Do engineers like their jobs? 3 Deciding Factors

Do engineers like their jobs? Like every profession, some engineers do and some don’t. It depends on several important factors we’ll discuss.

These factors include:

  • Your personality
  • Why you chose the profession
  • Type of job you work in

These 3 factors apply to all types of engineering.

#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)

Not everyone has the personality to be an engineer. You need to be okay with the following:

  • Working alone as you research and solve complex problems
  • Using a lot of math to solve problems
  • Taking on public harming design responsibilities
  • Learning constantly
  • Accepting challenges that push you to your breaking point
  • Working with very smart and also socially awkward people

To top it off, many engineering positions need you to have social skills. You can’t just sit behind a desk hidden behind a computer screen.

You need to be able to speak with people. For example, explain the technical work you do in simple words to non-engineers.

Especially since companies can more easily outsource engineering jobs that don’t require communication.

This makes engineering jobs that require communication more attractive.

In short, not everyone has the personality to be an engineer. And that’s okay.

I know there are many job types I’m not a good fit for. So, I wouldn’t pursue these lines of work. And if I did pursue them, I’d be miserable.

But if you do have the right personality, 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 a profession for the wrong reasons. This is a quick way to hate your job.

You may be lucky though. The outside push you receive may align you with your passion. But if the stars don’t align, you’ll hate your life.

I always loved tech and engineering growing up. So for me, becoming an engineer was a natural choice.

But, everyone grows up differently. Here are some reasons for wrongfully entering the engineering profession:

  • Only your parents want you to be an engineer.
  • You only want to land a high-income job. From everything you’ve researched, engineering is your golden ticket.
  • You only want the status and prestige you think comes with being an engineer. You’ll self-identify with your profession to boost your self-esteem.
  • Friends and family tell you engineering has many cool jobs. This is your only insight into the profession.

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

To be a successful engineer, you need to have some level of passion for technical work.

#3 Type of engineering job you land

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

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.

I’m not talking about scoping out entry-level positions only. Entry-level positions in almost every industry suck. They involve a lot of grunt work.

In fact, you’ll probably need to go through 2 to 3 entry-level jobs until you find something you like. And this is for a profession you’re passionate about.

In the end, do your research. Maybe your ideal job is to run your very own tech company.

In this case, go visit a tech CEO. See what’s involved in being a CEO. You’ll get a lens into your future with a goal to shoot for.

Plus, you’ll gain transparency over hurdles you need to overcome. As a result, this will make enduring obstacles easier. You’ll know certain hurdles are part of the process.

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 I hear:

#1 Bad boss

A boss who doesn’t have a kind bone in their body. They blame you for everything.  Also, they never give 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 you spend years studying towards a profession.

Plus, engineering carries a lot of liability. This makes matters even worse if you’re paid low. Normally, the greater risks you take, the higher you’re paid.

To top it off, if you’re working long hours, that’ll double the hurt.

#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.

I see many people making this commute from Sacramento to San Francisco every day.

You need to pay me a pot of gold to commute 4-hours a day. No thanks!

#4 Constant travel

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

Plus, it’s mentally taxing having to go from airport to hotel and then repeat.

#5 Bureaucracy

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

#6 No upwards mobility

You hit a ceiling fast. You 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 engineering work. Rather, you’re a glorified paper pusher. You fill out form after form with no end in sight.

This is like studying years to become a chef. Then you finally become a chef at your favorite restaurant.

But, you soon find out all you do is stick ready-made meals in the microwave. 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 will drain your mind.

What makes an engineering job great?

Just flip the 7 points I made above around, on what makes an engineering job difficult.

To go one step further, let’s focus on the technical side of engineering. From a pure engineering lens, a great engineering position should include the following:

  • A lot of problem-solving
  • Creating new things
  • Not doing repetitive work
  • Not always sitting inside an office
  • Having a voice to lead new ideas

Also, doing limited paper-pushing and attending fewer meaningless meetings. It becomes tedious to complete piles of paperwork for every technical piece of work you do.

The same goes for meetings. I find most meetings pointless. A simple email would do the job of a 1-hour long phone conference.

Even more, an amazing job for me includes the following:

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

A great example is working at Space X launching cutting-edge rockets into space.

You’ll be serving high-profile clients like NASA, working to send humans into orbit. Then one day sending humans to Mars.

All the while, the entire world is watching you. How cool is that?!

Now, I get it. This type of fast pace demanding work is not for every engineer. One engineer may love this type of work, while another would hate it.

The great thing is, there are job types that fit every engineer’s personality. So again, it comes down to your personality as an engineer.

“Do engineers like their jobs?” wrap up

Like all types of work, some people will love their jobs, while others will despise their jobs.

Plus, as we age we change. Your interests will shift, and the demands of life will affect the types of jobs you want to pursue.

This is why you shouldn’t make a career choice based on what others think and say. Too many variables exist from your side alone that aren’t fixed.

That said, from all the engineers I know, most are passionate about engineering. But not all are passionate about their jobs.

If you land a job you hate, don’t beat yourself up over it. Thousands of different types of engineering jobs exist. More than likely, you can find something you like.

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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