From a career as a civil engineer to a career as mayor, there are hundreds of careers a graduate with an engineering degree can pursue. An undergraduate engineering education gives students many skills that easily transfer from one industry and career path to another. Skills such as critical thinking and quantitative analysis are highly marketable and always in demand with employers.
With the perennially high level of demand for graduates with an engineering degree, the largest problem facing these soon-to-be professionals is what career path they will choose from the multitude of options available to them.
To help solve this problem, we've created this Engineering Careers guide, which contains everything you need to know about choosing a career in engineering.
We have detailed occupational information on hundreds of careers applicable to an undergraduate or graduate engineering degree, including careers in engineering, as well as careers outside of engineering. We’ve included job descriptions, expected salaries, educational requirements and other pertinent information related to these careers. Not enough? We’ve outlined undergraduate and graduate engineering scholarships that you can apply for.
One of the primary benefits of pursuing an engineering degree (other than for personal or academic interest) is the skill set that is gained as a result.
Earning an undergraduate engineering degree helps students learn how to apply structured critical thought and quantitative analysis to solving practical problems. These skills are transferable to careers that may not utilize the direct application of engineering principles whatsoever.
Undergraduate engineering programs are well known for having a strong focus on projects with direct relevance to the industry and offer practical experience through work placements. This work experience makes engineering graduates highly employable in engineering careers immediately upon graduation.
The combination of gaining a thorough grounding in engineering principles and having many “soft” transferable skills such as the ability to solve problems using logic, and being able to communicate effectively, makes a Bachelor of Engineering one of the most employable degrees a student can earn.
What skills will you gain that can be applied towards a career in engineering?
An engineering education, whether undergraduate or graduate, teaches students core skills that are highly employable across many different industries, and can be applied to many different professions. Because of this, employers are always interested in recruiting engineering graduates.
The skills gained pursuing an engineering degree can be applied both to careers in engineering, as well as careers that are not directly related to engineering. These skills include:
Effective communication: Engineering students are taught how to present their ideas in a confident and professional manner. This skill applies not only to communications within the field of engineering; it applies to relations within the community as a whole.
Competence in application and practice: Engineering students learn how to properly utilize engineering techniques as well as relevant tools.
Interpersonal and team work skills: The ability to effectively function in an individual or group environment is a highly transferable employment skill that undergraduate and graduate engineering students are taught. Through practical coursework, they not only learn how to function within a team, they learn how to lead a team.
Engineering problem solving skills: Engineering students must be able to identify problems and use logic and reasoning to identify solutions. They also learn how to use objectivity when approaching the implementation of these solutions.
Skills in engineering principles: One fundamental skill that engineering students acquire is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge of engineering fundamentals. This is obviously a skill that uniquely taught to engineering students, and is uniquely applicable to careers in engineering.
Understanding professional, social and ethical responsibilities: Engineering students have an understanding of the social, ethical, environmental and professional responsibilities associated with a career as an engineer. Once engineering students become Professional Engineers (P.E.’s), they must maintain a commitment to these responsibilities.
Lifelong learning: Engineering students are taught the importance of undertaking lifelong learning, and they must possess the ability to do so. They recognize the importance of independently acquiring new knowledge and skills for their personal lives and their careers.
Engineering graduates earn a degree that provides them with a combination of in-field experience and highly transferable 'soft skills'. Because of this, they are consistently among the most heavily recruited university graduates.
Engineering graduates find themselves in demand by organizations that have a need to utilize the professional abilities an engineer can offer, as well as organizations that seek to apply the skills of the engineering graduate in a different capacity.
The types of organizations that recruit engineering graduates are not always engineering firms either; nor is it true that all who graduate with a Bachelor of Engineering degree choose to pursue careers in engineering.
The highly employable nature of an undergraduate engineering degree allows engineering graduates to select their employer based on a variety of possible criteria; such as the vision and mission of an organization; the leadership; the availability of advancement opportunities; as well as other criteria that may be important to them in an employer and in a career opportunity.
Although it may not seem like a natural fit to the untrained eye, engineering graduates may also pursue careers in the field of sales, administration, consulting and management, among others.
So what kind of employers hire engineering graduates?
The types of employers that hire engineering graduates, in the general sense, are virtually unlimited. However, in a more specific sense, the area of engineering a graduate is specialized in can be a limitation as to what type of employer they can choose to work for. For example, a software development company may not hire civil engineers, just as a mining company may not have a need for software engineers.
In a general, collective sense, graduates with a Bachelor's of Engineering Degree can choose a broad range of employers, including:
• Municipal, provincial/state and federal government agencies
• Small, medium and large-sized engineering firms
• Engineering consultancies
• Utility companies
• Transportation and logistics companies
• Vehicle, aircraft, spacecraft and munitions manufacturers
• Construction and property development companies
• Mining, oil, gas and other resource-based companies
• Software development and distribution companies
• Non-profit organizations
• Colleges and universities
Are you an Engineering student looking for a job to help you pay for school? Are you an Engineering graduate looking for an entry-level job? Search our job board for opportunities related to the skills you've obtained as an engineering student.
