The future of ECE
Two facts are clear about the future of electrical and computer engineering. It is a booming industry, full of countless growing opportunities, but none of it comes without some hard work.
The seventh annual ECE Night saw a solid turnout of current majors and undecided students, all curious about future careers in ECE.
Undergrad, Estefania Fernandez, wondered if she really needed to pursue a graduate degree in order to find a job after graduation.
“I wanted to get that straight,” she said. “I wanted to listen to people already in the field.”
Fernandez got her answer. Organizer, Bradley Clymer, brought together a strong alumni panel of professionals, including Rodolfo Bellesi, David Bradway (via Skype), Ronald Koch, Sarah Switzer and Marv White. All have decades of engineering experience to pass on to the students. Learn more about their careers and ECE Night HERE.
Bellesi said many undergraduates want the perfect job to stay in for the rest of their lives. The reality, he said, is most engineering professionals switch careers numerous times.
As Switzer said, “It’s not always a bad thing.”
Regarding Fernandez’s question, each panel member agreed. Going on toward a Master’s Degree is essential.
“Is the BS the new high school diploma?” one student asked.
Panel members said the MS degree typically pays for itself. Getting a PhD is usually a requirement for certain jobs, and those who want those jobs pursue it.
Students also wanted to know where ECE is headed in the future.
Koch said any industry that must become more efficient needs engineers.
Fields like intelligent illumination, green efficiency, LED lighting, water quality sensors, wireless communications, analog circuitry, or even autonomous vehicles. The intersection between medicine and engineering is growing, as well as the tie between project management and engineering in the business sector.
Does ECE offer opportunities for employment at NASA or astronautical engineering?
Yes, panel members said. Many of their colleagues have positions in mission control at NASA. Other graduates head to the NASA Glenn Center in Cleveland, working in lasers communicating with deep space networks or pursue satellite research.
Clymer said industries across the board like to involve engineers.
“Mostly what we do is training you in how to solve problems,” he said. “So you can solve any problem that is coming at you.”
Switzer said being able to measure and research a product’s impact on the environment is essential. She also encouraged ECE students to find internships or co-op positions that test their skills.
“Look for something with diversity,” she said. “You learn teamwork is so important.”
By working with others from different fields, people bounce ideas off one another and strengthen their own expertise.
Panel members said ECE is a broad field.
If you pick an intership that ultimately doesn't interest you, Bradway said, just explore another field of ECE.
Clymer said that is what makes an ECE degree so valuable.
“If you have no idea what you really want to do, go into electrical engineering,” he said. “You probably won’t have any trouble getting a job.”
By the time students reach the 3000-level classes, Clymer said, they typically learn their strengths. He encourages students to talk to faculty for advice.
“Don’t worry about the perfect job,” Bellesi said. “I reset my life many times. And I am doing very well.”
ECE student Carl Staiger said he was glad to learn about the event. He was also curious about continued education involved with future engineering careers.
"I got a lot of good insight," he said.
Switzer encouraged students to keep testing themselves. Don’t be afraid to learn on the job.
“I didn’t want to be anything else,” she said. “I wanted to be an engineer.”