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Mechanical Engineer - Automotive

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  • Mechanical Engineer - Automotive

    I am considering changing careers. My hobbies are drag racing, fabrication, & woodworking. I spend most of my free time in the garage as I'm sure most of you do as well. I am have about 10 years experience with AutoCAD, and love to design things. I think mechanical engineering would be a great fit for me.

    My hestations are pay, and finding a job that would make me happy. I currently make over $60K in IT with no degree. How much do engineers make in the automotive industry? I hear of engineers making 6 figures, but my research doesn't show this. How easy is it to get a job in this industry? I would ASSume that most race teams in NASCAR and NHRA, IHRA, etc. all have engineers on staff to design parts, chassis, etc. How does someone get involved with one of those teams or a chassis shop?

    Any input is greatly appreciated.


  • #2
    Something to keep in mind an old Spanish saying I heard. Sometimes it is better to want than to have because once you have what you want its not a good as it was when you wanted it. Of course I am paraphrasing but the point is you might like your hobby because you can pick and chose your projects and work at your own pace. Once you have a boss telling you what you need to work on and how to do it ... it might not be as fun.

    Mind you I am not trying to sway you .... just offering up a thought. ..

    but in the end follow your dreams
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    • #3
      The only reason I am considering a career change is the education. Most of my college education is is drafting, math, architecture. I have a few classes in networking, but not as many as the others. I am not going to go much further in my current carreer without some kind of degree. I figure if I am going back to school I might as well go for something that interests me.

      A little background on myself: I studied architecture for 2 years then moved back home because I partied too much at school. I got a job doing autocad work, then moved to CAD Manager/ IT Manager at that company. IT was paying a whole lot better than autocad so I followed that path.


      • #4
        It's always good to develope your skills in all area's, you can also take schooling in business, and/or business philosophy's. The bottom line is that an Engineer does not often make much more than you, if not less in some cases, unless they have an incredible amount of responsibility or have one of those positions that there was only one man on earth for, and he was the man that fit the profile more than anyone, and/or it was who you knew, and who's relative was VP of this or that.

        Mechanical Engineers are more common, Electrical less, Chemical less, and the list goes on, the more specialized you become, the more you can make, but also some have dual degree's now, both electrical and mechanical, or similar and they are in high demand.

        Honestly the guys that make the most money "working" are the ones that act as Engineering managers, ie Product managers, project managers, the guys that have a lot of people and engineering teams to manage, and the knowledge to know the intricassies of et al. (very stressful job). These guys make alteast 120k. Usually have to have alot of years of experience at the company (if not enough to retire), or be one of the founders, and have both business and engineering degree's, IE MBA or similar background to get a Product manager type title.

        The guys that make millions are the ones that started designing, and started a company off almost nothing, watched it grow into a huge business, and one day at 40 years old, they sell the thing for several million to billions of dollars (easier said than done).

        Then again, you could work in an Engineering position without a degree like me, you'll just get less pay to do the same or more more work than the guys that have degree's, and they'll be jelous insecure and "throw you under the bus" every chance they get, LOL> Not to go off on a rant.

        The automotive industry drives alot of Engineering jobs, and it is going not so great here in the states. Not to say there aren't mechanical engineering jobs outside the auto / heavy truck industry.

        Drafting is a great skill if you got an Engineering degree', and some business, and became apt with FEA analysis, you would be a well sought after candidate.


        • #5
          I need some kind of degree to get further in my career. Its suprising that a lot of It positions just want to see a degree, no matter what it is. I guess they just want to see if you follow through with what you start. An Engineering degree would make me the happiest because I could use that knowledge in my hobbies. Either way I go, IT or Engineering, I have just as much schooling to get a bachelors, so it might as well be engineering. I definately want to get some business stuff thrown in there as I've seen first hand how that helps...even if most of the people I know with degrees are idiots.


          • #6
            Originally posted by BADSBRD
            even if most of the people I know with degrees are idiots.
            You can say that again, heh,

            I think it's great your interested, and you'll get way more out of the degree now that you have some more experience and goals, it will be much more worth your time and $$$.


