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What to Expect When Pursuing an Engineering Degree

Are you considering a career in engineering? If you enjoy making things work, creating structures and devices, or have a desire to design and build items that make life easier, engineering could be a good fit. It is a stable, consistently well-paid profession that is required for the successful operation of all areas of construction, industry and technology.

So, how do you go about pursuing your passion? Read on to learn the hows and whys of becoming an engineer, along with some helpful tips for making the most of your degree.

A few things to know

Engineering requires an in-depth understanding of math, science and technology. This information is leveraged to design, build, and operate the engines, machines, and structures that make up our modern world. So, it stands to reason that earning an engineering degree is no walk in the park. The course load is intensive, with many hours of immersive study, labs, and testing required to ensure students are prepared for the detailed work required.

Pick your type

To get started, you’ll need to choose your niche. There are many types of engineering, each focused on a different application and/or industry, but we’ve listed the 6 major branches of engineering below:

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Geotechnical Engineering
  • Management Engineering

Within each of these branches are subcategories that meet the more specific needs of particular industries. It’s important to research each of these major options, and determine where your interests and talents would be best utilized. Then you can delve deeper into your job options within that branch. You should also check the pulse of the local and national job market to ensure that qualified professionals in your chosen branch are currently and regularly in-demand.

Choose your school

Once you’ve determined which engineering field(s) you want to study, you can begin the process of choosing the right school for you. Most major colleges and universities offer engineering programs, but some will be better suited to your particular field of study than others. Ask school advisors, friends, neighbors or family who have experience in the field for advice. Be sure to consider the number of credit hours required, cost, location, and credibility of the program as you make your decision. You’ll also want to verify that your chosen school offers EAC/ABET – accredited bachelor’s degrees, as most engineering licensing boards require them.

Beyond your degree

As mentioned above—an engineering degree is not the only requirement for success as an engineer. Whether you choose an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s or beyond, you’ll need to plan on further education and state licensure if you want to become the best in your field. Here’s a short list of what to expect:

  1. Pass the FE. As you near graduation, you’ll begin preparing to take the 6-hour Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam (to learn more, visit NCEES ). Once you pass this exam, you’ll gain the ‘FE’ designation and be on your way to gaining your Professional Engineering (PE) license. If you desire a career in surveying, you’ll need to take a separate exam called the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS).
  2. Gain engineering experience. Engineering licensure boards require engineers to have at least 4 years of experience working as an engineer before they qualify to become a licensed engineer. With your degree and ‘FE’ designation, you will be highly marketable, and shouldn’t have much trouble finding a good entry level position to gain this experience.
  3. Keep up on continuing education. Each state has its own continuing education requirements, but all engineers must attend a set number of hours to maintain their certifications. This selection of courses, workshops, conferences and seminars on law or professional ethics ensure every engineer is upholding state codes and requirements.
  4. Take the PE. Once you have 4 years of engineering experience in the field, you can prepare for and take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. This 2-day exam is extensive and requires disciplined preparation, but once you pass it, you will receive your license as a professional engineer (PE). This certification will enable you to move into more advanced positions, gain credibility and confidence within the industry, and qualify for a higher salary. (If your career is in surveying, you’ll need to take the Principles and Practice of Surveying Exam (PSE), as well as a state exam.)

The final word

So, there you have it. While it may seem like a lot to take in all at once, the process of becoming a licensed engineer is fairly logical and precise…something any engineer-to-be can appreciate. Simply follow these steps, and you’ll be on your way to a satisfying career in a respectable field that will always be in demand.

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