Thinking seriously about a career in engineering?
Equipping yourself for a career in engineering needs careful calculation. There are many different engineering disciplines and you need to choose the right pathways to take you there.
If you're thinking about a career in engineering you're probably into science and technology and love solving problems. In engineering, you can work in a profession that builds a better world.
Now it's time to move forward with your career planning. Here is some useful info to help you start building your skills right now.
What skills do I need?
You'll definitely need to enjoy mathematics and science to complete an engineering degree. You also need creativity and problem solving skills - both are essential for engineers. And determination - study requires effort, but you get out what you put in.
Engineering study at university includes subjects common to several courses so you need to enjoy collaborative teamwork. You may be studying alongside students of science, physics, computer programming, bioscience, nanotechnology, architecture or many others. Working co-operatively with people from other disciplines and different perspectives is a great way to expand your view of the world and to flex your creative and innovative mind-muscles.
Different engineering professional roles require a range of skills, some common to all or most roles, while others are specialised skills required for a particular role.
Engineering professionals typically need:
- Problem solving and creativity;
- Critical thinking;
- Communication skills;
- Team work and Interpersonal skills;
- STEM skills
Building skills to succeed
Be open-minded and get involved. The more connections you make, the more you'll gain. Seek out school holiday events and work experience placements in fields involving engineering. Ask your Careers teacher for more information.
Here are some ideas you can try:
- Talk to engineers and let them know you're an aspiring engineer – finding a professional who is keen to mentor young people, especially in their profession or in the STEM skills you need to master, can be invaluable.
- Seek out local engineering companies and consultants firms in your preferred engineering area. Learn about what they do.
- There are lots of engineering and careers expos where you can learn about the jobs and employers within the engineering industries. This is a good chance to find out exactly what a particular job entails and possibly even score an opportunity for some work experience!
- Getting a chance to do some work experience with an engineering firm is a great opportunity to learn and one that should be taken with both hands if presented.
- Or you could start by taking note of the problems faced by your friends, family and yourself around the house and at school. Is there something you could build or adjust to fix that problem or make people’s lives easier? Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that can have the most impact on people’s lives. For example, you could use paper clamps to manage loose cables at a computer desk. There is no amazing technology in play there but it is the exact kind of “outside the square” thinking that an engineer requires and something you could think of and do.
- If you’re ready to tackle something a little more challenging then you can always search the internet for amateur engineering projects that you can do at home on a small budget , without the need for any university level education – Google and YouTube are great resources for this! Completing projects like this will help you when studying engineering. Even if your projects fail it’s OK. The experience is invaluable!
- Research the specific software and techniques engineers use in formatting equations, calculating costs and importing graphics in your preferred field, e.g. civil engineers require structural diagrams, electronic engineers require circuit diagrams, etc. Practice your computer skills in relevant programs to fast-track your transition to university engineering studies .
- Your school or other local schools may hold shows exhibiting STEM projects of current VCE students - a great way to get some inspiration and see what’s in store for you in VCE.
- Universities offering engineering-related courses usually hold graduate shows towards the end of the year exhibiting the work of that year’s graduating students. Many of the images on these web pages are from engineering graduate shows. Be amazed at what they produce, but remember, these students have been learning for three or more years at university, so don’t be daunted into thinking “I couldn’t do that!”
- Enter competitions or find online activities to practice your STEM skills. Try a web search for “engineering competitions”, or check out IEEE Spark activities for some nifty activities and DIY experiments you can do at home to explore different STEM fields.
Skills to build
Many of the key personal attributes engineers need can be practised during sports or part-time work, even within your friendships and social networks. Look for every chance to build your technical and interpersonal (sometimes called "soft") skills while exploring your area of interest, through your school work or hobbies.
These are skills you will use throughout any professional career, so get some practice at every opportunity. Look for ways to practise communicating your ideas in a coherent way, via:
– engineers routinely write reports, draft proposals and engage in online discussion;
– research to become acquainted with engineering lingo.
– Practice your communication skills in class presentations, group project meetings, debating, role playing, acting or game play; be open to feedback about how you got your message across.
– Consider building skills in a second language.
– Practice presenting ideas clearly using the ‘language’ of your preferred engineering discipline.
– Practice creating informative charts, graphs, presentation slides and animations; then think about how you could best explain what you are presenting.
- Engineers need to evaluate what the client is seeking. Practice when and what types of questions to ask, and your active listening, to build your skills in comprehension.
– You have to like numbers to feel at home in engineering - ability in mathematics is a core component of many engineering degrees. To build your skills in mathematics, select school subjects that best prepare you for your engineering preference at university, even if that means seeking extra help from your teachers or a tutor.
– You should practise problem solving at every opportunity - wherever you are. Step up for roles that exercise your problem solving muscles, mental as well as physical.
– Get involved in activities and competitions that stretch your creative thinking and push boundaries.
What school subjects can help?
STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) are a must - so stick with your STEM subjects right through to the end of year 12 to maximise your options for higher education and beyond:
- In 2012, it was estimated that 75% of the fastest growing occupations require STEM skills. These included occupations where STEM skills are essential, such as in Engineering (electrical, mining, mechanical), Science (agricultural, forestry, environmental, chemical and food), and Business/ ICT (systems analysts, software and applications programmers, database and systems administrators).
- In 2014, Bureau of Statistics figures showed STEM skills jobs grew at 1.5 times the rate of other jobs in recent years, with the fastest growing occupations requiring STEM qualifications including those in engineering and science.
Maths and Physics are very important, and other areas of science like Chemistry, Biology and Geology are also used in engineering. And be sure to also consider subjects that will strengthen your "soft skills" as these are also essential for engineers.
Use VCE to achieve your personal best results. While ATAR isn’t everything, you will have the widest possible choice of options if you achieve the best results you can. You will also learn about your own potential - it’s great preparation for the effort that will be expected of you at university.
Before choosing VCE subjects, do some research on your course options at different universities. Our LEAP Partner Universities websites all have a special LEAP landing page with shortcuts to their courses, entry pathways, scholarships & financial assistance, student support services and more...
If you're aiming for a specialised degree, your subject choices can be even more focused. University courses may vary, so their course guides will explain the subjects you will be studying at their uni and their course outcomes.
You should also check the VTAC publications web page, go to the Publications for Year 10 and 11 students and browse to the VICTER publication for the year you'll be applying for entry. It lists all Victorian Universities' pre-requisites for entry into their courses.
Explore options and pathways
Engineering is diverse, so you should first understand the engineering specialisations - check out our engineering > glossary to help you decide which area sounds right for you. Also check out Engineering professions snapshot - facts and figures on our Getting started page to see what employment trends are predicted.
A Bachelor of Engineering degree is a foundation skillset for your career in engineering. It gives you the formal qualification required for registration as a professional engineer - an important requirement for your future employment. Entry into engineering at university can be made directly after completing secondary school. This is termed undergraduate study. The course title will be Bachelor of Engineering with the specialisation of your choosing (e.g. Bachelor of Civil Engineering, Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering).
When researching your options, consider what flexibility is available to transfer from one discipline or course to another, in case you find you're not enjoying your first choice.
Visit Open Days
It is a good idea to visit open days held on metro and regional university campuses. Download our Open Day Calendar (PDF 79Kb) to plan your visits and our Open Day Hints and Checklist (PDF 100Kb) for tips on what to do and ask at an Open Day.
Build your skills in a LEAP activity
See the LEAP activities you can get involved in, to skill up and prepare for a career in Engineering.
Are you ready to make the leap?
Is your career blueprint ready? Then go to Making the leap for some final hints and tips to refine your plans.