Is Engineering Right for You?
The engineering major is not for the faint-hearted in college. It is competitive to get into and stay in, and involves many rigorous courses in challenging subjects like math, science, and business. Engineering students will learn how to design and conduct experiments, identify and solve problems, communicate effectively, and understand professional and ethical responsibility. If you are keen on pursuing a career that requires constant learning and staying on top of new products and problem-solving methods, then engineering may be a great path for you!
Introduction to the Engineering Major
Students studying engineering can expect to complete a wide range of classes in natural science, humanities, math, and social science. Depending on the route you wish to take with your engineering degree after graduation, you may focus on a concentration or elect a minor to enhance your engineering education. Some concentrations may include structural mechanics, environmental engineering, computer engineering, imaging, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information science, to name a few. There are plenty of routes a student can consider with an engineering degree!
The engineering major prepares students for a plethora of areas in the field with essential skills like problem-solving and analysis, leadership, and teamwork. Starting out, you can expect to take foundational classes, and then gradually work your way to more advanced topics like computer systems, electrical engineering, product design & development, management, and applied mechanics, for example. The beauty of an engineering major is that it can be as broad or specific as you want it to be. You can go many different directions depending on your personal interests and the programs your school offers.
The Engineering Major: Common Courses to Expect
So you’re highly considering declaring an engineering major – but do you know exactly what you’re signing up for? Coursework for engineering programs will vary from one institution to another. However, you can expect to take common requirements in engineering fundamentals, math, and science.
Introductory math classes may include linear algebra, statistics, and calculus. Science courses may include chemistry, physics, biology, and geology. Engineering fundamentals may entail introductory electronics, fundamentals of programming and problem-solving, introduction to materials science, engineering of systems, circuits, introduction to engineering analysis, engineering economics and sustainability, and more. These classes combined are designed to help students learn about the broad field and then pick an area of engineering to focus on. From there, the advanced classes branch off into specific areas of the engineering field like electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering.
Engineers wear many hats out in the professional world, so you can expect that engineering programs in college would be all-encompassing. This means you should be prepared to spend time taking mandatory lab courses to not only apply what you’ve learned academically in the classroom, but also to put your knowledge to the test in a hands-on way.
Study abroad is highly recommended for future engineers to gain practical engineering experience on an international level. Students in their junior and senior years of college may work on individual engineering projects to demonstrate their problem-solving skills before receiving their degree.
Is Engineering A Good Fit for Me?
High school students who have excelled in math and science classes may enjoy pursuing a degree in engineering. Competence with technology is definitely required for success, but this can be developed throughout the engineering program through work with computing software and design. Engineering students must be team players and have effective communication skills, as there will be plenty of group projects and presentations as part of the coursework. Finally, critical thinking and analysis comes in handy for engineering students to ensure things run smoothly and to eliminate the margin of error.
In some schools, students must maintain a certain GPA to stay in the engineering program. With that said, it’s imperative to do well on projects and exams to achieve high grades. For an extra competitive edge, consider getting an internship in college to apply what you’ve learned outside of the classroom.
What Can I Do With an Engineering Major/Degree?
A degree in engineering can land you a job in a variety of environments. For example, you can work in an office, construction site, or laboratory. *Annual salaries may vary from state to state and country to country.
Biomedical engineers work with health care equipment like computer systems within hospitals or other medical facilities, MRI machines, or designing prosthetic limbs and other materials. *According to PayScale, biomedical engineers have an average annual salary of $67k.
Chemical engineers aim to solve problems related to substances like medicine or fuel through principles of math, physics, and biology. Their work can be done in mines or labs. *According to PayScale, chemical engineers have an average annual salary of $75k.
Civil engineers work on building and maintaining roads, bridges, buildings, sewage systems, and other structures. Some may work in piping, planning, structural and construction, and welding. *According to PayScale, civil engineers have an average annual salary of $67k.
Mechanical engineers are responsible for improving systems within machines like cars, boilers, pipelines, turbines, and more. *According to PayScale, mechanical engineers have an average annual salary of $71k.
Industrial engineers specialize in improving logistics and eliminating wasted resources for businesses. *According to PayScale, industrial engineers have an average annual salary of $68k.
Tech-savvy engineers focus on creating, improving, and evaluating software, while software engineers work in technical support as front-end engineers or software or hardware engineers. *According to PayScale, software engineers have an average annual salary of $86k.
As you can see, there are numerous fields one could go into with an engineering degree! However, those who wish to advance to senior management positions in engineering will likely need to pursue a Master’s degree.
Engineering is not for everyone, but can be a worthwhile degree to pursue in college if you have an interest or skills in science, technology, engineering and math. Going into the field just for the sake of going into it, or because it’s a hot career path may not be the best reasons. The field definitely requires passion, determination, and hard work for success!