Are you interested in pursuing a career in engineering? This question might seem overwhelming, but it boils down to understanding your options, determining what you want, and researching what you’ll need.
Engineers are vital to the success of any industry, so they are highly sought after in the modern job market. However, becoming an engineer can be daunting and complex, requiring extensive education and training.
A career in engineering can be very rewarding, but it takes more than just academic excellence to make it happen. You’ll need to develop specific skills to succeed genuinely, and you’ll need the proper education.
This article explores everything you need to know about earning an engineering degree and lays out the steps you should take to launch your engineering career. Read on to get the information you need now and start your career in engineering today.
Types of engineers
In a broad sense, engineering refers to any creative activity that uses scientific principles to solve problems. It’s a skill set that revolves around creativity, problem-solving, and innovation, but more than anything, it’s about making stuff work.
Engineering is about problem-solving, and new problems are always waiting for someone to solve them. For that reason, engineers use math and science principles alongside knowledge about how things work to create solutions for various challenges.
Most engineers work in one of three major sectors: education, manufacturing, or research. In education, they design curricula and methods of instruction. In manufacturing, they create products from raw materials, and in research, they develop new technology or improve on existing technology. Engineers ensure that their designs are safe for humans, animals, plants, and property by using sustainable resources and creating minimal waste.
Today’s workforce is as diverse as ever, and so are the professions you’ll find in it. This means that today’s workers need to know what they’re getting into to ensure their interests and career goals align with their potential employer.
Here are some types of engineers you’ll find in today’s workforce to illustrate just how diverse this career path can be:
The world would grind to a halt without these engineers, who use their expertise to solve problems and ensure that everything runs smoothly. Mechanical engineers develop machines or systems powered by natural resources or renewable energy.
People utilize their designs for heating/cooling, propulsion, ventilation/exhaustion, electronics, and power generation. They work with all types of energy, including electric power, solar power, fuel cells, and wind energy.
Electrical and electronics engineers
Electrical engineers create and develop devices and systems to ensure power flow to homes, businesses, and industries. They work with a variety of materials, including metals and plastics.
These professionals also design computer chips that control electrical equipment, such as motors, lights, refrigerators, air conditioners, and washing machines. Anything with an engine or circuit board has an electrical engineer behind it.
There are several different types of civil engineers. Most civil engineering jobs involve overseeing infrastructures such as roads, railroads, and airports.
Civil engineers also develop housing and help communities with public works projects, such as sewers and drinking water systems. They might work for government agencies or private firms.
These engineers use reactions to produce, process, and manipulate chemicals. Chemical engineers make sure that a chemical process undergoes completion as designed.
They research better ways to complete these processes, and they conduct tests on materials using lab instruments. Chemical engineers work mainly for chemical companies or manufacturing companies that use chemicals to make other products.
As computer systems continue to grow increasingly complex, there is a growing need for computer engineers. These engineers play a vital role in developing and improving existing technology.
Computer engineers’ tasks include researching new technology, understanding how it works, and troubleshooting systems that break down or otherwise fail.
Computer engineering has many specialties, including software development, hardware development, and networking.
Despite what you may think, industrial engineers do not design new machines for manufacturing. They work on improving existing processes to improve production, quality, and efficiency.
While industrial engineering is a highly diverse field, there are a few roles you’re likely to find an engineer filling, including quality control, reliability/safety engineering, and maintenance engineering.
In some cases, having an industrial engineer help with brainstorming and problem-solving when designing products can be helpful.
These engineers are responsible for developing new solutions to help clean polluted areas and make environmental changes. Environmental engineering is becoming increasingly important as companies continue to pollute our planet.
With our growing population, there’s a need to come up with more efficient ways to dispose of waste while at the same time trying to figure out ways to conserve energy and water.
As more people start looking into alternative energy sources, many companies are going green by turning waste products into usable energy.
Aerospace engineers are responsible for developing new technologies that help us travel through space. These futuristic technologies include spacecraft designs, engines, and supersonic aircraft.
Aerospace engineers also develop defense systems, such as missiles and satellites. They may also work on projects related to environmental protection. Industries can use such technologies to improve our lives.
These are engineers who are specifically skilled at designing products and machines. When you buy a new appliance or even walk down an electronics aisle, you’re bound to see items that a design engineer intended.
These professionals determine how components fit together and work with other engineers to ensure that products and designs meet all safety standards.
While technical skills are essential for these individuals, creativity is also vital as they must be able to develop new designs.
How to become an engineer in five steps
Becoming an engineer isn’t as easy as many think, but it isn’t impossible. You need to have a combination of technical know-how, practical communication skills, and the ability to apply both successfully in the workplace. So how do you become an engineer? Here are five steps that will help you on your way:
Earn the appropriate degree
Generally of thumb, all potential engineers should earn an engineering degree. To become an engineer with any hope of landing a job, you will need either a bachelor’s degree or, better yet, a Master’s degree in engineering.
An associate degree is sometimes enough for entry-level positions, but most employers prefer candidates who have completed at least a four-year program. Many courses are available both online and on campus, so it’s possible to earn your degree while working full-time.
For instance, if you are interested in Electrical & Computer Engineering, you can enroll in Kettering’s ECE Master’s degree program. This program provides students with advanced electrical and computer engineering knowledge to satisfy the increasing demand in the automotive and advanced mobility industries.
It also provides students with advanced electrical and computer engineering knowledge and training in project management methods, business ethics, and leadership skills, which are essential for success.
