A career change for engineers can be a challenging transition to make. It requires having practical experience, taking stock of your transferable skills relevant to your new field, and enough persistence and confidence to get you through the uncertainty. Although engineering is versatile, you still need to fulfill these requirements to be successful in your new career.
To help with your career advancement, we’ve created this guide. As we walk you through the practical steps involved in switching careers, we will identify the factors that influence the decision to make a transition. More so, we have eased your search by providing some alternative careers for engineers to add to your shortlist.
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Career Change for Engineering: Overview
Engineers are central to the development of any society. From cargo ships to door hinges, the products of engineers play significant roles in our daily lives. Undeniably, their applicable skills are valuable in solving real problems and making life easy. Thus, engineering jobs are desirable and come with countless benefits depending on the discipline.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a six percent job growth in engineering employment between 2020 to 2030. It also reports the average salary of engineers as of May 2020 to be $83,160, much higher than the annual average for all other occupations. With that in mind, having an engineering degree might sound like a ticket to a dream career.
Regardless, people still switch careers. Beyond the significant roles and benefits, your passion and interests are what matters. While it might have been a dream at some point, new priorities, tight schedules, or frequent burnouts could influence your outlook. Whatever the reason, there is no shame in wanting to make a change and try your luck in a different profession.
What Can You Do With a Degree in Mechanical Engineering Besides Engineering?
Mechanical engineering, being the most popular discipline in engineering, has a broad scope and is relevant in various professions. With your transferable skills and expertise, you can take on the job of a consultant, coordinating research analyses and assessing business strategies for organizations. Your technical writing and problem-solving skills are most valuable.
Common Second Careers for Engineering
There are a host of non-engineering careers that only require some additional professional training. With your current level of education, you can become a project manager, patent attorney, technical writer, banker, realtor, professor, or landscape designer. All you need to do is ensure you satisfy any specific requirements for that role.
The Best Alternative Careers for Engineering in 2022
The table below highlights alternative careers for engineers, from the tech industry to business administration to academia. By examining the responsibilities of each position, you can identify the transferable skills that you already possess to succeed in your new role, as well as understand its full scope.
High-Paying Jobs for Former Engineers
|Job||Average Salary||Transferable Engineering Skills|
|Patent Attorney||$143,652||Attention to detail, communication, critical thinking, analytical skills|
|Software Architect||$126,574||Computer science, creativity, research, project management, teamwork, attention to detail, communication skills|
|Artificial Intelligence (AI) Specialist||$124,947||Data modeling, math, problem-solving, project management, computer science, communication|
|Data Scientist||$96,976||Data modeling, data analysis, numerical skills, research, communication, problem-solving, computer science|
|Engineering Professor||$89,167||Communication, time management, public speaking, presentation, educational commitment|
|Supply Chain Manager||$84,163||Negotiation, leadership, project management, organization, teamwork, communication|
|Consultant||$75,863||Communication, leadership, critical thinking, teamwork, pressure management, creativity, analytical skills.|
|Technical Writer||$61,455||Communication (written or oral), proofreading, research, critical thinking, single sourcing|
|Web Developer||$60,328||Computer science, communication, problem-solving, attention to detail, creativity, numerical skills|
|Graphic Designer||$46,894||Creativity, communication, pressure management, attention to detail|
Patent attorneys provide legal advice and draft patents that adhere to stipulated protocols. They ensure that the intellectual properties of an organization are protected from infringement. A career switch from engineering would require writing a series of exams and gaining licenses to practice. With critical attention to detail and excellent analytical skills, you can become a patent attorney.
Software architects are responsible for building software, user interfaces, and computer programs. They provide technological solutions by coding programs and modeling structured software designs. Knowledge of computer science and programming is essential for this position, as well as skills in creativity, project management, and precision. This position may require additional technical training.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) Specialist
AI specialists develop computer programs capable of simulating human cognitive abilities. These programs gather data over an extended period, make decisions, and take action without human aid. Proficiency in data science and machine learning is central to succeeding in this field. You can enroll in an AI bootcamp, which is a suitable replacement for an advanced degree.
Every organization requires data to generate leads for its operations. Data scientists collect and process data to gain actionable insights. With expertise from an engineering career, you will apply statistical analysis and data modeling knowledge to provide technical solutions. You’ll also need good research abilities to find useful data and effective communication skills.
With their extensive knowledge of a subject, professors teach college students and prepare them for their desired careers. You will need advanced degrees to qualify. In addition, your role as a professor demands frequent interaction with people so you should possess good interpersonal skills.
