Pros and Cons of an Electronic Process Engineer Career
An electronic process engineer is a type of mechanical engineer who works with electronic processes. Learn more about the pros and cons of a career in electric process engineering to make an informed decision about your future.
|Pros of an Electronic Process Engineer Career|
|Relatively high median salary (around $83,000 in 2014)*|
|A bachelor's degree is the minimum entry-level requirement*|
|Work occurs in comfortable offices and laboratories, with occasional on-site industrial visits*|
|Job growth is often in innovative fields, such as renewable energy*|
|Cons of an Electronic Process Engineer Career|
|Slow job growth (five percent predicted from 2012-2022)*|
|May work up to 60 hours per week*|
|Must be licensed to sell services to the public*|
|A master's degree may be required for advancement|
|Work can be stressful because of deadlines, materials and budgets**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET OnLine.
Mechanical engineers create machines to solve problems and meet consumer, corporate and industrial needs. An electronic process engineer may work with generators, electronic engines, turbines, robots and machines that use power. As an electronic process engineer, computers will be a big part of your work. You'll use computers to design and test your creations, and monitor and control the processes of existing machines and systems. You may responsible for maintaining an industrial electrical process or creating products that use electronic processes. Most engineers work in an office, but they may occasionally make offsite visits. Full-time workweeks are common, although it's also not uncommon for these professionals work up to 60 hours per week.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of mechanical engineers would increase five percent from 2012-2022, which is slower than the average growth for all occupations. The job outlook may be more favorable for electronic processes engineers working in cutting-edge fields, such as alternative energy and nanotechnology.
Mechanical engineers earned a median annual wage of about $83,000, as of May 2014 and the highest paid 10% made approximately $126,000 or more, while the lowest paid 10% made roughly $53,000 or less.
What Are the Requirements?
The majority of entry-level jobs require a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. For most management positions and many research and development positions, a graduate degree is required. If you offer services directly to the public, you'll need to be licensed by your state as a professional engineer (PE). Licensure generally involves earning a bachelor's degree from an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredited school, passing two exams and possessing experience in the field. Many states require mechanical engineers to be relicensed annually.
To succeed in their profession, electronic process engineers generally possess a combination of hard and soft skills. Some of the skills that could be beneficial, according to the BLS, include the ability to:
- Problem solve to turn scientific discoveries into useful products
- Successfully communicate and work as part of a team
- Perform mathematical calculations, often involving trigonometry and calculus
- Creatively process information to design and build innovative electronic processes
- Visualize engineering concepts, processes and finished products
What Employers Look For
Employers generally seek educated and skilled process engineers to help their companies create new products and offer electronic solutions. Employers often hire engineers with experience in the company's industry or expertise with the materials the business uses for engineering projects. To provide an idea of what employers look for, here are some summaries from April 2012 job postings:
- A California A/V systems manufacturer and developer advertised for a process engineer with a bachelor's degree in mechanical, electronic or industrial engineering, expertise with mechanical and electronic assembly and excellent communication skills. Other requirements included the ability to read and interpret schematics and to work with PCBA manufacturing and PCB fabrication.
- A commercial vehicle manufacturer in Michigan looked for a student intern/electronics process engineer to help evaluate and make recommendations regarding the production of the vehicles' electronic components. The student must be pursuing a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Engineering degree and hold a 3.0 or higher grade point average.
- In Wisconsin, a consumer products company needed a process engineer to improve the manufacturing process, as well as effect operations and product development. Qualifications included at least two years of manufacturing experience, a B.S. in engineering, materials science or a related subject and strong problem solving and teamwork skills.
- An Alaska oil refinery was looking for a process engineer to oversee the operations, engineering and maintenance of the company's pipeline project and identify and solve any complex problems that could arise. Duties included monitoring the project for safety hazards and overseeing change management. Required qualifications included a bachelor's degree in engineering, at least 10 years of related experience, knowledge of technical and engineering concepts and understanding of pipeline hydraulics, operations and processes.
How to Stand Out in the Field
Technical knowledge is a requirement for a mechanical engineer, but job posts indicate that strong communication and teambuilding skills may also be desired. To stand out in this field, you could consider taking communication, writing, and/or public speaking courses while enrolled in college. Additionally, participating in a extracurricular activities and obtaining a leadership role could also demonstrate to employers that you posses these skills.
Another way to stand out is to join or become certified by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). According to the organization's website, membership can help you advance in your career, keep your knowledge current and your skills sharp and provide networking opportunities. You can also demonstrate your competency by earning professional certification through the organization. Certificates are offered in areas such as fossil fuel plant operations, geometric dimensioning and hazardous waste incineration. The organization also offers resources to help engineers earn or maintain their PE licenses.
Other Careers to Consider
If you're interested in working in the engineering field but the educational requirements are a deterrent, you might consider a career as a mechanical drafter or mechanical engineering technician. Although the salaries for these professionals are substantially lower, the educational requirements are fairly minimal.
Drafters consider the ideas of engineers and then use those ideas to create blueprints, plans and technical schematics. Modern drafters use a combination of hand drawings and computer-aided drawings. Most drafters hold an associate's degree in technical drafting. The BLS predicted that employment of drafters would increase three percent from 2010-2020, which is much slower than the average. As of May 2011, mechanical drafters made a median annual salary of around $49,000, according to the BLS.
Mechanical Engineering Technician
Mechanical engineering technicians are assistants to mechanical engineers. They review schematics, test machinery and help plan for new products and systems. Most engineering technicians hold an associate's degree in engineering technology or similar postsecondary training. The job outlook is weak, with only four percent projected growth from 2010-2020, according to the BLS. The organization also stated that mechanical engineering technicians made a median annual salary of about $51,000, as of May 2011.