Engineering is a massively important job with excellent career outlooks. What’s more, is that kids can have a passion for engineering early on. Kids that love building things, figuring out how things work, and even inventing things are all suited to some sort of engineering profession.
There are many great new leagues as well designed to capture the imaginations of kids throughout their childhoods. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international organization that provides challenges and support for students of all ages. Their goal is to get more into science, technology, engineering, and math fields.
This is a great place to start if you or someone you know is either interested in engineering, or loves the process of it, as it gives kids the chance to learn to improve their communication skills, their leadership skills, and their teamwork abilities.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Undergraduate Degree
For most, your career will start with your undergraduate degree. The issue, however, is that engineering degrees aren’t often enough, as they often solely focus on theory courses. The theory is, of course, critical, but you will also want to expand your learning with as much hands-on and technical knowledge as you can.
Participate in Design Programs and Challenges
One of the most important tips for those undergoing an undergraduate degree is to sign up and enroll in the hands-on programs and events that your university or its group are affiliated with. For example, you can enroll in the SAE or ASME (Human Powered Vehicle) and work with a team of other student engineers to tackle a fun project from design to build to completion. Not only is it a lot of fun, but it can actually help you put what you learn to use and give you very important real-life and work experience before you graduate. If you manage to win any of the competitions, this will go even further towards helping set you up with your career.
Internships are the single best way to get a job right after you graduate. The good news is that universities work with top employers in your field to pair you with great internship opportunities.
You should aim to do at least one or two internships per year, with ideally one per semester. Think of this as the essential real-world training you need to prop up your theoretical learning. While interning at the beginning will be difficult, as time goes on, you will find more companies accept you as their intern, allowing you to really customize who you intern for and what you do while interning.
The reason why you will want to really focus on this much interning while you are in your undergraduate is that you will have the support of your department and also careers service. Not only that, but you can have a lot of great work experience lined up by the time you graduate. Combine that with your degree, and you will have an excellent launching point to get started with your career as an engineer.
When it comes to what type of internships you want to go for, a great idea is to get started with a manufacturing internship. Many of the principles and tasks involved in manufacturing can easily be lent to other roles in engineering, and if you find manufacturing is a great fit for you, then there are many, many excellent career paths for you in that field alone.
Take the lead on a Personal Project
If you really want to kickstart your engineering career, take on a personal project. This option is going to be very important if you don’t have easy or any access to the two aforementioned tips.
For example, if you find you only get rejection letters from your internship applications, then starting your own personal project can be a great way to showcase your skillset and drive. You may even find that with the right personal project, you have job offers coming your way and, in some instances, may even want to look at patenting your invention.
What your personal project or projects are, will entirely depend on you. You can create and build something for yourself or just focus on the design aspect (for example, if it’s too large to be made on a non-existent budget).
The good news is that the sky is the limit for what you design and the experience you learn if you actually bring that design to life are invaluable. You can easily talk about this and use that experience to help you get your foot up on that career ladder, either with an internship when you are still a student or in the job market.
How to Take Your Engineering Career to the Next Level
Having plenty of great experience and a degree with at least a decent final grade is an excellent place to launch your career. You will want to work your way either up or at least horizontally until you find the place that pays you the most for an area of engineering you are interested in. You can always work on personal projects, of course, and that should allow you to really use your engineering skills to their max.
When it comes to properly advancing your career, however, you have a few options. You can always, of course, try to work your way up, but if you want to stand out, then it’s a good idea to consider going back to university.
A master’s degree in engineering management can be the perfect way to take that ever-important step up from being an engineer to leading a whole team. The skills you will learn will help you manage a thriving career in a management position, especially if you are looking into large-scale processes like supply chains as your specialization.
What these types of master’s degrees do is help you combine your existing engineering knowledge and then teach you to apply that into a management context. The goal is to give you the skills and know-how to lead a high-tech, cross-disciplinary team in a variety of settings.
You can (and should) customize your career with a certificate in either global leadership, healthcare management, operations management, or supply chain management, depending on how you want to direct your career in the future.
