Reasons Why I Hate Working As An Engineer

I have had such a horrible time going to school for engineering and working as an engineer, that I do not recommend it to anyone.  In Germany, where engineers are treated with as much respect as medical doctors, it might be worth it.

In high school, I had to do well in Algebra and Geometry, in order to be allowed to take Trigonometry.  I had to do well in Trigonometry, in order to be allowed to take Calculus.  When you are a kid, especially in Florida where I grew up, you want to go outside and play.  You want to ride your bike, skateboard, go fishing, go surfing, play tennis, but you can’t if you have six hours of homework every night after you get home from school at 3:00 p.m.  I had so much homework because I had advanced placement English, advanced placement Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, Latin, and French, which require reading, studying, and understanding before you even begin doing problems and writing.

I graduated first in my high school class, and I got a scholarship to a small private liberal arts college in Virginia to take pre-engineering and general education classes.  The requirements to transfer to Georgia Tech or the University of Virginia after three years were, three more semesters of Calculus, one semester Differential Equations, one semester Linear Algebra, four semesters of Physics, two semesters of Chemistry, one semester FORTRAN programming, and one semester Electricity.  In college, you would like to have fun, but you can’t if you are on scholarship and have to have very high grades to get into an Engineering School.  After my last class of the day at about 3:00 p.m., I had about six hours or more of homework.

I was envious and somewhat resentful of the other college students that were able to have a lot more fun because their major was not nearly as difficult, the Business, Communications, Economics, Education, English, History, Journalism, Political Science, Psychology majors.  I might as well include every major, except for pre-medicine.

Before anyone starts to say that I don’t know how difficult the other majors were, I had to take English with the English majors, Accounting with the Business majors, Political Science with the Poli Sci majors, etcetera.  When the grades were posted at the end of the semesters by the last digits of the social security numbers, on a list of one hundred to two hundred people, there would be one “A+”, which was honorary and had no more grade points than an “A”, and the “A+” was me.

At the small private liberal arts college in Virginia, it was very easy to do well.  The professors were mostly agreeable, helpful, and encouraging.  They wanted everyone to do well both in school and in life, and hoped that all of their students would put in the effort to be successful.  The other hugely encouraging factor, was the young women at the school.

The school was very, very expensive.  Most of the young women at this school were from very wealthy families, or upper middle class families.  Most of the young women were very friendly, pleasant, and encouraging to me.  These women dressed very nicely, and were very decent, polite, and civil.  Most were attractive, some were unbelievably good looking.  Whether they were from the Northeast, or the South, whether they themselves were serious students or not, they were all very encouraging to me.  They admired hard work and trying to be successful.

When I had to transfer to the College of Engineering at the University of Florida after three years of pre-engineering, it was horrible.  The University of Florida was the hardest school to get into in Florida, and once you were there, it was all about getting students to quit.  At that time, there were 35,000 students at the University of Florida, and all of them were either smart or hardworking, or both.

They just could not allow all of these ambitious young people to become accountants, architects, archeologists, attorneys, doctors, engineers, and programmers, they had to eliminate most of them.  This was the most horrible, fucked up thing, that I have ever had to deal with in my entire life.

Everybody at the University of Florida had to have very good grades to be there in the first place.  All of the students in the College of Engineering had to have already completed so many semesters of Algebra, Trigonometry, Calculus, Differential Equations, Physics, Chemistry, Electricity, and Computer Science with at least a very high “B+” average in order to be admitted to the college.  Now, after three years of college, the University of Florida was going to try to get rid of most of the engineering students by making them fail or by making them quit.

“Statics”, not “Statistics”, was the study of forces on stationary structures.  All engineering students had to take this class, whether they were going into civil, chemical, electrical, industrial, or mechanical.  Statics involved very complex mathematical equations derived using Algebra, Trigonometry, Calculus, Differential Equations, and Physics.  It was probably twice as hard as Calculus.  About 40% of engineering students failed the Statics class on the first try, I did.

Probably about 20% of engineering students quit engineering the semester after taking Statics combined with their other engineering classes.  The course work was just too hard, especially if you had a job, and especially considering what you would be paid if you ever did graduate with a degree in engineering.

In about the fourth year overall of an engineering student’s education, in the first year of being admitted to the College of Engineering, you would need to take Thermodynamics I.  After about 20% of the engineering students quit after taking Statics, about another 20% quit after taking Thermodynamics I.  About 40% of engineering students failed the Thermodymics I class on the first try, I did.

This was very sick and sickening.  Many students who had to work, could not pass Statics and Thermodynamics because they did not have the time to study for these classes and their other classes.  In college, there is a rule of thumb, that for every hour you spend in class for a course, you will have to spend two hours studying at home.  But for Thermodynamics I, for every hour spent in class, you would have to spend four hours studying at home.  The other engineering classes had one hour class to three hours at home ratios.

There were many very, very intelligent, hard working students, that were good at engineering, that dropped out of the University of Florida because they were unable to complete the courses the way that they were taught and administered.  This is the way that the University of Florida wanted it, this is the way that the College of Engineering wanted it, and this is the way that the different engineering departments wanted it.

These young people that worked so hard in high school to take all the preparatory mathematics, physics, and chemistry, that had made very high grades in college Calculus, Differential Equations, Chemistry, Physics, and Computer Programming, were being forced out of the College of Engineering by the way that the courses were taught and administered.

