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  1. #1

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    Foreign engineering degrees useful in US?

    The US is full of people with foreign degrees working in their fields, right? (I think esp. of the medical field.)

    Today I was talking to the young woman from my cleaning service and found she has a degree in chemical engineering from the U. of the Andes in Colombia! She is currently breaking her back for around $12.50/hr (something that makes me very uncomfortable but that is another conversation).

    She thinks she will receive her green card soon. Her English is correct but slow and I have to repeat myself often for her to understand - she just needs more practice. Would she be employable in her field once she gets her GC, or would she need more schooling here? She told me she worked for a year after graduating for a company that extracted oil from palm trees to use as fuel, if I got that straight, so a biotech corp. I guess. She said "factory" but I'm thinking that wasn't the word she wanted.

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    She needs to have good connections,can you help her with that? With that she should be able to work. The degree on its own really won't do much; even domestic graduates don't always find jobs (and yes, even in engineering). Could she consider something like a post-doc (guess that would depend if the degree was a doctorate) or research position?

    I worked at a company that had secretaries with PhDs in sciences- just waiting for a spot in their chosen department to open up... it can be discouraging.

    (Engineers also must be licensed- so she would need to pass all the exams, and they are hard. However, she may be able to get some sort of assistant job)
    Last edited by Skittl1321; 10-18-2013 at 10:31 PM.

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    Chemical engineering went out long ago, unfortunately. My uncle has a PhD in chemical engineering from Johns Hopkins, and he switched to software development 20 years ago because there were no jobs even then.

    Otherwise, I don't think there's anything wrong with a foreign engineering degree. But she just got the wrong one.

    I'm not totally familiar with the chemical engineering scene in the entirety of the country, though. My relatives lived in NY/NJ and I'm not sure if relocating was an option. If she's willing to move to another state, her chances might be better.

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    I don't know about the US, but in Canada engineering is a regulated profession. Engineers have to have specific academic training, usually through a university education program that's accredited by the professional engineers association, and have to pass a licensing exam to be able to practice as an engineer and to use the P.Eng. (professional engineer) designation. Also, what translates as "engineer" into English isn't always the same as what "engineer" means here - in some countries an engineering degree is a bachelor's degree that would be more equivalent to training as an engineering technician.

    Whether a foreign degree is accepted as equivalent to a degree from an accredited school really depends on the specific degree and the curriculum - but even if this lady's degree was considered equivalent, it sounds like she would have a great deal of trouble passing an exam if her English is a problem (at this point, anyway).
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    Quote Originally Posted by overedge View Post
    I don't know about the US, but in Canada engineering is a regulated profession. Engineers have to have specific academic training, usually through a university education program that's accredited by the professional engineers association, and have to pass a licensing exam to be able to practice as an engineer and to use the P.Eng. (professional engineer) designation. Also, what translates as "engineer" into English isn't always the same as what "engineer" means here - in some countries an engineering degree is a bachelor's degree that would be more equivalent to training as an engineering technician.

    Whether a foreign degree is accepted as equivalent to a degree from an accredited school really depends on the specific degree and the curriculum - but even if this lady's degree was considered equivalent, it sounds like she would have a great deal of trouble passing an exam if her English is a problem (at this point, anyway).

    are you sure this doesn't only apply to civil engineers - aka engineers that builds stuff? I have not heard this about for instance mechanical or software engineers. Just curious. In any case it might be possible to transfer credit - in Denmark Engineer is a protected title too, but I know that the Danish Association of Engineers accept members from non-Danish schools if there is a collaboration between the national organizations, for instance.



    I have a Danish software engineering degree, and I had no problem getting a job at Microsoft. I think it would vary on the company in question, and the specifics of her field.
    In most cases, even if engineering is a protected title, she would still be able to submit her resume with her degree papers and let the company judge. I think the chemical scene is tough though, but it depends on where you are and what your specialty is. If you are in Texas, and have a degree with a specialty in oil, for instance, you probably have better chances than the same specialty here in WA...

    As for working in a factory, in Denmark, if you have a Bachelor or Masters in Engineering you often work in quality control and oversight at factories, rather than R&D, where they usually require a phD (I have a bunch of chem eng friends from school, about 50% opted for the phD. Crazy). She might have done that, and she might be able to find similar positions here.

