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eHam Forums => Misc => Topic started by: KC2NLT on October 17, 2017, 04:53:07 PM



Title: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: KC2NLT on October 17, 2017, 04:53:07 PM
I have always been fascinated by communications, that's why I'm on here too, after all.

Back in college I excelled in physics and math, I took advanced physics and advanced calculus and got straight As.

I had forgotten some of that by now, but I'm sure a few refresher courses would get me back on track.

My questions is, what does one need to study, as far as a specific major or courses to become an RF engineer and get into the field of communications R&D? Are we looking at a Master's or Eng.D?

Lastly, how is the market doing these days? Is there actually high demand for such skills? What do projections for market growth look like?


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: WB8VLC on October 17, 2017, 07:29:30 PM
After 33years in RF DESIGN from various avionics transceivers, rf transistor design at Motorola (remember when Moto made semiconductors?) , just about everything RF take my recommendation, don't do it don't do it don't do it.

Stay away, find another career path, cleaning latrines, digging ditches, working in a chicken slaughter house, anything but RF DESIGN in this day and age.

Pick Anything but RF design, these days you will spend 99% of your career dealing with suppliers going through mergers and acquisitions which means by the time you introduce a product to market the components will become obsolete/NLA because assets have been dumped.

2017 has been the worst year for suppliers either closing fabs, consolidating and obsoleting parts or selling their assets to a Company in mainland China called JAC Capitol all the time with the US and Eu regulators looking the other way.

Every major component mfg has merged together with name changes bi-yearly and the result being long lead times, parts going away without notice, fabs closing and the result is lost revenues and layoffs by the companies that used to make make end products.

You have been warned walk away immediately, don't look back.


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: W1JKA on October 18, 2017, 03:58:19 AM
You might consider "communicating" your gifted knowledge of math/physics to the younger folks, God knows this country is hurting for qualified teachers in math/sciences. Most states will issue a conditional teaching permit for people like you without any formal teaching experience. You won't get rich unless you start your own on line math/physics courses to the home schoolers such as the Kaplan University model.


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: KC8Y on October 18, 2017, 05:23:09 AM
I spent 15-years in control design work; have an EE degree & masters in industrial technology degree.  Had to retire on disability.

The math and physics areas did help me in my studies, BUT never wanted to enter the communications field.  There are a-lot-of areas to go into; stay away from RF.

I do like having radio as a great hobby-though :)

Ken KC8Y





Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: N0YXB on October 18, 2017, 07:08:23 AM
You might consider "communicating" your gifted knowledge of math/physics to the younger folks, God knows this country is hurting for qualified teachers in math/sciences.

Great advice, there is a real need for those who can teach math.


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: K8AXW on October 18, 2017, 07:54:35 AM
Quote
there is a real need for those who can teach math.

There is a great need for those who want to LEARN anything!


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: N0YXB on October 18, 2017, 08:11:32 AM
Quote
there is a real need for those who can teach math.

There is a great need for those who want to LEARN anything!

I agree!


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: WZ7U on October 18, 2017, 11:08:22 AM
Quote
there is a real need for those who can teach math.

There is a great need for those who want to LEARN anything!

I'm in.


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: KG4NEL on October 18, 2017, 11:59:35 AM
I prefer to keep my hobbies and what pays the bills separately.

I'm going back to school, but it's for healthcare, nothing RF related.


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: W3TTT on October 18, 2017, 01:19:39 PM
You might consider Broadcast Station transmitter support.  That is, the radio or television station engineer.  I know of a few EE's that made that the career. 
73


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: KD1I on October 18, 2017, 03:10:20 PM
RF is used in other applications such as medical (think CT machines) and industrial so don't limit yourself to broadcast engineering. I had a 46 year career in medical x-ray and enjoyed it very much. The fact that it pays well didn't hurt either.

When I retired in 2015, I thought I could work for a small station but quickly found out that you no longer need a license to work on a broadcast station as an engineer.....    I got the GROL anyway just for grins.

73, Jim


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: K9MHZ on October 18, 2017, 03:20:04 PM
I prefer to keep my hobbies and what pays the bills separately.

I'm going back to school, but it's for healthcare, nothing RF related.

Whatever works for you.  It doesn’t sound profound, and sort of an adaptation of the wisdom of not buying investments at your place of employment.  But, health care is a fine career field.


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: NE1U on October 18, 2017, 03:23:40 PM
I have always been fascinated by communications, that's why I'm on here too, after all.

