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Considering a Career in Engineering? Here’s What it Takes

by Louise W. Rice
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Many engineers find themselves at the forefront of change and innovation, often getting a chance to work on an abundance of exhilarating projects.

A career in engineering can be a highly rewarding journey for both professional and personal development while providing an incredibly good wage at the top tier of responsibility.

Suppose you have been thinking about where to next take your professional skillset in light of a post-pandemic future, or you simply want to learn more about the industry. In that case, you might already have the traits needed to make a successful career in engineering.

Here are a few tips and pointers that you may find useful in your search for an invigorating new area of work.

Skills

The field of engineering is an immensely diverse, multidisciplinary industry that will likely be ideal for a host of particular skillsets. Hence, it is worth thinking about which of your own talents you would be most enthusiastic to apply to the working world.

Depending on the project, some of the fundamentals can include mathematics, logistics, chemistry, physics, interpersonal skills, managerial prowess, project management, electronics, and risk analysis. However, they are not set in stone, and many people who opt for a route in engineering have a general interest in math and science before they start to specialize.

There are aspects of the job that will be physically demanding and might require you to work on stamina, dexterity, dedication, and resilience. Some projects or working environments will probably need your constant attention and require you to work some abnormal hours, so self-application and determination can also be beneficial traits to possess.

Education

Many hopeful engineers usually pursue the corresponding degree, whether straight engineering itself or specific variations that directly apply to biochemistry, medicine, computing, or aerospace.

If choosing to go down this path, you will likely study many areas relating to math, science, and sometimes even sociology.

Thankfully, some fantastic online engineering degrees are available, ready to offer you all the flexibility you need to complete your course alongside your regular commitments. This can be a perfect endeavor for advanced degrees, as they often allow you to incorporate your real-world pursuits into the curriculum.

Moreover, seeking out a work placement can be a superb way of gaining experience, even if it is shadowing an expert team for a few days a week. Suppose you decided to forgo the academic route in favor of starting your career early, or the opportunity to attend an institute to study further education never materialized for you. In that case, it is worth keeping the world of remote learning in mind. This is because many highly prestigious academies will let you take post-graduate degrees based on whether or not you carry work experience in a relevant field.

Experience is crucial in taking your career to the next level, as it can unlock many opportunities in the long term, from managerial positions to consultancy and beyond.

Awareness of Current Events

To be at the epicenter of cutting-edge technological development requires a certain awareness and interest in current events.

Engineers often help make positive changes in society by regularly implementing new creations, so a good amount of knowledge and research is essential in ensuring you keep ahead of the game.

Fields that thrive on innovation usually benefit from a deep understanding of history and the social sciences, so it might be worth thinking about how far you can apply your current knowledge and possibly taking some time to study literature on engineering.

Similarly, a candidate who is well-informed about the latest technological developments, methods, and techniques will generally be more desirable than one who fails to show their interest, as this can let recruiters know you are willing to keep learning throughout your career.

To make sure that you keep up-to-date, it may be beneficial to check out engineering forums, magazines, newspapers, and blogs as often as you can. This can allow you to take note of any important world events or inventions that may affect the industry and your opportunities within it.

Knowledge of Construction Materials

Knowing which engineering materials are best for any given situation can help you develop a greater ability to solve problems and deliver a timely service.

Since concepts like sustainability and eco-friendly products are rightly on the minds of many socially conscious individuals and businesses alike, keeping a keen eye on modern developments is a useful way of letting yourself stay at the cutting-edge of the action.

The Strength of Detail

Creating any new item requires a tremendous amount of attention to detail, and a perfect level of precision in engineering can be absolutely vital.

This is one field where it certainly pays to be pedantic, which can be an enticing factor for anyone who enjoys working closely with data analysis, measurements, and equations.

One wrong measurement can result in the failure of an entire project, so a huge amount of tenacity, patience, and dedication is essential in many instances. You will likely have to think on the spot and bounce your ideas off like-minded individuals, making it an exciting situation to be in for those of you who thrive on solving problems to the best of your ability.

A curious mind can be a great help in this regard, so if you ever find yourself with a burning desire to find out how exactly a piece of technology works, or why it was even invented in the first place, you might already possess the natural curiosity that many engineers share.

When it comes to making decisions, data-driven, analytical mindsets can be a great addition to an engineer’s particular skillset. If you can quickly identify problems, prioritize the order in which you should approach them, and think about the bigger picture at the same time, you can put your skills to the test in the field of engineering.

