Careers

Chemical engineering is a very bad option in Ontario.

[OP]
Newbie
Dec 30, 2016
4 posts
27 upvotes
Hey friends, OP here. I recently read through all of the comments, and though I don't have time to answer them all, I just wanted to say thanks. Many of the comments in here were really nice, some of them berated me, but either way I generally saw constructive criticism. The truth behind this post is that I was kind of in a bad mood because it was just after a bad interview I had - BUT, I still do hold my opinion. Yes, I should've pursued any chance in engineering, including that one-month contract if it's what I really wanted. I realized that, it may very well not be.

I'm trying to change myself for the better and I am trying new ways to find engineering employment. I've been keeping in touch with colleagues still - some are doing extremely well, but at the same time, many aren't. The general consensus that I see from my graduating class, from talking with a few dozen of my close friends from the class, is that you should try your best to find a decent-paying job, even if it's not in chemical engineering, or even engineering at all - you should do a job that doesn't drain you too much each day.

In the meantime I'm doing certificates (going to learn CPR soon, also going to learn how to swim haha) and trying to learn new things to make use of any extra time I have. I don't know what I said in my own initial post at the time, and I don't want to read it again because I know it's going to make me sad, but my employment is pretty bad - right now I'm pretty much in a call center. But, I'll keep making connections and trying to improve myself each day - I'm certain that a good amount of all this was my fault too. If I can't find any employment I really like, then I'll do a master's - I do have contacts from my university and if I need to, I'll swallow my pride. Again, master's = more niche, a year or two without the kind of pay from an employer, and a year or two of no working experience - but I might need to rely on it for the networking.

I received many questions regarding my ethnicity - some think I'm born here, some think I'm ethnic. I'm actually biracial, one of my parents is more..."Nordic", while another is from a South Asian country, and I myself look Asian, my first name is a very nice generic first-name, but my surname is South Asian. Of course I can't confirm this, but I feel that many interview me because of how distinctive my name is and they want to see what I look like.

I also don't have an accent. In fact, when I'm doing call center work now I get clients that complain to me about how Canada's GTA is all ethnic now and how it's "not like the good old days", etc. and I can tell that, on a phone, everybody thinks I'm...in lieu of any better terms..."White".

With respect to my family, we're pretty poor people in terms of education but we learned how to work hard to make money. But, the recent trend is that most of the older folks in my family had secured amazing contracts long ago - many were mechanics (working at the same company for 30+ yrs) and were making $100k+ annually before retiring. But...I'm afraid those days are older. My dad himself is very scared of losing his job due to his company's only Canadian facility closing because he knows he'll have to go from $100k+ to $40-50k. With respect to my education, I was gone for a while - I visited both immediate and extended for major holidays, but my family has a very poisonous environment - most of my extended family really just want to see you get demolished. My parents, also native English speakers (dad's Asian but came here very young), have a lot of trouble conceptualizing how tough it is nowadays. Imagine their life: you and your spouse secure good jobs, making good money, and you pay off for a Toronto house ($50k-100k) within <5yrs, and you have kids in your early 20's (no age gap between them). I think though that with the company my father works at not doing well, he's starting to ask around and is starting to see how tough it really is.

So anyways, thanks everyone once again for all of the comments. I actually like to read comments where I get ripped up, too - that's fine because a lot of what I read in here was very constructive. But in the end, my opinion really does stand - chemical engineering is not good in Ontario, especially not now. I loved the curriculum, and honestly, the professors in my school really loved their job and really wanted to help the students however they could. I feel that I did learn a lot in university, both in terms of academics and how to network, too. But, the tuition is very high and risky and doing a co-operative education will make you move a lot, and will certainly put strain on you and your family.

The job prospects for chemical engineering are just very, very bad - and it will definitely make a lot of effort to try to secure a job in another field entirely. People will respect your educational background, but in the end it'll be a connection who gets the position, and you really need to work hard to make them. And I think I said this earlier but I'll reiterate - it'll take some degree of luck, too.

I really would recommend doing what's popular instead, and if you can, please (PLEASE!) do research on the jobs you can expect when you graduate with a certain degree from a school. When I tell people that I came from Waterloo and am having difficulty securing employment, people pretty much say, "Haha, what, you in nano or something?" "Chem actually" "Almost as bad!" I was clearly out of the loop when I chose a degree to pursue and it was my mistake.