Back in college I excelled in physics and math, I took advanced physics and advanced calculus and got straight As.

I had forgotten some of that by now, but I'm sure a few refresher courses would get me back on track.

My questions is, what does one need to study, as far as a specific major or courses to become an RF engineer and get into the field of communications R&D? Are we looking at a Master's or Eng.D?

Lastly, how is the market doing these days? Is there actually high demand for such skills? What do projections for market growth look like?
What was your major? If you got those good grades, I am confused why you do not know that RF engineering & communications are not necessarily the same thing unless you were a math major. Are you expecting to design RF circuits? Or, are you expecting to design large area communication systems?

I am an electrical engineer. I worked for Motorola C&E in the day fresh out of school. We designed all sorts of 2-way radios.  During a company business down turn, I volunteered for "distribution" aka no longer inside a lab and off to 2-way (w/ microwave backbone as needed) communication system design. Large areas such as state wide to federal penitentiary sub basement communications. What I did not have emphasis in was power transmission involving overhead transmission lines or motive.

Is this any help?


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: KC2NLT on October 18, 2017, 11:33:36 PM
To answer some questions, I took both physics and math as electives even though my major was in the humanities field. I know; “why would anyone want to endure that?” Not to brag, but math in high school wasn’t challenging enough, so I managed to get into an evening math class at a local university. Later on in college, I took Advanced Calculus 2, if memory serves.

Why didn’t I get into those fields? I was adamant to become an attorney, and math and physics were subjects I was just good at, so why not take those courses, I thought.

Later on, I realized that being an attorney wasn’t for me, although, again, I did very well in my elective criminal justice classes and enjoyed the various subjects in that field. College was more of an exploratory experience to see what’s out there. But I digress.

Life led me down a different career path, so here I am, curious about antennas, receivers and how  radio waves behave, in general. That’s why I’m considering studying to get into that field.

Perhaps it’s a hobby that I wishfully want to nurture, but my thought process is, why not earn a living while actually enjoying what you’re doing.

Broadcast engineering sounds like a good idea. I do know some of the basics of broadcasting, so that gives me an idea what to expect. But, does that get mundane? No offense.

I’m the kind of person who  likes to work on different stuff every day, something challenging that requires creativity and problem solving.

N1CZ, yes it gives me some idea of the options available. That’s certainly a good suggestion. But I’m more curious about things on the PCB level. In other words, taking an idea or a function that needs to be filled and designing it from scratch.

Not to romanticize this, but think of all those movies where a team of NASA astronauts have a malfunctioning piece of equipment and everyone on the ground is in a mad dash to solve that problem. That’s the kind of environment I would like to be in, as an example; something that’s mentally stimulating.


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: K6BRN on October 19, 2017, 12:12:40 AM
Adam:

Curious that your license has expired.  And when did you graduate and with what degrees?  Engineering is not for the faint of heart or persons who prefer 8 hour days.  But criminey, you can certainly have some fun and earn a good living.

Regarding professional communications careers... digital communications is pretty hot right now, with Systems Engineers, algorithm designers, ASIC and FPGA designers in great demand.  Salaries are high, but so are expectations and work commitments.

What degree to get, if you were to go further in school?  Electrical Engineering is always a good choice and is THE recognized professional degree in electronics, with CPE exams available in most US states for professional certification.  If you are mobile, you'll always be able to find a job - particularly if you've established a good base of references.  "Electronic Engineering" and similar degrees have to be shopped carefully, as many are from unaccredited schools, some are "technicians" degrees and are not preferred by firms - you could be binned with assemblers rather than designers. But some schools have great programs with that major.  Systems Engineering is a relatively rare degree, but in technology houses that design large systems, they are often considered the elite, negotiating requirements with customers, sub-allocating them to the design teams and overseeing first article test and delivery.  Many later go into management, where yearly incentive bonuses can easily exceed base salary.

You will probably need to do a 4-year program to develop the skills you need - a solid Bachelor's degree will get you "in the door".  A Bachelor's and Master's degree together will often provide a six figure income right out of school if you go to a really good school and have very good grades.  Trying to put an EE Masters degree on top of a Physics or Math liberal arts degree is difficult - you'll have some of the background, but be missing critical parts.  But I've seen it done, by very bright and hard working individuals.

