What is an engineer?

Discussion in 'Engineers' Talk' started by MGW, Aug 14, 2018.

  1. MGW

    MGW Well-Known Member

    I was taught that to be an engineer you needed a level 5 education or over, HND, HNC, Degree etc. However in USA the driver of a steam train was called an engineer, and my own dad started as a simple fitter, but after being an engine room artificer, chief petty officer, he returned after war and ended up as the technical superintendent in a steel works power station, he did not have a degree, but was clearly an engineer.

    My father-in-law was the project director of Liverpool hospital board on the electrician systems and again no degree but again clearly an electrical engineer.

    I do have a degree and would class myself as an electrical engineer, but even before getting the degree I was doing work which was not really simple electrical work, designing systems both to fit myself and others to install, often using PLC control and I wrote the programs.

    Having seen how complex some heating and ventilating systems are, I would fully agree the people designing and installing these systems are in the true sense engineers, the integration of IT, gas, plumbing, and electrical skills is well beyond that skill required by any single trade. They are not simply tradesmen but are truly engineers even if no degree.

    However if I employ a heating engineer for example what level of skill should I expect, same with a motor vehicle engineer, I would expect a motor vehicle engineer to have more skill than a mechanic, likely including some design, building a special trailer to carry plane wings for example, not simply repairing it.

    So am I old fashioned, what do others see as engineers?
  2. There is a difference between an Engineer and a technician - most cases like you referred to as above I would call them technicians.I would say an Engineer is figuring out a technical solution, not simply applying it. Although I wonder what the world is coming to when places like Sweetwater (in the US) refer to their sales people as "Sales Engineer".
  3. SteveMJ

    SteveMJ Member

    I consider myself as an engineer: "Eur Ing Stephen Morris-Jones BSc(Hons) CEng MIEE"

    It does seem that anyone who works in engineering is entitled to call themselves 'engineer'. Has been annoying me for decades!

  4. Pollowick

    Pollowick Well-Known Member

    Have you not converted to MIET ?
  5. EZ Tutty

    EZ Tutty New Member

    I've got a HNC in Engineering Maintenance Operations (or something along those lines), I've previously worked as a Maintenance Electrician, and a Calibration/Instrumentation Technican, where i've designed systems and worked with complex equipment (currently electrical fault finding on Gas Turbine Engines) but certainly wouldn't class my self as an engineer.

    IMO to be classed as an engineer it's Degree in Relevant Engineering Discipline and up.
  6. Bob Rathbone

    Bob Rathbone Well-Known Member

    I have a HND in Electronics / Electrical Engineering, It allows me to be an Engineer but I rarely refer to myself as an 'Engineer' for the reasons stated above.
  7. Isitreally

    Isitreally Well-Known Member

    I've got an Enginenear when im driving my van.

    I'll get me coat. :D:D
    kiaora and Heat like this.
  8. malkie129

    malkie129 Well-Known Member

    I'm a technician, MET pt 3. I've worked with some graduate engineers,who thanks to no practical experience or work ethic hadn't got a clue. :(
    Heat likes this.
  9. HappyHacker

    HappyHacker Active Member

    The problem, I believe, is that in the UK no one attaches any importance to technical jobs, instead reverence is given to artists, actors, writers, solicitors, politicians etc. The view that an engineer is just a glorified car mechanic and as such needs no formal designation is part of the induction we receive via the media from childhood. Will proper engineers ever get he recognition they deserve in the UK, I am not holding my breath.
    Heat likes this.
  10. Heat

    Heat Well-Known Member

    The above covers it really. We in the U.K. have a snobby system where we have a make believe world that looks on people who can work with their hands or/and design physical systems, as just workers.
    I have been told by some of the public that if you don’t get a proper education, you can always go to a trade.
    In Japan apparently an engineer is a highly respected top job.
  11. SteveMJ

    SteveMJ Member

    Strictly yes. But no one from the former IEE (now IET) has asked me to change. So I have let it drift.
  12. Pollowick

    Pollowick Well-Known Member

    Just wondered ... there are still a few around who still keep the old MIEE - I wonder if anyone still uses the old MIERE, MIIE, MIProdE which were "lost" when they merged with the IEE.
  13. MGW

    MGW Well-Known Member

    I am glad I am not the only one who thinks to call people with only a level 3 qualification an engineer, I got my degree late in life, and it was common for me to work along side engineers, often they were very clever and could design complex systems, however they had little idea of regulations.

    I remember being taught how to use steam tables, however other than remember there are steam tables I could not remember how to use them now.

    However when we wanted to back heal the maintenance of my father-in-laws central heating, the firm taking it over sent out their "Engineer" who I would assume had served an apprenticeship, but not what I would consider an engineer. However what label should they be given? Clearly not a Plumber, there is no lead used in the central heating so not a plumber, also not really a pipe fitter, these guys are very skilled using theodolites and the like to work out exactly the shape to cut a 36" heavy wall pipe so it fits first time. Also a gas fitter does not cover it, they would not be trained on how to set up air conditioning units.

    So we are left with technician, so a heating and ventilating technician? However with the old trades we did get levels, the motor mechanic was not as skilled as a motor technician, there were separate collage courses and the technician was far more skilled.