Keep in touch with friends and see what kinds of jobs are popular. The people in Waterloo doing computer science are extremely well-off now. Healthcare is also where it's at here. Don't be afraid to, say, become a nurse if you're a male nowadays. When you do research, always see what geographical region they're referring to. It doesn't matter if there's tonnes of jobs in another country if nobody will sponsor you. Many companies will have small hiring radii, too.

Anyways, thanks again everyone for the supportive comments.
Newbie
May 8, 2015
63 posts
35 upvotes
All over the place
One small tip, for whatever it's worth; do not do a Master's. You'll only narrow your employment opportunities even further.

Reach out to anyone and everyone who's hiring. I'm certain you can find a job the way you are now. Not sure how set you are on remaining in your city/town but there are jobs in other areas. Be flexible and adaptable, not stubborn.

Good luck.
Jr. Member
Aug 5, 2007
174 posts
10 upvotes
Professional Mechanical Engineer here with 6+ years of work experience who's had decent success with jobs and a high rate of offers after interviews, and helped quite a few engineer friends land jobs as well:
  • Clean up resume - avoid clutter - try and start off resume with 5 bullets highlighting your most relevant qualifications to the position.
  • Online applications are difficult - networking is key - linked in is not bad either if your profile is detailed.
  • During interviews - own the interview, show confidence, turn it from an interview into a conversation. Remember that GPA doesn't mean squat in the job market once you graduate.
  • Turn weaknesses into strengths - if they ask what you would improve about yourself, say organization skills/people skills/presenting skills because you can always get better at those.
  • Don't be greedy/picky unless you already have a job and are looking for a possible upgrade - if you are unemployed, most work is better than sitting at home doing nothing.

Remember that interviews are usually as much a test of character and communication skills as they are a test of technical skills.
Newbie
Jan 23, 2017
4 posts
It is truly unfortunate that chemical engineering really is a waste of a degree. OP is 100% correct in saying this. I have the same story as the OP. Graduated last year with a masters from U of T in Chemical Engineering and having a very very hard time looking for work. Most of the folks who graduated with me are still unemployed. The engineering job market across Canada is saturated to the point that we would GLADLY leave this place if other countries would hire us.

My suggestion to OP is to take any job related to engineering, even if it is unpaid volunteer work. Working in a call center is OK but you need to be able to put engineering related stuff on your resume to be hired by an engineering firm.

I sincerely hope things will get better but I'm pessimistic.
Sr. Member
Nov 8, 2006
552 posts
80 upvotes
Toronto
Hello all,
I've only read a couple pages and skipped to the last.
I am chem eng undergrad with 10+ years of engineering experience.

My advice is dont limit yourself to engineering work. Broaden your horizon and look for other opportunities, some might not be even linked to engineering on the surface. Apply your engineering skill on your life. Design your own system and CAD them out. You will have something to show to your potential employer. Dont be afraid to leave the country.

My first job was in a small plastic company where I was loading 2 white pellets with 1 black pellet to make plastic bag all day long.
Second job was working as a HVAC technician at minimum wage for almost 2 years. I was planning to go into getting an HVAC license until i got an overseas job.
I started work as a process engineer (mechanical) for process flows and tooling with CAD in asia. Competition was a lot worse than Canada.

Long story short, you are still young and concentrate on getting any kind of experience you can. Network, be polite, be a story teller and know when to shut up.

Good luck.
Sr. Member
Nov 8, 2006
552 posts
80 upvotes
Toronto
OP, if you really do hate chem eng, why did you choose this program?

Looking over several of your post, you have so many negative general views of it. Try to change field or have a second specialization to fall on such as business or finance.

Just as an FYI, being a chem eng is the most versatile engineering knowledge you can get. Its your mentality that makes or breaks you and right now, its breaking you and not letting you move forward.
Sr. Member
Jan 19, 2008
739 posts
238 upvotes
Etobicoke
i would have taken the I " "big electric car manufacturer", who really wanted me because I did battery research as my final design project. Problem was they were offering like 40-50k USD for a position in Silicon Valley. I could go to a third-world country and live in less poverty. " job ,rented a room, and see where it went from there
Sr. Member
Nov 8, 2006
552 posts
80 upvotes
Toronto
Yea, you could have taken a 3rd world job. But taking a job in silicon valley will teach you so much more and open so many doors for your future. Dont think of a job to make end meet, make it so that you make connections for the future.
Sr. Member
Feb 16, 2013
521 posts
567 upvotes
Toronto
1000islands wrote:
Jan 1st, 2017 10:54 am
SCREWED UP SYSTEM
My foreman makes 200K a year for walking around with a limp, vaping and calling people stoopid phags all day.
Mind you he has no personal life and is in 6 days of the week. Sweet gig.
Sr. Member
Dec 24, 2007
716 posts
61 upvotes
GTA
many ppl with chem- bio- biochem- related undergraduate or master background end up doing sales jobs or totally unrelated fields, or under-employed as a rotating shift technician (very boring job IMO). I'm one of those and I'm planning a change of career to IT. I've only seen my classmates who went straight to PhD got better outcome.
[OP]
Newbie
Dec 30, 2016
4 posts
27 upvotes
Just to let everyone know, I've been reading through all the posts - and I thank everyone again. I notice that some are positive and some are negative, but I find them all useful because they're all quite constructive. I definitely enjoy the criticism and looking back I've definitely made many mistakes. I'll give you folks another update on my situation.

