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Venomous March 17, 2002 02:08

Advice: Career in CFD w/BS
I had been involved with CFD as an undergraduate which included some CFD work as an Intern then I tailored my Bachelors degree with some graduate courses in CFD and advanced fluid dynamics. I did very well in these and all of my courses. I was subsequently hired to do CFD with a BS in mechanical engineering. I now have 3 years of successful experience using Fluent & Gambit. I still enjoy all that makes CFD possible and am studying mutiphase flow with particles on my own time, so I continue to learn every day while I get the chance to apply CFD to industrial problems during the day.

My problem is that I am now highly underpaid and undereducated for what I'm accomplishing, as well as highly dissatisfied with my current employer who wishes to make ever increasing amounts of money from my work. This is after only 2 years out of school. If I leave they loose alot of experience as I am the most experienced with their equipment and models. If I leave, should I pursue graduate school and finish up as quick as possible (I have bills & kids to support) or should I expect a potential employer to see me as an Engineer with a history of success and great skills (as I would expect) in spite of not having grad school.

I don't mind school, but I did turn down a full scholorship to graduate school to take this job thinking that the experience would help me out. I don't like writing code for CFD or anything else, that is why I turned down the scholorship. I like engineering and CFD has been my main problem solving tool.

Can I really expect to find an employer who will hire me with a BS for CFD work, or should I really suck it up and get through grad school quickly as possible?

Thanks for allowing me to vent. I could contiue, but I think you have the picture.

gita March 17, 2002 11:47

Re: Advice: Career in CFD w/BS
Hi There,

It's nice and at the same time sad to read your article. I can understand your situation. With family committments it's difficult to take a right decision. No matter even if you have decades of experience, companies may still pay you less. Sure higher education helps in such circumstances. Since you said you have used Fluent and Gambit quite extensively have you tried some CFD companies for a job that pays more than what you're earning now?(but you have to keep in mind that you may not get substanstial raise in salary taking into account country's economy). May be you can do part-time MS. If you are not interested in writing codes, there are lots of problems in stability and turbulence that can be addressed from theoretical point of view. You can choose your research topic accordingly and use this knowledge along with other CFD tools to study engineering problems. More experienced people in industry as well as academics would be able to give you the right inputs... Regards gita

andy March 17, 2002 16:38

Re: Advice: Career in CFD w/BS
It is hard to give useful advice without knowing your long term objectives and details of your position and relationship with your employer.

As a sweeping generalization, higher degrees help progress in technical jobs but are a less useful on the management side. In fact, it is not unusual for a Ph.D. to get negative marks for management positions with some companies.

I would view expertise at driving FLUENT as a fairly low grade engineering job. I would also view "I don't like writing code" as an issue because as you become more expert this is pretty much the only way to bend general purpose codes like FLUENT to better serve the needs of companies. Progress beyond a low level within the area of CFD is going to require you to think beyond FLUENT and a higher degree can help serve this purpose well.

One option you have not mentioned is to remain with your employer and pursue your higher degree either part time on full pay or full time on full pay. Personally, I did the latter but it depends on your relationship with your employer and, to a small extent, the academic institution. Is this viable in your case?

Almos March 19, 2002 06:48

Re: Advice: Career in CFD w/BS
Perhaps it's useful to provide a benchmark for us CFD analysts at this point, so that people can measure how underpaid / overpaid they are - and relate that to their job satisfaction. With the relative anonimity of the newsgroup no none need give away personal info, or artificailly inflate numbers which would be no use to any of us in comparitive terms.

For starters my details are Chemical Engineer, qualified to Masters level, 29 years old, 2 years CFD experieince, working for UK based multinational company, salary 32k with benefits.

Mouse March 19, 2002 07:28

Re: Advice: Career in CFD w/BS
Good idea Almos. FYI I'm a fresh graduate working in software consultancy, PhD, 6mnths experience, 24k - so interesting to see your level of progression - shows CXFD is a worthwhile career salary wise. Mouse

Jim Park March 19, 2002 10:12

Re: Advice: Career in CFD w/BS
"FYI I'm a fresh graduate working in software consultancy, PhD, 6mnths experience, 24k"

Is this dollars, stirling, Euros, ???

mouse March 20, 2002 04:02

Re: Advice: Career in CFD w/BS

David Stamble March 20, 2002 04:05

Re: Advice: Career in CFD w/BS
I work in the UK, but would be interested to know what US salaries are like, how easy it would be do get a job as a non US citizen, and whether a contract / permenent staff market exists. Any help greatly recieved.

Fintan March 20, 2002 13:45

Re: Advice: Career in CFD w/BS

I'm originally from Ireland and at the moment I work fro a large US multinational in their turbomachinery design and analysis division. I received a masters degree in Aeronautical engineering from a major US university and have worked on turbomachinery for approx. 7 years. I have approx. 2 years experience in CFD/turbomachnery design.

