Will I even use Matlab in my engineering career?

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I am a mechanical engineering student and the spring semester is drawing to an end. I'm taking a computational methods class with a great professor who challenges our thinking. I have become much more proficient with matlab and I am curious to know how useful this knowledge will be in an engineering career. Does anyone have any insight as to whether this will most likely be a new skill-set that I refine throughout a career or just something I learn and forget about?
Obviously it depends on what I do, but just looking for a general answer here for engineering students who are required to learn matlab.
Stephen23 on 30 Jan 2016
Edited: Stephen23 on 30 Jan 2016
@Sushil: where is your data source to reach these absolute conclusions? Your profile says "University of Alberta", yet I actually work for a major international engineering company, and we use MATLAB (and Simulink) for lots of things. Some of our MATLAB models even end up in our customers' embedded systems, after automatic conversion to an appropriate language.
"However the industries don't use Matlab" is wrong in my own experience of working for several (very) large engineering companies. Of course we also use plenty of other tools and programming languages: there is no "one tool" that all industries use, and particular fields of engineering and companies can use quite different tools, but MATLAB is certainly one of them!
"Also Matlab is very expensive when it comes to commercial license" I use commercial software tools that cost a lot more than MATLAB does.

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Accepted Answer

Jason Ross
Jason Ross on 17 Apr 2013
My undergraduate degree is in Mech E. The first language I used way back when was BASIC but in college I learned FORTRAN and used it to do fluid dynamics assignments. I also learned a lot about machine tools, rapid prototyping, the design process, presentation skills and time/work management. Out of college, I started out in the MCAD world working on mechanical design software and then I gradually just moved into working on software all the time.
As an engineer you are going to be faced with new tools and techniques constantly as the technology and science advances. MATLAB is very popular in science and engineering fields, so it is highly likely that you'll be using MATLAB, Simulink or other toolboxes as your studies continue, and it's likely to find it at use in industry -- although it is entirely possible that you will choose a career path (or maybe the career path chooses you!) where MATLAB isn't a part of the skill set that's required.

More Answers (7)

Cedric Wannaz
Cedric Wannaz on 17 Apr 2013
Edited: Cedric Wannaz on 17 Apr 2013
I would say that there is almost 100% chance that having learnt a language/framework for scientific computing will be useful to you, whichever it is, as long as it is "standard enough" and you put the effort into learning it well. So if you have the opportunity to learn MATLAB, go for it. You might not be the person who will be coding in MATLAB (or in any other language/tool) in the end, but if you are e.g. leading a team of engineers/researchers/developers among whom some work on scientific computing, having a solid MATLAB background will make the difference.
Here is another point to think about: as an engineer, it is likely that you will have to implement pragmatic approaches for solving problems, which, in a world with limited resources (in particular time and money), means minimizing the "time to solution". I pretend that MATLAB is a really good tool for this purpose when the approach involves scientific computing. The reason is that the time to solution is not only the computation time but the computation time plus the development time (plus test, maintenance, etc), and in practice the development time is quite often significantly greater than the computation time. For this reason, using a consistent framework of intermediary complexity (for the user), which offers a large set of stable tools with fairly good efficiency in terms of computation time (and the possibility to include parts written in e.g. C when necessary), is likely to be your best option as an engineer (unless you have an extremely specific [and therefore quite rare] case where you crucially need computing efficiency and can afford spending a significant time developing in C/C++/Fortran).
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Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 17 Apr 2013
"Prototyping" systems such as MATLAB and IDL can be very valuable for building "proof of concept" systems that show that a technique or technology really does work in practice; once that is known, it becomes a much better risk to devote a development team to redeveloping it in order to make it slicker and faster and to extend the ideas.

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Image Analyst
Image Analyst on 17 Apr 2013
It's used by a lot of people in industry, not just students. I program all day at work (well okay, about half once you figure in meetings, presentations, and stuff like that) and I use MATLAB for all the Image Analysis programming, and Visual Studio (VB.Net Programming) for a few things that could benefit from a slick, fancy user interface. Sometimes the Mathworks comes through my area with free seminars and I'd say like 90% of the attendees are professional people working for a living using MATLAB (i.e. 90% are not students). So there's a good chance you will continue to use it once you get a real engineering job.
Adam on 4 Sep 2018
I've been working with Matlab for 12 years in a private company in the UK though when I have looked around I certainly don't see all that many jobs advertised for Matlab (I haven't searched all that often though).

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Andreas Goser
Andreas Goser on 17 Apr 2013
I like addind Simulink or actuall "model based design" to your professor's suggestion.
The value here depends on the industry and application. In Auto and Aero industry, there is really almost 100% of a chance to get involved with projects using MATLAB and Simulink. Certainly there are also departments that have use of engineer skills that do not work with more than office software.

Jan on 17 Apr 2013
When you are a student today, you will need to use computers very likely for over 45 years. While there are a lot of important applications for Matlab today, there will be substantial changes over the decades. But with ability to use a computer language fluently will be a base for your work constantly.
I've started programming when FORTRAN77 was a modern language. It felt strange, that characters after the 72th column were treated as comments, but this was an accepted relict from the way programs have been stored earlier. While the usability of FORTRAN77 is an anachronism today, the compiled programs are still really efficient because the compilers have grown out of their infancy already.
This is not the case for Matlab: The powerful JIT is subject to changes and there will be massive improvements in the next years - at least I hope this when I see the development of the JIT engines for JavaScript in modern browsers. While Matlab's interface (the GUI as well as the toolbox environment) beat old FORTRAN systems fundamentally, the basic knowledge obtained with FORTRAN is still valuable, e.g. "avoid repeated computations" is still useful for (nested) loops, and it will be useful in Matlab++ R2035b also.
So in my opinion, Matlab is modern today and helps to solve a lot of problems now, it will be outdated in 20 years (at least in its current style), and the skill you can get today with using Matlab will help you the rest of your life (even after retirement, when you try to program your smart toothbrush or driver-free car).
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 16 Feb 2018
"“I don't know what the language of the year 2000 will look like, but I know it will be called Fortran.” —Tony Hoare, winner of the 1980 Turing Award, in 1982."

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Joshua Hrisko
Joshua Hrisko on 16 Feb 2018
Absolutely! I worked with HP and they analyzed heat transfer data from server cooling experiments with MATLAB. Also, in my research (I'm currently a PhD student) with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, I use MATLAB to analyze satellite and ground station data to produce visualizations that relay information about weather prediction, satellite calibration, and other weather and climate-related needs of the government. Here is an example of one of my visualizations:
If you're interested in a tutorial that has instructions on how to produce these plots, click the link below and it will lead you to my personal blog article on visualizations with MATLAB and open-source data:

Nathan Speer
Nathan Speer on 10 Mar 2018
It seems a lot of industry is moving to Python due to the ridiculous cost of Matlab. However, there are still a lot of government agencies, labs and Federal contractors that are still highly dependent on Matlab.

Mark Lafrentz
Mark Lafrentz on 9 Oct 2019
I'm a recent ME grad working in design. I use Matlab almost exclusively for computation. I have the most Matlab knowledge of anyone in my department so i do a lot of work helping people with huge data files and such. Because of Matlab, i am needed where i work.


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