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Posted By: PEdoubleNIZZLE Electrcal Engineers in the field - 07/09/05 02:37 AM
I am an electrical engineering student (as mentioned in all of my posts), and well, I don't wanna be the electrical engineer that sits at a computer all day designing a piece of crap that will end up on an infomercial... I actually like electrical WORK, but due to physical complications, i could not pull wire through conduit all day crawl through attics, etc. Are there any jobs where one could be an engineer and technician at the same time? Please forgive my ignorance on the topic, but i figured it's better to ask a stupid question than to ot know the stupid answer.
Posted By: maintenanceguy Re: Electrcal Engineers in the field - 07/09/05 12:16 PM
There are "field engineers" in all the different areas of engineering. These are the guys who go out and solve the technically complex problems that come up.

But, most engineers aren't made for it. A guy who's great at math and physics, who can spend hours a day reading texts on numerical analysis and electron tunneling usually just isn't the same guy that can look at a real-world problem and solve it.

We need both types of people, but rarely find them in the same place.

If this is what you want to do, find a co-op program or at least summer internships that will get you out in the field while you're still in school.
Posted By: renosteinke Re: Electrcal Engineers in the field - 07/09/05 04:25 PM
Sure, the jobs exist- but you have to do a little thinking "outside the box."
Been to Iraq or Afghanistan lately? Seriously- the engineering firms that work there have lots of guys who are out on the ground, solving probs you never dreamt of! They are also training the locals to keep thing running.
Closer to home, the FAA maintains/operated the airport landing systems- everything from radar to runway lights.
How's your security clearance? Civilian contractors maintain the enormously involved instrumentation used to monitor training exercises at the various sites (such as "Top Gun" and NTC).

WHich brings up a trade group you ought to know about: ISA. The Instrumentation Society of America qualifies techs in categories that are up to Master's degree level in various control technologies. Their certifications are essential in, among other things, the pertoleum and chemical industries. They -and not the NFPA, or UL- are the real experts in hazardous locations, as an example.
Posted By: gfretwell Re: Electrcal Engineers in the field - 07/09/05 04:48 PM
I worked with field engineers when I was inspecting for the state (Florida).
They were usually contractors, not state employees, who were hired to OK site driven changes to mastered plans. It looked like a pretty interesting job. They seemed to be operating is a fairly "wild west" mode. If the engineer stamped something and it looked safe to me, off we went. The jobs were as mundane as a tool booth (MM99 on I75) or as exotic as renovating a 1926 mansion/museum (CaDZan in Sarasota).
Posted By: GamecockEE Re: Electrcal Engineers in the field - 07/09/05 05:51 PM
Most of the engineers in process industries (such as oil, pulp & paper) do a combination of both field & desk work. Coming from that background myself you learn an awful lot doing the engineering and then overseeing the installation and start-up. I would think that the electric utilities have a number of slots where you are not desk bound day after day. By the way, good luck with your engineering career, It's been good to me over the years.
Posted By: macmikeman Re: Electrcal Engineers in the field - 07/09/05 06:14 PM
There are all types of people who are engineers. I have worked with some very competent in the field type guy's who also were electrical engineer's. Some make for excellent project manager's, particularly on large system integration projects. Not only do these systems require extensive installation expertise, but also the ability to manage a lot of capital expense, and employee's. It seem's to me that the best engineers are people who have that natural ability to tackle all parts of the engineering from the design,thru the field and also the money management end.
Posted By: Scott35 Re: Electrcal Engineers in the field - 07/10/05 12:59 AM

Go for it, dude!!! (I know, the "dude" term... sounds silly!).

I have been doing the very same thing for many years! If I am not doing something Design related (read: "AutoCAD, Mouse, Keyboard, Monitor, Eyes red and watering... yadda yadda yadda), I'm in the field doing something (Working Foreman, Stupidvisor, "Working" Project Manager, or world class broom pusher!).

The hardest things to deal with are:
  • First 2 weeks, maybe upto a full month, adjusting to the task changes - works both ways, going into the field, AND going into the CAD realm!
    Expect to feel the impact over this time period - hardest comes after the first weekend, and becomes easier in an exponential fashion,
  • Some Field Personnel - especially very arrogant Forepersons, will try as hard as they can to be ... well, the term I am thinking of rhymes with "Gas-Poles" to you...goodness knows what's up with that behavior.
    Try not to let it effect you - either in an angry response, or worse, having to answer to someone because the "Gas-Pole" is trying to undermine you with "Sheeeet Talk"!

That's about it!

