Charting Your Own Path to a Career in Engineering

Finding the right career means finding the intersection between your passions and your financial goals. The right decision, of course, is a personal one. It will change dramatically depending on what you care about, how much you value it, and what kind of financial future you want for yourself.

If you’re passionate about math and science, love challenges, are comfortable with computers, and are looking for a career that is both challenging and rewarding, then you may find yourself gravitating towards engineering. Engineering is an increasingly appealing career space for young people, and it’s not hard to see why. As technology becomes more important, and with major problems looming in our society that only engineering may be able to stop, engineers and their work are becoming more vital (and better paid).

But, of course, many different types of engineers exist — and you have a few different ways to gain the education that you need to become one. Depending on your preferences, circumstances, and goals, you may go to a brick-and-mortar university or attend school online. You may become an electrical engineer or a computer engineer. You may be helping to build bridges or to design software applications. It’s all up to you.

Gaining your education and your credentials

Engineers have important jobs, and poor engineering work can be disastrous. This is why engineers are required to have degrees in their area of expertise.

Generally speaking, you will need a bachelor’s degree to become an engineer. And your degree will not just be in engineering — you’ll have to choose a type of engineering. Your specialized engineering degree will put you on your career trajectory. You can move a little between related engineering fields, but you’ll generally want to know whether, for instance, you want to design transit tunnels or create high-tech medical devices before you choose your major.

Just as you have diverse degree options, you also have diverse university options. Which school you choose will depend on many factors, including the school’s reputation in your chosen field (again, remember how specialized engineering can be — the best school for structural engineering may not be the best choice for biomedical engineering, and so on), your budget, your schedule, and your grades in high school.

Don’t rule out going to school online — these days, you can get valuable degrees from the comfort of home. In many cases, an online electrical engineering degree program or computer engineering degree program will be every bit as prestigious as its brick-and-mortar counterpart — and may be a lot easier on your schedule and your wallet. Reputable online universities can make it a lot easier for those with jobs or children to pursue the sorts of positions that were once reserved for upper-class students whose parents paid for school. Don’t give up on your dream. You can make an engineering degree work with your schedule.

A bachelor’s degree is not necessarily a terminal degree in engineering. In fact, depending on your career goals, you may want to head back to school for a master’s degree or a doctorate. These aren’t easy degrees to earn, but they can make you a more competitive candidate for certain positions in engineering. You will want to think carefully about your goals and career plans before you head back to school; your budget (and the job market when you graduate from your undergraduate program) may play a role, too.

Engineering is a great career space. It’s also a space in which you’ll have a ton of options. So follow your passions, plan out your path carefully, and remember that you’re going to make your own way: Your journey in engineering doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

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