Is engineering worth it? If you enter the profession for the right reasons, it’s well worth it. It’s interesting work without a pay ceiling.
To better explain, I’ll cover the following topics of why engineering is worth it:
- Scratch a childhood itch of curiosity and exploration
- Interesting technical work
- Challenging stimulating work
- Great pay
- Work with interesting people
- Platform to level up mentally
To preface, I know some engineers who would disagree with my points. But in the end, you get out what you put in. What I mean is, if your engineering job isn’t checking off these 6 items, then search for a new job. Or, create a job. Even more, level up to make yourself a magnet for better opportunities.
#1 Scratch a childhood itch of curiosity and exploration
If you’re a big nerd at heart, then engineering can be the most awesome escape. And I say this in the most complimentary way.
You’ll scratch a childhood itch by working on awesome engineering projects. Then, you can travel down endless rabbit holes. You can deeply explore subjects you’ve always dreamed about. At the same time, you get to use a lot of math and science. The same subjects you loved in school.
I’ve found when you have a knack for a given subject, you need to constantly feed it. Otherwise, you become agitated and your daily motivation dips. In return, you’re always clawing to find a missing piece of yourself as you feel empty inside.
BUT, if you become an engineer for the wrong reasons, you won’t even have an itch to scratch. You’ll soon become miserable, or you’ll fade out from the profession. The wrong reasons include the following:
- Fulfilling the dream of parents
- Pursuit of prestige
- Pursuit of money
- Driven by the facade of engineers created by Hollywood
If you ONLY become an engineer for any of these wrong reasons, you’ll have a crippling fate. You’ll become one of many posters on Reddit who say engineering sucks. Next thing you know, you’ll be looking for a one-way exit strategy from the profession.
I need to point out though, even the most interesting engineering job will have down periods. So, it’s important to know what different types of engineers do. Also, don’t use Hollywood movies as a barometer for the profession. Hollywood paints a distorted picture of engineers.
This now perfectly sets the stage for the remaining points.
#2 Interesting technical work
If you know enough engineers, you’ve probably heard some jobs can be downright boring. For example, your job role is to push paper around all day long or count screws. It sounds crazy, but I know an engineer who only focuses on screws in designs. And let me tell you, he’s not too fond of his everyday work.
That said, if you have an ounce of motivation inside of you, you can land an interesting job. You can do this by climbing company ranks, or switching jobs until you land a sweet gig.
After I graduated, I did a lot of low-level vanilla engineering work. I didn’t get my feet wet in design until several years later. But when the design floodgates opened, I worked on large high-budget engineering projects. The same projects I watched in awe as a kid with my dad on the Discovery Channel.
So, it was surreal to be in the thick of things now. Because it’s one thing to watch or read about a mega engineering project. But it’s a complete different animal to sink your teeth into the hairy project details. At the same time, to make project critical decisions, while endlessly learning.
#3 Challenging stimulating work
Some people are always hunting for the next big challenge. It’s the same trait that makes a few people want to travel to the Moon and climb Mount Everest.
Now, engineering won’t physically drain you like climbing the beast, Mount Everest. But, it’ll certainly stretch you mentally to your limits if you allow it to.
So depending on your level of thirst for challenges, you can find the right job for you. You can design small widgets, or work on the bleeding edge of rocket technology. Around every corner in engineering there are new problems begging for solutions.
And this is what makes engineering so amazing. There are no shortages of challenges. You can always make everything faster, stronger, more efficient, cheaper, and so on.
So you can stimulate your mind to no end, and push yourself to your absolute limits. All the while, constantly learning all types of cool new things.
#4 Great pay
Many would argue engineers are underpaid. They tell you, you hit a pay ceiling fairly quickly in your career. Once you hit the 10 year mark, you may only get a 3% raise every couple of years. And I can’t argue against this, it’s a reality for many engineers.
BUT, in most instances, the blame goes on the engineers. If you stop leveling yourself up as an engineer, you’ll never maximize your income. You’ll become an average engineer, earning an average salary.
