Discussion Thread

Transitioning from consulting to education

  • 1.  Transitioning from consulting to education

    Posted 04-06-2021 09:59 AM

    Civil engineers who shared their experience and advice in "Explore Engineering Careers in Education" responded to a few questions we did not get to during the live roundtable discussion. 

    Here are their answers to the final question in this series of posts:

    Today's question:  Can you tell me more about the transition from consulting (or other engineering career paths) to education?
    (Answers are based on individual experiences and are not necessarily representative of practices at all educational institutions)

    Brock E. Barry, P.E., Ph.D., F.ASCE, Professor Department of Civil & Mechanical Engineering, United States Military Academy:
    As I mentioned in my video, I worked for ~10 years as a consulting geotechnical engineer.  I really enjoyed my time in consulting, but somebody gave me the chance to "try" academics as an adjunct professor.  That is when I found my calling.  It was not an easy decision to walk away from a successful consulting career (leap of faith), but in hindsight I'm glad I did.  I work at a military academy.  I have not thrown (nearly) as many hand-grenades as my military colleagues, but at the same time I had "done" a significant amount of more applied engineering (in the "real world").  My past experiences in consulting are highly valued by my academic institution and my students love to hear about my projects.  I get instant credibility when you can introduce a theory, explain an equation, or refer to a code and then immediately share where/how I used that in my professional practice.  I'm not suggesting that consulting experience should be a requirement, but I will not that it has served me well making that transition into academics.

    Monica Palomo, Ph.D., P.E., BCEE, M.ASCE, Professor, Civil Engineering Department, California State Polytechnic University-Pomona:
    After graduation, I worked in the public sector for a few months. My work was done in the department of sanitation and I had to review the designs of other engineers and approve them. In addition, I had the opportunity to be part of the team that evaluated the quality of some surface water bodies that were impaired due to the discharge of human and industrial waste. My office put together a proposal to call for innovative proposals to address the issues. This experience made me realize that I wanted to be on the side of the engineers proposing the solutions and that I need more technical knowledge to be able to work in the wastewater and remediation field. Then, I left my job and I started graduate school.  In addition to my research projects, graduate school provided the opportunity of collaborating with public and private industry. My intention was to graduate and go to consulting, but in graduate school I discovered that I loved the interaction with students. In addition, as a graduate student, I had decided to start my family and with two young kids, academia was a great place to continue my career while having the opportunity to spend time with my kids. I decided to become a faculty member.  My experience collaborating with industry while in graduate school was very helpful to start my career in academia. 

    If you missed our live session watch the recording posted on the Career Discovery web page collaborate.asce.org/careerdiscovery.  Also register there for future roundtable sessions exploring civil engineering careers in industry and construction – and bring your questions for our panelists!

    Jennifer Hofmann Aff.M.ASCE
    Manager, Professional Advancement
    Reston VA