How to Become an Engineer: The Requirements and Steps Explained

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Apr 2, 2020

Apr 2, 2020 • by Rebecca Smith

Are you looking to start a career as an engineer, but aren't sure where to get started?

A career in engineering can be very lucrative. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for engineers is $91,000. This is more than twice the median age for all workers. 

But, what does it take to become an engineer? Where do you begin?

Check out this guide to discover how to become an engineer. 

Figure Out the Field of Engineering You Want to Work In

Engineering is a very broad and diverse field. From robotics engineering to civil engineering to chemical engineering, there are a lot of different fields to choose from. 

To figure out the field you want to work in, you can either just choose an area that interests you or choose based on job prospects or where you can make the most money. There are about 40 types of engineering degrees to choose from, so it's very important to take your time figuring out which field interests you the most. 

Choose a School That Specializes in Your Field of Interest 

The reason it's so important to pick an engineering field is because different colleges offer different programs. Therefore, the schools which you choose to apply to will heavily depend on which field you choose. 

For example, some schools may offer robust robotics engineering programs, while others may offer a strong materials engineering program. Keep in mind, however, that the schools with the top engineering programs may be difficult to get into, so it's important to have backups. 

Apply for Internships After 1 or 2 Years in University 

Major institutions and companies with engineering departments offer internship programs.

The process by which you secure your internship will vary depending on the company you apply for. However, applying for an internship is usually very similar to applying for a job. In other words, you'll typically fill out an application, submit a resume, and arrange an interview. 

During an internship, you'll be able to gain invaluable on-the-job experience. Additionally, you may be able to receive credit for your internship and you'll also have opportunities to network with other professionals in your field. 

Choosing Your Path After College 

After graduating with an undergrad degree in engineering, you basically have two choices: you can enter the workforce as a full-time employee, or you can attend graduate school. Let's take a closer look at earning your master's degree:

Graduate School 

Depending on what field of engineering you've chosen, graduate school may be a requirement. Here are the fields where you'll likely need a minimum of a master's degree in engineering:

  • Product engineer
  • Design engineer
  • Structural engineer
  • Senior mechanical engineer
  • Construction process engineer
  • Chemical process engineer
  • Processing engineer manager
  • Senior electrical engineer
  • Senior systems engineer
  • Biomedical engineer
  • Automotive engineer
  • Aerospace engineer
  • Computer engineer
  • Materials engineer
  • Robotics engineer
  • Nuclear engineer

It's important to understand though that even if your field doesn't require you to get your master's degree, it still can be a good idea to advance your career. 

Pros and Cons of Master's Degrees 

Before you apply to a master's degree in engineering, it's very important to understand the pros and cons of these programs. Here are the top pros and cons of earning your master's. 

Pros:

  • Numerous Options: The great thing about a master's in engineering is that there are a wide variety of programs to choose from. Additionally, some universities allow you to enter their master's program with a degree in another field
  • Good Pay: While earning a master's degree in engineering won't automatically bump up your pay, it will make it easier for you to climb the career ladder and potentially earn more money 
  • More Job Opportunities: Although there are plenty of jobs available for engineers with a bachelor's degree, earning a master's can open up more career opportunities at the management level 

Cons: 

  • Higher Student Loans: Although you may be able to find some scholarships, you'll likely need to take out some loans to cover books, rent, etc. 
  • Time: Typically, earning a master's degree will mean spending two extra years in school, which means two extra years without a full-time salary 

After earning your master's degree, you may also want to look into continuing education opportunities, such as this continuing professional competency

Earn Your License 

After you earn your master's degree or bachelor's degree, you must earn your engineering license before you can begin applying for jobs. 

To earn your license, you'll need to take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. This is an 8-hour exam, and once you pass it, you can apply for licensure in your state. You may also need to take the Professional Engineer Exam in your discipline. This exam is also eight hours. 

Applying for Jobs 

Whether you've earned your bachelor's or master's degree, your professors are often a great source for finding work. Ask your favorite professor if they know of any job openings or if they have any industry connections that they can set you up with. 

If your professors can't help you find a job, you can still ask to serve as your references. 

Additionally, you can search for jobs on popular job board sites such as Indeed and Monster. 

Here are some other tips for finding a job as an engineer:

  • Do mock interviews with your professor
  • Do some background research into the company you're applying for
  • Be ready to explain why you chose to become an engineer
  • Create a resume and cover letter tailored to each job you apply for 

Follow these tips, and you'll be sure to land a job quickly. 

How to Become an Engineer: Are You Ready for Your New Career? 

Now that you know how to become an engineer, it's time to put these tips into action. Before you know it, you'll be working in the field of your choice!

Also, be sure to check back in with our blog for more career-related tips and tricks.