Do Engineers Like Their Jobs? 3 Deciding Factors

Do engineers like their jobs? It depends on your personality, why you chose the profession, and the work you do.

These 3 factors apply to all types of engineering, which we’ll go over.

#1 Your personality fit with engineering work

thermochemical process control engineer
NREL Thermochemical Process/ Control Engineer and Research Technician work during a 48 hour Hot Test in Thermochemical User Facility Pilot Plant in the Field Test Laboratory Building (Photo Credit: Science in HD)

To succeed in engineering, you need a personality, which will be okay with the following:

  • Working alone as you research and solve complex problems
  • Using math to solve problems
  • Taking on public harming design responsibilities
  • Constantly learning
  • Accepting challenges, which push you to your breaking point
  • Working with very smart, yet introverted engineers

To top it off, to maximize your engineering career, you need to have social skills. You can’t just sit hidden behind a desk, as portrayed in movies. You need to be able to fluidly discuss projects with customers and fellow engineers.

In short, not everyone has the personality to be an engineer. And that’s okay. There are many job types I’d be a horrible fit for. But if you find the above resonates with you, you’ll fall in love with engineering.

#2 Your reasons for entering the engineering profession

aerial view of the national wind technology center
Aerial view of the National Wind Technology Center at National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Photo Credit: Science in HD)

Many people enter engineering for the wrong reasons. And this is a surefire way to hate your job.

In few instances though, you may be one of the lucky ones. The outside push you receive may align you with your passion. In my case. I always loved tech and engineering growing up. So for me, becoming an engineer was a no-brainer.

But others will find the following wrong reasons driving them to become engineers:

  • Your parents want you to be an engineer
  • Engineering is your golden ticket to a perceived high income
  • To get the status and prestige, which you think comes with being an engineer
  • Friends and family tell you engineering has cool jobs

The operative keyword for each of these wrong reasons is “only.” For example, if you only pursue engineering for a high salary, you’ll fizzle out overtime.

To be a successful engineer, YOU need to want to be an engineer. You need to have a deep-rooted interest in the subject matter.

#3 Type of engineering job you land

A bad engineering job can leave a bad taste in your mouth. In fact, it can scare you out of the entire profession.

This is why it’s important to first-hand see the job types in your profession of choice. Do this before you enter a profession. And I’m not talking about scoping out entry-level positions only. Because entry-level positions in almost every industry suck, as they involve a lot of grunt work.

Rather, screen senior type positions, to see the level you can work up to. You can then decide to work to climb the proverbial company ladder, or to start your own company. The great thing is, for both positions, you can research them online.

What makes an engineering job difficult?

From all the engineers I’ve spoken to over the years, the following are the 7 most common struggles:

#1 Bad boss

A boss who doesn’t have a kind bone in their body. They blame you for everything, while never giving you credit for the good things you do.

All the while, they want to have the final say in everything. Even when they don’t have the technical knowledge to back their words. The same applies to bad management.

#2 Low pay

If you can’t comfortably live, you’ll hate almost anything you do. Especially, after spending years studying towards a profession and having a mountain of student loan debt.

Then, throw in how engineering carries a lot of liability. Typically, the greater risks you take, the higher the pay you seek. If this wasn’t enough, you’d probably be burning the midnight oil working long hours.

#3 Long commute

This is not only mentally draining, but dangerous. No matter how much you love your job, a 4-hour total daily commute is a killer. Yet, I see many people making this commute daily, from Sacramento to San Francisco. You’d need to pay me a pot of gold, to make this daily commute. No thanks!

#4 Constant travel

Traveling from state to state or country to country can get old very fast. It’s mentally taxing as well. Especially, if you have a family at home, or you’re an introvert.

#5 Bureaucracy

Everything in a company moves like molasses. There’s a reason why many engineers prefer working at startups over large companies. Even with less pay.

#6 No upwards mobility

You hit a pay ceiling fast. You then know you’ll be stuck being the same old engineer for the next 30 years. Not only is this depressing, but it financially hurts given inflation.

#7 Limited technical work

You don’t do any technical work, rather, you’re a glorified paper pusher. This is like studying years to become a chef, and then all you do is stick ready-made meals in microwaves. You’d hate your job!

On the flip side, doing repetitive engineering work can also be a deal-breaker. Solving the same equation over and over again is mind-numbing.

What makes an engineering job great?

Just mirror the previous 7 points on what makes an engineering job difficult. Also, from a pure engineering lens, an ideal position would include a lot of the following:

  • Problem-solving
  • Creative pursuits
  • Unique projects
  • Field work in hand with office work
  • Autonomy over technical ideas

Then a level up, for super ambitious engineers, an ideal job would also include the following:

  • High stakes work
  • High profile clients
  • Tight deadlines
  • Fast-paced
  • Long hours of meaningful work

The above is perfectly encapsulated in engineering positions at SpaceX. You’ll help launch cutting-edge rockets into space, while serving high-profile clients like NASA. All the while, the entire world will watch your every move. How cool is that?!

“Do engineers like their jobs?” wrap up

Like all types of work, some people will love their jobs, while others will despise their jobs. Then as we age, interests and priorities change. This is why you should never solely make a career choice based on what others think and say.

To point out, all the engineers I know, are passionate about engineering. But, not all are passionate about their jobs. So if you land a job you hate, don’t beat yourself up over it. Thousands of different types of engineering jobs exist, which may be better fits.

Do you find most engineers like their jobs? As an engineer, what do you despise most about your job? 


Featured Image Photo Credit: Science in HD (image cropped)

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