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Topic Title: Analogue Circuit Design to C&I Engineer?
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Created On: 15 July 2012 12:33 AM
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 15 July 2012 12:33 AM
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guitarman001

Posts: 4
Joined: 15 July 2012

Hello all,

I'm a UK resident with a Masters degree in electronics & electrical engineering. I've been doing analogue IC design for the past 5 years or so. Back when I graduated I wasn't 100% certain whether to do this or go into a more power-related field (electrical, basically!!). I've been doing well in my job but honestly, the pay just isn't there. I have considered moving to America (better money but terrible work hours and holiday entitlement) or Germany (looks a good option).

A friend of mine recently graduated from civil engineering and got a job in the oil & gas sector, and already his salary dwarfs mine (£38k basic, 10% bonus, and he gets paid overtime - unheard of where I work!!). This has prompted me to look back at the jobs I was going to apply for when I graduated. I am looking at BP, Technip, companies like these, in order to do an electrical/C&I job. The money (I think, but not sure) seems to be better and I think the job will be more around on my feet rather than be seated in front of a computer screen every single day.

So it's a toss up between sticking with the industry I know, or moving to a new one. Going to Germany or going to Aberdeen. I've always had a little fear for where the electronics industry is going - certainly wages in the U.S. seem to have fallen in recent times as global competition heats up, but with C&I engineering, it's not like that sort of thing can be outsourced easily.

Can anybody give me their take on this? It would be extremely difficult to go back into IC design if I do make a move, so I need to be sure. I'm sure you guys have a lot of worldly experience. So far I've been reading up on the C&I job on sites like BP, for example... and also looking at some tutorials on youtube, for example (that sounds pathetic, but I've literally only started looking). Right now I'm working 11 hour days leading projects and not getting paid for the job I'm doing (in my opinion). Even if paid my worth it would (I think!) be less than what I could get doing C&I. Obviously money isn't everything, and I think that C&I engineering would quite suit me. However I must admit that day to day, I'm not 100% certain what is done! I only know the vague activities.

IC Design: £30k (near where I'm at) - £55k or so. Design & layout integrated circuits, test them once fabricated, define new products. I don't know about C&I but IC design is tiring - got to be a true expert, keep up to date with processes and circuit tricks, know about frequency analysis, sampled data systems, switching converters, sigma-deltas..

C&I engineer (in oil and gas) - £38k-70k+ (???). Real-time programming involving the use of SCADA and PLC in order to electrically control mechanical processes. Physically on your feet a lot, get to know different processes....?? Tell me more!

MANY thanks for your hep on this.. my early-life career-crisis!

Edited: 15 July 2012 at 12:42 AM by guitarman001
 15 July 2012 09:45 PM
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StewartTaylor

Posts: 99
Joined: 18 January 2003

First, you're talking about two very different animals in BP and Technip. BP is an operating company while Technip is an engineering contractor.

In an operating company the vast majority of C&I people are associated with a particular plant and therefore stationed there. You are likely to spend a lot of time modifying and optimising systems that are already in place. You can expect to need to move around to make career progress. The operating companies generally pay a bit better than the contractors but they don't pay money for nothing.

There's not much PLC programming in most cases - most of the control is DCS and the configuration of the DCS is really a secondary skill to knowing what it is that needs to be configured. There are typically to main strands to C&I engineering in Oil, Gas & Petrochem - field instrumentation and Systems. You appear to have systems in mind. for this I'd expect you to find you will need at least a basic knowledge of control theory, an understanding of the processes (touch of chemical engineering) and preferably a knowledge of Advanced Control (APC) as well as the ability to configure and program DCS and safety PLCs.

In a contractor environment the situation is quite different. Most of the work is project orientated, so it's working under a lot of time and resource pressure to deliver a plant on time and on budget The strands of C&I activity are much the same but the actual configuration of the systems is often sub-contracted to the systems manufacturer. For systems work you still need to know about the systems but there are large elements of contract management involved. How the actual control definition is handled varies a bit from company to company. In some it's done by Process engineers in others it's by C&I. There's also a developing tendency to subcontract the whole of the instrumentation provision to a Main Automation Contractor (MAC), usually a major DCS supplier who will take on the sourcing of the DCS, Safety systems and field instruments. In this model the contractor's people are specifying requirements (process conditions, control algorithms, shutdown logic, etc.) but actual programming is handled by the MAC.