Most of the College of Engineering professors, could not care less whether the students were following along with what they were teaching.  They were bored in teaching, teaching Statics for ten to twenty years gets boring.  It got so boring, that the professors decided to video tape one class session live, with no students permitted to ask questions, and then the video tape was shown for the next eight sessions of Statics that day.  Remember, 40% of engineering students at the University of Florida failed Statics on the first attempt.

Thermodynamics I was about twice as difficult to pass as Statics.  Thermodynamics is a difficult subject to learn and understand.  At the University of Florida, they had one professor from the Mechanical Engineering Department, that taught Thermodynamics I, and Thermodynamics II.  He was crazy and sadistic.  He had a good understanding of Thermodynamics, as he taught it, because that is all he taught for twenty years, and he wrote the book that was required for the course.

If you could understand the the principles and equations of Thermodynamics I, and use the equations correctly, you were only half way there.  When you went to the two hour test session, with all 400 to 600 enrolled students, the test questions would be a riddle, inside of a puzzle, with some tricks.  And, there would not be enough time given to complete the test problems.

This was horrible, insane, and sadistic.  About half of the class would be people like me, who were having to take the class for the second time.  All of our studying and understanding of the material didn’t matter, because there wasn’t enough time given to complete the test problems.  There would typically be four problems on a test, that involved first understanding what the hell he was talking about, what engineering principles could be used, did you have enough information to begin using certain equations, what could you do to possibly calculate more information to even begin, and then trying to solve all kinds of unknowns, to then use those unknowns in subsequent equations.

The calculations for each problem would completely fill one or more sheets of paper.  You could only spend 1/2 hour on each problem, but the calculations would take forty-five minutes to one hour for each problem.  Most of the four hundred to six hundred enrolled students would not turn in their tests when time was called.  The teaching assistant would have to go take the tests away from everyone.  The twenty-two to twenty-five year old female engineering students would be outside the auditorium crying.  They and their parents probably had spent and borrowed about $40,000 for college in the past four years, and now they weren’t going to be able to continue because they could not pass Thermodynamics I.

Thermodynamics I was twice as hard as Statics, and Thermodynamics II was twice as hard as Thermodynamics I.  In Statics, there might have been 300 Mechanical Engineering students enrolled each semester.  In Thermodynamics I, there might have been 200 Mechanical Engineering students enrolled each semester.  In Fluid Dynamics, it would be down to 120 Mechanical Engineering students enrolled each semester.  By the time of Thermodynamics II it got down to 80 Mechanical Engineering students enrolled.  The end result, the University of Florida produced about 50 Mechanical Engineering graduates each semester.  I made it, I graduated.  I didn’t go to graduation because I was so disgusted with everything.  My whole experience at the University of Florida was horrible.

Please remember, there are a tremendous number of very intelligent and hardworking students that get admitted to the University of Florida, which is a very hard school to get into.  Many of these students would make very good accountants, architects, attorneys, and engineers, but the University of Florida makes classes so difficult to pass, that many students drop out.  It is not just that the material is difficult to learn and understand, it is that the classes are taught and administered so that many people will fail.  One of the techniques that they use in the College of Engineering, is to not give enough time on tests for the calculations to be completed.  Another technique, is for the problems to be couched in a riddle, couched in a puzzle, with some tricks.

If the University of Florida has any reputation for being a “good school”, it is not due to the quality of education, it is that you have to be extremely intelligent, hardworking, and don’t give up, in order to graduate as an accountant, architect, attorney, or engineer.

School was horrible.  Even though I described it just now, most people can’t imagine how bad it was at the University of Florida Department of Mechanical Engineering.  I wasn’t willing to go through that kind of shit for very long working as an engineer, but I did for a while.

One of my first jobs out of college was working for a bridge construction company.  Based on information that I received about length of span, required width, required loading, contour of crossing, elevation of bridge, and type of abutments, I would prepare an AutoCAD drawing of the bridge, and make a cost estimate of the bridge.  The owner of the the company that I worked for, required that I precisely specify all of the bridge material and quantities, and send these to material suppliers to get price quotes.  The owner did not want any surprises about material costs.

I would take a lot of pride in being completely accurate and painstaking in all of my designs, calculations, and material take-offs based on my designs and calculations.  So many times, when I was expecting to get out of the office at 5:00 p.m., an asshole employee who was not painstaking or careful, (a business major), would come to me and tell me that he was wrong about the bridge span, width, or elevation.  My design, my drawings, my calculations, and my material take-offs would all be wrong.

Instead of getting to go home in a couple of hours, I would have to stay at the office until 10:00 p.m. or 11:00 p.m., in order to re-do all my designs, calculations, and material take-offs, that I had already done so carefully and painstakingly the first time.  This reminded me so much of college, when I was so tired of staying at my desk studying, and all of the business majors and marketing majors were out having a good time.  The business major that had given me the wrong information, had already been out to eat, and was home in bed by the time I was leaving the office because of his mistake.

This is how things will always be for engineers in the United States for a number of reasons.  If you don’t want to be poorly paid, treated badly, and disrespected, then don’t be an engineer in the United States.

An example of how engineers in Dickinson, North Dakota, are treated and disrespected, most of the oil companies and manufacturing companies in Dickinson hire and give the title of “engineer” to people who don’t even have a knowledge of basic chemistry and physics.  They could not make any sense of a periodic table of elements, chemical formula, or calculate forces.  The people and employers in Dickinson love to disrespect and mistreat degreed engineers.

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