Some firmly believe that you really can’t plan a career – you simply grow into it. That statement might not be entirely accurate. Starting a career as an engineer can be stressful if you have no idea how to go about it.
You might be a new graduate engineer looking to kick start your career. Or, you might be a student in need of information on how to become an engineer. Whatever the case might be, this advice from seasoned engineers can help you decide if engineering is the career choice for you and how to get into it without any hiccups.
What to study to become an engineer
If you aren’t an engineering graduate as yet, it’s essential to understand that the right qualification and licensure is necessary to become a qualified engineer.
In the United States, a bachelor’s degree (with a major in the branch of your choice) from an ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) accredited program is the minimum educational qualification for engineers. You could join an unaccredited program, but most employers prefer to hire those who complete their graduation through an accredited program.
The next step is to follow up your degree with a master’s program –a full-time, two-year graduate study or a doctoral program that requires anywhere between five to seven years of graduate study.
You might also want to consider packing in some job experience before you complete your studies. Volunteering to work part-time for an engineering firm might not pay at all – especially if you are still studying. Still, it will prepare you for a career as a professional engineer.
Getting engineering licensure
You must have a license to practice as an engineer if you want to offer your services to the public. Once you have the necessary licenses, you will be known as a professional engineer (PE). If you want to work for a government agency, licensure is mandatory. To become a professional engineer, most state boards require you to have:
- Completed a bachelor’s degree from an ABET-accredited school.
- Passed the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination.
- Four years of working as an intern engineer.
- Passed the 8-hour, Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) examination in your discipline.
Note: Consider gaining your work experience with a firm that is not only licensed but also has the required business insurance for engineers. Click here for more information on architects and engineers insurance.
4 Tips on how to start your career as an engineer
- Make learning a part of your life
You might have completed your graduation and probably even your master’s degree, but that does mean you are done with learning. As an engineer, you will continue to learn on-job and off-job. Education is a process. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – no matter how silly. You are not expected to know everything. Your bosses expect you to be proactive and ask questions.
If you are still studying, you must reach beyond your classroom to gain real-world education. Consider Joining professional networks that can be valuable sources for advice and learning.
- You don’t have to accept the first job offer that comes your way – but you could
As an engineer, you are eager to land your first job. But what if the first few offers that you land don’t appear to be good fits? There are two ways to approach this problem. First, you could take up the first job you get, even if it’s not your dream job.
Sometimes a position in a small company reaps unexpected rewards and provides opportunities that could shape your career. The second approach is to be persistent and not settle for anything but your dream job. However, you could end up waiting for a very long time before you land the job of your choice.
- Get a mentor
Get a mentor/guide who can help you find your footing in the industry and whom you can learn from. That is especially critical when you are starting your career as an engineer. Choose someone you look up to and someone who belongs to the same field of engineering as you.
- Your soft skills are as necessary as your technical skills.
As a practicing engineer, there is no doubt that your technical skills are critical and essential to your job function. But your soft skills are equally crucial to the company. Your employers are on the lookout for people with excellent communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills. So if your soft skills are not as honed as your technical skills, it’s time to start building them now.
Build your network and continuously learn from the industry leaders, your colleagues, and peers. The idea is to stay current and stay up to date with all the industry’s happenings. Finally remember that you have valuable information to share as well.
Whether you are studying to become an engineer or are a graduate engineer, follow these simple tips to help you kick start your career in the field of engineering.