In the contracting environment the heat can get pretty intense, especially at start-up time for a new plant. On some plants delays can be costing a million dollars a day in lost profits, on top of the costs being incurred, so eleven hour days can seem like luxury! You can expect to be assigned to jobsites and potentially to suppliers factories at various times.

Hope this improves your picture of the options. What I can say is that from, where you are as an IC designer (I studied digital IC design as part of an MSc course about 30 years ago while I was working as a design engineer for an control systems company but I've been in O&G/petrochem C&I for the last 20-odd years), I'd say you'd pretty much be looking at graduate entry level jobs unless you have project management or other transferable skills that would let you come in by an indirect route.

-------------------------
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
 16 July 2012 09:13 AM
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guitarman001

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Joined: 15 July 2012

Stewart, thank you for the detailed reply - truly appreciated.

I've been reading all weekend about this and came across what you are saying about the differences between operators and service companies. A friend of mine urges me to join a service company but after reading the Schlumberger website, it seems like the typical route is from field engineer in terrible climates (not my idea of fun) through to an ops role. Whereas going straight to an operator you can perhaps bypass a lot of the work in terrible climates?

Reading what you wrote, I can only agree that a graduate role would be best suited for me. Thing is I'm just so uncertain about my career in general at this point in time. Electronics does NOT pay what I thought it would, but would working as a C&I/electrical engineer up in Aberdeen really pay that much better? Everybody says so but I need to be certain. Electronics can be so tiring, always keeping up to date with the newest processes and technologies, sat in front of a screen doing endless simulations for really abstract circuits nobody in the real world cares about. I'm not chartered as few electronics engineers need to be.

More importantly, would I like the job! My current job is ok, it certainly uses a lot of brain power, but I can find it tiring and often wish I was working a bit more with my hands and doing more teamwork. Saying that, I've been in the job 5 years now, and soon, with a move, could be banging on a higher salary and not have to work in the freezing cold. If I lost my job here it wouldn't be too difficult to get another and in nice places like Boston, California, Munich, Austria etc. I don't know what it's like in oil & gas (regarding locations and more importantly, job security).

So you do controls for oil & gas despite having studied aspects of IC design? Can I ask why you changed? Is it typical for people like me to change career like this... I'm looking at the BP grad scheme right now and it says they give a good introduction over 3 years to electrical, controls & instrumentation, after which point you can specialise. It'd be a big leap and I need to be sure. Not that I'm going to base my decision on this but would you recommend the sort of move I'm thinking about? In the long-term, would it be worth it? My friend who just started is raving about the money. My friends in IC design think I would be bored (seeing as I'm designing at the cutting edge here, but like I said, it gets tiring and for little compensation). I wish I could do the job for a week just to make my mind up!! I just want to do the best I can for myself.
 16 July 2012 10:15 AM
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rogerbryant

Posts: 865
Joined: 19 July 2002

Having made a successful move to mainland Europe some years ago I would suggest that you also look at that option.
There are a lot of things to consider and a lot of potential problems. The salary numbers will look good, but the cost of living can also be high. The basic rate of tax may be quite low but then you will probably have to pay your own health insurance. If you have a partner and maybe children this brings futher questions.
As a quick guide to salaries and costs this UBS guide is quite helpful:

http://www.ubs.com/global/en/w.../prices_earnings.html

If you start seriously looking at a country/area see if you can find an expats forum. They will often highlight the specific problems and suggest some solutions.

Do you have any foreign languages? In general high level engineering work can be done in englisch but you will need to understand the world around you (maybe the same applies in Aberdeen :-).

Best regards

Roger
 16 July 2012 01:03 PM
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guitarman001

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Joined: 15 July 2012

Hello Roger,

I assume you mention this in general for either IC Design or controls jobs? I have been looking at both Boston in the States and Munich if I stay in IC Design. Boston rents and healthcare seems sky high though it would be a good opportunity considering Harvard and MIT being nearby. Munich wages are higher but taxes are close to 50%. I've been on a few expat forums now to try and get a good idea of how things would pan out, but I guess that in the end, nothing will compare to actually just doing it.

