How Do I Become an Engineer?

If you are an innovative thinker and problem solver and enjoy working with numbers and science, you might be wondering how to become an engineer. Engineering is the field that combines resourceful, creative thinking with scientific and mathematical principles in order to create a structure, process, material or piece of equipment. Engineers are the professionals who apply the inventive mechanical principles of engineering to a wide variety of industries in order to improve quality of life through building safer structures, implementing more efficient manufacturing processes, improving the taste and longevity of food, researching new medications and otherwise improving the way society meets and exceeds the goals and needs of individuals, companies and organizations.

Engineering encompasses many disciplines. Aerospace engineers work with aircraft and spacecraft. Agricultural engineers develop equipment and processes to enhance farming. Biomedical engineers pioneer materials and medications for the healthcare industry. Chemical engineers develop new processes for producing, combining and handling chemical substances. Civil engineers plan structures such as buildings and roads. Computer engineers devise computer parts. Electrical and electronic engineers create new electrical equipment and systems. Environmental engineers research solutions to environmental concerns, such as pollution. Health and safety engineers are responsible for formulating the processes to keep people safe when using potentially hazardous equipment or substances. Industrial engineers streamline companies’ manufacturing processes. Mechanical engineers conceptualize and build mechanical equipment, tools and devices. Still more disciplines of engineering exist, and the field continues to develop and solve new problems with emerging technologies.

To begin preparing for any career within the field of engineering, candidates should first pursue a formal education from an accredited college or university with an engineering school. While introductory courses that teach basic engineering principles are likely to be the same across disciplines, students should determine which field of engineering most interests them early on so that they can select the appropriate major. Among the most common programs of study in engineering are civil engineering, mechanical engineering, computer engineering, chemical engineering and electrical engineering. Some disciplines, like biomedical engineering, are still but rapidly developing. Coursework in any discipline of engineering will most likely include mathematics, physical and life sciences as well as a great deal of laboratory research projects. Many students gain further hands-on research by completing internships with companies, organizations and government agencies.

Collectively, engineers earn a median salary of $83,340 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Actual salaries vary greatly depending on the engineer’s education, experience, geographical location, employer and especially which field of industry a candidate chooses to pursue. Agricultural engineers, for example, earn a median salary of $71,090 per year, while on the high end of the spectrum, petroleum engineers earn a median annual salary of $114,080, the BLS reported. If you are good at mathematics and science and have an inquisitive, innovative nature, knowing how to become an engineer could be your first step toward an exciting new career in the dynamic and profitable field of engineering.

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