Another factor to consider is whether you want to earn your management master’s (MSEM) and an MBA. The reason why you’ll want to consider an MBA on top of this engineering master’s is simple: it only takes four extra credits. With a double master’s, you can better prepare yourself for executive level, specialty management, or to even start your own business once you graduate.
Top Engineering Roles to Consider
While there are a nearly endless amount of engineering roles out there, top options available to those with management and leadership skills include:
Big Data Engineer
Big Data engineers work out the hardware and system architecture for big data analysis. With Big Data becoming increasingly important and, unfortunately, simultaneously larger every year, the role of the Big Data engineer has also been growing as a top job choice for engineers. Currently, the median salary is $155,500.
Safely and efficiently extracting natural gas and petroleum from the ground is a big job and one that the petroleum engineer works hard at in some of the biggest companies around the world. It is one of the faster-growing fields in engineering as well and comes with a median salary of $132,280.
Computer Hardware Engineer
As a hardware engineers, you will design and develop computer systems and components. From processors to memory storage, to circuit boards, your job will be to create, analyze, and improve existing computer technology. The average median salary for this role is $115,120.
Design and help bring to life aircraft, spacecraft, and so much more. From drivable crafts to autonomous drones and satellites, your work will be instrumental to the advancement of humanity. We are also currently in a space race era, meaning the innovation and budget allocated for space exploration is at an all-time high, making this an excellent option for those with a keen interest in engineering and with space. The average median pay is around $113,030, though with so many new contenders and private companies taking the stage, expect more benefits and pay to come your way if you choose this career path.
Manage the entire technical infrastructure of a company as a systems engineer. You will need to maintain both the hardware and also the software, and in many ways, are one of the most critical team members of a company. This career path comes with the high average salary of $103,800.
Environmental issues are at an all-time high, and they are only going to become increasingly important as more governments and companies alike work to reduce emissions and solve environmental concerns. Environmental engineers are multidisciplinary and use a variety of skills from engineering, earth science, biology, and chemistry to workshop and create solutions for a variety of environmental issues. These roles often see a lot of fieldwork as well, so they are ideal for those who need variety in their work. You can expect a median salary range of around $86,800.
How to Stand Out as an Engineer
Once you have the qualification and get that first job in engineering, it’s all about doing your best to stand out. Engineers have hugely important jobs, and being great at what you do is only second to being reliable and trustworthy.
To help you advance your career and open up options, you need to impress the people around you. To impress them, you will need to use these tips:
Speak Up and Be Present
Genius can fall to the wayside if you don’t speak up and ensure that your ideas and thoughts are heard. It can be daunting to start asserting yourself like that, especially if you are a minority in your field, but it is the best way to start getting others to listen to and recognizing your achievements. If you know you have trouble with public speaking or with even just speaking up for yourself, then find a coach or other means.
Being able to confidently communicate is going to be one of the single best things you do for your career, and there are many ways to learn how and practice, so you will be able to find a route that works for you.
Offer Realistic Promises
There is an old piece of advice which is to under-promise and over-deliver, and while that can still be useful, you will always be better off sticking to your word. Being realistic with what can and cannot be done and then working hard to bring that to life is the single best way to move forward with your career in engineering. People want what is promised, and if you can be an engineer that offers exactly what they lay down in the initial planning phase, you are going to quickly stand out from all those who don’t.
One thing that you should never stop doing is learning. From completing short courses and workshops to simply staying on the pulse of your industry, there are so many ways that you can keep your skills sharp and up-to-date in the world of engineering. This, more than anything, will help you stand out and continue to make great steps forward with your career.
Learn and develop both hard and soft skills for the best results, and don’t ignore your passion interests, either. Learning anything can work its way back around to benefiting you, even if it was just a short-term course that helps you learn a new hobby to relax. There is power in knowledge and in learning, so whether you are learning a new coding language or brushing up on a new set of regulations, there is always something to learn and many ways to use that to build on your engineering career.