Supply Chain Manager
Supply chain managers oversee and coordinate business processes. They also manage resources, supervise logistics, and update inventories. Engineers switching to this field should ensure they have good knowledge of business administration and economics. Interpersonal skills, including leadership, negotiation, and organization will help with fostering customer relationships.
Consultants are expert advisers that provide solutions and recommendations to organizations. An excellent consultant should have good analytical and critical thinking skills. Professional training in business management will be useful in this collaborative role. With a background in engineering, you can provide expert opinions that will improve business operations and prevent problems.
Technical writers write instructional manuals and articles and prepare official reports in basic language. Their duties are mainly dependent on their communication skills and background in a technical field like engineering. Additional training is unnecessary since you already have the required technical skill and knowledge.
Web developers build websites for organizations and individuals. They apply programming skills in conjunction with a host of soft skills to perform their duties. While your engineering degree might not be sufficient, you can attend a coding bootcamp to improve your skillset. Proficiency in HTML, CSS, and Python will ensure you land high-paying clients in your new career.
Graphic designers use illustrations, fonts, and colors to create impressive designs to communicate an idea or message visually. They are relevant in every industry and contribute largely to the marketing operations of any organization. To be successful as a graphic designer, you need to gain mastery of Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Indesign.
How to Make a Career Change from Engineering
Taking the huge step of a career transition can be challenging. It brings uncertainty and fear, especially if you don’t know how to go about it. With the following steps, you can identify clear pathways to new careers that will ensure you set off on the right foot.
1. Consider your interests and passion
Identify the things you love and enjoy doing. You can take stock of the activities in your current role as an engineer to evaluate what you are most passionate about. By assessing your personal experience from your entire career history, you will have clarity on where your passion lies.
2. Do your research
Conduct research on various career options considering the work schedules, salaries, benefits, and responsibilities. Ensure these parameters align with your interests and goals. Identify the required qualifications and look out for any opportunities for career advancements in that field. You want to make sure most boxes are ticked on your interests checklist.
3. Match your skills and qualifications
Based on your research, identify if you qualify for your desired role. You are likely to need more experience, so it is wise to consider doing an internship, enrolling in a bootcamp, or taking online courses to hone your skills. You can also seek career advice from a professional in your desired field to enlighten you on the in-demand skills from an insider’s perspective.
4. Make your decision
With all the information you need, it should be easy to select a career that fits your interests and aligns with your skills. While evaluating your shortlist, you can consider the work schedules to be sure of having a good work-life balance. Your decision largely depends on how well you conduct your research and what careers appeal to you the most.
5. Begin your application
Go ahead and apply for jobs on company websites and job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn. You can also attend job fairs that allow you to network with employers in a casual environment to increase your chances.
In addition, tailor your resume to fit the requirements in the job listing and ensure to attach an effective cover letter as well. Your cover letter should explain why you are changing careers and present you as a strong candidate for the position.
Is It Time to Make an Engineering Career Change?
Yes, if you feel like you’ve outgrown your current position and feel pulled towards trying something new, this is the perfect time to make an engineering career change. If change is what you need, then you should embrace it with all you’ve got.
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There might be a lot of uncertainty involved, but with the help of the steps listed above, plus the career options we mentioned earlier, you’re off to a great start to make the most of this career transition. With all the information you need at your fingertips, there is no better time to take action than now.
Engineering Career Change FAQ
Fresh challenges, professional growth, career advancement, better rewards, new priorities, and change of interests all count as valid reasons for a career change. More so, tight work schedules that induce regular burnouts and don’t allow for a positive work-life balance are enough to consider switching careers.
In most cases, your current training will be sufficient. Since engineering is versatile, there are many transferable skills that will qualify you for the new career. However, to increase your chances of landing great jobs, you should consider registering for a bootcamp and getting relevant certifications.
Identify your interest and sources of motivation. Afterward, conduct research on various career options considering their prospects, opportunities, and benefits. Check if you have the relevant skills and get the necessary qualifications. After you have decided, update your resume and proceed to apply for jobs from company websites, job fairs, and job boards.
No matter the age, it is never too late. Mid-career changes are often difficult, considering the amount of experience you have garnered over the years. However, you can be sure that your experience is enough to qualify you for the new career. If you have the passion and belief in yourself and follow the proper procedure, you can switch careers at 40 and be successful at it.
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