Amateur radio as a gateway to a career in engineering?

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At one time, amateur radio was a good gateway into an engineering career, but I have real doubts this is true today.  In my younger days, when I started as a professional radio engineer nearly everyone who was any good was a radio amateur.  When I left 7 years ago, I was the only person doing any amateur radio building over my lunch break.  The magic is no longer there.  In fact people are embarrassed to admit they are radio amateurs. We need to find what connects with the younger generation  or the future of our hobby is at great risk.

I think I have mentioned on my blog before that when interviewing potential RF design engineers with good honours degrees I was appalled to find that most knew nothing about radio. I knew more as a schoolboy. This is a sad indictment of our times. It was not that I was good (I was not) but the quality of good engineers was not there any more. There was little intrinsic interest in radio – if it was in the course they might know about it. As youngsters, we were excited about radio! Where is that spark today?

Roger Lapthorn, G3XBM, is a regular contributor to and writes from Cambridge, England.

5 Responses to “Amateur radio as a gateway to a career in engineering?”

  • Goody K3NG:

    In my first two real jobs I was hired by amateur radio operators. That was over 20 years ago. I tend to think amateur radio can help you get a job in specific circumstances like this. In my third job I had some VPs joke about my amateur radio involvement. That company went bankrupt 🙂

  • w3fis:

    In my first job out of grad school (1963), I started with RCA’s Sarnoff Labs in Princeton. When the word got around that I was a ham, all sorts of doors magically opened. WHY should anybody be embarased about being a ham???

  • Peter kg5wy:

    I guess someone should have told this to my former employers.

  • Frank ON6UU:


    You sure heard about computers…all youngsters are busy with computers, there is no spark anymore…. .. It is their gateway to the world where the gateway to the world three-four decades ago was radio for almost everyone, and TV. If someone wanted to contact other people one had to do something with radio, being it CB or amateur radio. This and the fact everything is ready made (which is convienent…. ..) makes that people are lesser interested in radio and building things themselves. Why would they invest in something where they can not talk to their friends and is costing an arm and a leg ? This is their saying..

    Novice licences have been issued in many countries now for people who want to start in the hobby, which is good, it got the numbers up again. Quality however…

    Earlier this week I saw in the newspaper the Belgium government is putting adds to get youngsters interested again in technology…

    About being embarrassed being a ham…hell no !!!! Why ?? Those people embarrassed in their hobby should stop, immediately, please !! One should be proud of what they do or not do it at all. I don’t want to compare with other hobbies since I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feeling but there are other hobby’s of which I think…”this is a waste of time”…

    About the magic…it is still there !! One only has to decide what part is their magic…

  • Dave K4CTV:

    In the interview for my first job after my discharge from the Navy, I discovered the interviewer was a Ham (W1OMD – Old Moldy Donut). When I told him I was also a ham (WA2CTV) the interview was quickly concluded with a single question about the phase of voltages across various components in a bridge circuit (which I answered correctly). We then spent the remaining hour (to keep the Personnel Dept. happy) talking about ham radio. He convinced me I had to enroll in university to get my EE degree which I subsequently did. I’ll never forget Joe, W1OMD, who changed my the course of my life.

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