Engineering isn’t for everyone; in fact, engineering isn’t for most people. Regardless of whether you are interested in environmental engineering or aerospace engineering ― biomedical engineering or civil engineering ― you must have a mind for numbers, boast impressive problem-solving abilities, and be incredibly creative, as well. All in all, engineers are a noble group, using their impressive knowledge and skills to benefit humankind generally, sometimes through discrete projects and other times through endeavors that have global impacts.
Still, being an engineer isn’t easy. Around the world, engineering programs are rigorous, and in America, about a third of engineering majors switch to a more manageable degree, like English. Even those who have toiled through undergraduate programs and earned necessary certifications may not enjoy day-to-day engineering. Fortunately, it is possible to contribute to the engineering field without being an engineer ― and here’s how.
Go Into Construction or Other Technical Fields
Engineers cultivate admirable skills sets ― but those skills aren’t only applicable to engineering. In fact, many types of engineering aren’t far from technical fields, so most engineers can apply their knowledge and abilities to a more hands-on career. For example, civil engineers should be able to transition into construction or contracting work with ease; electrical engineers are essentially highly educated electricians; computer engineers can work as hardware repair professionals; and chemical engineers can work as lab techs almost anywhere. Undoubtedly, any engineer can find some technical work that makes use of his or her abilities.
What’s more, many technical fields are lacking sufficient skilled laborers. Therefore, many engineers will not experience a pay cut in their career transitions, and they will find plenty of opportunities for work.
Move Into Engineering Management
For a career transition that remains closer to the engineering field, engineers should consider moving into management. Engineering managers must have some engineering experience, as they deal directly with teams of engineers and engineering projects. However, managers rarely apply their knowledge and experience to solving engineering-related problems; instead, engineering managers function more like administrators, organizing and facilitating teams, projects, and budgets to ensure efficiency and effectiveness within an engineering firm.
Engineering managers stand to earn higher salaries than average engineers, and opportunities to climb the administrative ladder are numerous. To become an engineering manager, most engineers must return to school for a master’s degree, but it is easy to earn a reputable advanced engineering degree online.
Be Involved in Engineering Competitions
Around the world, nearly every month, there is an engineering competition taking place ― and engineers aren’t the only competitors who enter. Such competitions test a person or team’s ability to solve problems, develop technologies, follow limitations, and more.
For example, the American Institute of Steel Construction hosts a competition each year encouraging applicants to design and build bridges that fit certain parameters. The National Robotics League hosts ongoing robot combat competitions, pitting one designer’s robot against another in physical battle. More mechanical-minded individuals might prefer the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ annual design competition, which offers problem statements like delivering fresh water to unreachable locations or manufacturing a paper projectile and propelling it into the distance. Nearly anyone with a vision and drive can enter these competitions and feel like a real engineer.
Try Technical Writing
While other majors were learning the basics of grammar, engineering students were learning logarithmic equations. When many students learned the order of written arguments, engineers were building wind turbines and designing software. As outstandingly proficient at math and logic as engineers are, many can barely string a sentence together ― which means the engineering field desperately needs technical writers.
Technical writers work alongside engineers, helping them draft project reports and write research papers. Rarely do technical writers have the freedom of expression of other authors; technical writing tends to be dense and concise, but it is their job to make engineers’ ideas and findings comprehensible on the page. Because their job is so necessary, technical writers can earn relatively high salaries, and the pay is stable ― unlike other writing careers.
Get a Physics Degree
Engineering is an inherently practical field. Any research must be applicable to real-world problems, or else it is time and money wasted. For some, this need to be pragmatic is exhausting and off-putting ― and it is exactly those people who should go into physics.
The overlap between many engineering fields and physics is great, but physicists have less duty to serve humankind and greater opportunities to research and discover for the sake of knowledge. Many advanced fields in physics deal largely in theoretical math and science, but there are some fields in physics that require work alongside engineers, including at power plants, observatories, and reactors.