If you want to explore career options with your engineering degree that are outside of the engineering profession, you can look for jobs in other sectors, as the skills you've learned as an engineering student can be applied to almost any job or career path.
Success Tip: When browsing job postings, be sure to pay attention to the "Skills" section. You may notice many employers are searching for skills that you have acquired that can pertain to careers other than engineering.
• Interpersonal and team work skills
• Effective communication
• Problem solving skills
• Understanding professional, social and ethical responsibilities
What is the salary level for engineering graduates?
It’s no secret that engineering careers can be highly lucrative. Below is the average salaries reported by nearly 20,000 Ontario graduates in 2010, based on the Council of Ontario Universities' study of the 2008 graduating class.
Unfortunately, no similar surveys were found for other Canadian provinces or the United States. Not all of the graduates who responded to the survey were engineering graduates or were working in engineering careers.
$60,548 - Engineering graduate average starting salary (1)
(1) Dehaas, Josh. “The most (and least) lucrative degrees in Ontario” MacLean’s On Campus, Web. November 10, 2011.
Determining and planning your engineering career path is one of the most important projects you will undertake as an undergraduate engineering student, and it begins on the first day. To begin the engineering career planning process, you must ask yourself:
• What are my personal and academic interests?
• What are my passions?
• What are my core values?
The next step is to make a list of possible career options suited to your answers, and suited to your major. To do this, speak with your professors, the career resources staff at your school, and any other mentors you can find. They can suggest career fields and professions that will suit your needs.
If any of the careers that your professors, counselors or mentors suggest to you sound appealing, whether they are directly related to engineering or not, you should then explore details of those careers: this will help you clarify your career direction.
Exploring what it’s like to work in those fields, what you like and don’t like about those careers, will give you valuable insight into whether or not certain careers are worth pursuing. This will really help you narrow your search, and ultimately help you find a career that is not only tailored to your skills and interests, but also to your needs and preferences.
Success Tip: To explore your engineering career options in detail, try to land an internship or volunteer opportunity. Fortunately, engineering degree programs typically have a work-integrated learning field placement opportunity built into their curriculum requirements.
Below we’ve outlined a specific timeline of actions that will help you effectively make the transition from an undergraduate engineering education to your chosen career. Remember, the more proactive you are with your career planning now, the more career options you will have when you graduate.
• Create a resume, and if it seems short don't be concerned, as most first year engineering students won't have lengthy resumes at this point
• Introduce yourself to the Career Resource/Service staff at your school
• Learn about yourself, your interests, and skills by utilizing online and printed resources (ask you Career Resource/Services staff)
• Choose your engineering major by identifying those that relate to your interests and abilities
• Identify and pursue summer work and volunteer experiences that align with your engineering major
• Ensure to maintain a strong GPA, as many employers will exclude students and recent graduates with low GPA's from internships and job opportunities
• Purchase a suit or an outfit that you can wear for interviews throughout the duration of your university career
• Update your resume with any engineering career related experience you've obtained
• Join an on-campus engineering organization; this will help you network and develop interpersonal and communication skills
• Take several online career assessments
• Attend engineering and general career exploration workshops, job fairs and other career related events
• Identify and contact engineering professionals to conduct an informal interview, they will give you great first hand information regarding a day in the life of an engineer
• Research any available job shadowing or volunteer opportunities
• Plan early for engineering summer work opportunities or internships
• Pursue leadership opportunities in engineering and other professional student organizations
• Update your resume to include all engineering related work experience you've obtained during your second year and your summer
• Prepare for engineering internship interviews by attending interview workshops
• Attend engineering and general career fairs to research internships and future job opportunities
• Research graduate engineering programs and the schools that offer them
• Attend graduate engineering career fairs to make contact with program representatives
• Finalize engineering summer experience/internship plans
• Seek and attend employment skill-building workshops
• Finalize your resume and cover letters to reflect all of the engineering work experience you have gained, as well as your education
• Sign up for mock interviews with your Career Resources/Services staff
• Attend engineering and general career fairs in the geographical location you plan to live (if possible)
• Apply to graduate engineering programs if you plan on attending
• Research potential employers and job possibilities
• Pursue any networking contacts through friends, family, clubs, professors, etc.
• If you have had successful co-op or internship experiences, you may already have one or more full-time job offers from employers with whom you have already worked
Browse through our Engineering Scholarships section to find scholarships you can apply for. We have hundreds of Canadian, American and international scholarships available to students pursuing almost every undergraduate and graduate engineering major, as well as many that are open to all students in general.
Success Tip: Be sure to apply for these engineering scholarships, as millions of dollars worth of scholarships in Canada and the United States go unused every year as a result of there being too few applicants!
Visiting general, or engineering specific, career fairs is one of the best things you can do to learn about engineering careers. It is a great way to network with potential employers, as well as gain information on specific careers.