Design/engineering - where to begin?
September 4, 2007 9:58 AM   Subscribe

CareerFilter: Help me break out of the cocoon of mediocrity. I've been underachieving for the past five years. I need to find a career path that I find worth-while and satisfying. New media design? Engineer?

My girlfriend, my parents and my subconscious all tell me that I should start working on a fulfilling career. I'm one year out of college with a Communication Studies degree (I make good presentations, basically). Hooray meaningless Bachelor's degree. I've been working in inside sales for a technology reseller. Money is pretty good, and it's close by, but my department is full of losers and I don't see this job leading anywhere. The reluctant part of me believes that this is a great position for me, which can propel me into sales, but I know I can do so much more.

I'm interested in two areas of study: New Media Design and Engineering. For Design - I've always enjoyed design. I've got a personal site I enjoy re-configuring. HTML, CSS. I did a lot of music visualization for a couple years - so I know I can program (AVS in Winamp, sample videos here). Whenever I show off the stuff I do in my spare time, people always suggest that I go into graphic design. It's not ground breaking material, but I must have some propensity for the work. Engineering - Although I feel perfectly comfortable in a more people-oriented career, I have a good sense I'm cut out for the technical stuff. Only, I don't know what kind of engineer I would be. Not chemical, maybe mechanical, maybe civil. I miss working with numbers.

So it all boils down to how I can get a feel for these areas. Aside from general interest, I don't know much about engineering or new media design. I wouldn't want to start looking at schools until I had a solid understanding of what I was getting into. What options are there? Job shadowing, internships, networking? I honestly don't know where to begin. I live in the Metro DC area.
posted by nemoorange to Work & Money (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
For engineering particularly, you're going to have to go back to school and get another BA/BS. Is that okay with you?
posted by k8t at 10:10 AM on September 4, 2007

Whenever I show off the stuff I do in my spare time, people always suggest that I go into graphic design.

Just playing devil's advocate here, but when I tell a joke people tell me I should be a comedian. I absolutely am not talented enough to be a comedian. But that's how people think. The pro level is much more difficult than the amateur level. To people outside that specific industry it all looks good.

That said I think its best to consider moving to a Masters degree that exploits your current design and coding skills. Your backgroudn screams web designer/developer. You can probably get into some new media program somewhere. Take an internship while working.

Starting over with a new BS is going to me a lot more difficult.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:27 AM on September 4, 2007

An engineering career will definitely require another degree, whereas something like web design probably wouldn't need a full four years.

If you want to do engineering, you're going to have to make the commitment to go back to school for another three to four years, depending on which engineering field you choose and what courses you've already taken. I don't know what your math background is, but you're going to need multivariable calculus, differential equations, and probably linear algebra, as well as the plethora of field-specific courses in your chosen field, courses like thermodynamics, fluid mechanics/heat and mass transfer (generally called "transport phenomena"), and so on.

Try to determine what about mechanical and civil engineering draws you to those fields. Is it building things? Is it being interested in how stuff is made? That might give you a better sense of what you're getting yourself into.

Internships in engineering generally require completion of at least some of an engineering curriculum, so after your second or third year you'd be able to get one, after your first if you're particularly ambitious. I know there are programs where you can do job shadowing. My school's career office has that. If your old college has a career office and an engineering school, check with them to see if they have any job shadowing options available.

I'm a ChemE, which you said you weren't interested in, but I'm also a tour guide for my engineering school, so I do know a bit about all the fields. Feel free to email me.
posted by liesbyomission at 10:39 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

You could switch into marketing communications for tech firms. You've got the knowledge of sales and it sounds like you have the writing and design background necessary. Your knowledge of web development and new media would also be very handy. Once you get your feet wet there, you could move into more general marketing, then product management or some other position. Or you could move up the ranks in web development, technical communication, marketing communication, etc. Some of those positions pay well.
posted by acoutu at 11:36 AM on September 4, 2007

Regarding the 4 more years of school - I realized this is inevitable if I were to pursue an engineering degree. At this point, I just don't know whether I would fit in that field.

For both disciplines, I realize the figurative pools are enourmous - I'm looking out how to get my tippy-toes wet for the time being. No diving yet.

Thanks for the responses so far. Got to love AskMefi for that "we pulling for you" feeling.
posted by nemoorange at 2:08 PM on September 4, 2007

« Older There are no dumb questions, right?   |   1919 Music Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.