    In my personal opinion, many big companies that employ academic employees should be familiar with hiring international people. She might try to find companies that does international business and are on the larger side too, so they see diverse people applying.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anita18 View Post
    Chemical engineering went out long ago, unfortunately. My uncle has a PhD in chemical engineering from Johns Hopkins, and he switched to software development 20 years ago because there were no jobs even then.

    Otherwise, I don't think there's anything wrong with a foreign engineering degree. But she just got the wrong one.

    I'm not totally familiar with the chemical engineering scene in the entirety of the country, though. My relatives lived in NY/NJ and I'm not sure if relocating was an option. If she's willing to move to another state, her chances might be better.
    Some random thoughts.

    There is nothing wrong with a Chemical engineering degree. I have a Ph.D. in it, and it has not gone out. The PhD got me a good position in the semicondutor industry. I am just an Environmental Engineer now, but that's after many years in the Semiconductor industry- until it went downhill. A BS or MS in Chemical Engineering is more marketable because a lot more positions are open. Employers are reluctant to hire PhDs because they feel they would have to pay more (they did not pay ME more- LOL). Some Chemical engineers did go into other fields when the economy was bad, and the oil boom became a bust. Some just liked other kind of work, and made the switch.

    Chemical Engineers are versatile. They can do different kinds of work (like moving into software engineering, for example). They are ideal for systems analyst type work, or mechanical engineering type (there is a lot of overlap between Chemical & Mechanical engineering). They can work as process engineers in many different industries- semiconductors, oil, pharmaceuticals, plastics, etc. or they can work in government agencies, or if they like lab work they may even work as chemists (even though it is engineering, and not chemistry). Environmental field is another area for someone with a ChemEng degree. I know that when I was working for the state, the state had sponsored at least one new employee for the green card. However, it's easier to get a work visa (H-1) from a private industry employer. They must really want you though. She may need to work on her communication skills. I have seen many positions open for recent college graduates, some for Chemical engineers.

    It's only a matter of being at the right place at the right time. Not having a work visa can create difficulties in Chemical engineering because the supply/demand may not be in her favor (unlike the software engineers), but there are jobs for ChemE's (not to be confused with chemists- that's an entirely different field). NJ has a lot of chemical and other industries, so she should not have difficulty finding work somewhere. Of course anyone that is willing to relocate has more opportunities. Her not having a work visa could be a major roadblock, IMO. Had she gone to a school here, she would have more employers willing to sponsor her.

    I don't know about engineering degrees in Columbia, but some engineering degrees from foreign countries are highly respected (e.g. from Indian Institutes of Technology, or degrees from Taiwan, and other countries as long as the universities are well known). One of my co-workers when I worked in the semiconductor industries was from Peru. He got his bachelor's degree there, and masters from a US university.

    I know absolutely nothing about Columbia, but if she has not been out of school for very long, I would highly recommend that she apply for process engineer positions in semiconductors or in the environmental field. Also biotechnology industry is coming up and she can apply there- even if she does not have the 'bio' background. They can still use basic chemical engineering skills. The semiconductor industry - this is the one I am most familiar with- is not doing as well as it did in the 1990's but there still are jobs in it.

    This young lady needs to find technical work to make herself marketable. It's not clear to me how she is going to receive her green card- through the cleaning service? Marriage? A family member sponsoring her?

    If she gets a job interview, she should definitely not mention what she is doing right now. That could be a turn off for many employers. Good luck to her.

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    My impression with technical degrees like engineering and bench sciences is that recent experience in the field is critical for getting a job. Once you have not worked in your field for 2 or more years you won't be considered. I have known people in this situation use their technical expertise to become successful in sales or public administration. That requires that you have people skills as well.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by maatTheViking View Post
    are you sure this doesn't only apply to civil engineers - aka engineers that builds stuff? I have not heard this about for instance mechanical or software engineers. Just curious. In any case it might be possible to transfer credit - in Denmark Engineer is a protected title too, but I know that the Danish Association of Engineers accept members from non-Danish schools if there is a collaboration between the national organizations, for instance.



    I have a Danish software engineering degree, and I had no problem getting a job at Microsoft. I think it would vary on the company in question, and the specifics of her field.
    In most cases, even if engineering is a protected title, she would still be able to submit her resume with her degree papers and let the company judge. I think the chemical scene is tough though, but it depends on where you are and what your specialty is. If you are in Texas, and have a degree with a specialty in oil, for instance, you probably have better chances than the same specialty here in WA...