Sometimes, accomplished Physics and Math majors are taken in on speculation of what they could do, and find very good positions in materials analysis and algorithm design. And that can lead to other opportunities, regardless of underlying degree.   If you ever get a chance to do this, take it.  Then work your butt off to figure out where you can best contribute, be open to learning from everybody, be ready to do anything and prove yourself through your work rather than personal claims. 

Professional engineers LOVE others that are open to learning, easy to work with and compete cooperatively - i.e. to see who can help make the project a success, rather than focussing exclusively on themselves.  Because with project success comes personal success, for the whole team, and friends and allies in your local engineering group means you can do and learn more and find even better opportunities.

The biggest engineering "ditch" to fall into is to decide to do one thing and one thing only, to hide in your office and work as a "lone power", and complain that communications - writing, presentation prep and public speaking at reviews and other venues is not for you.  This will pretty much guarantee you a dead end job.  Without the ability to work in a team, and a very strong ability to publicly present your ideas and your teams progress, you will never be noticed, except by accident.  Many engineers make this mistake and many of them end up with unsatisfying careers.

Engineering treated me very well, and still does.  I retired early, simply because I could, and find myself back consulting part time, when I choose because the demand for technologists and mentors in my field is overwhelming.  Not a month goes by when an old friend, collegue, customer, rival or simply a firm in need does not call, asking for support.  There is no shortage of work.  And I will always love the technology and the incredibly bright people and development teams I get to work with, young and old, who have the same passions I do.

So... that is what is possible.  The rest is up to you.

Brian - K6BRN


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: K6BRN on October 19, 2017, 12:49:48 AM
Adam:

Saw your latest post right after I posted my reply - probably "doubled", as I took some time to write it.

Any professional career, like engineering, law or medicine, requires an intense educational period before you can practice.  Its hard, always, for everybody, no matter what they later claim.  That intense educational period provides the basis for success and financial security later in life.  Don't be afraid of it, embrace it.  And there is one small "secret"...

The person who "wins" in life (there are many winners and losers) is often NOT the "best", not the "brightest", nor the most popular...  not the one who goes to the best school. they are the person who absolutely refuses to give up when pursuing a goal.  When blocked at one turn, they will follow another.  When all is hopeless and the world is agonizingly grey, they will find the willpower to painfully put one foot in front of the other and walk the more difficult path.  They are the ones, who when advised to quit, get pissed off enough to redouble their efforts and are flexible enough to realize that there is always an alternate path to their goal, regardless of the roadblock sitting in front of them or the hardships thay have to walk through.

Later, these are often the most creative, productive and successful people in their fields. Personal adversity seems to be a particularly effective blast furnace that has forged some of the most outstanding (historical figures and) professionals I know.  I've has to walk some of that path myself.  It was a difficult choice - glad I made it.

There are many jobs labelled as "engineering".  But most carry that label as a euphemism (its not real, but a courtesy).  You can settle for less - but that is the choice you will need to live with for the rest of your life.  Both can work.  Why not aim high, first?

Brian - K6BRN




Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: G3RZP on October 19, 2017, 07:30:47 AM
At the age of 11, my aim in life was to be a radio engineer. I've never regretted it, although over here at least, engineering is generally a nice occupation for those of private means! From 1979 to being laid off in 2011 at age 64 with 18 months pay, I worked in the semiconductor industry in RF applications and systems design and in later years, also some standardisation work - I chaired the European standards committee on wireless medical applications, as well as attending ITU Study Group 1 and its working parties on behalf of the IARU.  After I was laid off, I got a very profitable 2 year contract to continue doing the standardisation work for the US part of the company, as they shut the UK operation down completely. I never went to University, but I could never get to the position I got to today without a Masters.

To get into RF design these days, you really need a Masters in electronics, and one area which does pay well is RF semiconductor design. I know a guy who has retired from it at age 55: when he retired he was pulling down over $350k a year, which even living in Aptos CA, is not exactly breadline wages. But he was very good at his job and worked for a small  company with none of the BS of big ones. There's a ham I know in San Marcos who is slightly older than I am (I was 70 last May) and is a RF consultant: I know some 10 years back he cut back on his work to spend more time with family and had his income drop to around $200k. He never went to University, either. But again, you wouldn't get the start now without a degree except perhaps in  small firm.

I found that the ham radio knowledge translated over quite readily into the professional area, and having my call sign on the business card opened up many doors where the usual sales and marketing guys  just couldn't get in.


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: KG4NEL on October 19, 2017, 08:48:54 AM
I prefer to keep my hobbies and what pays the bills separately.

