Advice for entering metrology / manufacturing careers
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    Default Advice for entering metrology / manufacturing careers

    I guess this would be the best place to ask this. I'm in the process of trying to transition into a new career field, but I'm having trouble finding education / retraining that isn't prohibitively expensive or time-consuming. I do have some interest in metrology and manufacturing. My background is technical (physics master's degree). Without intending any offense towards machinists, I'll say that I'd prefer to do something a bit more cerebral and lucrative than being a CNC machinist, for example, if possible.

    I asked this question to Will of Machine Thinking (interesting content, by the way; check it out), and he suggested I ask here. He suggested finite element analysis as something I should investigate. Does anyone have any kind of career paths on FEA? Any opinions or advice on lean manufacturing careers?

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    Quote Originally Posted by hc5rq View Post
    I guess this would be the best place to ask this. I'm in the process of trying to transition into a new career field, but I'm having trouble finding education / retraining that isn't prohibitively expensive or time-consuming. I do have some interest in metrology and manufacturing. My background is technical (physics master's degree). Without intending any offense towards machinists, I'll say that I'd prefer to do something a bit more cerebral and lucrative than being a CNC machinist, for example, if possible.

    I asked this question to Will of Machine Thinking (interesting content, by the way; check it out), and he suggested I ask here. He suggested finite element analysis as something I should investigate. Does anyone have any kind of career paths on FEA? Any opinions or advice on lean manufacturing careers?
    .
    often college courses the school will have bulletin board of job postings or some jobs are posted on a school web site. often hard to get a job unless willing to accept a low starting pay and often need to be willing to work nights.
    .
    not many places handing out starting pay jobs at high pay and on the day shift.
    .
    by the way cnc operator with 150% overtime pay and benefits like 6% 401k match can make over $90,000/yr. some more "technical" or skilled jobs might have what appears to be higher hourly pay but at the end of the year you can be making $30,000 to $40,000 less money.
    .
    technical skill starts with being able to do math. just saying i have seen guys get higher appearing yearly salary pay and nothing like any overtime pay and benefits and their higher appearing pay was actually quite low....... just saying if so called low skill guy retires a millionaire who is the smarter person ?

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    I'm not looking for work now; I'm looking for affordable education / training. Thanks, though. I understand your point on total compensation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hc5rq View Post
    I'm not looking for work now; I'm looking for affordable education / training. Thanks, though. I understand your point on total compensation.
    .
    college degrees are expensive to get. they are in a business like anybody else. i would avoid prepaying too much as often you cannot get a refund if you change your mind later. i prefer a actual teacher in a classroom where you can ask questions.
    .
    also often other students have info on possible jobs and what it is like to work for certain companies. often called networking often the people you meet in a career often can help with job opportunities years and decades later. knowing people willing to be a job reference and willing to answer calls is actually harder than many realize.
    .
    many many job interviews end with the interviewer not liking something. often they wont tell you why they will not hire you. when they ask questions at a job interview obviously you cannot argue with their opinions. many times the deciding factor is them calling a job reference person and what they have to say about you. sometimes even a teacher can be a job reference. do you have good attendance record and are you a good student willing and able to learn ?

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    Thanks but I know all this already. Maybe I should've included more of my background: I'm 38. I finished grad school ten years ago and have done various jobs since then. What I'm really looking for is any useful information on education or training, particularly FEA or something similar where my background could be to my advantage. If there's nothing like that out there, no problem. I just figured I'd ask.

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    Very few people do FEA and those are mostly ME types.
    Metrology is measuring and that spans a wide range of jobs. Most of which a physicist would find rather boring and you'd have to work the way through the ranks.
    Lean is more a management guy job.
    There are niches that hit on all where your background may help, perhaps semiconductor-fab.
    Bob

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    Okay, thanks.

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    FEA is just a tool. When I started in industry, it was the province of PhD's. Now it's an add-on to most every CAD system and high school kids are using it to check out their robots.

    It's not a field with significantly expanding job opportunities, except perhaps on the software development side for things like multi-physics problems. I suppose another arena would be failure analysis (join a consulting company) -- but there's a lot more to that than running FEA programs. So it could be easy and cheap to learn how to use things like linear analysis -- and not much upside for just that skill.

    Some people intend to stay put, hoping to find a better job where they are. If that's you, in Alaska, I'd start with employment opportunities and figure out what certifications or experience would get you in the door.

    There's a fair amount work going on in large scale metrology using laser scanning and the like. Sort of like hi tech surveying, down to thousandths of an inch. Could be there would be growing opportunities in that realm (think pipelines, port construction, plant construction, etc.). If you happen to be good with people, you might even start in technical sales or support as a way to see what's out there? The tech side of that metrology you could probably pick up in a few weeks to months.

    With a master's in physics, seems you ought to be able to get your foot in the door lots of places -- especially if you express some knowledgeable interest in the work. There are hundreds of manufacturers of specialized vehicles and machinery (agricultural, communications, construction, utilities, packaging, sorting, fire engines, mining, drilling, gene sequencing, chemical processing, maritime, fishing, etc. etc.) requiring smart people on both the design and manufacturing sides. A company like L3 Technologies is just one that might especially value your Master's in physics.

    Could also be your background could fast track you to a PE certification in civil engineering?? Those folks are busy anywhere there is a lot of construction.

    It kind of sounds (got a physics degree or two, did assorted jobs after, now want to go back to school) as if your biggest challenge might be finding something you really want to do??

