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DD undecided - Law or Engineering -

(75 Posts)
hattymattie Thu 20-Dec-12 14:08:58

My daughter is absolutely stressed about what she should study - she would be a great lawyer but also is looking at engineering on the advice of her dad who is a civil engineer. She's not sure what branch of engineering she should look at and also how women get on in this male dominated profession. I would be particularly interested in anybody's experience - their degree, career path, whether they enjoy/regret their career.

Thank you - I know there is a shortage of engineers and too many lawyers so this may be a more sensible option if she enjoys the subject matter.

hattymattie Fri 21-Dec-12 13:47:04

She's 16 now - so University applications next October - this is why we're doing masses of research at the moment.

BeckAndCallWithBoughsOfHolly Fri 21-Dec-12 17:38:54

I would advise booking her onto an engineering taster course to see if she likes it - they run next summer and that's time enough for the ucas application.

If you google Headstart they will come up for you to browse

boomting Fri 21-Dec-12 18:42:06

She needs to think carefully about her A Level choices, and look at the websites of various universities to see what courses they offer, and what A Levels they require. Clearly sciences and maths (sometimes further maths) are necessary for engineering, but it will be easier to get onto a law degree with essay based A Levels like Eng Lit, History, Politics and MFLs.

frenchfancy Fri 21-Dec-12 19:03:41

OP is in France so I'm guesing the daughter is doing a BAC (S).

oldpeculiar Fri 21-Dec-12 19:08:25

Boomting-she has already started her A level course.

No engineering courses actually require FM because some schools don't even offer it.But it does help or at least make sure you do the Maths mechanics modules

galwaygirl Fri 21-Dec-12 19:11:00

If she is good at Maths what about Actuarial Science?
That's what I do although I first did a civil engineering degree and am married to an electronic engineer - engineers pay is crap for the job they do and the abilities they have. Unless you go down the oil side.
Actuaries are highly paid for a cushy job and there are so many areas you can work in, lots of them interesting. And we are not all weird geeks these days ;-)

hattymattie Fri 21-Dec-12 19:11:48

Yes - French - she's on Bac S. (with additional maths offered by the school for the prepa).

hattymattie Fri 21-Dec-12 19:14:05

beck I'm going to google the engineering taster courses.galway I'm going to look up Actuarial Science - that's a new one on me.

breatheslowly Fri 21-Dec-12 19:23:09

The engineers I know have much more balanced lives than the lawers I know. They do get paid less, but I think they tend to find it very interesting.

One option would be to do engineering with a view to becoming a patent attorney as this it the overlap between law and engineering.

BikeRunSki Fri 21-Dec-12 19:29:29

I am a female civil engineer. Got here through a rather circuitous route, but have always either worked for a consultancy (12 years) or the public body I do now (8 years). I have never felt discriminated against at all for being female, and have always enjoyed my work. I'm never going to be rich though... I used to think that I'd always have a job though, but DH (same field) was made redundant last year, as have many of our friends recently.

Engineering and Law are very different disciplines, surely she should choose the one she feels she has most aptitude for, regardless of her father's profession (fwiw my dad was a solicitor!).

galwaygirl Fri 21-Dec-12 20:02:06 is a good place for information.

If she did the undergraduate degree she could get exemptions from up to all of the CT series of exams depending on how well she did. That would leave her with 4 exams and 3 courses to do while working although unlike some professions which pay peanuts while you're studying she would be on high 20s which would increase in large increments as she passes each exam/course. You get time off to study - roughly a day a week. Newly qualified she'd be on mid to high 50s plus bonus in an insurance company or a lot more in consulting.
You can work in pretty much any country in the world with the only barrier being language.

I know it's not all about money but I see how pissed off my husband gets at how much more I get paid and I don't work any harder.
Plus there are loads of interesting areas to get involved in.