You will really enjoy the experience! If the crews you work with are interested in the Sciences, man, you can explain the things that they are unsure of - and more!

There are a few tasks that are so redundant and boring, it's nearly mind numbing!
Light fixtures in T-bar ceilings is one such task. Boring enough to put speed freaks to sleep!
Roughing in for Receptacles is another task with a high anesthetic value!
Trim is less exciting than having an impacted tooth extracted!

I am over emphasizing these tasks' yawn levels, but nevertheless they are boring.

Good luck!

Posted By: BobH Re: Electrcal Engineers in the field - 07/10/05 04:08 PM
Scott, I always wondered about the mentality of "gaspoles" giving you guys a hard time in the field. I guess they just think engineers are pencil pushers and they'll grant you no respect. I've always tried to learn and ask questions when I encounter an engineer on the job and they're usually happy to oblige. Well I guess that's just the so called 'human condition' that we all have to deal with.
Posted By: gfretwell Re: Electrcal Engineers in the field - 07/10/05 06:27 PM
I guess I have just been lucky but on most of the jobs I worked on there was plenty of work to go around so we didn't have too much second guessing about the other guy's job.
Posted By: Joe Tedesco Re: Electrcal Engineers in the field - 07/10/05 06:48 PM
I have worked with, and for electrical engineers who were very knowledgeable when it came to our industry.

I have also found that the "street savvy" electrician, and the electrical engineer go well together, as long as an ego is not in the way.

A young engineer may find the following position challenging.

PS: Scott35, I believe you can wear both hats and do very well all by yourself!
Posted By: IanR Re: Electrcal Engineers in the field - 07/11/05 11:51 AM
I work as an electronic engineering technitian (fancy name for a tech?) and I work with engineers quite often on equipment and in the field. They do quite a lot of hands on around here. I don't have experience with too many companies but where I work they spend alot of time on the production floor and out in the field. Like renosteinke said: Hows your secucity clearace? or do you think you can get one? I work on defense contracts and I can say it is really cutting edge stuff. Because it's prototype stuff, the engineers are very hands on.

[This message has been edited by IanR (edited 07-11-2005).]
Posted By: Ron Re: Electrcal Engineers in the field - 07/11/05 01:32 PM
When you look for a Job, be sure that you get desk time and field time. Most EE's that I work with (including myself), spend at least one day a week if not more at project sites. We call it construction administration, but it is mostly working elbow to elbow with the EC's Foreman working out coordination issues and product application. It's also great to attend site integrated commisioning acceptance. It helps make that project work smoother, and is great learning for the next project. Of course you would do this field task with a senior engineer for the first year or so, until you get the hang of it.
Posted By: George Corron Re: Electrcal Engineers in the field - 07/11/05 03:49 PM
(you don't mind if I call you "PE" do you [Linked Image] ) There are many examples of working both ways.

One guy I know works for a VERY large company locally. He is an EE and came out of college to work as an electrician for a few years. He is now the project manager everyone respects (unless you're trying to pull the wool over his eyes)

I went backwards (OK that's normal with me, don't ask) and was an electrician first, 12 years business owner, 20 years an apprenticeship teacher. Then I got hired as an EE. I have been working with engineering firms for the last 7 years. Title is EE, but I always put "Senior Electrical Inspector" on all correspondence. It's about the best of both worlds with me, cause I get to spend time in both worlds

BUT the important part is the field experience, it is what makes me valuable to these organizations.

I have been working at the Pentagon for awhile, and started out working at Dulles Airport. You can find gainful, and fulfilling employment of this type with lots of the big firms, Parsons Brinckerhoff, DMJM, 3DI, Ralph M. Parsons, Bechtel, Kellog-Brown-Root. You have to decide what type of work you want to do.

If you take the straight out of college to the office route, sorry, you're going to be an "Office Engineer" for awhile, unfortunately, it's much more a glorified secretarial position - think secretary with technical understanding. It drives most of the really on the ball young guys I've worked with nearly insane. You will find your value would increase quite a bit with some field experience.

BTW, at both firms I know "PE's" that will not allow themselves to be placed in the office - Think salary versus OT, and let's face it, the fun is in the dirt, not on the carpet. It's your life, do what you think will suit you best, I assure you, the reason I do this is because of arthritis and damage I've done to myself over the years, so it ain't physically challenging.

Good luck man, the choices are out there, you're not necessarily stuck with any choice, so sample some. We have summer intern programs, and so does the airport ( so do look into these thing, unfortunately, we used the interns like OE's. Why? Because a field guy has to be there when the work STARTS, and sorry, but most college guys just can't make it.

