Engineering 101

Girl-scientistsAccording to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, engineering is defined as the application of science and mathematics by which the properties of matter and the sources of energy in nature are made useful to people.

Sounds cool, right? But what does that really mean? What do engineers do for our society, and how do their career paths work?

It seems as if engineering is this vague, interesting concept for many people, but they aren’t necessarily sure where to start or how to take that interest to the next level.

Engineering is incredibly important not just for the manufacturing industry (although engineers are crucial to manufacturing for a number of reasons), but engineers also work in aerospace, biomedical, chemicals, construction, energy, and more– in other words, if products, facilities, or structures are necessary, an engineer will be there.

The difference between working in science and working in engineering is that engineering is more the application of abstract ideas to real life, and creatively applying scientific principles to plan, build, manage, direct, guide, or work on systems that are necessary to improve the daily lives of human beings. Engineers learn skills that are incredibly valuable, and being able to provide practical solutions to everyday problems is important in “real life’ as well as on the job. Engineers are good at managing their time, working as part of a team, and being a leader.

The skills that you develop as an engineer are incredibly valuable and highly sought after. People will turn to you to help solve problems for them. The ability to provide practical solutions to problems is crucial and will give you great confidence when faced with any challenge or obstacle. You will develop an understanding of the feasibility of a project from a financial and practical perspective. You also learn how to manage your time effectively, work as a part of a team, and develop into a true leader. These skills can be applied to any area of your life.

For example, a significant number of the workers in key management positions (such as CEOs) of large, multinational companies are mechanical engineers. This is why so many past and present presidents, leaders, and administration officials are or were engineers at one point, including General Douglas MacArthur of the U.S. Army, Edward E. Kaufman (former U.S. Senator), and even Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States. Engineers are thoughtful, detailed, and meticulous in all areas of their life.

Engineers can specialize in a variety of areas: aerospace, agricultural, biomedical, chemical, civil, and electrical are just a few of the options available to those who hope to pursue engineering careers. There are many undergraduate programs that produce great engineers, but the best school for a given person or personality is impossible to define on a ranking list. For engineers, while rankings can be important, it’s more important to find a schools united for what you want to do. Here in Nebraska, there are fantastic institutions at the community and university level that work with engineers of all levels.

Finally (and not insignificantly), it’s important to know that as an engineer, you’ll be paid among the highest paid professions in the world, along with the CEO’s, doctors, lawyers, and businessmen. You’ll have the opportunity to travel, work for multinational companies, travel overseas for conferences, or inspect their facilities.

The potential to truly enjoy this type of career is absolutely huge, and if you enjoy exploring, new experiences, and fulfilling lifestyles, engineering is a great fit for you. It’s not perfect for everyone, though. Engineers must be detailed perfectionists, committed to accuracy and precision at all costs. Time management and avoiding procrastination is important, and it’s not an option to ever slack on the job– people’s lives could be at risk. There’s high responsibility, but also a very high reward.

Want to learn more about what it’s like to be an engineer, or if you think it could be a good fit for you? Leave a comment in the section below anytime!

photo credit: Student finalists compete in scientific competition via photopin (license)