I'm going back to school, but it's for healthcare, nothing RF related.

Whatever works for you.  It doesn’t sound profound, and sort of an adaptation of the wisdom of not buying investments at your place of employment.  But, health care is a fine career field.

I've never been at a publicly-traded firm, but I'd probably take advantage of that  :P

I don't know how old the OP is, but if one could go into business for themselves, I'd highly recommend that - I'm 31, and most of my friends who are in engineering who took the office drone path aren't exactly solving the kind of stimulating problems described.



Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: KC8KTN on October 19, 2017, 09:52:14 AM
Great post very interesting. Good job. Good luck in your pursuits. Take care. Be safe. 73s


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: K9MHZ on October 19, 2017, 11:44:10 AM
BRN and RZP....Very fine posts above.  Having an engineering degree but never having worked as an engineer, I guess I’m a “tweener” with the viewpoints on what constitutes a worthwhile educational pursuit.  But one thing I’ve learned, you will never regret having worked hard for a goal loftier than what most other people are willing to pursue.  The opposite is not true, and what a terrible thing it is to look at your aged face in the mirror and wonder why you didn’t achieve more while you still could.

Companies today are so happy to have degreed (real) engineers applying for positions, that you’ll probably be looked upon very favorably, even if a job opening isn’t a perfect fit.  And again, especially with STEM degrees today, there is no downside to applying yourself toward something most other people could never do.

Good discussion, and good luck!


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: N0YXB on October 19, 2017, 12:00:00 PM
Companies today are so happy to have degreed (real) engineers applying for positions, that you’ll probably be looked upon very favorably, even if a job opening isn’t a perfect fit.  And again, especially with STEM degrees today, there is no downside to applying yourself toward something most other people could never do.


+1.

This is true where I work. Although many of the 'Engineer' titled jobs in my organization do not require an engineering degree, we love it when they apply.


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: K6BRN on October 19, 2017, 01:09:09 PM
Peter (G3RZP):

One of the finest RF/Comms engineers I've worked with was a non-degreed ex-RAF Brit.  Jack was much older than me, a patient mentor and a wonderful person.  He has been retired for some time and now and owns and runs a private airfield in California - back to his roots - aviation, which he always loved.  You are very correct - making it in engineering today requires the proper degrees in addition to talent.  Also second your remarks about analog/RF, mixed signal and digital semiconductor designers - lots of demand, challenging work and good pay.

BTW - Currently in Edinburgh visiting my son at University.  Lovely weather we're having :)  Have always enjoyed working with the Brits on projects - never know them to give up, always a cynical and fun sense of humor, good to have a pint with after work. And just a great people.

Hagop (KG4NEL):

If your friends are really "office drones", they are way too comfortable and need to get moving.  Or not.  Some people do boring well and like it.  Not me.  I've worked at several companies, all publicly traded and with the deep pockets needed to do deep research, take on massively challenging projects and change their industry.  Only once have I felt it necessary to switch jobs because the company was too "stuck in the mud" and uninteresting.  Mostly, its your job and you make the fundamental decision on how challenging to make it.  In particular, you must be willing to take major chances with your career, push to get onto interesting projects, accept nothing other than project success and above all, learn to communicate what your ideas and progress are, through writing, public speaking and (funny as it sounds) gripping Powerpoint presentations.  Blow off the communications skills, sit in your cube, and you be in exactly the boring situation your office drone friends are in.   Push to make things interesting and it will be like surfing a a giant wave - an incredible thrill with your professional survival depending on your skill, and a little luck.  Especially when you convince your company to invest a great deal of capital on a project you proposed and then have to lead.  That's when all eyes point to you, with hope and a a little fear, asking "what's next?" and you realize more jobs than yours are riding on success.  Better have an answer ready - because now you are in charge.

Brian - K6BRN



Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: KC2NLT on October 20, 2017, 11:09:53 PM
Thank you all for the great responses. Some were thoughtful, others were inspiring, while others were informative and helpful. This is a great community.

So my goal now should be to apply for a program or university that offers a Masters degree in electronic engineering? No specialization in communications system engineering or the like, just electronic engineering?


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: K6BRN on October 21, 2017, 08:28:50 AM
No....

An accredited Master's Degree program in Electrical Engineering would be the best and open a lot of doors.  It is generally a hiring manager's preferred degree in this field - more consistency in the graduates.

