Before they leave elementary school, most kids have already been asked hundreds of times, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Even before they understand the concept of careers ― before they grasp basic math skills ― kids can already list a handful of standard professions: teacher, police officer, lawyer, and engineer.
Indeed, even amongst adults, engineering is often lumped in with those “basic” career options, the ones that seem difficult and not super exciting yet indispensable for modern society. Most engineers will agree that what they do is important ― but most will also tell you how much they love their jobs. Engineering is one of the most misunderstood career paths, and perhaps this reeducation of what engineering is and does will convince you to become an engineer.
Engineering Is Diverse
In truth, engineering is not a profession ― it is a field, like science or art. Just as “scientist” isn’t an accurate job description, “engineer” is too broad to explain exactly what type of work you could be doing. The field of engineering is exceedingly diverse; there are perhaps 40 or more types of engineering to study, each requiring specific knowledge and skills and working toward distinct goals.
Some popular types of engineering include:
- Mechanical engineering. Perhaps the prototypical type, mechanical engineers (MEs) design physical machines, like elevators, air conditioning units, and combustion engines.
- Electrical engineering. Electrical engineers (EEs) are concerned with the generation and use of electricity. Often, they design the electrical systems within machines and devices.
- Civil engineering. Working on a broader scale, civil engineers tackle infrastructure problems within cities, designing road systems, water supply systems, power plants, and more.
- Software engineering. The newest and fastest growing engineering profession, software engineers design and build operating systems and applications for digital devices.
- Hardware engineering. On the other side of computer engineering, hardware engineers design physical components of devices, like circuit boards, routers, and memory sticks.
Engineering Pays Well
Contrary to the old saying about money and happiness, research found that those with higher incomes tend to be more satisfied and secure than those with less, assuming those with large salaries spend their money appropriately. Fortunately, every type of engineering boasts an average salary much higher than the national average.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest paid engineers are petroleum engineers, who earn an average of $147,000 per year; at the other end of the spectrum, agricultural engineers can expect an average pay of $75,000 per year ― which is still well above the national average of about $52,000. What’s more, attending engineering programs online to earn a master’s degree qualifies you for even more money in most fields.
Engineering Challenges Many Skills
Perhaps the primary prerequisite to study engineering is familiarity with math and science, but to be an effective engineer, you need a wealth of other skills, too. For example, you must be able to think both logically and creatively. Engineering problems do not always have simple, straightforward solutions, so being analytical in your thinking process is a must. Additionally, you must be detail-oriented since most engineering quandaries are exceedingly complex; ignoring or forgetting a single aspect could have disastrous ramifications, so including every tiny factor is crucial.
Every project offers new challenges ― new problems to solve ― and engineers tend to find the application of their knowledge and skills exhilarating.
Engineering Is Everywhere
The laws of physics and the truth in code are universal ― which is to say engineers are not tied to any one place. Unlike lawyers, who tend to practice law wherever they first passed the Bar, engineers can travel around the world and find work nearly everywhere. Every country benefits from enhanced machines, better roads, and advanced technology, which means you can live and work wherever your heart desires.
Engineering Has an Impact
Finally, engineering is important. Every day, people live healthier and happier lives thanks to the work of engineers. Not many modern jobs have such a profound impact on the world, but engineers in most fields can literally shape the future by their discoveries and designs. If you, like many young people, yearn for a profession that gives your life meaning, you need look no farther than exciting, extraordinary engineering.