The Power of Communication

The modern workplace may have looked suspiciously like a bedroom for the last few years, and in many cases, communication has been reduced to regular emails and video calls.

Although a vast number of tasks will likely take place in the digital realm, a career in engineering can recapture that sense of immediacy when it comes to effective communication, as you will no doubt find yourself working in team-based situations on a regular basis.

Possessing the ability to effectively communicate at work is a wonderful skill, in both a virtual and physical capacity. When working on big projects as a team, striving to make sure everyone knows exactly what they need to and everyone is working together on the same page is essential in streamlining your everyday undertakings.

Sometimes, you might need to present ideas to investors, managers, designers, or the rest of your team. Learning how to effectively pitch and keep your audience engaged is another area pertaining to communication that should be considered.

Communication is as perhaps as much about listening as it is talking clearly, so an active listener can always be a welcome addition to any team. Practicing your conversational skills can help you out in this department, as often the best ideas start with little more than an idea being discussed in detail and entertaining the thoughts of your colleagues.

If you hope to progress towards a managerial role, nurturing your communication prowess can be incredibly useful in the long term.

Specialize

One of the most exciting parts about any career is possibly the opportunity to specialize in an area that you find most compelling and can give you the chance to utilize the skills that you most enjoy applying to your everyday life.

There are so many industries where engineers’ skills are sought-after, but they do not all ask for the same entry requirements. These requirements may also differ greatly between companies, so it might be worth taking a closer look at the skillset you need for each particular job description before you start to think about which area you want to specialize in.

If you are unsure as to what exact specifications are required of you for a job or industry that has piqued your interest, there is little harm in reaching out to engineers in that area, as they may be able to help point you in the necessary direction.

Writing down a list of your strengths and weaknesses can be difficult, yet nonetheless helpful when the time comes to make your final decision.

Practice

In an effort to keep up your interest in engineering during downtime, it might be beneficial to take heed of the classic saying: “Practice makes perfect.” By taking on new projects from the comfort of your own living space, you can not only give yourself an enjoyable weekend hobby but work on your practical skillset in the meantime.

By igniting your curiosity and creativity, building your own circuits and trinkets from home can be a rewarding task. It also sounds great on your personal statement if you need to apply for an institution, and if your new creation works out, you have a physical, unique item through which you can showcase your talents to potential employers.

From woodworking to microelectronics, the ability to see projects through to the end is a remarkable trait to own. It proves your capability for following instructions, taking exact measurements, and operating machinery, all of them being transferrable skills in the field of engineering.

Managing Your Time

The ability to work under pressure is a common requirement on the average job advertisement, but in terms of engineering work, the statement sentiment is extremely prevalent.

This is partly because you will likely be working with a cross-section of departments, sub-contractors, and clients at any given moment. Time-management and organizational qualities can be valuable in an engineering candidate, especially one who wants to work on long-term projects that require the intervention of an entire team.

As an engineer, you will likely have to work hard to meet deadlines, sometimes in conditions that can be stress-inducing for those who lack sufficient preparational skills.

A good way to start improving your time-management skills is to focus on when you feel most productive and start recording your schedule. This can help you visualize what it is that needs to be done without feeling like you are starting to become overwhelmed.

Learning to prioritize and even appropriately delegate can also boost your organizational acumen with a little practice.

Recognizing the Need for Progression

Engineering solutions across the globe serve to be a force for progression in many ways. They often uncover new ways to create and design more efficient products such as personal electronics, buildings, medical equipment, and generally any piece of equipment you can imagine.

This can require you to have an outlook that sees the inherent value in improving existing ideas, updating methods, techniques and upgrading outdated models of thought in the industry.

Applying for a License

As with many important pursuits, there is a fair share of bureaucracy to attend to should you wish to make the most out of your new career.

Although licensing laws may differ from state to state, it is definitely worth checking out which licenses you will need to acquire to continue along your career path successfully.

Your educational institution may be able to help you with this, but you may find it useful to read up on your local government guidelines to see what needs to be applied for.

Computer Skills

This very nearly goes without saying in today’s climate of digital necessity, but if you want to get ahead in engineering, it pays to be handy with a computer.

You will likely use advanced software programs to carry out many parts of the engineering process, if not the entire project. Familiarizing yourself with the fundamentals of engineering software or what it is used for can give you a head start.

Conclusion

Engineering work can provide some of the most exciting jobs imaginable, and thanks to the rise of online learning, it might be a viable career path for those who are willing to make the most of the opportunities at hand.

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