||03-02-2009 01:05 PM
I am an electrical engineer and I still agree with what the pro's are saying. Heck, when I go into a meeting and someone hands me a card with the letters "PE" following their name, I get scared. After all, the license is awarded to anyone who can pass the test and it ain't hands-on. There are some exceptions though.
I had a Korean EE professor in college who began his career as a TV repairman (remember back when those existed?!) and then later in life went through school all the way up to PhD. He used to get all excited in his classes, talking about what buffoons the people are that write EE textbooks and how the typical EE undergraduate who walks away with a 4.0/4.0 cannot replace a lightbulb. And this guy was a part of the team that invented MRI technology. At one point, he wanted to offer a course in troubleshooting and repairing a list of common household electronics devices. His take on this was, the list comprised all of the most important electronics "building blocks," those which everyone should be familiar with. Further, he wanted there to be a great emphasis on troubleshooting. The EE department tabled his idea as they felt that it was more appropriate for a trade/technical school program and did not belong in the curriculum of an accredited university. Dumb. Entirely.
I firmly believe that the biggest problem with college-educated electrical engineers is a lack of hands-on knowledge with the products and materials with which they design. Raceway and circuit layout is a good example. I've personally seen several designs that, following even a cursory review, warranted such ratings as "not constructible," "impractical" or "needlessly difficult." Now, if you took that same engineer and had him working in the field for a few months laying out, bending and installing raceways (and working with the other trades in the process), he'd gain a wealth of insight that would (hopefully) be reflected in much better design. I've seen engineers defend poor design by saying "it's acceptable according to the NEC" without realizing that the code deals in theoretical maximums/minimums whose limits don't always translate into best-practice installation (I've seen countless instances of GF's uttering things like "you have GOT to be profanity removed kidding" or "Let's get this profanity removed engineer out here and see how HE likes pulling 9-#12 solid THHN's through a 1/2 pipe with 315 degrees of bend in it").
On the other hand, some of us realized long ago that when you befriend the skilled trades that you work with, you can learn a wealth of knowledge and develop skills that no college university can. I always found that, when they realized that I was watching them because I was sincerely interested in understanding the how' and why's of their crafts (and not some punk, arrogant engineer that was looking down my nose for something to rip into them about), they all turned into teachers. Now, I've always been curious to know why things work both in theory and in practice and I've found that truly good design borrows from both. I owe a lot of my success to the electricians that I befriended along the way especially those that were gracious enough to share their knowledge with me. And some of those guys would come to me for technical/theoretical explanations of things like open-circuited CT's, induction heating, reactive power and therein, I could augment their understanding as I borrowed from an entirely different skill set.
Don't get me started on the NEC and inspectors. I don't always agree with them (esp. when they start pulling this AHJ ****) but I'll bite my tongue and keep my mouth shut in the name of maintaining diplomacy. As far as the NEC is concerned, it's come along way since they reorganized it several years ago. But I still find occasion to argue certain requirements and often wonder why it has to be so taciturn and oft nebulous. Like I say-there isn't enough time in the day and beer in the fridge to get into that!
And so, in response to the OP, just because someone studied electrical engineering doesn't qualify them to perform professional, safe and code-compliant electrical installations.
Nice to see so many familiar faces!