Pantomimedam Fri 21-Dec-12 20:04:57

An engineering taster course sounds like an excellent idea. If either direction appeals, I'd nudge her towards engineering - there are so many options with that path and, as you say, there are probably enough lawyers in the world! I know lots of lawyers who are unhappy with their profession.

herethereandeverywhere Fri 21-Dec-12 20:29:18

I'm a solicitor. It's VVVHARD work, for a LONG time. I work in the City where it's perfectly normal (and, of course expected) to work through the night, round the clock, to get the deal done. 12 hour days are a bare minimum, every day. Money is good, but not nearly as good as banking/finance careers which a maths-biased student (with an interest in accounting and finance qualifications) would make (if you want to become a millionaire it will take half a lifetime and joining one of a very few top firms to do this with law, there are dozens of routes with investment finance). If "she'd make a great lawyer" means she's good at arguing (!) then that's more litigation. Even harder to make it and make it big as a litigator (whether barrister or solicitor). The undergrad degree also bears little resemblance to practising law. It's hours and hours and hours of reading and reasoning and pontificating minutiae whereas practising is more practical and much more about volume of work you have to contend with! Is she a "straight A student"? If she's not I wouldn't bother with the dream of a legal career. Traineeships and pupilages and becoming fewer and competition more intense. We look for straight As (or equiv.) or as near to that as dammit and at least a 2:1 from a redbrick or better.

As for "jobs in law are about who you know not what you know", I'd say not so, unless you're mediocre and a kindly uncle in a tiny practice takes pity. I'm northern working class 1st generation Uni and applied through the standard route (vacation placement at top 20 firms) and got my training contract through that. All decent law forms have these schemes and would only recruit the very best candidates. (it costs about £200-£250k for a City firm to take a trainee from day one to qualification, including their postgrad study fees) so it's not in the firms interests to just pick kids of clients and partners who are rubbish and can't hack the job!

All that said, I hate my job, just resigned to have a career change - not sure what, although corporate law with its horrendous hours was always going to do that to me.

I have lots of lovely engineering friends but know nothing of the subject, other than the pay appears to be quite poor for the level of expertise. That said, most are in "dream" jobs, working for Maclaren F1 and the like and they seem happy, happier than I was in my job!

blueshoes Fri 21-Dec-12 20:49:33

I used to practice in a City law firm but now working as an in-house lawyer (for the better hours/work life balance) still in a City law firm.

At OP's dd's age, it was a toss up between engineering and law too for me. I am glad I chose law. The pay is good and work (to me) is interesting and cutting edge. The best thing is working with my brilliant colleagues. I think they make better conversationalists than engineers.

I note the difficulty in getting training contracts these days. I would not encourage my dcs to do law unless they could get into at least a RG uni.

Pantomimedam Fri 21-Dec-12 21:51:04

Oi, I used to work with engineers, they are fine conversationalists. And there are plenty of tedious lawyers!

Ask your dd what she would rather do with her life - make amazing stuff like this or make a few fat cats even fatter? (OK, I know not all law is city stuff, but still, engineering is about problem-solving, law is largely about making money out of problems.

Pantomimedam Fri 21-Dec-12 21:51:52


That's the missing bracket from the last sentence...

breatheslowly Fri 21-Dec-12 22:09:46

I know lots if amusing engineers and couldn't have married a man who wasn't an engineer, it was essential for me.

herethereandeverywhere Fri 21-Dec-12 22:39:58

Lawyers don't just make money out of problems! They earn good money solving them, as do engineers - engineering is no more altruistic than law. They are paid well because it's bloody hard and you have to be brilliant and dedicated to do it. Whenever a lawyer does a deal, of the long list of professionals working on it, the lawyers will work the longest hours, for the smallest proportion of the total fees charged by professionals (Corporate financiers/merchant banks always first then accountancy firms second).

Plenty of fat cats will have engineering businesses in their portfolio, making them fatter....

I don't love my job or my profession but let's try to stick to the facts!

breatheslowly Fri 21-Dec-12 22:58:24

Engineers often do work on products that are good for society such as medical devices, robots to clear landlines, safety systems on cars. Obviously this doesn't apply to all engineers, but generally they work towards something tangible which they can see the applications and benefits of.

My heart bleeds for the lawyers working the longest hours for the least fees.

