Engineering is one of the most important professions in the world. They are the people who design the infrastructure we use every day, ranging from roads to the power grid. They solve problems and come up with inventions like the smart devices we use every day. However, becoming an engineer is definitely a challenge and one that not everyone is prepared for. Are you preparing for an engineering career in the United States? Here are 4 things to consider so that you take the right steps now to end up where you want to be.
The Need for Experience
There is an old adage that says that you can’t get experience without a job or a job without experience. However, you can and should get experience, and you can do so before you graduate.
Try to get an engineering internship or apprenticeship while in college instead of working in a retail outlet. If you can’t land an engineering internship, work in a related position. You might work as a drafter or model builder for an architectural firm. You could be a math or science tutor at the university.
Consider signing up for extracurricular activities and clubs that flesh out your resume. Working on the team that builds solar cars or racing drones proves that you can work on teams and build working prototypes. Join professional engineering societies as a student and seek out leadership positions in these groups. Note that these groups are also invaluable when you’re looking for internships or your first job after graduation.
The Right Credentials
Earning a bachelor’s degree in engineering is the minimum credential you need to work as an engineer. Additional credentials can further your career, though the right one will depend on what you want to do.
In most cases, a Professional Engineering license is invaluable. It almost always results in a pay increase, and it may be legally necessary in your state to become a consulting engineer. Note that you must become an Engineer in Training through a registration process and passing the EIT exam. Check out this page if you want more information about the EIT exam. For some, a Six Sigma or Lean “belt” like a green belt or black belt opens up job opportunities.
The Continuous Learning Required
Your education shouldn’t end with the completion of your bachelor’s degree. Engineers need to keep up with the technology that affects their jobs from drafting software to project management tools to collaboration software. You need to keep up with evolving industry standards and relevant government regulation. Business models and terminology change, too. Expect to attend company training on company policies and procedures. You may find that earning a master’s degree later is necessary to take your career to the next level.
The Need to Work Well with Others
No engineer is an island. Even if you do all of the design work, you have to explain your design to peers, justify design decisions to your customers, and defend requests for resources from managers.
Most engineers, however, work on teams. You need to be able to communicate effectively regardless of the audience, whether you’re giving a presentation or sending an email. You should be able to explain technical concepts to a non-technical audience. Having a basic understanding of business concepts can help in this area, such as when you can make the business case for your design decisions.
Engineers are always in demand. However, you’re more likely to land the job you want and advance in your career when you’ve laid the right foundation and build upon it with the correct next steps.