You may have thought about or read about becoming an engineer. For this reason, I’m going to go over the 9 questions you need to ask yourself to answer: “should I be an engineer?”
If you answer ‘yes’ to most of these questions with a smile, then more than likely you’ll make a great engineer. Not only that, you’ll love the work you do. Win-win!
These days, you need to carefully think over your career choice. Otherwise, you’ll invest many years and tens of thousands of dollars into a career path you hate.
Happens often, and you don’t want that.
Also, you need to choose a career path you can excel in. For example, I would hate to work in the foodservice industry. Nothing against the work, it just doesn’t fit my personality.
To that end, blindly doing anything most always leads to heartache down the road. I don’t advise anyone to treat their life as a night out in Vegas.
Given these points, we can tackle these 9 simple questions. I also wrote about what engineers do to give you a lens into the profession.
This way you can better answer the question of “should I be an engineer?”
Let’s get started now.
1) Do You Like STEM?
To answer this question, you need to first understand the acronym STEM.
What is STEM? The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. So, STEM covers a very diverse group of subjects.
Now, not all the jobs in STEM tie back to engineering directly. But all STEM subjects do tie back to engineering in some way.
In other words, if you have an interest in a STEM field, you can find something appealing in engineering to match.
For example, the subject of biology you can categorize under science. You may not instantly think of how engineering goes with biology. But, many types of engineering directly involve and impact biology.
Engineering today touches and impacts everything you see around you in some way. So, you can always find an engineering field that matches a STEM subject of your interest.
2) Do You Love Tech?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you love to have the latest gadgets?
- How often do you check and read sites like TechCrunch.com?
- Do you enjoy learning about how old and new tech works?
- Are the books you read and Youtube videos you watch somehow related to tech?
- Do many of your discussions with friends and family lead you to talk about tech? In other words, you drive your friends and family crazy with how you ramble on and on about tech.
If you answered ‘yes’ to most of these questions, then you can safely call yourself a techie.
On that note, not one day goes by that my thoughts don’t circle the future of tech. I think about artificial intelligence, robotics, space travel, and so on.
This type of interest will lead you to study on your own. You don’t need a paycheck or letter grade to motivate you. In pro sports, this type of passion creates superstars.
For example, think of all the players who play pro sports. They all were the best athletes in their high school and then college at one time
But in the NBA, these players may never even get playing time. They sit cold at the end of the bench twiddling their thumbs.
But then we have players like Lebron James who take it to another level in the NBA. Lebron spends a million dollars on his body every year. He constantly practices becoming better even as he stands on top of the NBA hill.
To that end, if you study tech subjects because you enjoy learning, you’ll level yourself up as an engineer. As a result, you’ll outperform your peers and make the work look easy.
That said, many can become engineers. But, to become a great engineer you need to constantly self-study. This desire must come from within you, not from outside.
3) Do You Think About the Future?
We’ll build the future of mankind on the back of tech one way or another, more so than today. More and more of our lives will rely on tech the deeper we go into the future.
Just think about these very basic things in your life today:
- Smart devices in your home: TV, refrigerator, doorbell, cameras, and so much more.
- Smartphones: instantly communicating with people on the other side of the globe.
- Electric cars: electric cars that drive semi-autonomously on streets and roads.
- Internet: instantly connecting to everyone around the globe through the internet. Also, having all the world’s information at your fingertips.
Do you think about these things and how we can further improve them? If yes, then you think like a great engineer. Engineers work to improve the present and create the future.
I have a deep curiosity over what the future holds. For this reason, I enjoy reading and watching science fiction material. I want to create this amazing future that I fantasize over.
If you share this level of passion for the future of mankind, then you’ll make a great engineer. You’ll have a constant itch to work to make a difference in the world.
In the same way, look no further than Elon Musk. He tackled many things that I can’t all list:
- Online payments
- Electric cars
- Internet and satellites
- Artificial intelligence
You can improve everything around you, as long as you have a vision and desire.
4) Do You Have a Strong Math Background?
Do you like math? Also, do new math concepts come easy to you without much studying? If yes, then you’ll make a great engineer.
Math makes up a very large piece of engineering as you can guess. That said, we use a lot of math in engineering. But also, understanding high-level math shows you can problem solve.
If you can’t problem-solve, then you can’t work as an engineer. You’ll either fizzle out of the profession, or you’ll do grunt work under an engineer who can problem solve.
As we learned, levels exist in all parts of life. So, you either do the problem solving or assist others as they problem-solve.
To that end, if you have great math skills, you can probably problem-solve well.
In math, you think a certain way and follow certain rules to solve problems. This way of thinking applies in the real world too.
Real-World Problem-Solving Example
Let’s go over a simple non-math example with book reading. Here you apply problem-solving tactics to better your life.
To illustrate, in most instances, the more you read the greater knowledge you can gain. As a result, you can then use this gained knowledge in many ways:
- Have better discussions
- Further your career
- Make more money
- Spark new ideas for possible businesses
- Become more well rounded as a person
On the same token, watching reality TV provides no benefits to your life. All in all, you quickly learn that you need to read more and skip over brain dead activities to better your life.
