Why Study Engineering:
Engineering offers a rewarding and lucrative career—one in which you can use your mind to find creative solutions to the challenges facing our society. In his book Studying Engineering (Discovery Press, 1995), Raymond Landis, dean of engineering and technology at California State University–Los Angeles, lists the following "top 10" rewards and opportunities that an engineering career offers.
1. Job Satisfaction
Studies show that, by far, the number-one cause of unhappiness among people in the United States is job dissatisfaction. Thus, it is important to find a career that provides you with enjoyment and satisfaction. After all, you might spend 40 or so years working eight hours or more a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year. Do you want to dislike every minute of that time, or would you rather do something that you enjoy? For numerous reasons, some of which are listed below, engineering provides a satisfying field of work.
2. Variety of Career Opportunities
What do Neil Armstrong, Jimmy Carter, and Alfred Hitchcock have in common? Though they eventually chose very different careers - one as an astronaut, one as a president, and one as a filmmaker - they all started with an engineering education.
An engineering degree offers a wide range of career possibilities. Within the practice of engineering, there is an enormous variety of job functions.
If you are imaginative
and creative, design engineering may be for you.
If you like laboratories and conducting experiments, you might consider test engineering.
If you like to organize and expedite projects, look into being a development engineer.
If you are persuasive and like working with people, consider a career in sales or field service engineering.
The analytical skills and technological expertise you develop as an engineering student can also be put to use in many other fields. For example, as an engineering graduate, you could go on to study medicine or law. You could become a politician and use your knowledge of technology and science to set important national policy. You could also become an entrepreneur in a related field such as construction, manufacturing, or consulting. Or you could combine engineering and business skills in a career as a technical manager or a salesperson for a high-tech company.
3. Challenging Work
If you like challenges, engineering could be for you. In the engineering work world, there is no shortage of challenging problems. Any engineering manager will tell you that he or she has a huge backlog of problems that need to be solved.
Generally, "real world" engineering problems are quite different from most of the problems you will solve in school. In school, most problems have a single, correct answer. When you get into the engineering work world, virtually all problems will be open-ended. There will be no single answer, no answer in the back of the book, no professor to tell you that you are right or wrong. You will be required to devise a solution and persuade others that your solution is the best one.
4. Intellectual Development
An engineering education will "exercise" your brain, developing your ability to think logically and to solve problems. These are skills that will be valuable throughout your life—and not only when you are solving engineering problems. For example, your problem-solving skills can help you undertake tasks such as planning a vacation, finding a job, organizing a fund-raiser, purchasing a house, or writing a book.
5. Benefit Society
Just about everything that engineers do benefits society. Engineers develop transportation systems that help people and products move about easily. Engineers design the buildings that we live and work in, the systems that deliver our water and electricity, the machinery that produces our food, and the medical equipment that keeps us healthy.
Depending upon your value system, you may not view all things that engineers do as benefiting people. For example, engineers design military equipment like missiles, tanks, bombs, artillery, and fighter airplanes. Engineers are also involved in the production of pesticides, cigarettes, liquor, fluorocarbons, and asbestos.
As an engineer, however, you can choose to work on projects that clearly benefit society, such as cleaning up the environment, developing prosthetic aids for disabled persons, developing clean and efficient transportation systems, finding new sources of energy, alleviating the world's hunger problems, and increasing the standard of living in underdeveloped countries.
6. Financial Security
While financial security should not be your only reason for choosing a career in engineering, if you decide to become an engineer you will be well paid. Engineering graduates receive the highest starting salary of any discipline.
Engineers play a primary role in sustaining our nation's international competitiveness, maintaining our standard of living, ensuring a strong national security, and protecting public safety. Furthermore, most people know that engineering requires hard work and strong technical skills. As a member of such a respected profession, you will receive a high amount of prestige.
8. Professional Environment
As an engineer, you will work in a professional environment in which you will be treated with respect and have a certain amount of freedom in choosing your work. You will be also be in a position to influence what happens at your company.
In most cases, you will receive adequate work space and the tools you need to do your work, including the latest computer hardware and software. You will probably also receive the secretarial and technical support staff you need to get your work done. After all, your employer will benefit from making sure you have what you need to do a good job.
Most likely, you will not be required to punch a time clock. Rather, you will be judged on your productivity - on the quality and quantity of your work. You can usually expect to receive an annual merit salary increase, which will be based on your manager's evaluation of your performance.
You will have the opportunity to learn and grow through both on-the-job training and formal training. Often, your immediate supervisor will closely mentor you and help you tackle progressively more challenging tasks. You will learn from experienced engineers in your organization and will be offered seminars and short courses to increase your knowledge. Most likely, your employer will have an educational reimbursement program that will pay for you to take classes toward a graduate degree or for professional development.
As a professional, you will receive liberal benefits, which will typically include a retirement plan, life insurance, health insurance, sick leave, paid vacation, holidays, and savings or profit-sharing plans.
9. Technological and Scientific Discovery
Do you know why golf balls have dimples on them? Do you understand how the loads are transmitted to the supports on a suspension bridge? Do you know what a laser is or how a computer works? When you drive on a mountain road, do you look at the guard rails and understand why they were designed the way they were? Do you know why split-level houses experience more damage in earthquakes? An engineering education can help you understand how these, and many other things in the world, work.
Furthermore, an understanding of technology will provide you with a better understanding of many issues facing our society. For example: Why don't we have zero-emission electric vehicles rather than highly polluting cars powered by internal combustion engines? Should we have stopped building nuclear reactors? What will we use for energy when oil runs out? Is it technically feasible to develop a "Star Wars" defense system that will protect us against nuclear attack? Can we produce enough food to eliminate world hunger? Do high-voltage power lines cause cancer in people who live or play near them?
10. Creative Thinking
Engineering is by its very nature a creative profession. When practicing engineers develop solutions to open-ended, real-world problems, they must employ conscious and subconscious mental processing as well as divergent and convergent thinking.
Because we are in a time of rapid social and technological changes, the need for engineers to think creatively is greater now than ever before. Only through creativity can we cope with and adapt to these changes. If you like to question, explore, invent, discover, and create, then engineering could be the ideal profession for you.
Why Study Engineering
By Raymond Landis, California State University