Careers in engineering are stimulating, rewarding, and incredibly competitive. This is a field that rewards hard workers with lucrative pay packets and large bonuses at the end of the year.
It’s also one that can expose you to large projects that helps to define the place where you live. As such, hundreds of thousands of people attempt to become an engineer each year – with some successful and others unsuccessful.
This complete guide is about how to find your route into the sector, including via education, people, and job opportunities.
Learning The Role
Before you make a concerted effort to become an engineer, it’s important that you’ve done some research on what’s expected of you in the role. You should be clear on what skills you’re going to need to develop and the types of work you’ll likely be performing in the first months and years of your career.
You can learn about roles in engineering by reading books and online forum posts or by speaking directly with existing engineers about the pros and cons of their jobs.
You’ll likely hear that engineering can be both immensely satisfying and highly frustrating. It can mean long, hard nights working in the office or days during which you have very little to do.
And it can involve absorbing work as well as mundane administrative jobs. If you’re still excited to proceed in your ambition to become an engineer after learning how the job works, you’ll be ready to plot your path toward becoming an engineer.
If you’re keen to enter the industry as soon as possible, you may be able to bypass some of the years spent in education by simply joining an engineering firm at the bottom rung. For months, you may not have many opportunities to pick up engineering skills, but over time you will learn on the job how engineers work and what skills you should pick up in order to rise up the ladder and find yourself in an engineering role.
If you’ve done your research about careers in engineering, you’ll know that this is not the most common route into engineering. Most engineers went to university or college in order to train themselves in a wide variety of engineering skills before they considered applying for a job at an engineering firm.
Yet if you’re short on time or cash and feel that the training route is too difficult for you, a junior role can be a smart way to move into the industry and to slowly pick up what you need to know to perform as an engineer.
If you’re instead interested in spending some months or years in training to become an engineer, you’ll find that virtually all established educational institutions offer engineering courses at undergraduate and master’s levels.
These courses require you to spend significant amounts of time and money to get qualified, so training as an engineer via university or college is a large commitment that you should think about long in advance. The benefits are clear: if you come out of your period of training with a certificate or qualification, you’ll be an attractive candidate to work at any engineering firm.
Still, there are other routes in this space. You might choose instead to take an online course instead of one that requires you to turn up to lectures in person.
That can help you save money on living expenses while also working in a full-time role around your studies. You can choose short module-based courses instead of taking the entire engineering syllabus at once. You just need to pick the option that suits your lifestyle and your means.
Some engineering roles are purely technical and are filled by people who have spent years studying the theory behind engineering and all of the technical, and calculation aspects of the job. Yet that’s not the only professional in engineering teams.
There are actually dozens of different roles in engineering firms, including those that barely touch upon the technicalities and instead help to plan or budget for each specific project. It’s these roles that are often filled by those with knowledge about engineering but no great interest in working on the micro details of projects.
As you’d expect, project managers and team leaders tend to fall into this category. If you’re someone that likes to be abreast of a number of different aspects of a project, you might be a better fit for one of these roles. You can take a course to perfect your skills as a manager in the field of engineering, entering the sector from a different angle than your typical engineers. If that’s something that interests you, look into achieving an online master’s in engineering management so that you can secure jobs at firms that are looking for a skilled and experienced manager.
Some jobs are secured via talent and talent alone. Some see a candidate dazzle in the interview stage, building bridges with this interviewing them so that they’re welcomed into the team. But there are others still that are given to individuals based as much on who they know as on what they know.
That means that routes into the engineering industry are often to be found in people. These people might be your old tutors at university or people you’ve met at trade fairs, conferences, and workshops. They’re on your LinkedIn, and your Twitter feeds. And they might just be your ticket into engineering.
Be careful how you leverage your network. Make sure you’re approaching the right people at the right time in order to come across as eager rather than exploitative. You’re looking to make use of the people you know to secure a brilliant job at a firm that you admire.
If your contact book is relatively slim and you’re interested in building it up, you should attempt to attend engineering events in your area. Put yourself out there as much as possible, and you might just be approached with an opportunity to work in an exciting role that you may not have been able to find online.