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    Quote Originally Posted by PeteM View Post
    It kind of sounds (got a physics degree or two, did assorted jobs after, now want to go back to school) as if your biggest challenge might be finding something you really want to do??
    That's a big part of it, yes. I find most jobs intensely boring and have difficulty sticking with anything for a long period of time. My resume has a lot of gaps in it, which is a problem, too. I've been commended on my performance in literally every job I've ever done, but I can't stick with them long-term. My main motivation for wanting to find a scholastic program is that I've found that I don't do well with vague unstructured attempts to educate myself where I acquire knowledge piecemeal from disparate sources (I recently tried to do this with embedded systems engineering, and it was a total failure). I need a well-defined curriculum.

    A physics master's degree is basically worthless, in my experience. (But then, virtually all university degrees are now, so it's not exceptional in that regard.)

    Thank you for the reply.

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    Sounds a bit like you might want to hook up with a project-based engineering consulting firm. The challenges will change every few months. The trick is you'll have to do a bit of self-education on each new challenge; but at least you'll know what and why you're needing to come up to speed.

    In most any leading edge field, half of what you know is obsolete in (if memory serves) around 7 years. Most everything I knew about CAD, CAM, CAE (think FEA), NC, computer software, hardware, etc. 30 years ago has no value today. There's a similar, if slightly slower, pace in sciences. Electrons no longer travel in shells. Most everything we used to know about genes is up for grabs. And psychology is gradually becoming a science.

    Hopefully you can structure your own continuous learning if the reasons (as in moving from one consulting problem to another) are in sight. Recognize, too, that many professors are still teaching the same course they started teaching twenty years ago.

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    I know what you mean by clear goals / projects motivating the desire to develop knowledge and skills. A project-based firm would be good, but my chances of being hired with one are presumably as remote as all the other technical jobs I've applied to without success, which is exactly why I've been trying to find some sort of specific targeted education program, something sort of like the programs at technical schools / community colleges now that partner with companies who then hire the program's graduates – but hopefully something a bit more intellectual that could hold my interest better, if anything like that exists. I totally recognize that inevitably some of the knowledge and skills will be acquired on the job, but I first have to be able to get a job. Aside from teaching (I know firsthand about the obsolescence of university education since I taught college physics and math for many years myself), all I've done post-graduation has been labor-type work, unfortunately (warehouse, farm, etc.).

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    I'd suggest you find a consulting firm you'd like to work for -- one with a good reputation among both its customers and employees and requiring math and physics to solve its type of problems. Get to know a few people and say, in effect, "I want to do this kind of work -- where could I start and/or what additional qualifications would be needed to hire on." Going direct to your end objective is likely to be more rewarding, more quickly, than guessing what year or so of further education might lead to a career with varied and challenging work requiring mathematical and physical problem solving.

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    Okay, thank you. I'll try that. I guess I should target small firms since they have no HR department to act as gatekeeper.

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    Am I missing something here ?
    You want to either do Metrology, FEA or Lean Manufacturing those are three completely different things that almost have no relation to each other. If you call up a company and tell them this, you will be lucky if they say have a nice day and not hangup.

    If you said you wanted to be a Designer and do FEA those would be similar, or machinist and inspector, but your list sounds like you are throwing darts at a job fair.

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    Most states have an outreach program that helps manufactuers with engineering problems. Might be an option for you. Two I know of:

    Golisano Institute for Sustainability | Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)

    NC State IES | Grow your business with confidence

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    We have hired guys with physics degrees (even Astro-physics) and we do project work as well. What we look for is natural aptitude and a good work ethic as well as selflessness. If you are interested in using your gifts and talents to help our customers, suppliers, and your fellow employees thrive . . . send me your resume.

    We also have a local state school with a good mechatronics department that we both advise as well as define and sponsor capstone projects for. Most of our projects are developmental in nature and often involve integration of a broad range of disparate technologies. We have a tuition reimbursement program as well but you have to get excellent grades and the classes have to focus on topics that would benefit your career in manufacturing.

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    The technical college where I study machining has a Metrology program and I believe it is online. 404 Not Found

    I hope the link works. This is my first post on the forums.

    Machining is a major transition for me. I’m about to turn 46, and have spent the last 20+ years homeschooling my kids, moving around (husband in Air Force), and working in management positions primarily focused on improving organizational health, developing leaders, and conducting conflict management sessions. I always thought I’d go back to school and become an Engineer or get an advanced degree in Math or Physics and get a teaching job. While I definitely have the aptitude, trying to complete the education was a logistical nightmare. Having to move every 2-3 years, and being available to respond to the needs of the family were limiting factors.

    I find my current course of study to be quite cerebral. I have a very hungry brain! One of my classmates just started a position at an engineering research center run by a university. The only machinist, he gets to be a part of the research process, solving problems and helping to develop prototypes. There are a lot of jobs like this. In fact, the Smithsonian is currently advertising a machining position.

    My advice...what kind of activities do you want to spend your day doing? With whom would you like to work? Which manufacturing industries fascinate you? Answering these questions first will make your decision easier. Then find people who are currently doing those things and ask them lots of questions. They’ll be able to give you information about training and you’ll have built a network before you look for your first job.

    Good luck on your transition!

    -Veronica

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    My link didn’t work. The school is Central Georgia Technical College.

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    There are lots of community colleges to give hands on training with machinery and metrology. I learned FEA on the job and is not particularly useful for what I do. For the real FEA stuff there are people with specialized PhDs that I send parts for analysis. Machining and metrology are things you will learn on the job that can't really be taught in schools.

    I am a CNC machinist and I am willing to bet I make more money than mastered degree physicists. And the parts I make are a heck of a lot more challenging and cerebral than when I was a project engineer at a large MFG company. People pay good money to make things that don't exist.


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