I speak basic German. And I mean basic... but I'd be more than willing to learn more if I decided to go down that route.

Thanks!
 16 July 2012 02:05 PM
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StewartTaylor

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Schlumberger are a different animal again from Technip and BP. Schlumberger's main activity is provision of field services for exploration and drilling. This relates to part of what BP does but (as far as I know) they are mainly concerned with seismics and down-hole measurement - little or no control and pretty much all in the field in,as you noted, some fairly tough places. We work in some tough palces too, but we're usually there long enough to at least build some pretty decent accommodation. Any branch of Oil&Gas is likely to take you to god-forsaken places for at least some of the time.

I'm afraid the fact I studied some IC design doesn't really help you. I mentioned it to show that I had some idea of the skill set you'd need but I was already designing control equipment (I started in analogue electronics, moved to using discrete logic, then microprocessors....) so my migration into control was sort of via the application engineering involvedin the product development and proving.

Why did I change? First it was money that led to a misguided foray into management that didn't work because I'm a technical engineer and always will be. Then I moved into biotechnology in the late 80's but that was the dotcom of its day so when the bubble burst I was looking for a lifeboat. I landed with one of the major petrochem engineering contractors. I planned to give it three years to stabilise my, by then, patchy CV. But they kept me busy and interested and twenty-odd years on I'm still here.

Would you like it? Well, at the earlier stages, as you'd expect, there's plenty of grind with lists, indexes, requisitions etc. But if you're willing to learn all kinds of things outside direct C&I (on the 'if you don't understand it you can't control it' principle), deliver the goods and take on responsibility you should be able to grow through that fairly quickly (4-5 years). One word of warning here though, there are considerable variations between contractors - some are technology-orientated while others are primarily contract-driven and 'go in, do it, get out' in their approach. If you get the right place I'd say it's pretty good in our industry. You can make more money elsewhere but usually it'll be less interesting. The other thing is that the agency (temp) market is big so when there's a reasonable amount of business around this route can be lucrative (up to about £65/hr at present with tax benefits if you register as a company). The down side of agency is that usually the most interesting work goes to staff and any training you want has to be paid for by yourself ( plus you're only paid for actual hours worked).

-------------------------
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
 16 July 2012 09:32 PM
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guitarman001

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Joined: 15 July 2012

I think I need to do a whole lot more reading on the different companies.

My friend is going through a consultancy (AMEC) first and then onto contracting (does this make sense?) as he says this is the main way to get chartered and 'climb the ladder'. Getting chartered is something I would definitely want to do...

I think money-wise, it does sound pretty good. I'm still not 100% on day-to-day activites (I get in and design and simulate circuits, sometimes I manage whole circuits myself, then they get laid out, fabricated and when they get back we test them) but it sounds like it has a bit more human interaction than my current job. Just back from another late day - really wish I got overtime!

Got to say, the BP grad scheme looks excellent but you don't half have to jump through a thousand hoops to get in. My friend thinks I can just e-mail HR for different companies and get something that way, without doing the whole assessment centre thing, but I'm doubtful of that approach. I wish I could go back 5 years and make a more informed decision.

I had a second interview for a great electronics opportunity in the States - guy said he couldn't believe what I'd done in five years. Hopefully he wasn't blowing my trumpet, and that it'd look good to employers in oil & gas if I went down that route.
 17 July 2012 07:55 AM
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rogerbryant

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In my view C&I engineering holds a significant 'hands on and in front of the customer' content especially during the commisioning phase. There are probably some backroom positions, but in general you have to go out into the field and make what you have designed work.
If you are willing to travel and work long hours (which are normally paid) there are a lot of openings in the commisioning field. As an example here is an opening with one of our suppliers:

http://group.iba-worldwide.com...tment/job/162/ENGLISH

I had a similar position with them many years ago.

