How to become an engineer

Updated April 17, 2017

Engineering has many branches: electrical, mechanical, aerospace, civil and chemical--to name a few of the most popular. No matter what branch you are interested in, becoming an engineer takes a lot of hard work and dedication. If you are interested in entering the field, but do not know what to expect, begin by researching options to get an idea of what the next four to six years has in store for you.

Decide if you have what it takes to be an engineer. To become a professional engineer, you must have a college degree in engineering. Most university programs are selective and quite competitive. Earning good grades in high school is imperative, as is getting a high SAT or ACT score.

Decide what type of engineering interests you. While most programs tend to focus on general core classes the first and second year of enrolment, many require students to enrol in a specific program regardless. Seats in each program are generally limited. If you maintain a high GPA, you can usually transfer from one program to another within the engineering department if necessary. It is still important to put some thought into what type of engineering interests you before entering your program.

Look for and apply to schools with strong engineering programs in the area(s) that interest you.

Get good grades in all of your classes once you are enrolled in a program. The first and second years are usually the hardest. Many students are required to take an above-average number of credit hours, and classes are tough. Outside employment is generally discouraged. Focus on your studies as much as possible. Your hard work will be rewarded in the future.

Obtain a co-op. Co-ops are usually offered the third, fourth and fifth years of engineering programs. Most co-ops are paid, some are not. They are usually very competitive, which is why receiving high grades in your course work is important. This is the best way to obtain valid, related work experience before entering the job market and it can lead to employment upon graduation.

Seek the assistance of your school's Career Development Center as you near the completion of your program. Someone there can usually help you with your resume, direct you to co-ops and internships and eventually help you apply for jobs in the engineering industry once you are qualified.

Join a professional engineering society or association that caters to your specific interest. Professional organisations offer many networking opportunities that are ideal for those looking for employment as well as further professional development.

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About the Author

Kara Allison received her bachelor's degree in English and comparative literature from the University of Cincinnati and her master's degree in library and information science from Kent State University. She is currently employed as an academic librarian in Cincinnati, Ohio. Allison has been a contributing writer for various websites since 2007.