    I looked on "Total Jobs" what is a Plumber?
    • Installing or maintaining heating systems
    • Repairing sanitation systems
    • Fitting domestic appliances (such as dishwashers)
    • Installing air-conditioning units
    • Fitting bathrooms
    • Emergency repairs
    Now I thought a Plumber repaired flat roofs, with non lead solder is there really any longer such a thing as a Plumber? I remember watching the real plumber wiping a joint, but today lead seems to be a dirty word.

  14. chippie244

    chippie244 Well-Known Member

    When I work in telly I tend to be on the call sheet as a carpenter, occasionally as a stage hand, sometimes as dressing props and I invoice as construction manager.
    What I do can be all those as well as a plumber, rigger, home ec, carpet fitter, camera assistant, gardener, electrician or kitchen fitter. I even had to fire a gun to shatter some glass once.
    What doesn't change is the money I charge and I don't do painting.
  15. Heat

    Heat Well-Known Member

    I am a Heating Engineer, if someone asks me my profession, or when I have to write down my job description on a form.
    There is no way I am going to belittle myself by saying I am a plumber or heating installer, even though that is true and how I would call myself to the ordinary man in the street.
    A real engineer is in my view, someone who can design and/or build complex objects or tasks.
    However, most jobs nowadays have very high status sounding titles, - like if you have a shop with 3 staff, 1 could be called the senior manager, another the assistant manager and the 3rd a junior manager. :p
    So until we have a realistic job title for other jobs, - then I am an Engineer. :)
  16. rogerk101

    rogerk101 Well-Known Member

    My (late) father was a degreed Electrical Engineer and Mechanical engineer. He defined an engineer as someone who can do for £1,000 what any idiot could do for £10,000.

    I too am a degreed Electrical Engineer, but have spend nearly all of my working life as a Software Development Engineer and more recently as a Networking Engineer. There is a massive difference between designing something from scratch and fixing something that exists already but which has broken. By the same token, designing a networking product is one skill, but designing a whole network that uses those networking products is a whole different ball-game. They are such fundamentally different mindsets, yet we're all tarred with the same brush by the non-engineering public and media.
  17. MGW

    MGW Well-Known Member

    When I looked at the problems installing a central heating system in a private house I realised this was well beyond what a Plumber would be taught.

    The combination of IT skills, plumbing skills, and electrician skills, without including the heating skills means a guy who can combine them into an integrated system is quite rightly called an engineer, the question is more how do you tell which guy is simply following normal practice with no real planning, and which guy is really working out what is required for that house.

    My second house was open plan, as such very little design was required, double the output down stairs to upstairs and TRV upstairs and very little problem designing or installing.

    However my parents house was very different, prevailing wind, sun on bay windows, poor seals on doors to allow wheel chair access, means to get a single heater to keep whole house at temperatures required needs some thought and calculation. As said easy way is fit EvoHome that does not need too much skill, but that is expensive to keep costs down then the installer needs both skill and knowledge which can be used to get same result for less cost.

    So using old trusted methods where cost is not a problem the Romans built bridges which still stand today after 2000 years, but if you use modern cheaper methods then it requires much more skill.
  18. chippie244

    chippie244 Well-Known Member

    Is this whole post just to big yourself up?
  19. MGW

    MGW Well-Known Member

    Not really it was because I went to Engineers Talk only to find in the main is was a central heating part of the forum.
    That really sums it up. And I have to admit with central heating that has proved to be the case, any tradesman can install EvoHome and walk away leaving a home with an A1 central heating system, it needs some skill but limited. However to use cheap items to get same control in some homes would need a fair bit of skill. I say that because I got it wrong, had I been charging for my own time what I did in my mothers house would have cost well over cost of EvoHome. So in essence I failed.

    OK if I was to start on a second home I would have learnt from my errors, and would likely fit EvoHome as one has to accept ones own limitations.

    In my own area yes I have designed and installed complex systems, but I am not a heating and ventilating engineer, I studied electrical and electronic engineering.

    I had expected on this section of the forum to see people talking about PLC programming, motor control, and people comparing ProBus with ASii and the like.

    On the mechanical side I was trained as a motor vehicle and bridge builder, we modified vehicles for special use, repaired road bridges, and designed and installed foot bridges, the latter was also something like rogerk101 relates, we would consider where it was to be used, and we would pre-assemble but design it so we could get it to site without needing to hire cranes, and final assembly would be on site. Again the point made by rogerk101.

    When we look back in history there have been some great engineers, some Roman bridges still stand today 1000 years plus since designed, however the Tay bridge in 1879 shows that some times engineers get it wrong. Although to be fair there was also a quality control issue.
  20. stevie22

    stevie22 Active Member

    Rogerk's dad's definition is an old one but accurate nonetheless. It is question that has been debated for many years.

    My own feeling is that to be called an Engineer (with a capital E) you should be chartered. After all it is illegal to call yourself an Architect unless you are RIBA.

    In most other countries to be an Engineer is to have status with Doctors and the like, here it's more likely to summon up an image of spanners and dirty fingernails. I think it's less about what you do as the professional standing you have.

    Yes I'm biased.

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