An Introduction to Engineering

Do you like to solve problems and work with people? Are you good at math, and do you have well developed analytical skills? If so, a career as an engineer might be for you.

What do engineers do?

Engineers basically provide a bridge between the design of something and the implementation of something, or putting it into practice. They look at problems and work to solve them with safe and economical solutions. They are highly skilled in mathematics and the sciences; they use this knowledge to develop solutions that are going to be marketable, and that meet the needs of those they're working for, including customers, users of products, etc.

It might surprise you to know that engineers actually work in just about every field (which is why there several engineering resume formats). Among the jobs they may need to do, depending on the field they work in, are inventing products, refining already invented products, and so on. They work to come up with solutions for work places as diverse as the automotive industry, nuclear plants, the aircraft industry, the shipping industry, construction, computer technology, electrical equipment, other machinery, etc.

Engineers develop or refine existing products, but they also have to test them to make sure they work and then once they do, they work on refining both production and maintenance of those products. In other words, they also focus on technical issues and solutions.

One example is within the automotive industry. If an engineer is working on developing a car, he or she will also have to be involved in just about every part of the process, from inception to actual manufacture, to refinement, to fixing problems that come up, and so on.

So the first thing an engineer might do is to sit down with a team of other professionals and determine what that car is going to do. What are its functional requirements? Once that's answered, the engineer works to design and test any component parts that are going to embody those functional requirements, modify them to solve any problems, integrate them into the automobile, test to make sure the automobile and its components are safe, effective and reliable, and then may even refine further to reduce costs. Making expense estimates are also usually part of an engineer's job.

In addition to manufacturing, engineers also work in technical services, in all areas of the sciences, and in just about every profession imaginable.

What does it take to become an engineer?

If you think you might like to become an engineer but you're not sure what type you want to specialize in, that's not usually a problem. If you're interested in becoming an engineer, you can go for a degree in something like engineering technology, and a two-year associate's or a four-year bachelor's degree is usually the norm. However, even if you don't get an associate's or bachelors in an engineering specialty, engineering firms may recruit you if you have a degree in mathematics or in the natural sciences.

That said, though, you'll also need to get further education if you want to be considered for the same jobs as so-called "professional engineers," with a four-year bachelor's degree in one of the engineering disciplines.

To go into research or to actually teach in a faculty position on engineering, you'll need to have graduate training. Several colleges in the US offer five-year and six-year programs whereby you can also gain actual job experience relevant to the industry; this is especially important if you want to work in the private sector, in corporations.

To become a professional engineer, you'll have to get a license. A Professional Engineer license requires that you graduate from an ABET- (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) accredited university. Beyond that, you also need to have at least four years of relevant job experience, and you'll also need to pass an examination specific to your state. In some cases, additional professional certifications may be necessary, and will certainly help you advance your career. As a sidenote, make sure to include any certification you have in your engineer resume.

How much do engineers make?

Even entry-level engineering positions pay quite well, with averages across the industry for all sectors and levels of experience around $80,000 year as of 2006.


Gail Esparan