What Did I Learn about Engineering by Graduating from Top University in Canada?
This article is aimed at people who are planning on applying to an engineering school, pursuing an engineering career or anyone who would like to obtain valuable insights into the world of engineering.
What did you dream of becoming when you were a kid, a doctor, a lawyer, or a firefighter? Well, I did not dream of becoming an engineer. Guess what? I bet you no one dreamed of becoming an engineer when they were a kid, and for a good reason. Not many people know what exactly engineers do.
Many students in Canada and USA, when deciding on what profession to choose, hear about engineers being well paid, being very good at sciences, being protected against recession, and seeming pretty smart. But what exactly do they do?
Before you make one of the most significant decisions in your life and decide what to do for the rest of your life, I would recommend you to continue reading.
Generally speaking, "engineers use the laws of physics, chemistry, math and other sciences to build the world we live in." This is a very vague statement, but it does apply to every possible engineering discipline.
There are engineering students who go into research after graduating or start working at a firm designing/manufacturing a product/service.
1. Universities prepare you to be a researcher.
Universities are great at teaching you the theory. Even though you will have labs, fieldwork, and other hands-on applications, there is so much more theory you learn instead of using that knowledge to build physical machines, systems, robots, etc. Pure ability to write exams well at the university will get you good grades and succeed throughout your undergraduate degree. However, to learn better, many students try to build projects on a side to get an edge over their peers and impress potential employers. These hands-on students benefit from joining various robotics, coding and electronics clubs both at high-schools and at universities.
2. You won't become a billionaire working as an engineer.
There is a very standard way for engineers to climb up the career ladder, and the ceiling is not that high. Average senior engineer salaries are in a $100,000 range. While engineers still make a pretty good living, having very secure jobs and many benefits, engineering jobs will not get you rich. For an engineer to make a fortune, there are two ways to go (maybe more, be creative):
a. Create a start-up. The risk of going this route is high, but the reward is enormous if you succeed.
b. Go into a leadership role. Managers, vice presidents, and CEOs make much more money than most senior-level engineers.
3. Engineers are not the greatest communicators.
Traditionally, engineers are not taught leadership skills; thus, many engineers are not great communicators and lack leadership competence. There are a few reasons why engineers think leadership skills are not for them. Some believe business people make good leaders or this is not what engineers' core expertise is in, but modern engineers get an enormous benefit from developing leadership skills, essentially allowing them to climb much higher on a career ladder and get more money.
4. You will be applying best practices, not inventing on a daily basis.
How do you imagine a day in an engineering firm, inventing new products and building novice systems? Well, usually, each large firm has a set of standards it has been developing for a long time. Engineers use these standards as a guide to building the next iteration of products or upgrading systems. Day-to-day work boils down to using these standards to perform tasks and, once you are knowledgeable enough, writing your own standards for new employees to use. This may sound boring, but standards are important as these are the set of best practices and have been reviewed by many experienced engineers. Remember, the safety of the society is the main priority of engineering design.
5. Get ready to learn to code.
The number-one skill in a workplace right now is the ability to code. No matter what engineering discipline you choose, coding skills would benefit you everywhere. People who start learning to code prior to getting to university get the most benefit as they are much further ahead compared to their competition and can start applying these skills in practice.
6. An engineering degree can get you anywhere.
An extremely useful consequence of an engineering degree is that it can get you anywhere. This is due to your ability to problem-solve and technical know-how. These skills help you differentiate yourself from arts and business students. Besides, if you are missing any skills required for a non-engineering job, you would be able to pick them up as none of those other skills are as hard or time-consuming to acquire compared to engineering skills.
Sure, these reasons sound great, but is this a route for you? Well, to find out, you would need to understand yourself on a more fundamental level. What do you like doing? What are you good at? What were you passionate about when you were a kid? What experiences do you enjoy in life?
If are still unsure about what it is like to be an engineer and how that correlates with your passions, discover things:
1. Go to bring kids to work events, learn.
2. Talk to people from different industries, ask them what exactly they do.
3. Go to universities' degree fairs, find out the ways university approaches education.