yes, the prerequisites are hard.
Just. Keep. Going. Yes, you can do it. I lived in a tent for a year going to SDSU. Yes.

But you can start at the junior college and get not only credits, but smaller classes, learning more. And the cost will be much lower. Learning, creativity, are more important. By far.

Robert recommends the following next steps:

Learn CAD
Learn basic physics
Learn the derivative, calculus will be awesome.
I had to repeat classes to succeed. Big deal.

Hi Robert, this is an excellent outline of how to go about becoming an engineer and includes some good tips. However, the student asked what the day to day responsibilities of an engineer are. Any insight you can share would be very helpful! Gurpreet Lally, Team