Salaries in the US are higher than those in the UK and the rest of Europe in general. A person with a Masters from a good US school could expect somewhere between $70,000 to $80,000 a year. A Phd could expect somewhere between $75,000 to $100,000. These salaries will vary about these values, depending on what part of the United States you live in. If you live in New York city, your salary will be higher than if you are working in Kansas. I live in Los Angeles and the cost of living is extremely high. For example a 3/4 bedroom in the area around my work can be approx. $450,000 and I don't live in Beverley Hills or Westwood. So although the salaries can seem high the cost of living can also be high.

For non-US citizens to get a job in the CFD sector can be difficult. The major problem as has been mentioned before in this forum is that a large amount of the CFD is done by companies with defense contacts(i.e. Boeing, GE Aircraft Engines, Lockheed Martin, Pratt&Whitney, TRW, Sikorsky etc.). Alot of these companies will only hire US citizens or green card holders(i.e. permanent residents with work permits). This is the official line and they stick to it pretty strongly, but if you have a particular skill they really need (not just beeing good with Fluent or TascFlow, but some specific area of aircraft design that you are the worlds best at)they will work around the restrictions. When I finished my masters I got a job interview from Boeing who seemed pretty keen to hire me, but the interview lasted all of 30 seconds once I told them I was an Irish citizen with no work permit.

However there are openings in some areas of teh aerospace world and definitely outside the aerospace community( for example GE Aircraft engines won't hire non-citizens, but GE Power System will). To get a job with a large US company, in the US, it helps to have went to graduate school in the US(i.e Masters or PhD) and the better the school the easier it is to get a job( i.e. MIT, Caltech, Stanford etc.). Generally the bigger companies give higher salaries and better benefits( medical insurance is a very important benefit in the US). If you don't manage to get a job ith a large company there are many smaller companies that are alot more willing to hire foreigners and in someways do far more interesting work. Alot of people I went to college with got jobs in these smaller companies. In either case the company has to get you a H-1B work visa. This usually takes 6 months or so. the visa lasts for 3 years and can be renewed after 3 years for another 3, but after 6 years you must leave the US. Before the 6 years is through most companies will sponsor you for a green card, to allow you to stay permanently.

All of the people I've worked with in the CFD world have been permanent employees, with full benefits. I think this has to do with the need for security clearances on some of the jobs we work on. We have no contract staff. We sometimes send some complicated grid generation work out to contract companies, when we're swamped.

If your interested in working in the US, my advice is to try and join a large US multinational in the UK, and then try to get transfered to their US operation.

The Swedish voice March 21, 2002 09:57

CFD salary benchmark
Brilliant idea!

Here are some stats from Sweden...

Most people working with CFD in industry have either a M.Sc. or a Ph.D., and the salaries are usually around (+/-20%) SEK 360000 (=USD 35000). Deduct about 40-50% in income tax, add the 25% in sales tax, and the interest on the SEK 250000 (=USD 24000) student loan that most Swedes have.

Bet all of you are running to the closest Swedish consulate to apply for work permits? And then again, maybe not.

The good news for Sweden is that the differences in language and culture (from the rest of the world) keep 90% of the work force in the country; the bad news is that as the world is getting smaller the 10% brain-drain is destined to increase.

Neale March 21, 2002 16:12

Re: Advice: Career in CFD w/BS
I did B.S., M.Sc. and Ph.D. I've been working for one of the major CFD vendors for 3.5 years now. It's basically the first job I had out of school. I make 50,000 US + benefits. I'm not in the US, so this salary seems more along the lines of what people from Europe are posting.


Swedish voice not in Sweden March 21, 2002 17:21

Re: CFD salary benchmark
Some thoughts. I am Swedish, but I now work in the US. I worked in with CFD Sweden before moving here, and I have some comments in the matter. The level of Swedish salaries in the previous post are in the right ball park. But one must remember that the cost of living is so much higher in the States, for some stuff more than twice that of living in Sweden or most other European countries, despite the difference in sales tax. Most things are market priced these days and what the sales tax does eat up is happpily collected by stores and companies. And then you must also take into account the tiny vacation that American companies give their employees, Europe is much better in that area. And, as far as I am concerned, money is not everything - you need to look at the whole package. Also, look at what you get for your taxes. In the States your 30-35% tax does not give you much, whereas you get quite a lot, health care and child day care for example, for your 45-50% in Sweden. So depending on your situation the difference might not be as big as the raw salary numbers imply. Other European countries I have lived in can be included for comparison as well, but I'll keep it short for now.

a voice from UK April 18, 2002 10:05

Re: Advice: Career in CFD w/BS
Adding more data to your benchmark, I'm 39 years old, 16 years in cfd world - code development + application of major codes, paid just under 42k pounds + cars+ benifit. I'd like to know anybody with similar experience are getting more 'cause I haven't seen any cfd jobs advertised offering more ?

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