Best regards

Roger
 19 July 2012 04:49 PM
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21703459

Posts: 6
Joined: 02 July 2003

C&I Engineers or what others refer to as C&A (Control & Automation) Engineers are currently "hot-skills" in the Oil and Gas Sector. It covers a wide spectrum of specialties from basic instrumentation (electrical, electronic. hydraulic, pneumatic) systems. Fire, Gas and Smoke detection systems also fall under the same C&I Discipline. Control Systems, and nowadays Fieldbus technology e.g. Foundation, Profibus, etc are commonly deployed in process plants. You also get to do process control optimization, etc where you get to use PID Controls that was probably covered in your undergrad programme. Functional safety according to IEC 61511 is another area covered under C&A which is an interesting topic in the process industry, for e.g. oil and gas sector.

With your experience in IC design, I would imagine that you would have little difficulty using the many software tools that is widely used in the Oil and Gas industries. You need to decide on the location where you would like to work and apply for C&I jobs with the different Operators in the Oil and Gas Sector. The oil and gas sector deals with hydrocarbons which are hazardous and therefore, there is exposure to risks not necessary present in the Microelectronics sector. Given that there are risks associated with careers in the oil and gas, a higher salary is generally expected. Working long hours in the early years of your career will eventually be quite rewarding, especially with the steep learning curve.

Hope that helps.

Kind Regards, Terry

-------------------------
terryjay
 20 July 2012 01:36 PM
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MAWilson

Posts: 48
Joined: 22 February 2006

C&I Engineering is quite diverse and though I don't come from the oil & Gas industry, the power generation industry is quite close. An important aspect od C&I engineering is safety systems at the moment which is a blend of process engineering with in certain cases embedded systems (instrumentation can be electronic or in many cases pneumatic). I'd suggest doing some research in BS EN 61508 standard as this is the major standard in C&I world wide and provides some understanding of factors of safety.

In terms of IC design, there are some good cross over competencies, PLC language is basically logic based controls though higher end stuff would require some knowledge of PID and their practical implication. The major SCADA packages i've seen use VB scripts and C language as well which I'm sure you would have working knowledge. C&I encampasses all level of systems these days, in my short career I've looked at lub oil systems and emergency valve actuation/control (etc). If you take the plunge and shift, I wish you good luck.
 05 August 2012 11:12 AM
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guitarman002

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Many thanks for the replies, guys - sorry for my late one!! I got back from an interview for an IC design job in the States. It pretty much revealed to me that I don't want to work there - next to no holidays and long work hours... quality of life has to come in somewhere!!

I see the BP grad scheme is opening again in September. I don't know what my chances of getting that would be! It seems very difficult to obtain salary information on controls engineers working for them after, say, 5 years. Is there a norm? I have a recruiter looking into IC jobs in parallel.. in Munich I could be looking at around €70k Euros right now. A switch to C&I (or C&A) engineering still appeals but I think I need to decide sharpish whether or not to go for it. I think now is the age to do so.
 05 August 2012 02:53 PM
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MAWilson

Posts: 48
Joined: 22 February 2006

I can't say with any certainty the salary level company to company but a 35-55K grade is about the right grade for a C&I engineer. Don't know about the difference of the work environment with IC Design and manufacturing/heavy industry but what I can tell you is you'll be working with a mix of engineering disciplines and levels with a lot of banter involved. There can be hard working hours of 12+ hrs at times but usually the benefits make up for this.
The fantastic thing about it is there is always a challenge which you don't immediately know the answers and requires investigation. I've just finish doing some calculations for a valve actuator controller to incorporate a emergency supply line into considering consumption rates, gas density etc, which I'd never guessed coming out of university. Health and Safety is something you will also have person responsibility for and judgement is key in that area. BP grade scheme is a very competitive scheme to get on but there are plenty of places looking for C&I Engineers with the introduction of embedded systems and smart instrumentation. With your background in IC Design, this may provide added benefit in some regard as everything from High Voltage inverter drives to simple measurement instrumentation incorporate some processing power and require evaluation for use.
 06 August 2012 08:02 PM
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guitarman002

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That salary grade is probably better than I'll get in electronics (I think) - and am I right in saying that overtime is common? No overtime doing IC Design, that's for sure (and extra hours are very frequent...). From what yourself and everybody has said, it does sound like a very interesting job - I just wish I could do it for a day!! I know C programming - though I must admit programming is not my favourite thing in the world - mainly I do sub-micron analogue circuit design, simulation and layout.