Let us know, feel free to click on my profile and contact me.

Posted By: sabrown Re: Electrcal Engineers in the field - 07/13/05 02:23 PM
I can't add anything of value to this discussion but I did want to say that sometimes you can find a job that fits, I am an Electrical Engineer for the USDA Forest Service (read beautiful outdoor time.) And sometimes you have to make your own fit as my nephew who graduated this year as an EE in technology. He has used home construction to put him through school, is in final stages of getting his contractors license, focusing on high-end low voltage home controls. (Now that I think about it, I need to tell him about this site.)

Shane (P.E.)
Posted By: Scott35 Re: Electrcal Engineers in the field - 07/24/05 12:34 PM
Ran across this thread (which I forgot existed!), and want to make these following responses:

To BobH:


Scott, I always wondered about the mentality of "gaspoles" giving you guys a hard time in the field. I guess they just think engineers are pencil pushers and they'll grant you no respect.

Well, I feel that respect is something that can only be earned, never granted by default; but you have "Hit The Nail On The Head", as to the typical views of any Office type Personnel by the common "Gas-Pole"
[Linked Image]

It would be nice to describe - or even show with hands-on examples, that the People in the Office actually do work, and this work has its own level of difficulty involved too!
Also explain that there can even be some People, whom have skills for both Field and Office work Enviroments - mainly because those People had been in the trade for like a few years or so, before going into the Office...

If this could be demonstrated to the Apprentice Gas-Poles (Persons new to the "Gas-Pole Beliefs", being taught to be Gas-Poles by "Master Gas-Poles"), or the "Undecided Gas-Poles" (Persons teetering on the idea of breaking away from the "Gas-Pole Theory/Protocol"), I believe it would do a lot of good for our Trade.

It would give the Personnel who have only seen either the Field side of projects, or the Office side of projects, a more complete picture of what's going on altogether.

It would also encourage growth in knowledge + abilities, for many Company Team Members.

Overall, it would eliminate, or drammatically reduce "Gas-Pole Thinking" by Field and Office Personnel.


I've always tried to learn and ask questions when I encounter an engineer on the job and they're usually happy to oblige. Well I guess that's just the so called 'human condition' that we all have to deal with.

That's what I did too, and luckily we both had some good results.

Unfortunately, when I was younger, my past experiences were minimal when it came to an EE willing to discuss anything.

The handfull of EEs who did discuss stuff with me were more than happy to do so, and made sure I was completely "Trained/Educated" on the subject at hand (they did not forget how to be Professional Scientific Humans!).

The remainders are a "Third Class Of Gas-Poles", and generally they suck in a Logarithm-like fashion!
[Linked Image]

To Joe Tedesco:


PS: Scott35, I believe you can wear both hats and do very well all by yourself!

Thanks for the kind words, Joe! [Linked Image] [Linked Image]
I try to do the best possible with each hat on!


edited more spelling blunders than I really should be!... time for englursh refresher!

[This message has been edited by Scott35 (edited 07-24-2005).]
Posted By: BobH Re: Electrcal Engineers in the field - 07/25/05 01:21 AM
I agree that respect is indeed earned, what I meant was the respect we all should have for each other from the get-go. Too many times people in certain trades and professions are quick to judge someone in another line of work, not realizing that every trade, profession, job, etc has it's own challenges that could be equal or more than our own. Engineers are guilty of this as well, sometimes assuming electricians are not as intelligent as they are and will act condenscending towards them which causes a reaction as well on their part escalating the problem. Well, I guess that's the way it is, it's tough to alter human nature and our many, many faults. I don't believe engineers deserve any more respect than anyone else on this planet, respect of others should be by default in my book regardless of what they happen to do to put food on the table.
Posted By: sabrown Re: Electrcal Engineers in the field - 07/26/05 01:33 PM
I hope that I can live by my own creed - To treat everyone with respect. Sometimes it is a very hard thing to do.

I do not know that I could live someone elses life or do their job better than they are. I try to remember that I do not know everything behind their actions or thinking.

I wonder sometimes as I see others work what were they thinking. I found that if I can talk to them and explain things, usually things improve greatly. I also try to point out things that were done right and well (everyone I have come to know thrives on praise, yet they all can see false praise). Most of all I try to remember to ask them where I can improve.

As I drive down the road and see what looks like poor judgement on the part of another driver I think back - How many times have I done something just as stupid? Then if I find myself getting upset with them I turn to making up homorous (to me at least) excusses for them.

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