Pass the NCEES FE exam
After graduating with a Bachelor’s or Master’s in an engineering program, you must pass a series of exams administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) before you can call yourself an engineer.
One of these exams is the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. The FE exam covers physics, chemistry, math, and problem-solving skills. This exam will ensure you have all the knowledge you need to succeed in your field.
The FE exam also tests your ability to apply what you’ve learned through past projects and experiences. Once you take the test and pass, you will obtain a license to work as an engineer in either a training or intern position.
Obtain engineering experience
Experience is crucial in any job interview, and engineering is no different. After obtaining your NCEES FE license, you’ll want to start getting real-world engineering experience. The best way is through internships and co-ops.
Internships are typically paid positions where you work for a company for several weeks or months. Co-ops are similar but tend to be longer and are usually unpaid.
Both provide valuable experience that will make you more marketable as a candidate when applying for jobs after graduation. The more hands-on experience you can get as a student or interning for private companies the better when applying for jobs after graduation.
Pass the PE exam
Passing your PE exam will allow you to practice as a professional engineer. To become certified, you’ll need to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in engineering from an accredited program and meet other requirements specific to your discipline.
You can do this by taking and passing a rigorous exam known as the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam. The PE exam is typically taken after completing at least four years of college coursework.
However, some states allow candidates to take it earlier if they have met specific academic standards. You must pass all four exam sections within five years of being admitted into your state’s licensing program.
Apply for engineering jobs
Once you have passed your exams and received certifications, it is time to apply for engineering jobs. There are many different ways that you can do so.
You can apply directly with a company through their website or a job board. If you choose job boards, ensure they are specific to engineering jobs.
You can also network at events such as career fairs or reach out to companies directly to get your foot in the door. The key is persistence and dedication, as it will take some time to find a job that fits well with your experience and interests.
Eight skills you need to have for a successful engineering career
No matter your specialty, there are some skills that you’ll need to have if you want to succeed in the engineering field. Here are eight key skills and how they can help you:
In engineering, problem-solving is essential for success. Engineers must be able to identify the problem, analyze it and come up with solutions. Problem-solving is not just about math and logic. It requires creativity and imagination as well.
The ability to conceptualize ideas in your head will be essential. For example, if you are trying to figure out how high an arch bridge should be or how much weight a piece of material can withstand, you will need these skills.
This skill is one of the most crucial skills that an engineer can have. Critical thinking involves analyzing, evaluating, and solving problems and always being aware of the different outcomes so you can make a sound decision.
Engineers must constantly think about how new engineering developments will impact their industry and how engineering decisions will affect the environment.
They use critical thinking skills in every aspect of their engineering career, from brainstorming with coworkers to designing products on a computer and making quick decisions on-site.
Communication is the foundation of any successful engineering career. Engineers must be good at communicating verbally and in writing with people with different backgrounds and education levels.
Engineers often face the task of explaining technical concepts in simple, intuitive ways to other people on their team or outside their company. They also need strong written communication skills to document their thoughts clearly and concisely.
Time management refers not only to how you manage your time but also to how you allocate it. For instance, you may need to allocate time daily to review your work with a colleague and share your insights.
As an engineer, it is crucial to know how to balance engineering activities with other demands on your time, such as raising children or performing volunteer work. There are always going to be distractions that come up during the day.
Therefore, you must stay on track with your projects and tasks and know when to set aside a few minutes or hours for personal care such as eating and sleeping.
Collaborating with others will be crucial in your engineering career. Whether collaborating with your peers or working on a team, it is essential to understand what other people want and how you can help them reach their goals.
This skill is even more important if you are in a leadership position, as it is critical that everyone feels like they have ownership over the decisions you make. To build rapport with others, you need to be able to listen attentively and show empathy.
Standing up and leading your team or project is one of the essential skills an engineer can have. This is especially true if you are an engineering manager because you must properly delegate and motivate your team to produce high-quality work on time.
For instance, as an engineering manager, you must constantly assess your engineers’ strengths and weaknesses to allocate tasks properly. If an engineer is not performing well in their current role, it might be time for some lateral movement or additional training.
In addition, as a leader, you need to know how to identify when things aren’t going well with your team and make sure that it gets resolved quickly. With strong eadership skills, engineers can achieve their goals more effectively and efficiently by motivating and inspiring their team members.
Structural analytical skills
Engineers must be able to analyze, design, and understand the structural integrity of an object or system. This analysis includes figuring out how different parts of the structure interact with each other and its environment.
For example, if you want to figure out what happens when an airplane lands on a runway, you need to consider the plane’s weight, the pressure it puts on the ground, and what will happen when it slows down.
Structural analysis will help determine the stresses and loads put on structures during their use, allowing you to create more durable designs.
Attention to detail
Attention to detail is an essential skill for engineers, as it helps them catch mistakes that could cause problems in the future. To be successful, you need the ability to notice these minor errors and correct them.
For example, if the engineer sees that someone might not have tightened a bolt enough, they can go back and tighten it again so there won’t be any issues later. This action saves time and money by reducing the likelihood that the object will require fixing or replacement.
The field of engineering is constantly changing and evolving. There is never a time when you can stop learning and honing your skills to remain successful. Engineering requires creativity, intelligence, leadership, problem-solving, collaboration, and adaptability. You must first acquire an education that will allow you to develop these skills before starting your career as an engineer.
After obtaining an education, earning certifications in your desired disciplines and acquiring work experience through internships will prepare you to take on a more senior position. Once at this level, it’s crucial to maintain awareness of current industry trends while continuing to learn new skills so you don’t get left behind.