There are several engineering specializations to choose from, so it’s important to narrow down the branches available and choose the right one for you. All forms of engineering include some form of problem-solving and technical design skills to solve real-world issues and lead to an easier and safer everyday way of life. Students who opt for engineering tend to be attracted to this subject because it provides graduates with the option to be creative and innovate, has a positive impact on real lives, enjoys high job security, and even travel the world. Engineering ranks high when it comes to popular major choices, but the profession branches out into almost 250 sub-fields. So, how do you know which is the right specialization for you? Here are some strategies that you can use to find out.
Applied learning opportunities such as internships and work placements are definitely the best ways to get the first-hand experience of the different engineering disciplines and specialties to find the one that suits you best. Consider your current interests and passions to help you choose which internships you might enjoy the most. However, there are several internships to choose from, and the ability to work for just a few weeks, perhaps at the same time as studying or throughout the summer break, means that you have a great chance to learn more about different disciplines that you may not have considered otherwise.
As an engineering student, the last thing that you want is to invest in education that’s designed for a specialization without the best career outlook. Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics database to find out more about the sub-fields of engineering that have the best career prospects in order to make your future job search and elective module choices easier. Mechanical, civil, and industrial engineers are always in high demand, making up over 60% of the entire industry workforce. Another discipline with excellent prospects is biomedical engineering, which is relatively small compared to the other sub-fields but expected to grow by over 20% in the next four years. On the other hand, nuclear engineering is going in the other direction, with limited plant production causing jobs to decline.
Before choosing a specialty for your engineering degree, it’s important to carefully consider your own strengths and weaknesses in order to work out whether or not you have the abilities and the personality necessary for the job. For example, if you’re not very computer-savvy, electrical or IT engineering might not be the best option for you, but you may still excel in fields such as chemical engineering. If you are quite shy and prefer to work alone, you may be ideal for a position in systems engineering but fall short of the leadership skills necessary for engineering management. Click here to find out more about the differences between these two disciplines and what’s required to get there.
While it may not be a wise idea to decide which engineering discipline to specialize in by earning potential alone, it’s important to factor it in as a consideration. While engineering in general tends to pay quite handsomely, there are some disciplines that pay better than others. Petroleum engineering comes in first with an average starting salary of $96,000, with system engineering coming in a close second. On the other hand, the least paying engineering disciplines are civil and agricultural engineering.
Choosing a specialization for your future engineering career isn’t a decision to make on your own. It’s a good idea to make an appointment with the career advisors at your college so that you can talk through your ideas, ask questions, and get suggestions. Visit your professors during office hours and ask them more about their branch of engineering and what to expect from it; they will be able to help you get a better knowledge of the types of careers that are available for each discipline. When working on placements or internships, speak to the engineers that you are working alongside and ask them some searching questions about the day to day experiences of the job.
It doesn’t make much sense to choose an engineering discipline that you’re not going to be very interested in. Think about the things that interest you now, even if they’re not directly related to engineering. Chances are there will be a discipline available that ties in with your current hobbies and passions. For example, if you enjoy building things, civil engineering might be ideal for you. On the other hand, if you are interested in computers, you might be more drawn to IT engineering. Those who enjoy scientific subjects may find that chemical engineering is an ideal choice for them. If you’re fascinated by air travel, aeronautical engineering could be an ideal choice.
Finally, remember that your interests, passions, and skills might change as you go through your career. It is not unheard of for engineers to change disciplines mid-way through their career and once you have gained a bachelor’s degree in engineering there are several master’s degree programs and industry certification courses that you can take if you want to try something new. If you are still in the process of considering which discipline you’d like to work in, be as open-minded as possible when it comes to trying out new things and figuring out what you enjoy and are good at. Take on as many internships as possible, research as many different engineering disciplines and career positions as you can find, and speak to people who are already working in the industry to find out if they have any suggestions you might not have considered before.
If you’ve chosen to major in engineering, there are several disciplines to choose from and hundreds of sub-disciplines and positions to consider. Finding the right one for you is not always easy, so keep these tips in mind to get the right fit.
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