Studying for an engineering degree is not for the faint hearted, they are some of the most competitive courses to be accepted onto and are notorious for having some of the highest dropout rates in higher education. But every year a good proportion of Ivy Central students apply to study engineering at college and then go on to successfully complete their degrees before moving into employment.
In this article, I will help readers gain an insight into what studying engineering is like and where it can lead you.
What is engineering?
While we talk about engineering courses, and there are some more general engineering courses, what we mean is one of over 20 different specialisms within the broad description of engineering. What binds all of these different fields together is that they all involve the application of science and maths to solve problems, or to put it another way, engineers figure out how things work and find practical uses for scientific discoveries.
The most popular specialisms within the field of engineering are:
Mechanical Engineering (ME) – Probably the largest of the engineering specialisms, ME involves the design and manufacture of anything from individual components, through to whole, complex systems.
Electrical Engineering (EE) – This broad specialism covers everything to do with electricity and electronics and is one of the most recent of the engineering specialisms.
Civil Engineering – If EE is one of the most recent fields of engineering, Civil Engineering is probably the oldest. It has been behind the building of the pyramids, the water that comes out of your tap and the roads that criss-cross the world.
Computer Engineering (CE) – This specialism combines EE and computer science to develop hardware, software and hardware-software integrations
Chemical Engineering – These engineers use their engineering skills to solve problems related to the production, storage and transport of food, fuel and many other products.
Other popular engineering specialisms include Biomedical Engineering, Industrial Engineering and Aerospace Engineering.
What do you study if you choose an engineering degree?
Irrespective of which specialism you choose to follow, you can expect to do some common foundation courses. These usually include study in topics in calculus, algebra, statistics, engineering principles and a relevant science, introductory courses can be large and many students find them challenging, they are sometimes, unofficially, referred to as weeder classes, as many students drop out or change their field of study during this period.
If you get through the foundation courses you can expect to move onto courses that are more specific to your engineering specialism. Whichever specialism you are studying, you can expect a mix of lectures and lab/workshop sessions.
The application of what you are learning, into the real world is often part of the degree, this may be done through a co-op, internship or a year in industry. This time can be a big help when it comes to moving into employment at the end of the course, I have known many engineering students go onto work for the company they spent time working with during their studies.
What are your career prospects after your engineering degree?
Employment prospects for engineers are strong around the world, however, there are variations depending on the individual specialism. In the United States, employment growth for engineers, as a whole, is around 4% but, over the next ten years, industrial engineers are expected to grow by 10%, software engineers by 22% and biomedical engineers by 5%. In the United Kingdom, the most recent research on graduate outcomes showed that nearly 80% of civil engineering graduates, 70% of electrical engineers and 75% of mechanical engineers found work in the field after completing their studies.
Who should study engineering?
There is a common belief that you can spot a good engineer while they are still in childhood. They are often the child who likes taking things apart, and putting them back together again, trying to repair things or learning how a computer works. In essence, these individuals possess both a passion and an aptitude for figuring out how things work. This combination of innate ability and zeal is essential in a discipline that requires a high level of perseverance and diligence. This is of course a generalisation, there are successful engineers who come to it late, but it does have some truth behind it.
Academically, students will have studied maths, including calculus and statistics, and science to a high level. Competence in programming is a distinct advantage. Students will also need to demonstrate good communication skills, including writing, while soft skills such as team working will also help to set them apart.
What are the best colleges for engineering?
Unlike other popular degree subjects, the top universities for engineering include colleges from across the globe. According to the QS World University Rankings institutions for five different countries in their top ten.
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
2. Stanford University
3. University of Cambridge
4. ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
5. Nanyang Technological University Singapore (NTU)
6. University of Oxford
7. University of California, Berkeley
8. Imperial College London
9. National University Singapore (NUS)
10. Tsinghua University
Alternatives to engineering.
If you are interested in studying engineering but want to explore other options that might also be interested in, try having a look at the careers below:
· Computer Science
· Product Design/Industrial Design
· Engineering Management