Q: How much does graduate school cost?
A: One of the biggest misconceptions shared among undergraduate science and engineering students is that graduate school is expensive. Welcome to the greatest secret in higher education. While others rack up bills going to medical, dental, business, or law school, an engineering or science graduate student just might be depositing money into an IRA. Professional schools can charge huge tuition because there are far more pre-med students than there are places for them to study. It is a classic supply and demand problem. Liberal arts graduate programs have no money. Companies spend money on things that make them money and most things that make money come out of science and engineering. Right now, there are not enough students in science and engineering to use up all the money that the government and industry want to spend solving technical problems. The result is that graduate programs in science and engineering fully support graduate students with full tuition and living stipend. If you want to go to graduate school, all it takes is desire and dedication. Leave your checkbook behind.
Q: How can I get a patent?
A: Individuals and companies obtain patents to protect new inventions. A patent allows the holder to control the use of the technology for a set period of time. After the patent expires, anyone is free to copy and use the same technology without paying the original patent holder. Patents are used to reward the inventor for inventing something new and useful. The patent holder can exclusively manufacture and sell the patented product or the patent holder can license the technology to another company in exchange for
payment. Individuals with little interest in creating a factory and sales company will often try to find a licensee for their patented technology.
If you have created a new invention, you can patent it, but beware. Patents are expensive for two reasons. First, it costs money to obtain a patent. Most people pay thousands and thousands of dollars to legal firms to navigate patent law and appropriately format their patents for submission. Some people can avoid legal firms, but they have to research patent law and carefully understand the government regulations for patent filing. For those who try to file a patent themselves, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office collects fees that can range from the hundreds to over a thousand dollars. The fees can be investigated at http://www.uspto.gov. Once your patent is awarded, you now have to maintain and defend it. This is where the real expense of a patent comes into play. Although you may control the patent of a key technology, if another company infringes your patent, you may have to pay incredible sums to defend it in court. The upside is that if you win, then you will see a huge payday. If you do not win or if you run out of money, the loss could ruin your financial life.
To read more about patents, check out the resources at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, http://www.uspto.gov. Alternatively, http://www.wikipedia.org has a lot of information about patents.
Q: What should I put on my resume?
A: As a recruiter in science and engineering, my advice is put three things on your resume.
Relevant information. By relevant, I mean that you should list education and jobs where you learned skills that will make you an attractive employee. If the job seems out of context, be sure to highlight the relevant experiences and skills you learned on the job. A chemical engineer who served as an assistant manager at a restaurant might not think to include the experience on his resume. She should because she probably learned basic business accounting and how to lead teams while on the job. These are critical skills for almost any position.
Eligibility for clearance. If you are looking for a federal or government contractor job that may require a security clearance, you will help your chances by listing any security clearances you have held in the past. If you have not held one, state whether or not you are eligible.
Your personal philosophy. I’ve got a list of things I look for in potential candidates. Most recruiters do. While I will tell students what they should be studying in hopes that they naturally build themselves into the perfect employee, I don’t tell resume writers how to write a resume that artificially builds a nice, but false, picture. What you write must be true to you. Your resume should communicate what you can do to make your potential employer successful. If your potential employer doesn’t think what you can do will help them, the job is a bad fit. Keep looking. When you meet with an employer that resonates with your abilities, you have a good match. Remember that you are a customer, too. No job is worth sacrificing your own values, so don’t take one that will.
Q. I’m getting a BS in engineering and would like to continue on to graduate school. I am not sure if I should pursue a Masters in Engineering or a Masters in Business Administration?
A. It depends on what you want to do with your education. If you want to do engineering, go for the Masters in Engineering. If you want to be a manager with a technical background, get the MBA. The fact that you are weighing the pros and cons of both options suggests that you may be looking to make significant technical contributions while managing people or projects. If that is the case, you might want to get both a MS in Engineering and MBA. Do yourself a favor and go for the Masters in Engineering first. Engineering is hard and the longer you are away from the advanced math and rigorous courses, the harder it will be to get back in the swing of things. If you are presently an engineering student, consider continuing on as a full time student until your Masters is complete. Once complete, you should be able to get a job that pays better than those available to BS college graduates. Begin making your technical contributions and start preparing for your MBA course of study.
Q. I’m about to graduate and I have a choice of two jobs. Job 1 is my dream job, but it is located out of state. Job 2 is a decent job located in town. I also have a girlfriend. She has a year left in school and I think there is a future for us. If I take Job 1, I know it won’t be good for our relationship. If I take Job 2, it won’t be good for my career. I really like this girl. What should I do?
A. I think this is the first time I will ever give relationship advice. You are facing a common dilemma. Many people consider sacrificing their careers for a relationship. Before I entered to graduate school, I considered postponing my education to move near a girl I had fancied. I wanted to see if there was a future for us. In the end, I entered graduate school as planned and broke up with the girl. I have no regrets. Two years later, my girlfriend of a few months took an awesome out of state job with one of the best companies in the United States. For a couple years, we took turns driving 3 hours every weekend to see each other. When we got engaged, she sacrificed her career, moving back to our college town, where we were married and had our first child. Now on child number three, we’re still married and she has no regrets. I have two pieces of advice for you:
- Don’t think either/or. Taking Job 1 may not be good for your relationship, but who says you have to sacrifice your career for it? How can you maintain your relationship and still pursue a rewarding career?
- Choose what is right for you and don’t look back. Many people like to dwell on the past. Do yourself a favor and move on. There is no point to regretting past decisions. Maybe they were dumb, but they are over. Don’t do the same dumb thing twice. That’s about all you have to remember. Whatever you choose, go for it with all you’ve got.