How and Why to Become an Engineer
Now you want to be an engineer, so how do you do it?
During National Engineers Week we filled you in on all the reasons you should be an engineer. EWeek, as it is also known, is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated engineering workforce by increasing the understanding of and interest in engineering careers in the United States. So why should someone become and engineer? And if you decide on an engineering career, how do you become one?
“Engineering” literally means “making things happen”. In a very basic sense, engineering is the practical application of science and mathematics to solve problems. Traditionally, engineering is about infrastructure. Engineers were known to create bridges and vehicles that got us from one location to another more efficiently.
There is a shortage of engineers and other technical skills in the United States and this shortage is growing larger. We need more students, especially women students, to select engineering as their career choice. Engineering is a fun, challenging and rewarding career. Engineers have the opportunity to change the world with their creative and technical expertise. One definition of engineer is someone who makes making things happen. An engineering degree doesn’t just teach you how to be a great engineer, but also a great manager, businessman, and entrepreneur. Engineering is the most common undergraduate degree among Fortune 500 CEOs.
Engineering is a highly respected career field, and engineers are needed all over the world. Whether you’ve finished a mechanical, electrical or civil engineering school or college, your services will be in a high demand across the globe. This means that if you lose one job, there are bound to be a list of other companies hiring. Not to mention the high impact you can have on the world.
Someone who wants to become an engineer should start young. Many believe that our engineering shortage starts in junior high. Students who don’t like math aren’t likely to become engineers. Problem solving, creativity and the ability to work with a team are also important skills.
To become an engineer, you need to have a bachelor’s degree from an engineering program. In some jurisdictions you also need a professional engineering license to call yourself an engineer. There are four major traditional engineering majors chemical, mechanical, electrical and civil. Presently electrical engineers are in the highest demand. There are many more specialized and less common majors. The title engineer has been watered down in recent times by the creation of job titles such as operating engineer, or even domestic engineer, neither of which are engineering job functions in the traditional or legal sense.
There are several different engineering degrees, different requirements and different paths to reach them. The basis for selection can be based on goals, circumstances and finances. One traditional approach to an engineering education is to enroll in an ABET accredited program at a major engineering school and graduate with a BS or BE degree. This can be the most expensive option and often saddles graduates with large student loans.
A less expensive approach to the same result is to begin college at a community college or technical college in a two-year degree program. The tuition is much lower and after the two years are over the student can transfer to a four-year program and complete their degree. The reputation and prestige of the college or university offering the final degree are all that counts on a resume.
Alternatively, to meet budget constraints a student could get a job with the two-year degree as an engineering technician and then compete their education at night school paid for as they learn, or in some cases covered by an employer tuition reimbursement program. Another option, followed by many, is to enlist in the military, serve time in a technical job there and go to college for engineering after discharge. Tuition can then be covered by a GI tuition plan.
There are several different engineering programs and degrees offered by different colleges. Not all programs are accredited by ABET. It is best to graduate from an accredited program. There is also a distinction between BS and BT degrees. Some employers only hire students from a BS program. Most states will grant license to graduates of either program, although they may require more years of experience from students with a BT or BET degree.
In summary, engineering is one of the most respected and highly rewarding careers. There is opportunity to travel the world, and a strong sense of employment stability. If there ever is any field that offers non-stop and ever-changing challenges, engineering is one of them. Every project is different so there will always be questions to answer, problems to solve, buildings to create, and formulas to figure out.
If you haven’t completely decided on pursuing a career as an engineer, these reasons should hopefully be enough to help you make up your mind and know the first steps in the right direction to pursuing engineering as a career if you choose.