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I am currently pursuing a degree in engineering. I am not, however, an "Engineer in Training (EIT)", which is an official, regulated title that comes with it's own rights/responsibilities (not to mention a raise in pay).

I recently accepted an engineering related full-time position at the company I was interning with. This came with a large pay raise compared to my internship rates, but not on par with what other engineers in my field make. This is understandable as I have not graduated, nor am I an EIT.

My company has a program that will help me pay for school if I sign on to stay with them for 6 years after I graduate, or repay them. I plan on becoming an EIT within those six years, which will entitle me to about a $10k raise (if I am to be paid the average of my peers).

I worry the company will stiff me the incredibly significant raise because I'm essentially stuck there until the end of my contract. In the event I am stiffed, what sort of actions can I take?

What would be the best way to approach this with my superiors? I don't want to come off as accusing them of ripping me off, even if they are.

Is there a legal route (last resort), or will I have to stick it out and leave when the contract is up?

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    Why can you not avail yourself of government loans – Pepone Aug 6 '14 at 21:59
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    +1 for @Pepone's comment. You need to find some other way to pay for the degree. Locking you into the company for six years after graduation is about as close to indentured servitude as you'll get in the developed world. Do the math: if you're starting your second year of the degree, the company has you locked down for nearly a decade (assuming a 4-year program - 3 years for school, then 6 years after). TL;DR: I see very little upside for you here. – alroc Aug 7 '14 at 1:15
  • I believe you have the pay bump associated with the PE license confused with the EIT. There is a little benefit to a company for you to have an EIT however it legally has very little to do with anything they can make more money off of. Essentially Im not familiar with any industry that gives a 10k pay bump for EIT status. – Dopeybob435 Aug 7 '14 at 16:04
  • I meant i am getting paid about 10k under someone who has graduated and has EIT status. The mean starting salary is about $45 in my field (civil). In other words, when the time comes I would like to get paid as much as someone else would have right out of school. – thatengineerguy Aug 7 '14 at 17:16
  • I am curious - why do you think that would happen? Have they done that before, to other people in the situation? Why do you think you wouldn't get the raise associated with the degree and new status, should you achieve such status? I have no idea if the contract itself is good or not, though I've heard of similar things for doctors in smaller towns (ones that need a doc helping the student get their MD, then having they work in the community for a set number of years). – Wren Aug 8 '14 at 11:12
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Any remotely competent engineer in the USA should not have to sign up for 6 years working for the same company for low pay with the benefit of only a few years school expenses and vague future promises. Which brings me to my point -

  • This sort of thing not even close to normal nor is it a good deal for you

There are better companies out there. If you are interning in engineering, there are better companies. Companies that do not treat employees like peons to be taken advantage of.

It's possible we're missing something from the question but this contract sounds incredibly disadvantageous to you as the employee.

What would be the best way to approach this with my superiors? I don't want to come off as accusing them of ripping me off, even if they are.

Your best bet is to either:

  • Finish school ASAP to get your degree
  • Find another job in engineering at a company which will not screw you over while finishing your degree

The reason I say this is a company with the kind of policies you suggest is very unlikely to have understanding management.

Even if your current manager is, it's almost a 0% chance that manager will be your manager in six years, so unless you can get a ton of things in writing you are going to have minimal chances of any level of "enforceability" in a contract like that.

If you insist on staying with the same company try this question to get a feel for what you should ask for.

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Six years after you graduate. You have to stay with them for six years after you graduate (bolded because...wow.) And there's no guarantee that they'd pay you market value. To get out of that contract - to leave before your six years are up - you'd probably essentially have to buy your way out of the contract. And that's a lot of money to come up with at once.

Am I correct in assuming you have not signed this contract yet? (I hope not.) I would:

  • try negotiating a partial-compensation-for-2-3-years-after-graduation deal.
  • see if they will agree to - and put in writing - guarantees of raises, at least tied to inflation/local cost-of-living, throughout your remaining time there. That gives you some legal ground to stand on.
  • see if they will put that payment increase that you spoke of - the one that comes with EIT certification - in writing. If they won't put those in writing, that - to me - would be a dealbreaker.
  • look for government grants, scholarships, ANY other methods to pay for your education without the need to tie yourself to one company for six years, with no guarantee of regular competitive and cost-of-living compensation increases.

While I'd love to be with a company for a longer period of time, I don't want to be unable to leave if I meet someone who lives on another landmass and we decide to get married, if my parents need me to come help care for them (they're in their 70s)...for me, a contract like that blocks more options than it opens up.

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