Engineering probably has flatter hierarchies within it than working within practice as a lawyer. With most professional services there is a pyramid structure with the very few people at the top earning shedloads and creaming profit from the people below them who are all scrabbling to get to the top, so working their arses off to compete with each other for those few spaces. While there are hierarchies in engineering this working like crazy to be one of the survivors doesn't seem to happen.

walkingintheair Fri 21-Dec-12 23:06:14

If she enjoys Physics and Maths, she should definitely do engineering as a degree. Then afterwards she can decide what she wants to do. Basically doing engineering will keep all her options open (as others have mentioned) whereas doing law means she is closing off the technical career path. Also I think an engineering degree would be a lot more interesting.

Afterwards she would have to decide based on interest, work-life balance, salary etc. I think the work-life balance as an engineer is very good. OH did an engineering degree, and is now a software engineer. He works from home 9-5pm. Salary at 27 years old is £45k with a good bonus. Other friends who did engineering degrees are still in engineering jobs with similar work-life balances and all very much like what they do (not sure on salaries, they aren't earning big bucks but have a decent wage). A couple of engineer friends work abroad.

I don't know much about law except for patent law. If she likes both engineering and law, this could be a good option as she will be using her technical knowledge on a daily basis and still be keeping up to date with all the latest inventions. Basically, after doing the engineering degree, she would apply to patent law firms for trainee positions. It then takes 4-5 years to train and pass all the exams. The salaries on qualification are very good, and it is still a 9-5 job. Usually firms look for trainees with a 2.1 or 1st from a red brick or Oxbridge. There are lots of trainee positions in electronics, and quite a lot in mechanical.

Pantomimedam Fri 21-Dec-12 23:18:28

here, I was reacting to blue's post: 'The best thing is working with my brilliant colleagues. I think they make better conversationalists than engineers.' From someone in the city, ffs.

I am neither a lawyer nor an engineer but I suspect if you tot it all up, engineers contribute a hell of a lot more to society.

Zhx3 Fri 21-Dec-12 23:30:19

OP, I know you're not in the UK, but when I was 17 I attended a week-long course at Birmingham U called "Insight into Engineering" - aimed specifically at girls thinking of studying Engineering at university. They ran them at several universities across the UK. I think they're still run, but can't find a coordinated website.

I studied Chemical Engineering (about 1 in 7 were women on my course), then went onto a graduate training scheme with a blue chip corporation. Have dabbled in manufacturing and engineering in my various roles but am currently in a non-related role. Of my classmates, I reckon about half ended up in the city as consultants, bankers and accountants. One went into patent law. Probably about a third went into industry. My experience is that the women who study engineering tend to stay closer to engineering as a profession.

Some useful sources of information might be WISE and The Year in Industry (sorry can't link), which places students for 1 year with industrial companies between A-levels and university.

Zhx3 Fri 21-Dec-12 23:38:18

I have to say, I did get a huge sense of satisfaction from designing, installing and commissioning a big shiny piece of kit, and there are a few items in the shops which I can look at and say "that's made on my machine!". Dh finds me very tedious grin.

I don't think there will be much difference between engineering and law here, but I did get a shock after becoming a mother, because it's hard to work part-time when your work is mainly project-based. I felt as if I was always playing catch-up. A few of my fabulously talented female engineer friends have "downgraded" their roles and responsibilities at work in order to try and manage work and family.

monsterchild Fri 21-Dec-12 23:49:01

For what it's worth, I think both engineers and lawyers contribute a lot to society. And they can both sell their souls for money. Most people see lawyers as a problem due to the adversarial nature of law, but engineers do plenty of harm too.

That being said, the snide comments of some posts does show that your DD will likely need a thick skin to be a lawyer. But there's buckets of students in law school right now, and not that many jobs. In 4 years this bulge will perhaps have gotten through, but law isn't the sure thing it was in the 80s.

I'm not sure if the engineering schools are having similar probems for prospective graduates, but that's what I would look into, and all the types of work she could do with engineering or law.

Good luck to her! It's an exciting time!

breatheslowly Sat 22-Dec-12 07:18:41

On DH's degree he was required to do a work placement in the first summer. This set him up with a pattern of doing a work placement every summer and they seemed to be easy enough to find. By the end of his degree he had a fairly clear idea of what it is like to work in engineering, had been sponsored for a bit by one company, had contacts and references and was offered a job by the one that sponsored him. So I think you can come out of an engineering degree with a very god sense of whether to persue a career in it or not.

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