            • #7
              Teeps speaks heaps!
              Everything heeps said was on the mark. I have a title-director of R&D. it was a life long desire of mine to earn a living doing research on something/anything mechanical.
              I don’t have an engineering degree but I do like working with engineers and production staff on a project.
              The reality is my day consists of solving more people problems then doing the actual research that attracted me to this position.
              As far as pay I make more than most of my degreed peers but less than most of my small business owner peers. So if its money your after……
              You said an engineering degree would "really make you happy" So the answer is obvious. go get the degree.


              • #8
                And one more thing (leaning in close like the guy talking to Dustin Hoffman in the graduate) I have one word for you….3D modeling.

                SolidWorks is a simple program to start with.


                • #9
                  Being an engineer, I can tell you that things ain't the same as they were when I started almost 20 yrs ago. The profession ain't for the faint of heart. Plan on changing jobs every 3 or 4 years and aside from having your way when you are technically correct, plan on being pushed around by every ding-bat in the office. Having said that, there is nothing I'd rather do as a career. With your background, you are already a step ahead. And as for the degree - those human resource ding-bats use it as a filter. I think that a college degree is today what 40 years ago was a high school diplomia.

                  Good luck,
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                  • #10
                    Hummm, let's see, is there anyway to combine the interest and the experience? Too bad the automotive industry isn't becoming more and more dependant upon sensors, computers, and the networks at connect them. Why, then you'd have something!

                    While you're getting your BSME, there's nothing to say you can't take some classes from the School of Business (I won't bother to tell you what it was called by the School of Engineering). A few contract administration, law, and marketing, and people management classes can pay off very well. The majority of Engineering students don't think about the fact that they will be part of a business and are there to make money in a free market economy. The schools don't tell them that either. Arcflash mentioned spending a large amount of time on people, rather than technical problems. Yes, Linus was right; I love mankind, its people I can't stand.

                    You've started on the decision process by knowing what makes you happy. This is an important thing in life. One could call some potential employers and talk to the engineering groups (not the HR weenies) and tell them what you are interested in doing and ask them how to best perpare yourself to be employable in their business. I think the positive response you get will surprise you.


                    • #11
                      Want to work on a race team? Your combination of skills are highly valued in NASCAR. I myself am a ME major, and as an older than avg. student, can not believe how inept in the "hands-on" department many of my peers are. Race teams know this, as most of their engineering applicants fit this profile. Engineers with the type of experience you describe are highly coveted in the sport. There ARE avenues into the sport. I will get back to you on those, I've really got to run. Rev
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                      • #12
                        Mechanical Engineeer

                        I got a BSME over 30 years ago and then spent 20 years trying to get rid of Low pay and lots of unpaid "salary" hours. I figured I'd go the management route and got an MBA to go along with it...that helped a little in the pay area. It was still not all it was cracked up to be.
                        This is how I finally got out of whimpy engineering office: at the construction site where I was working as an "engineer", the local pipefitters union was offering welding classes in the evening to anyone that wanted to learn, and if you got to where you could pass their quality tests, they would allow you to work in their union as a weldor...and thats exactly what I finally did. Better pay and more least for me at that time.
                        I was always interested in automotive stuff since I was a young kid. I started restoring old muscle cars and learned to do automotive painting, machining and engine building and did a bunch of it for myself and some others out of my small shop. Then one day, in the late '70s/early 80s, I happened to be in the right place at the right time and got a break: ended up working as a "wrench" for one of the better known NHRA Top Fuel operations back then. I did that for 2 complete seasons and loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, I never was able to share any "quality time" with my kids and wife for about 2 in the interest of preserving my marriage and sharing in the responsiblity raising my kids, I went back to work in as an "engineer"....only now, I had enough experience and other "skills" (welding, automotive, etc.), I was in a much better position to dictate pay etc. that led me to a management type of position.
                        Working NHRA and/or NASCAR looks great on TV, but let me tell you: it's hard, demanding work most, if not all, of the time.... The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Those professional race teams are usually looking for hard-working, well-rounded, highly-skilled people. The engineering degree only supplements those work assets. Get the degree, get some hands-on experience, hone your welding skills, learn painting/engine building.....make yourself an asset to the team, then you must find the "door" that lets you in and that is not always easy. Hope I didn't discourage you too much, but felt it would be good to hear from an "engineer" that's been there and back.....
                        I still love racing and maybe someday go back to a professional team as I feel I have much to offer from past experience (although I'm getting kinda old now).
                        Good Luck!!!

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