Simple Guide to Engineering
This guide is meant for school leavers but may be relevant to current undergraduate students as well. Feel free to post any comments or questions here.
Who should study engineering?
If your first question is any of the following:
- Which is the highest paying engineering field?
- Which is the best engineering field to study?
- I like engineering but I hate math and I am not interested in a dynamic, ever changing environment
- I can’t even be bothered to Google the main branches of engineering so I’ll just post in the forum asking people about what is [insert] engineering subject
So, if your question is any of the above, don’t bother going into engineering. You’re much suited at something else. This may seem harsh but for yours and the futures’ sake, it is better if you don’t go into engineering.
The above aside, it is not always easy, especially for school leavers to perfectly pinpoint their interest in engineering be in mechanical, electrical etc. But if you have the following trait:
- You like taking things apart, i.e. you like to understand how things work etc
- You find solving a problem exciting and you can spend hours trying to solve a problem
- You enjoy learning, you always try to learn about new things and are always curious
- You have an interest in science based subjects, like math, physics etc
- You like getting hands on and wouldn’t mind getting your hands dirty
These are some signs that engineering might just be right for you although bear in mind there are other field of study that requires some of the same traits.
Which engineering subject should I go for?
It is usually not easy for you to be absolutely certain about what you want to do at this stage. Congratulations and good for you if you know what you want to do, so go for it.
If you don’t know, then you will have to start speaking to course consultants/seniors and look deep within yourself. Do you find mechanical parts, i.e. cars, moving parts fascinating? Do you find electronics interesting? These are some of the things you can explore.
Alternatively, after finishing school you will almost certainly have some free time at hand. Try getting work in a local small size firm, people might be willing to hire you if you don’t mind too much about the pay and would be more than happy to plunge into and get your hands dirty. I found a hint of my interest by working in a contractor firm as an errand boy during holiday.
Once you have a rough idea of which field you like, a personal suggestion is always to avoid plunging too deep into it too quickly, especially if it is a specialised field.
What you can do, is start at the core engineering courses, e.g. E&E, mechanical, civil etc as a lot of times for degree level studies, you can branch into a more specialised area once you have completed your degree.
Starting at a core subject is much better than a specialised subject as throughout your course, there is a very good chance that your interest may change, and it’s not a good idea if you’re locked into a specialised subject at this stage.
I know some may *think* they are absolutely certain that is what they want to do, but my advice is still to start with a core course. You may take a slightly longer route by starting at core course, e.g. you spend an extra year. On the other hand, if you start off with a specialised course and decide to change later, you would have wasted a lot more time and effort.
Lastly, with a core engineering course, it would be easier for you to branch into other areas, even after you have started working.
After you’ve made up your mind, go out and talk to people, especially your seniors. They may shed some new light on your decision. Also, speak to various course consultants in the university, for the sake of your money, they will try their best to help you (which is also a good reminder to speak to a few people, just like you wouldn’t trust the decision of one doctor alone, especially if you need to spend RM200,000 to follow their advice).
Frequently asked questions about engineering
I am interested in cars, buildings and robotics, what should I do?
First off, be aware that these are generic interests. A lot of people enjoy eating and food but not everyone is interested in how the food is produced etc. So keep that in mind.
Secondly, you can have more than one interest, but you can’t have more than one career at one time. Also, hold on to something or fall in everything. Think hard which is the one you want.
Oil & Gas/Nanotechnology/Renewable energy etc is really popular now and well paid, and I have some interest in it, so can I go for this?
Of course you can if that is what you like to do. However, if your decision is swayed by the amount of money you’ll make, then do so at your own peril.
Don’t forget it’ll take you four years to graduate, by that time anything could have happened and robots might have replaced all engineers out there, who knows? If you go down this route, you’ll end up with a degree in something you only have a vague interest in and no one would hire you. Good luck.
Alternatively, you might end up with something that you like and are passionate about and no one would hire you. I’m sure it’s clear which one gives you a better chance.
Should I go for Masters?
Yes, it is becoming the norm nowadays and my view is that it will become the new ‘degree’ in the future, i.e. the minimum education threshold before people employ you. Don’t forget Chindia (China and India) is churning out tonnes of competent graduates each year, you’ll need all the advantage you can get.
I like [insert] engineering course, but I heard jobs are not available nowadays?
It’s true there are jobs out there which have been replaced because of new technology etc. This applies not just in engineering but in other dynamic careers.
As long as you like what you do and are good at what you do, your skills will be sought after and you can always carry your problem solving skills into another area. The real danger is when you graduate with a course that you don’t like.
Original article by Geminist, originally posted on Low Yat Forum