It’s no different than the last man sitting on an NBA bench. They earn a minimum salary, while the stars in the league make the big bucks. And yes, some athletes like engineers are naturally gifted and they have an inherent edge. But, even the last man on the bench can climb the ranks through endless practice.
Now, the below table is the average starting engineering salaries based on 2013 stats. You can see how for a 4-year degree, the salaries are fairly high.
I know, some people think anything below six figures is low pay. Even when talking about entry-level pay. For perspective though, the average U.S. salary for all occupations in May of 2020 was $56,310. And this average salary isn’t for entry level workers. It includes senior level workers as well.
If that wasn’t a big enough dose of reality, let’s turn it up a notch. I know plenty of engineers who make A LOT of money. In fact, I know engineers who make well over $500k annually in a technical role. Of course, these engineers have special qualities allowing them to be highly paid. You can learn more about the attributes of these superstar engineers here.
The point is, if you’re driven, there’s no income ceiling in engineering. Block out the noise and focus on bettering yourself and constantly leveling up.
#5 Work with interesting people
Jim Rohn famously said,
“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
There’s some truth to this quote. In the engineering workplace, you’re surrounded by awesomely brilliant people. Hopefully, most of the time anyways.
And to be frank, there aren’t many places you can meet large groups of likeminded people. Even more, with some of the people being world experts in their field.
I go as far as to say, good luck trying to create a similar environment. It’d be insanely hard, unless you have a HUGE budget with a project to band people together. Think of when Elon Musk founded SpaceX. He grouped together the smartest aerospace minds.
And this is a great segue to expound on SpaceX. In SpaceX, you’re surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the engineering world. People who are pushing rocket technology to the bleeding edge. All the while, ideas and solutions are oozing out of the building walls. So, you can endlessly learn and stimulate your mind.
I find this environment with interesting people to be wildly motivating and inspiring. It keeps me on my toes, and I love how I can constantly learn to quench a part of my thirst for knowledge.
#6 Platform to level up mentally
There are certain jobs where you don’t need to flex your mind much. I’m not hating on burger flipping, but you don’t need to use much brainpower to flip a burger.
Engineering is a different beast though. With the constant high-level problem-solving, it’s the perfect medium to level yourself up.
Because engineering stimulates your mind and challenges you to your core. And yes I know, you can challenge yourself in many different ways in life. But when YOUR design puts millions of dollars on the line with lives at risk, it’s a different ballgame.
Now, as a lead engineer, you can level up the following:
- Technical skills
- Business skills
- Problem solving
Then, you can apply your newfound skills and abilities to any walk of life. More specifically, new lines of work will seem like a cakewalk. Especially, with your magnified confidence.
And this is why so many company CEOs have a background in engineering. Take notice of the following abbreviated list of high achievers:
- Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon – BS Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
- Tim Cook, CEO of Apple – BS Industrial Engineering
- Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft – BS Electrical Engineering
- Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google – BS Metallurgical Engineering
- Steve Wozniak, Co-founder of Apple – BS Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
- Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors – BS Electrical Engineering
“Is engineering worth it?” wrap up
Engineering is 100% worth it if you enter into the field for the right reasons. In fact, you can fulfill a childhood dream if you play your cards right. All the while, you can help drive humanity forward. This includes making life so much more awesome for everyone to experience.
What’s more, you can leverage your engineering work to just about any other industry. Because, engineering gives you all the entrepreneurial tools you need to succeed. And that’s powerful career flexibility, that only engineering offers.
Do you find engineering to be worth it? What makes engineering so unique compared to other professions?
SUBSCRIBE TO ENGINEER CALCS NEWSLETTER
Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2020 to help people better understand the engineering and construction industry, and to discuss various science and engineering-related topics to make people think. He has been working in the engineering and tech industry in California for over 15 years now and is a licensed professional electrical engineer, and also has various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Koosha has an extensive background in the design and specification of electrical systems with areas of expertise including power generation, transmission, distribution, instrumentation and controls, and water distribution and pumping as well as alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and storage).
Koosha is most interested in engineering innovations, the cosmos, our history and future, sports, and fitness.