I was talking to more professors regarding a master's, and the result was outstanding (though a little sad...). My response rate from emailing and wanting to meet with professors was astronomically high, and it was so because of my particular co-op experience I had in the past and my high cumulative GPA. For regular jobs, my response rate is usually 1 interview for every 100-200 applications or so (no internal references). For applying to a master's, pretty much 8/10 profs wanted to arrange meetings, and I was overloaded for a while - going on trips and even being taken out for lunches and dinners with professors. Wow, it was actually an extremely unbeknownst feeling for me. There is definitely politics with graduate students, that's for sure.

See - it's still a bad thing and it's just like my situation during co-op. It's quite true that my experience is good and all, but these professors know I can obtain a lot of scholarships and other funding from the government. I know how to write some pretty mean proposals, and in the past I've worked on documents having thousands of pages before (you just need to use a different writing style depending on who the viewer is). When I wrote some emails to arrange meetings with professors, they loved it. Sadly, this was the same level of writing for the companies I was applying for, too. Companies know how to filter it so they only see the experience and not cover letters.

It is kind of like my co-op - I'm just getting more government money, but when I lose my student status I will be in the same boat I was in a few weeks ago. Hmm

I genuinely love chemical engineering, it's just that I hate companies not being following safety guidelines. When applying for co-op positions, I've seen really, really sketchy operations. It's certainly become a big thing nowadays to hire co-op students. My mechanic I see made his shop into a legal business, fired all his old employees and hired many co-op students to do the work for cheap, plus government financial benefits for hiring those co-ops.

I found a nice professor and a project I'm genuinely interested in working on and although I have to still work out the details, there will be funding. It still sucks though because you lose out on several years' worth of opportunity income and work experience, and I'll likely be worse than the position I'm in now, after I graduate. After I settle in and progress further into my master's, I'll try applying again for more jobs and, if given an offer, ask for the starting date to be when I finish. But it's going to be awful again.

I'm afraid that family do not understand and there is a lot of tension. Many parents are stuck with an old and also ethnic mentality, ie, higher degrees are better - though that's generally not the case nowadays. Experience pretty much trumps all nowadays. They are much happier seeing me go to school for many years than working at a minimum wage unrelated job.

I will rant a little, so do bear with me. I come from a sad family without connections. We're all poor and are barely making ends meet with all the bills. In my family and extended family, we have what we like to call the opposite of a "baby boom" - I've been to many, many funerals and nobody is getting married or having kids - only one aunt got married a long time ago and had just one child recently. As someone in my mid twenties, I am the second youngest of my family and extended family. Your career prospects will very well be influenced by your family connections and your socioeconomic status.

I'm just a stranger to all of these companies, I apply to many positions and I spend as much time as I can practicing my interviewing skills, but with the current supply and demand it's luck, not meritocracy. If there are any internal candidates applying, OR if there's simply someone with more years of experience, you will lose out. There is only so much you can do. I was cleaning out my old Waterloo records (I've printed out so many job descriptions and interviewing techniques papers, etc.) and it made me really sad. I genuinely tried really hard to get the most amazing co-ops, but sometimes it boils down to a popularity contest, or even just how you look - things like height that you cannot control. I keep records of what I apply to, etc, and found a much higher job offer (co-op offer) rate from telephone interviews.

I read (a journal article?) posted in another similar thread like this that was written by a group of deans for Ontario engineering departments in several universities, and it stated that "100 000 engineers are needed in Ontario!" and I felt like vomiting over myself. Think for yourself and don't believe everything in the news.

