Should I do an Engineering Internship in order to preserve my chances of getting a backup job that I may never do?
November 12, 2005 11:28 PM   Subscribe

Should I do an Engineering Internship in order to preserve my chances of getting a backup job that I may never do, instead pursuing a career in music?

I'm currently finishing two bachelors: A B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, and a B.M. in Opera Performance. The opera thing grew from a hobby to something I really love and really seem to have a shot at. I used to really love Engineering, but I'm kind of losing my taste for it.

I'm going to pursue a career in music when I graduate in 2007. It will take me probably ~8 years to find out whether I can do it or not. (If a classical singer doesn't get any major engagements by the time they're 30, they're out of the running, typically).

I've been told (by various advisors) the following:
If the music thing doesn't work out, and I try to get an engineering job in 8 years, I'm going to have a very tough time. However, if I have an engineering internship, I somehow won't have a tough time, and they won't ask me/care why I'm 8 years behind.

My questions:
1) Is this true? Are internships that valuable? If so, why?
2) Does research count? How different are research and internships on this purely practical level of 'Can I get a job more easily in the future?'
posted by sdis to Work & Money (9 answers total)
Some work experience in engineering will help if you want to be an engineer. However, I can't imagine many employers would care about your 2006 work experience if it's 2014. If engineering is something you're interested in, most of what you learned in school (and at work) will be considered dated by then. So, at that point, you could do some refresher courses and an internship, then go for something entry-level. In the meantime, maybe you could take part in a volunteer project or part-time research project that will let you keep the door open.

If it turns out that you aren't interested in engineering, you will still have plenty of options. Sales, product management, marketing or even non-tech fields. Your degree is a good foundation for business, law, accounting...all sorts of things.
posted by acoutu at 11:41 PM on November 12, 2005

Internships aren't that valuable. I mean, every experience you ever have is valuable, maturity is valuable, and time to reflect is valuable, so internships are fine, but they wouldn't make or break anything.

If the music doesn't work out, why not plan to come back for a M.A.Sc., that would bring your resume right up to date, nobody would blink an eye.
posted by Chuckles at 11:47 PM on November 12, 2005

I would say try the internship only if you are interested in the experience of engineering outside of the class room and somehow you were teetering between the two fields. And like acoutu said, an internship now isn't really going to do much for you as far as getting a job in eight years. If music doesn't work out you will probably need to take some refresher courses and work at an entry level engineering position for a year or two before employers will take you seriously. Best of luck!
posted by retro88 at 11:53 PM on November 12, 2005

Refresher courses sound like a good idea. What's this M.A.Sc. degree? Google is giving me all sorts of things that aren't degree programs
posted by sdis at 8:27 AM on November 13, 2005

Masters of Applied Science aka Masters in Engineering. Actually, it would be perfect if you chose one with a co-op program.
posted by acoutu at 8:37 AM on November 13, 2005

Why not combine the two? Engineering is integral to almost all phases of music production, from instruments to performance venues.
posted by mischief at 9:01 AM on November 13, 2005

some schools offer two master's programs; one is a research-oriented program and the other a business-oriented program.

In the research degree, which is called a Masters of Applied Science at my school, you will attend some advanced courses and will be required to write a master's thesis, which will be a piece of original scholarly work. Many graduates of this program will continue studies to get a PhD. This does not sound like what you're interested in.

However many schools also offer a Master's program that does not contain a research component. You cannot continue to a PhD with this degree. All you have to do is take more classes for two years. You may have the opportunity to do intersnhips in this program.

It should be said that gaining entry into a graduate program and succeeding after an eight year absence may not be easy. Graduate courses are demanding. You should speak with your school's advisors if you think this may be an option.

With respect to internships, they are valuable for two main reasons. First, they give you practical experience, which is as valuable as your degree. You will need several months to get used to the 'real world' at your first job and to get used to how your industry actually works. Some employers may be unwilling to spend the effort to get you up to speed.

Second, they give you contacts. The easiest place to start looking for a full-time job is at a former employer. Many interns are hired back full-time; in fact many companies use internships as a sort of test run for potential full-time employees (though you can never count on this). And even if you don't return to a former employer, you can still ask them for advice and get them to put you in touch with your colleagues. Although with an eight-year absence you would have to work hard to maintain whatever network you are able to build.

I have a very good friend who will attempt a career in music once he gradutes from engineering next year. At my school we do six short internships throughout the degree; he did four of them at the same company and became as valued as a full-time employee. He had many friends there which with he discussed his plans and many of them gave him their blessing, with the understanding that he would probably have a job available for him if he ever needed it.

Hope this is helpful.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:45 AM on November 13, 2005

What are the best things I can do in the next year and a half to preserve the value of my engineering degree, assuming that I don't want to do anything engineering-related for the foreseeable future after I graduate?

If the music falls through, I would actually prefer research to business-end engineering. Assuming I have excellent grades, will I still have a decent shot at getting into decent engineering schools for a masters, despite a 8+ year pause? Is there anything I can do to help my future self out in this regard?
posted by sirion at 5:15 PM on November 13, 2005

Can you volunteer (or get paid) as a research assistant for a prof you know?
posted by acoutu at 6:36 PM on November 14, 2005

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