" Electronic Engineering" is a different degree, often from unaccredited schools and often taught at a technician level (non-professional), whereas Electrical Engineering degree programs are almost universally accredited and recognized as a professional degree - do your homework before applying and find out first.  At some schools its OK, some, not.

You have so many good engineering schools in New York, Connecticut and Masachusetts, there should be no problem finding one.  Avoid for-profit schools as dead-ends.

Decent choices very near you inlude SUNY Stony Brook (right next door to you, literally) which has a comparatively small and intimate program, NYU in the City and UCONN in Storrs, Connecticut.  And many, many others.  All can get you where you've said you'd like to be.

Brian - K6BRN



Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: NE1U on October 21, 2017, 09:28:29 AM
No....

An accredited Master's Degree program in Electrical Engineering would be the best and open a lot of doors.  It is generally a hiring manager's preferred degree in this field - more consistency in the graduates.

" Electronic Engineering" is a different degree, often from unaccredited schools and often taught at a technician level (non-professional), whereas Electrical Engineering degree programs are almost universally accredited and recognized as a professional degree - do your homework before applying and find out first.  At some schools its OK, some, not.

You have so many good engineering schools in New York, Connecticut and Masachusetts, there should be no problem finding one.  Avoid for-profit schools as dead-ends.

Decent choices very near you inlude SUNY Stony Brook (right next door to you, literally) which has a comparatively small and intimate program, NYU in the City and UCONN in Storrs, Connecticut.  And many, many others.  All can get you where you've said you'd like to be.

Brian - K6BRN
This. Everything he says here


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: KC2NLT on October 21, 2017, 12:28:03 PM
Brian,

Thank you for that detailed and very helpful feedback. Much appreciated.

All the best,

Adam


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: KB4MNG on October 22, 2017, 05:48:58 AM
Not an engineer but have a good friend that is an engineer. The guy is brilliant and has several patents. The problem is, he was under contract when he developed these items and lost control on them.

He never told me what he made but I think he lived comfortably. The thing that always surprised me is that he jumped from employer to employer and never really settled anywhere. It is not uncommon for him to jump up and move a few states away.

Not a life i want to live but to each their own.

I read an article written by and engineer in computer hardware. He said the same thing about you guys say about rf. Stay far away. The problem he said was you could be working on something that would suddenly become out of date because another engineer come out with something much better.


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: G3RZP on October 24, 2017, 02:24:50 AM
The company I was with paid you literally the sterling equivalent of $1 for the US rights to a patent. After 32 years, three take overs and four changes of name, we got - in stage payments - a total of $5000 less UK tax for a fully granted patent. That was after we had become Canadian owned....$2500 less UK tax for a published paper or conference presentation. Six of my sixteen patents got the $5k...


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: W9IQ on October 24, 2017, 03:41:06 AM
I think this is common practice for technological firms as my patent experience is the same. They do disclose this to you when you are hired so it comes as no surprise.

- Glenn W9IQ


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: K8AXW on October 24, 2017, 10:25:12 AM
Brian:  Your post is one of the most profound that I have ever read!  Very good.

I humbly offer one more suggestion...... the successful ones, no matter what they try to accomplish, knows when to quit and try something else.

I learned this from two rabbit dogs.  One would trail a rabbit until the rabbit, being old and wise would pull a maneuver to throw the dog off.  This dog would quit and go find another rabbit.

The second dog, once he got on the trail would never give up, which sometimes cost him a night alone in the woods or me dragging him out of a big hole that he was digging to get to the rabbit.

This usually caused me to go home with him because if I put him down, no matter where, he'd return to the hole and continue to dig, being too damned dumb to realize the rabbit had left the hole. 



Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: KA4DPO on October 24, 2017, 10:42:19 AM
No....

An accredited Master's Degree program in Electrical Engineering would be the best and open a lot of doors.  It is generally a hiring manager's preferred degree in this field - more consistency in the graduates.

" Electronic Engineering" is a different degree, often from unaccredited schools and often taught at a technician level (non-professional), whereas Electrical Engineering degree programs are almost universally accredited and recognized as a professional degree - do your homework before applying and find out first.  At some schools its OK, some, not.

You have so many good engineering schools in New York, Connecticut and Masachusetts, there should be no problem finding one.  Avoid for-profit schools as dead-ends.

Decent choices very near you inlude SUNY Stony Brook (right next door to you, literally) which has a comparatively small and intimate program, NYU in the City and UCONN in Storrs, Connecticut.  And many, many others.  All can get you where you've said you'd like to be.