    As for working in a factory, in Denmark, if you have a Bachelor or Masters in Engineering you often work in quality control and oversight at factories, rather than R&D, where they usually require a phD (I have a bunch of chem eng friends from school, about 50% opted for the phD. Crazy). She might have done that, and she might be able to find similar positions here.

    In my personal opinion, many big companies that employ academic employees should be familiar with hiring international people. She might try to find companies that does international business and are on the larger side too, so they see diverse people applying.
    There is a shortage of technically qualified people in the USA, so theoretically it should be very easy to get a job if you have an engineering degree from anywhere, but that usually applies to only software engineers and IT professionals. As for working for a company that hires international people- it means almost all of them. Every private company and govt agency I have seen has many international people working for them, regardless of whether they have business abroad or not. The world is a much smaller place now. Employers are much more open to hiring foreigners because there is a need for technically trained professionals.

    In the USA, most engineers don't require a PE to work as an engineer, if they have a bachelor's degree in any engineering discipline. The exception is Civil engineering because many of CEs work in construction, or for consulting agencies or govt agencies. They have to sign some documents as 'engineers'. So they need that 'license'. In other engineering disciplines it's very rare to find a PE, regardless of which engineering he/she majored in. In my 14 years in the semiconductor industry as an engineer, I have seen ONE person who had a PE (and he had a EE degree, which is the easiest for finding a job). Now that I work for a govt agencies, there are some PEs. Some agencies just don't know that someone without a PE can do an engineer's work. IMO the PE has meaning if the work involves civil engineering type work, but not in other areas. Fortunately in the USA we don't need a PE. I spent many years in graduate school and I have no desire to study for a PE.

    However, I discovered that in Canada they require the PE for everything- even for an academic job in an engineering department - that's in addition to the Ph.D. (Naturally I had to drop the idea of applying for a teaching position there).

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    She needs to find out (and prove to employers) that her Columbian degree is equivalent to one from the US. It is not the case that all foreign degrees are considered equivalent to those from the US. It depends on the country she got her degree in, and sometimes, from what program within that country. She'd need to have her degree evaluated by an education credential evaluation service, such as these:
    https://www.ece.org/
    http://www.wes.org/

    She needs to bring her English up to speed. That is her priority. I've had several students who've done that via ESL classes at a community college, while they worked in jobs similar to the one you described. Once they have stronger English, they try to find work in their field. Some of them can find jobs in their field. Others take jobs one step down. For example, she's an engineer, so she should look for jobs as an engineer, and as an engineering tech. Even if her bachelors in engineering does not end up being equivalent to the same from a US uni, she may be able to find work as an engineering tech.

    If she cannot find a job in her field, she can look at MS in engineering programs in the US, to get a US educational credential on her resume. During her studies, she would do at least one US internship in engineering, to gain a US credential for work experience. Some MS in engineering programs provide funding for students, so she may be able to get this paid for, at least in part. She'll need to ask each grad program if they offer funding, and if so, how to apply for it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vash01 View Post
    Some random thoughts.

    There is nothing wrong with a Chemical engineering degree. I have a Ph.D. in it, and it has not gone out. The PhD got me a good position in the semicondutor industry. I am just an Environmental Engineer now, but that's after many years in the Semiconductor industry- until it went downhill. A BS or MS in Chemical Engineering is more marketable because a lot more positions are open. Employers are reluctant to hire PhDs because they feel they would have to pay more (they did not pay ME more- LOL). Some Chemical engineers did go into other fields when the economy was bad, and the oil boom became a bust. Some just liked other kind of work, and made the switch.

    Chemical Engineers are versatile. They can do different kinds of work (like moving into software engineering, for example). They are ideal for systems analyst type work, or mechanical engineering type (there is a lot of overlap between Chemical & Mechanical engineering). They can work as process engineers in many different industries- semiconductors, oil, pharmaceuticals, plastics, etc. or they can work in government agencies, or if they like lab work they may even work as chemists (even though it is engineering, and not chemistry). Environmental field is another area for someone with a ChemEng degree. I know that when I was working for the state, the state had sponsored at least one new employee for the green card. However, it's easier to get a work visa (H-1) from a private industry employer. They must really want you though. She may need to work on her communication skills. I have seen many positions open for recent college graduates, some for Chemical engineers.

    It's only a matter of being at the right place at the right time. Not having a work visa can create difficulties in Chemical engineering because the supply/demand may not be in her favor (unlike the software engineers), but there are jobs for ChemE's (not to be confused with chemists- that's an entirely different field). NJ has a lot of chemical and other industries, so she should not have difficulty finding work somewhere. Of course anyone that is willing to relocate has more opportunities. Her not having a work visa could be a major roadblock, IMO. Had she gone to a school here, she would have more employers willing to sponsor her.