But seriously, do not do engineering in Ontario! If you do an engineering co-op program in Canada, work for big, big companies and get someone to vouch for you to hire you after you graduate! Chemical engineering is just not doing well. If you get unrelated or co-ops that other employers don't like, you're out of luck. But really, the engineering tuition is mad nowadays and especially in niche engineering fields, it is exceedingly difficult to find work.
Sr. Member
User avatar
Feb 7, 2009
645 posts
159 upvotes
Toronto
OP, thanks for sharing your stories. I can sympathize with you - I am a UW alum, grad around same time as you. Although I was in a different field of study, alot of my friends also didn't do amazingly - either its grad school or nothing at all.

Anyways, I just wanted to throw my 2 cents out there. For any of you soon to be high school grads: do yourself a favour and avoid specialized university programs - especially those like engineering, biomedicine, etc. UNLESS you are amazing at what you do, and are very sure that you want to do it, then don't bother. If you are top 1% of your class, are great at networking, etc., then you'll most likely do well. If you are going to half-ass university and think you'll make it as a P.Eng or Doctor, don't bother. There are so many uni grads out there, but so few of these technical jobs available.

Like others have said about the co-ops, a ton of them are research related. I personally believe those are pretty much dead ends. If you do all your co-ops in research, you mind as well continue your career in research, because no other companies really need that (except maybe pharmaceuticals). BUT research only pays if you get grants. Otherwise, you're stuck moving up by getting masters and PhD, which once again, will narrow your job search even further.

/rant
Deal Addict
May 18, 2015
1111 posts
259 upvotes
Ottawa,Ont
Epiclemon wrote:
Mar 27th, 2017 10:43 pm
OP, thanks for sharing your stories. I can sympathize with you - I am a UW alum, grad around same time as you. Although I was in a different field of study, alot of my friends also didn't do amazingly - either its grad school or nothing at all.

Anyways, I just wanted to throw my 2 cents out there. For any of you soon to be high school grads: do yourself a favour and avoid specialized university programs - especially those like engineering, biomedicine, etc. UNLESS you are amazing at what you do, and are very sure that you want to do it, then don't bother. If you are top 1% of your class, are great at networking, etc., then you'll most likely do well. If you are going to half-ass university and think you'll make it as a P.Eng or Doctor, don't bother. There are so many uni grads out there, but so few of these technical jobs available.

Like others have said about the co-ops, a ton of them are research related. I personally believe those are pretty much dead ends. If you do all your co-ops in research, you mind as well continue your career in research, because no other companies really need that (except maybe pharmaceuticals). BUT research only pays if you get grants. Otherwise, you're stuck moving up by getting masters and PhD, which once again, will narrow your job search even further.

/rant
I had the complete opposite experience. I think its highly dependent on what field of engineering you take and where you live. Chemical(you need to be out east or west), Civil,Software and Computer engineering seem to be in high demand atm. Mechanical/Electrical not so much
Jr. Member
Jan 25, 2015
166 posts
27 upvotes
Toronto, ON
Dont be full of crap, your connections got nothing to do with it. My family is full of immigrants too and I managed. My name is as asian as it gets too and we are about the same age. You sound like an extremely smart person so dont let these negative feelings overcome you. Are you doing something weird that you cant get a job. At interviews its not really about what you know but more like your personality and if your a good fit.

Do NOT pursue your masters unless you want to dig a deeper hole.

Are you sure you are not being to picky with the places your applying to. With your degree maybe you can start off doing Quality type work than slowly get up to what you want. Continue to talk with your friends and keep job searching. BTW Your success rate is very low for scoring an interview. I would reevaluate your strategies.

GOOD LUCK,
Sr. Member
Oct 6, 2015
807 posts
411 upvotes
Chemical is horrible. Electrical is horrible. Computer/Software is in horrible shape. Most of the IT occupations seem to have terrible prospects. Seems only the Civils are cleaning up these days, as that's what I see most of the postings are for in the APEGBC job board.

Chems used to have a good time in Alberta, but with no new oilsands projects or upgraders ordered in years, it was inevitable that even Alberta would have problems.

Unfortunately most of the Canadian engineering employers do not want top grads. They want mediocre people because they know their pay is mediocre. Engineering is sort of a ghetto that is very hard to get out of. Despite what they tell you at school, not that many non-engineering employers are exactly clamouring to hire engineers. "overqualified" is what they will often say.

Just be glad that you're not 35 and laid off in Alberta with $500k in housing and toy debt, and 2 kids to feed like a few of my Chem friends are these days.

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