Brian - K6BRN

Cornell has an excellent engineering program.


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: G3RZP on October 25, 2017, 03:45:03 PM
I still feel that not having a degree but having been accepted as a Senior Member of IEEE is an adequate recognition of ability....For some years, I was also a peer reviewer for various publications of what was then the UK's Institution of Electrical Engineers until I managed to persuade them that I had retired....

It hasn't worked with RSGB and IARU - they are the like the story I was told at an ETSI meeting. A young lady member of the committee had spent a weekend with her parents. She was Jewish. She  commented out of the blue "What's the difference between a Jewish mother and an alligator?" 

"Don't know" we said.

Her response: " Alligators have been known to let go!"

I got the impression that she wasn't that happy with mother!


Title: RE: Career Opportunities & Requirements in Communications?
Post by: K6BRN on November 08, 2017, 12:12:07 PM
Regarding Patents.....

Quote
(G3RZP) The company I was with paid you literally the sterling equivalent of $1 for the US rights to a patent. After 32 years, three take overs and four changes of name, we got - in stage payments - a total of $5000 less UK tax for a fully granted patent. That was after we had become Canadian owned....$2500 less UK tax for a published paper or conference presentation. Six of my sixteen patents got the $5k..

Quote
I think this is common practice for technological firms as my patent experience is the same. They do disclose this to you when you are hired so it comes as no surprise.

- Glenn W9IQ

Speaking only for the U.S. situation....

The vast majority of filed patents are non-producing and pretty worthless.  The next grade up are defensive patents that are used by major firms and patent trading companies (yes, there are companies that specialize in just this) to fend off patent infringement claims by other companies, via counterclaims that force a reasonable settlement.  The top grade (actually grouping a few together) are patents that provide a genuine competitive advantage, are defensible and are in demand for licensing.

You will know of you've produced a good defensive patent because your company IP officer and/or patent attorneys will likely call you if they are used in a dispute.  And it will be pretty obvious if you've produced a defensible patent that your company benefits from in a major way (as in enabling a large monetary volume of sales), that is also sought for licensing.  You will receive a lot of attention.

If you've produced a really valuable patent, as demonstrated in sales and licensing value, then, if taken to court, it is very likely that a pretty good battle will erupt over "Due Compensation".  For example, if your patent generates $1B in sales and you receive a check for $5K and get to keep your job, that is not due compensation.  So many companies handle this type of compensation outside of the "normal", publicized, "you get a small check and a pat on the back, plus a plaque" channels.  In these cases, there are usually performance bonuses available within the company that are used for many purposes and are vaguely defined that can be redirected to the person(s) producing the patent(s).  They can be VERY substantial.  And those persons will be assigned a patent attorney to head up an international filing team and to prod the patent producers to broaden the original filing by writing additional patent applications, either original or "DIV", to broaden patent coverage, improve defensibility and extend patent life.  If you leave the company, they may even continue to work with you and compensate you for additional patent efforts.  Maybe you'll even retire early.

That said, this just does not happen in the vast majority of cases - patents require maintenance fees, aggressive defense to maintain viability against "work-around" patents and generally lie "fallow", looking for a use.  Even if its a brilliant idea, a patent has little value unless it is put into practice or licensed to generate substantial cash flow - which is very rare.  And even then, it may be difficult to extract compensation if the patent "battles" are too fierce.  Two good examples to research are the Williams Nutation Dampening patent, US 3730457 A, and the Tesla Polyphase System electrical patents upon which the worlds electrical distribution and use system is built.  Tesla eventually granted the patents to Westinghouse for almost nothing, simply to ensure they would be available in face of Edison's rabid attacks on the much superior AC electrical distribution system.

But... if you are a happy camper with your plaque and check, and do not know enough to negotiate even when your patents are producing like gangbusters, many companies will be very happy not to mention that there are other compensation possibilities for you.  When in doubt, try negotiating - what do you have to lose?  And get to know the IP organization in your company.  If they get to know you well and even (gasp!) like you, perhaps because you help with their patent generation metrics, are available to advise them on other patents, help others to generate patents, etc., they may even help YOU by providing suggestions.

Don't give up on patents - instead, know what makes them valuable and push your efforts in that direction.  Then everybody benefits.  And it is hard - very hard, and requires more than a small measure of luck and time to be successful.

Brian - K6BRN