Engineering has grown into one of the most stable career options, but how do you pick the engineer career path that’s right for you? There are well-known fields like electrical engineering, nuclear engineering, and biomedical engineering, but there are also engineers in tech like software engineers, data science engineers, and robotics engineers.
Choosing an engineering profession that piques your interest is the key to an engineer’s career development. You’ll need to consider the engineering degree programs, job market, and growth trends in your field of choice. With the right information, you’ll be on track for an exciting, creative career. Keep reading to learn how to achieve your engineer career goals.
Engineer Career Prospects: Why Is Engineering a Good Profession?
Engineering is a good profession because it’s a growing field with plenty of opportunities for exciting jobs. Engineering fundamentals are applicable to multiple fields, and with the right education, you’ll put yourself in the running for some of the highest-paying jobs out there. These jobs let you channel your creativity and explore new things every day.
Engineer Salary and Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for engineers are expected to increase by six percent by 2030. This applies to various types of jobs, including civil engineers, mechanical engineers, environmental engineers, architectural engineers, chemical engineers, and software engineers. The median annual wage for all jobs in this category is $79,840.
What Does a Typical Engineer Career Path Look Like?
Stage 1: Entry-Level Engineer
You’ll typically break into the industry as an entry-level engineer, often with the title Engineer I. This post is usually open to engineering students who are in the final year of their degree program, or to interns who have just earned their degrees and have little hands-on experience. The goal at this stage is to develop the technical skills needed to work and grow professionally.
Stage 2: Junior Engineer
After working in an entry-level position for a few years, you’ll be promoted to junior engineer, often called Engineer II. The Engineer I position is designed to get you used to working autonomously and taking direction, while Engineer II’s responsibilities scale with your experience. At this stage, you’re an active part of the engineering team.
Stage 3: Senior-Level Engineer
Senior Engineer is a mid-level career position. Due to the type and volume of work, you’ll likely stay in this senior position for quite a while. Senior engineers perform more complex job duties that are on par with the in-depth knowledge of engineering concepts they’ve cultivated in more junior positions. They’ll also frequently take on more leadership roles in projects.
Stage 4: Staff Engineer
Once you excel at a senior level and have advanced knowledge of your engineering field, you can then become a staff engineer. This is a hands-on leadership role. Staff engineers work independently on engineering tasks while also assigning work and leading teams of junior and senior engineers, helping lower-level employees troubleshoot engineering systems.
Stage 5: Engineering Manager
This is one of the highest management roles in engineering firms. It is often considered a separate track that involves more people management and less actual engineering, but this depends on your engineering specialty and the firm’s company culture. Managers are generally responsible for assessing employee and team performance, as well as project management.
Engineer Career Path: Important Milestones
As an engineer you must set some milestones for career growth. Mid- and high-level career benchmarks vary widely between fields of engineering. For example, the requirements for nuclear engineers will be very different from software engineers. The milestones below are generally applicable and will ensure a smooth start as you begin your engineering profession.
- Identifying your strengths. Engineering students will want to target the skills they need to succeed in their field and compare that to their existing strengths. Figuring out this information early will give you plenty of time to develop new skills and more extensive knowledge while studying.
- Preparing a strong resume. Your resume is the first thing people see when you enter the world of professional engineers. Don’t overlook all of the experience you gain in the classroom. Portfolio-worthy projects and practical experience in labs and workshops can make you an ideal candidate for future opportunities.
- Building connections through networking. Making connections with teachers, professionals, and peers can help you get your first job, as well as help you advance your career later. Develop a wide range of connections to help you grow your expertise and get the best employment opportunities.
- Doing internships. Never miss an opportunity to gain hands-on experience and insight into the workplace. Internships will help you develop extensive technical knowledge and understand complex concepts. You can learn about internship opportunities through online platforms, job boards, and your university.
- Landing a full-time job. Once you’ve built your resume and finished your education, it’s time to leap in your field. Apply for jobs that match your educational requirements, where you can utilize your qualifications and expertise to make a difference.
Planning Your Engineer Career Path
Like any other field, planning your engineering career path requires being honest about your knowledge, interests, and goals. With hard work, focus, and a commitment to your plan, you can land a job at one of the best companies for engineers. To set yourself up for success, keep these factors in mind as you envision your career as an engineer.
Make a Detailed Self-Assessment
You’ll want to start with an honest assessment of your personality, interests, and working style. Are you a big-picture person with project management skills or do you prefer working on a more micro-level? Do you like chemistry, or is programming more your thing? Do you want to manage client relationships? Knowing your preferences will allow you to choose the best opportunities.
Define Your Career Goals
Once you’ve picked your engineering field, you should take some time to envision your engineering career goals. Research current roles within your preferred field and find the ones that match your self-assessment. Maybe you want to aim for management or be the one making big engineering decisions for your firm. Think about your whole career trajectory, not just getting a foot in the door.
Develop a Plan
Once you know your destination, you can craft an effective plan to accomplish those goals. Identify the skills you already have and where you need to cultivate in-depth knowledge of a subject. Find the right tech company or engineering firm that matches your expertise and ultimate goals. Learn about the promotion process within those companies and set benchmarks for yourself.
Having a mentor can help you develop a clear plan and set realistic, achievable steps for getting there. Talk to your teachers, established colleagues, or a career advisor. If possible, network with professional engineers who have the jobs you hope to get one day. They have the hands-on experience and insight to help you get where they are today.
Evaluate Your Performance
Evaluating your performance is crucial for keeping tabs on your progress. Set short-term milestones and schedule frequent check-ins to make sure you’re staying on track. If you’re falling off course, make necessary adjustments to your plan. Seek out an evaluation from your mentors as well. It’s a tried and true way to improve performance and get the best results.
Popular Engineer Career Paths
|Career Path||Skills||Average Salary||Job Outlook|
|Aerospace Engineer||Physics, advanced math, computer languages, computer programming||$86,793||8%|
|Electrical Engineer||Engineering design, electrical systems management, project management, Microsoft Excel, Autodesk AutoCAD||$78,714||7%|
|Mechanical Engineer||Engineering design, Microsoft Office, AutoCAD, project management||$73,596||7%|
|Industrial Engineer||Data analysis, process improvement, lean manufacturing, Microsoft Excel||$70,880||14%|
|Biomedical Engineer||Research analysis, medical devices, clinical research, project management||$69,228||6%|
Next Steps for Aspiring Engineers
Earning a degree and securing your first job are just the beginning of your journey as an engineer. These are fields full of new developments, so you’ll need to keep up with the latest knowledge. You’ll stay sharp by working, but you can also boost your knowledge by attending conferences, going to grad school and earning engineering certificates, and getting professional certifications.
Engineer Career Path FAQ
Yes, engineering is a good career path. It offers a wide range of career opportunities to choose from, all of which have great growth potential. Engineering jobs are high-paying and job prospects are good for engineers with at least a bachelor’s degree, which means you’ll have a lot of options both within companies and with lateral advancement.
The most in-demand engineering fields are data science, robotics, alternative energy engineering, civil engineering, automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. These are fields that are constantly evolving thanks to technological advancements, which means they’re likely to keep growing in the future.
Engineering has a stable future thanks to its impacts on other fields, including healthcare, finance, and technology. As these industries grow and evolve, you can expect new opportunities for engineers. For example, robotics is integral to new medical technologies, and environmental engineers are working to combat climate change.
Yes, an engineering career path is worth it. It is a stable career path that promises steady growth and opportunities for learning and advancement. If you become an engineer, you’ll enjoy having one of the highest-paying occupations as reported by BLS, plus a job working on the cutting edge of your chosen industry.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.