I must check other companies that do C&I as well as BP (any popular ones?). The bummer would be that I'd have to start from scratch on a grad programme. As indicated I'm in the early stages of a job search and if I stay in IC design I should hopefully be looking at £39k + bonus if I stay in Scotland. IC Design isn't as varied going by what has been said here - I'll have to do more digging..

Here are some blurbs I use for comparison:

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<br ">"><br "&g...neer_salary.htm



I think you're right in that the BP scheme would be difficult to get onto! I know one guy (indirectly) who does C&I engineering for a brewery. We would both rather be doing each others' jobs I think! The overtime issue does grate, I must admit... So it's one big trade-off, really. Do I stick with what I'm doing now and maximise current earnings/savings and progress in this field or switch to something I THINK might be more enjoyable which may pay more. IC Design is certainly a challenge - often TOO challenging - surrounded by super-brains..! Don't get the banter you would get in other jobs - odd bunch at times. If the salaries are comparable then it may not be worth my while other than from a job satisfaction point of view (my job is satisfying but to an extent). Even senior designers are telling me the future is energy, get into control-type jobs. Semiconductor jobs are easily done anywhere there is a computer and wages have definitely declined somewhat the last decade or so. A bit like IT!
I think my head may be in the clouds if I think I can get a place with BP or the like.. my skillset isn't directly suited and they seem to ask for relevant experience through summer work and the like (obviously I did electronics summer work).
Most likely what will happen here is that I'll continue in IC Design. Always good to keep an eye out, though. I'll let you know how it all goes!

Edited: 06 August 2012 at 09:22 PM by guitarman002
 07 August 2012 08:41 AM
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chris1982

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Joined: 09 August 2007

Originally posted by: thomasross20


I think you're right in that the BP scheme would be difficult to get onto! I know one guy (indirectly) who does C&I engineering for a brewery. We would both rather be doing each others' jobs I think!


i wouldn't just focus on the BP side of it, there will be a lot smaller independent companies who could offer you something just as good
 08 August 2012 09:49 AM
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guitarman002

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Joined: 25 July 2008

This is the thing, I'm trying to get a contact in any of the companies to speak to regarding my career to date and options for the future, but the BPs and the like don't just pick up the phone to whoever has questions like this... Surely there must be somebody I can discuss things with, even if it's an outside agency that deals with oil & gas..
 14 August 2012 10:37 AM
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chris1982

Posts: 35
Joined: 09 August 2007

Originally posted by: thomasross20

Surely there must be somebody I can discuss things with, even if it's an outside agency that deals with oil & gas..


where are you based thomas?
 24 August 2012 01:05 PM
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guitarman002

Posts: 7
Joined: 25 July 2008

Hello Chris,

Sorry for the late reply - I've been insanely busy on a project..

I'm based in Edinburgh for now. I'm taking a trip up to Aberdeen one weekend soon as have never been before.

My friend who works up there says the real money is in contracting and that a lot of people go that route. One company has my CV and some of the grad schemes open up again next month. In parallel I'm also scoping out IC design jobs, just to keep options open.
 10 September 2012 06:50 PM
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larry80

Posts: 1
Joined: 10 September 2012

i am just curious to learn circuit designing

is there any book that teach us how to create your own circuits or simply circuit designing ?

thanks in advance

larry

Edited: 14 September 2012 at 08:17 PM by larry80
 11 September 2012 09:31 AM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

Best start is "Horowitz and Hill: The Art of Electronics". For the 20 years or so that I was a circuit designer it was pretty much the only book I used.

BUT it won't exactly tell you how to design a circuit, any more than a book on painting techniques or music composition will tell you how to create an original masterpiece: it's hard to describe something that, by definition, hasn't been done yet! However, this book gives a good guide to why circuits that already exist were designed the way they were, and that's the best way to start. Then look at every circuit you can to try to figure out why it was designed as it was.Then just have a go, ideally with a mentor to work with to criticise your own early efforts.

Cheers,

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 11 September 2012 01:35 PM
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stevens324

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