Another route into engineering is from an adjacent job position. Managers at engineering firms know that a broad set of skills and experience can be the difference between a good team and a great one, and that means that they’re always interested in what people can bring to the table if they’re applying for jobs that aren’t quite defined as engineering.
There are some obvious areas that are adjacent to engineering, including the fields of manufacturing and construction. If you’ve worked in one of these fields for some time, it’s certain that you’ll have novel insights that an engineering firm might appreciate.
Don’t be discouraged by job notices that require you to have a certain amount of experience in the field of engineering. Different outlooks and perspectives can help engineering firms come up with new ways to save money and to work more efficiently.
That’s why such firms often hire people from a different industries. If you’re excited to join the world of engineering from a field that’s adjacent to it, make sure you outline what you believe you can bring to the table in your cover letter or over the phone with the employer.
If you’re a qualified engineer, you don’t necessarily need to wait for job openings to apply to the firms that you admire the most. These might be local firms that you’ve always wanted to work in or international firms that work on some of the largest infrastructural projects on Earth.
If you’re set on joining one of only a handful of firms that cater to your ambitions, then it’s worth reaching out to them directly with a resume and some other details about your experience, your availability, and your passion for the firm in question. You never know what you might get out of these introductions, and they’re certainly not taken reluctantly by firms.
The key here is to explain to the employer why you’re going directly to them rather than waiting for a job posting to appear on their website. Explain what it is that attracts you to the firm, including the work that they’ve done, the case studies they’re most proud of, and the reputation that the firm has forged.
Show them that you understand the culture and the pressure of the workplace and that you’re ready to rise to the challenge of working there. They may well consider you for a job, even if that job comes in a handful of months rather than weeks.
As all recent graduates will know, an impressive stint in an office as an intern can lead to a full-time position. Even if it doesn’t, and the firm isn’t hiring, you’ll still gain some valuable experience in how firms tend to work and what they’re looking for in new hires.
Not all firms accept individuals as interns or apprentices, but you cannot lose anything by reaching out and asking if there’s scope to take you on for a couple of months.
The worst that can happen is that you’re politely told that it’s not possible; the best that can happen is that you’re invited into the office the following week and given responsibilities that develop your career as an engineer.
There is also usually the opportunity to gain work experience while you’re studying at university. Remember that engineering firms are constantly scouring the best engineering colleges for talent, and there will be trade shows in which these firms show off their culture to you and your classmates.
Many will offer short-term internships, for instance, over the summer break, in order to test your skills and see if you’d be a good fit for them after you’ve graduated. Bear these opportunities in mind as they can help you seamlessly travel from life at university through to life in an engineering firm.
Advice and Assistance
While your network can often be at the deciding factor in whether you’re hired for a specific job in engineering, you should also bear in mind that people you’ve never met may well be happy to give you a little advice or assistance if you’re looking for a specific job in engineering.
You could choose to contact a current employee of a firm you’re interested in, for example, in the hopes that they could give you some insights that you can use to secure an interview with that firm. You might also connect with thought leaders and successful young engineers to ask them for more generic career advice.
When it comes to assistance, though, you should also consider using platforms such as LinkedIn to connect with the decision-makers who might be able to give you a job.
Simply introducing yourself in a short message can work wonders if you’re going to be seeing them in an interview within the coming weeks. These introductions are also a terrific opportunity for you to start a conversation that could end up with advice or assistance for your career.
Whether you’re studying for a degree or searching high and low for the right kind of job in engineering, you should remain steadfast and determined. Becoming a first-class engineer in a role you love doesn’t just fall into your lap; it’s something you have to work towards, testing yourself constantly in order to learn new skills, meet new people, and become a more attractive hire proposition to employers.
Getting into engineering is difficult, given that there are steep learning curves and a variety of skills required to perform at the very top. But if you’re determined and you’re willing to put in the hours of work required, you’ll soon find yourself doing thrilling and absorbing work in the firm of your choice. Keep plugging away, using the advice in this article, in order to secure your job in the field of engineering.
Increase your chances of getting hired as an engineer by following the advice above, which is tailored towards those who are yet to study engineering and are interested in a way into the industry.