I am just starting the last semester of my master's degree in Measurement and Control Engineering at a university in the US. Upon graduating, I would like to be a control engineer in the wood products industry.
I am trying to get an idea of what it would be like as a new hire. How do new hires generally start out? I realize this may depend on the company, but what is the training learning curve like?
I've only worked in power generation, but I think those of us across the board can agree that the learning curve for Instrumentation and Control Engineering is a steep one. My degree is in Electrical Engineering, but I have had to learn a lot of Mechanical Engineering concepts to be effective at my job.
You'll have a bit of a head start with a master's degree, but when engineering a process control solution, you have to know just as much about the process itself as you do about control concepts
BTW - I'm looking for a master's program right now, what school are you attending, and do you have any thoughts on the program so far?
I don't know how it is in the wood products industry but a lot of places just throw you into the water and let you learn to swim by yourself.
Personally if I were you I would go take the EIT test if you have not already done so. I think with a master's degree most states will give you a year's credit towards your PE requirements. It doesn't make as much difference right now but the PE Mafia is pushing to make it very hard for anybody to make a living unless they have PE after their name. I don't think you can fight this trend so it's better just to give in and go take the test. Make sure where you go there's a PE that's willing to at least pretend to be your mentor because you have to get a letter from a PE stating he was supervising your work for several years to get a PE license in most States.
Beyond that as far as training goes take whatever opportunities your company gives you even if they're not something you're all that interested in. The more certificates that you have easier it is to get past the human resources filter at the next job. And there probably will be next jobs. I would not expect to keep a job in the control industry for any length of time. It's not real common for people to stick around real long. It's an easy place to cut because it takes a while before the inevitable consequences happen.
A lot of how a new hire starts out is going to be specific to the location the person starts in. For example, does the site have an existing controls team or at least a senior person with experience who can share knowledge and/or mentor the new hire? Or, did the last guy leave a year ago and all that is left are a couple binders of notes and various scattered project drawings?
It can be a real mixed bag is what I'm saying here. Ideally you'll want to land in the former type environment and the company/site has some kind of training/mentoring program otherwise it could be just you reading through vendor manuals. That's a good question to ask during the interview process.