    I don't know about engineering degrees in Columbia, but some engineering degrees from foreign countries are highly respected (e.g. from Indian Institutes of Technology, or degrees from Taiwan, and other countries as long as the universities are well known). One of my co-workers when I worked in the semiconductor industries was from Peru. He got his bachelor's degree there, and masters from a US university.

    I know absolutely nothing about Columbia, but if she has not been out of school for very long, I would highly recommend that she apply for process engineer positions in semiconductors or in the environmental field. Also biotechnology industry is coming up and she can apply there- even if she does not have the 'bio' background. They can still use basic chemical engineering skills. The semiconductor industry - this is the one I am most familiar with- is not doing as well as it did in the 1990's but there still are jobs in it.

    This young lady needs to find technical work to make herself marketable. It's not clear to me how she is going to receive her green card- through the cleaning service? Marriage? A family member sponsoring her?

    If she gets a job interview, she should definitely not mention what she is doing right now. That could be a turn off for many employers. Good luck to her.
    I knew FSU would come through with someone who's actually been there.

    Yeah, I don't know the details about my uncle. All I know is that he was chemical engineering everything until he decided not to be, and it's likely the lack of cushy job was just the excuse to switch. The software thing is paying off for him, so he wouldn't go back now anyway.

    I agree that she should not mention what she's doing now. Although she might be stuck between a rock and a hard place, if they see there's been some time where she doesn't seem to have done anything according to her resume...

    Does she or you know anyone already in the field? If she hasn't had recent experience, she'll probably need someone to vouch for her. It's a good idea in any industry, really, but especially if she doesn't have the kind of networking an engineer trained at a good school in the US has.

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    Most people in the medical profession that I know who received their licensing in another country (other than Canada), have to go through more schooling usually in the U.S., as well as take a board test again, to practice in their profession. I know of several nurses from Philippines and Africa who had to work as CNA's here in the U.S. while finishing the school requirements and taking their nursing boards.
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    Thanks for all the replies, everyone. Whew, wide range of reactions! I am distracted tonight but will study your posts and see if I can digest them for this young woman. I may come back if she has questions.

    Her husband is a Cuban doctor and I believe her visa is being expedited because he has refugee status. I could be wrong about that but it explains why her green card would be coming so easily. He just got a decent, though non-doctor, job in a medical field, so hopefully she won't have to be cleaning houses forever.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kasey View Post
    Most people in the medical profession that I know who received their licensing in another country (other than Canada), have to go through more schooling usually in the U.S., as well as take a board test again, to practice in their profession. I know of several nurses from Philippines and Africa who had to work as CNA's here in the U.S. while finishing the school requirements and taking their nursing boards.
    I don't know about nurses but the doctors only have to take the board exam and do residency (no additional college/schooling required).

    Back to the Chemical Engineer- if she has been without a job for more than 18-24 months, she may have to do a lower level job, like technician, then apply for a higher level job. In the high tech industry in particular, knowledge becomes outdated very fast. If it's a low tech industry, she may still have to work at a lower level for sometime, but she should be able to move up fairly soon (may be after one year)- I am just guessing here. She may actually be better off going to graduate school and at least start working on a masters. It will significantly improve her chances of getting a job, whether she actually finishes the MS or not (better if she finishes). It does not sound like she has no other means of making a living, if her husband is a doctor.

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    Medical fields like doctors have a huge road ahead of validating their degrees in the US even if they are US citizens with perfect english. They first need to see if their school is even accredited. Many accredited schools will not even be good for all 50 US states because of varying local laws. California doesn't accept med school degrees from schools that are less than 15 years old.
    Many degrees require them to pass knowledge competency exams and they will probably be in english, she won't escape her faulty english here. Even if she does validate her degree many employers might frown at the fact she hasn't held jobs related to her field in over 20 years. It could be difficult.

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    ^ She only looks about 25 so I don't think her degree is very old! From what she told me it is app. 3 years old.

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    It's been awhile, but my uncle has a degree in engineering from the Philippines. When he immigrated to the U.S. he was recruited for a high school teaching job in a small rural county. He became a career math teacher & the county school system helped sponsor him for his citizenship because of their desperate need of math teachers at the time. So maybe something like that would be an option for her.

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