Engineering is a vast field encompassing various specialties across multiple industries. Irrespective of their engineering niche, professionals in this field employ mathematics and science to craft innovative solutions for technical challenges. This article will delve into the step-by-step process of becoming an engineer, highlighting the different types of engineers and the qualifications required for success.
How to Become an Engineer in 5 Steps
Step 1: Earn the Appropriate Degree
The foundational step toward an engineering career is obtaining a bachelor's degree. Many prospective engineers opt for programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), the official body accrediting engineering programs in the U.S. Your degree should align with your desired field, such as civil or chemical engineering. Some specialties might demand a master's degree and a bachelor's.
Step 2: Take and Pass the NCEES FE Exam
After completing your bachelor's degree, you can sit for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). Passing this exam grants you licensure as an engineer-in-training or intern.
Step 3: Obtain Engineering Experience
Once licensed through the NCEES FE exam, you can apply for positions as an engineering intern or engineer-in-training. You must accrue four years of practical on-the-job training to qualify for full licensure.
Step 4: Take and Pass the PE Exam
With at least a bachelor's degree and four years of experience, you can take the NCEES Professional Engineer (PE) exam. This licensure is specific to your discipline. Depending on your career path, you may also need licenses in multiple states, necessitating comity licensure through NCEES.
Step 5: Apply for Engineering Jobs
After successfully passing the PE exam and becoming a licensed engineer, you can embark on your career journey by applying for engineering positions. Explore industry-specific job boards, utilize job search engines, or leverage your professional network to find suitable opportunities.
Types of Engineers
Engineers play a pivotal role in enhancing structures and systems through innovation. Here are some common engineering career options based on your interests:
Aerospace engineers are at the forefront of space exploration and aviation. They design and build aerospace technologies, including aircraft and spacecraft, often specializing in thermodynamics, aerodynamics, or propulsion.
Automotive engineers are responsible for designing, building, and testing products within the automotive industry. They work on innovations like environmentally friendly smart cars.
Biomedical engineers tackle health and medical challenges, combining biology and medicine to design systems and products for medical advancements.
Chemical engineers employ their expertise to solve problems related to chemical products and production, including pollution control and waste management.
Civil engineers develop and oversee infrastructure projects, from roads and bridges to sewage systems. Specializations within civil engineering include power systems, environmental, structural, and transportation engineering.
Computer engineers design and build computer components, specializing in data science, software engineering, cybersecurity, and computer science.
Electrical engineers design, test, and implement electrical equipment across various industries, from GPS systems for cars to power systems.
Industrial engineers focus on improving manufacturing and industrial processes, enhancing productivity and efficiency.
Materials engineers develop and test materials for various products and industries, often specializing in specific materials like steel.
Nuclear engineers harness atomic power for applications like power generation and medical treatments.
Safety engineers prioritize safety and efficiency across products and industries, designing methods and tools to reduce accidents and errors.
Systems engineers ensure complex systems operate efficiently, considering technical and business aspects.
Qualifications for Engineers
Regardless of your engineering specialization, certain skills are essential for success, including:
Collaboration and Coordination: Engineers often work in multidisciplinary teams that include professionals from various fields like civil, mechanical, electrical, and software engineering. Strong teamwork involves collaborating effectively with team members who bring different perspectives, ideas, and strengths.
Leveraging Diverse Expertise: In engineering projects, each team member typically specializes in a specific aspect of the project, whether it's designing, testing, or analyzing. Teamwork skills include harnessing this diverse expertise, recognizing the strengths of each team member, and integrating their contributions into a cohesive solution.
Problem-Solving Abilities: Engineers are tasked with solving intricate and often novel problems. The ability to analyze challenges, think critically, and develop innovative solutions is fundamental. Whether troubleshooting a malfunctioning system or designing a groundbreaking technology, engineers must excel in problem-solving to excel in their roles.
Adaptability and Flexibility: The field of engineering is dynamic and constantly evolving. Engineers must adapt to changing technologies, methods, and project requirements. Being flexible in your approach and open to learning new skills and techniques ensures you can thrive in the ever-changing engineering landscape.
Ethical Integrity: Engineers have a profound impact on society and the environment. Ethical considerations are paramount, as decisions made in engineering can have far-reaching consequences. Engineers must uphold ethical standards, considering the safety, health, and welfare of the public and the environment, when making professional choices.
Continuous Learning and Professional Development: Engineering is a knowledge-intensive field with rapid advancements. Successful engineers must commit to lifelong learning and professional development. Staying current with industry trends, emerging technologies, and best practices ensures that your skills and knowledge remain relevant and valuable throughout your career.
Problem-Solving Discussions: In collaborative settings, engineers engage in discussions to address technical challenges, make design decisions, and evaluate project risks. Effective communication ensures that these discussions are productive, fostering an environment where ideas are collectively shared, evaluated, and refined.
Cross-Disciplinary Communication: Engineering projects often involve professionals from various disciplines. Engineers must be adept at bridging communication gaps between different specialties, ensuring all team members can collaborate seamlessly.
These qualifications collectively contribute to an engineer's ability to navigate the challenges and complexities of their profession, ultimately enabling them to excel and make meaningful contributions to their respective fields.
Also Read: How to Become an Electrical Engineer
What educational path should I follow to become an engineer?
To become an engineer, you should earn a bachelor's degree in engineering or a related field. Many aspiring engineers choose programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). The specific degree program you pursue should align with your desired engineering specialization, such as civil, electrical, or mechanical engineering.
What are the different engineering specialties, and how do I choose the right one?
Engineering offers various specializations, including aerospace, biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, industrial, materials, mechanical, nuclear, and more. To choose the right one, consider your interests, strengths, and long-term career goals. Research each field to understand its unique challenges and opportunities, and seek advice from experienced engineers or academic advisors to make an informed decision.
What exams and licenses are necessary to work as a professional engineer?
To work as a licensed professional engineer (PE) in the United States, you need to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). After gaining engineering experience, typically four years, you can take the NCEES Professional Engineer (PE) exam specific to your engineering discipline.
What skills and qualities are vital for a successful engineering career?
Successful engineers should possess technical skills, including problem-solving, data analysis, and computer proficiency. Non-technical skills like teamwork, effective communication, project and time management, attention to detail, and ethical integrity are equally crucial. Engineers also benefit from adaptability and a commitment to continuous learning and professional development.
How can I find engineering job opportunities and advance in my career?
To find engineering job opportunities, explore industry-specific job boards, utilize general job search engines, and leverage your professional network. Joining engineering associations and attending conferences can help you connect with potential employers. To advance your career, seek opportunities for additional certifications or advanced degrees, take on challenging projects, and consistently demonstrate your skills and dedication in your workplace.