Jason Rhode

Jason Rhode

NC State engineering graduate, CEO returns to campus

Job seekers who stopped by Cirrus Logic’s booth at the NC State Engineering Career Fair Feb. 5 were in for a surprise.

They got a chance to meet the CEO of the company — NC State engineering alumnus Jason Rhode.

Rhode has been president and chief executive officer of the Austin, Texas-based manufacturer of high-precision analog and digital signal processing components since May 2007. He earned master’s and PhD degrees in electrical engineering from NC State.

Twice a year, NC State’s College of Engineering hosts representatives of hundreds of companies and thousands of people seeking full-time jobs or internships. Along with NC State students, the career fair attracts students from as far away as Michigan and New Mexico.

Rhode returned to NC State to deliver a talk on the benefits of graduate school for electrical and computer engineering students. The talk, titled “Stay in School!: the difference an MSEE can make in your career,” was given on the evening of Feb. 5 in Engineering Building II, home of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering on NC State’s Centennial Campus.

The timing of his speech aligned with the spring Engineering Career Fair, allowing him a chance to work with Cirrus Logic recruiters and meet the newest generation of NC State engineers.

Rhode developed his interactive presentation to give to students at the University of Texas-Austin because, he said, he realized that the United States produces a lot of talented engineering students who earn bachelor’s degrees and then never make it to graduate school.

It’s easy to understand why. The September 2013 edition of Salary Survey, a publication of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, identified average starting salaries for new graduates with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering as $62,500 and for those with a bachelor’s in computer engineering as $70,000.

That kind of opportunity is hard to pass up, Rhode says. But putting in a little more time in school to get a graduate degree can make a big difference in an engineer’s career.

The majority of employees Cirrus Logic hires right out of school have master’s or PhD degrees, Rhode says. And a lot of them come from NC State.

Electrical and computer engineering students at NC State can earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years, which Rhode says is well worth the work.

“Your five-year master’s program is really well constructed and it serves people extremely well,” Rhode said. “I can’t imagine there being a higher return on investment that you could do for your career.”

Rhode says Cirrus Logic hires more graduates from NC State than from any other school. The company hired 11 NC State graduates last year, and Cirrus Logic’s summer internship program always includes a contingent of NC State students.

NC State’s graduate programs in electrical engineering are particularly well suited for the kind of work Cirrus Logic does, Rhode says.

The College of Engineering also produces a lot of graduates, ranking ninth among all US engineering schools in graduate enrollment.

Rhode, who finished his NC State PhD in 1995, said he came away impressed with Centennial Campus and all the progress his alma mater has made since he graduated.

Rhode said NC State is high on the list of schools he recommends to people who want to study engineering.

“I can’t imagine a better value in education,” he said.

The spring Engineering Career Fair attracted 197 companies and 3,272 job seekers. More than 20 percent of those job seekers were not NC State students. Students from North Carolina schools like Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill and East Carolina University attended, as did students from Texas A&M, Rutgers, Purdue and other out-of-state schools.

The fall 2014 Engineering Career Fair will be held Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. Learn more at students.engr.ncsu.edu/careerfair.