This example paints one type of problem-solving. You identify certain attributes in the things you do to get the outcome you want.
The good things you keep, and the bad you let go. I call this a life hack through problem-solving, to better your life.
It all sounds very simple, but many people have a difficult time identifying the good from the bad. Given that, their lives never improve.
In math now, problem-solving becomes more complex, but the same idea applies. Find what works, get rid of what doesn’t, and repeat.
In the same fashion, you can then carry this way of thinking over to the engineering world.
5) Do You Think Outside of the Box?
Do you test and experiment on things without directions or instructions?
If yes, then you’d make a great engineer. That said, in engineering, the higher you move up, the more problems you’ll solve with many unknowns.
In lower-level positions, you’ll do more repetitive grunt work with hand-holding. I would go as far as even saying the work doesn’t need you to hold a college degree in some instances.
If you have an ounce of drive, you’ll soon level up to more challenging work. This work includes leading a new design project or starting your own business. Regardless, you’ll constantly need to solve problems.
To emphasize, every project includes its own set of difficulties. For example, let’s look at bridges.
The design process for bridges, for the most part, remains the same. With each bridge design project though, small unique problems exist.
The bridge size, foundation, weather conditions, and so on differ from bridge to bridge. As a result, to figure out how to keep a bridge from falling, you need to have the ability to think outside of the box.
No instruction guides or teacher exists to help you when unique problems come up. You can’t blindly cheat from an older design either.
Yes, you’ll recycle past knowledge, but you’ll need to create your own design blueprint. The meat of engineering comes down to that last 1% of work that you need to do on your own.
For this reason, thinking outside of the box becomes a critical skill. Without this ability, you’ll eventually become exposed. You’ll have nowhere to hide when you find yourself on the hot seat leading a design.
6) Do You Have a Strong Work Ethic?
The ability to push through obstacles and not give up goes a long way in engineering. When I’m asked, “should I be an engineer”, I always bring up work ethic.
To explain, you’ll have moments where you’ll scratch your head in confusion for hours on end. Other times, you’ll want to bang your head against the wall in frustration.
In these instances, you won’t know what to do. You may even think to yourself that a solution doesn’t exist.
These moments can make or break your career. For this reason, you need a strong worth ethic to push through these times.
Also keep in mind, the greater role you have in a project, the more of these moments you’ll encounter. In short, you can’t work on cruise control unless you have a low-level type engineering job.
In addition, a strong work ethic will come in handy when you need to complete a project with a short deadline. Working after hours and even on weekends may become a norm for an extended period.
For example, I had a power utility client who served hundreds of large customers. As a result, they couldn’t go without power for more than 48 hours.
We had designed new equipment for a 115,000-volt to 12,000-volt substation for them. In the construction phase, we had to replace old equipment with new in less than 48 hours.
This part of the project required constant attention. We had to remain available at all hours. Keep in mind, nothing ever goes completely smoothly.
Like a Doctor on call, engineers may always stay on call too in some instances. However, your work doesn’t affect just one patient like a Doctor. But, it may affect millions of people if things go wrong.
7) Do You Have a High-Stress Tolerance?
You need to have high-stress tolerance. If you don’t, then you probably will not make a great engineer.
Or at the least, you’ll continue doing lower-level work. The higher up positions in the different types of engineering will not open for you.
To that end, I’ll go over some high-stress things you need to consider and deal with, in the engineering world:
- Public safety: your work puts the safety of the public and workers on the line. As a result, you need to take your work very seriously. A lapse in judgment could kill many people.
- Expensive equipment: you decide on the purchase of expensive million dollars plus equipment. Or, you may have the responsibility for a small component that goes inside of a $100,000,000 device. All in all, when you work with expensive equipment you need confidence.
- Project timelines: many times, projects have short deadlines. Then combine that with angry clients breathing down your throat. So, you need to work fast while still maintaining a high quality of work.
- Multiple projects: many times you may juggle numerous projects at once. So, you need to maintain your composure and organize your time for each project.
8) Do You Have Thick Skin?
Many strong and difficult to deal with personalities exist in engineering. Just like many other professions, but maybe even worse.
Most engineers have deep knowledge in a complex field. Also, they may have decades of experience behind their name. As a result, many engineers think they know everything for whatever reason.
Even worse, many engineers become stubborn in their ways. Doing the same thing over and over again for decades can do that to you. So, you may come across many rigid and obnoxious people in the engineering world.
Not to mention, many engineers operate very rationally. Given that, they may not sugar coat their words or respond to you softly. Rather, they’ll bluntly cut to the chase and in your face disagree with you.
In brief, I have no issues with this. I have no time for the formalities that do no one any good. But for many, this may come off across as a big shock.
By and large, what does this all mean? You need to have thick skin. In other words, you need to have enough confidence in your words and work.
You don’t want to allow others to walk over you and dismiss you without you giving your thoughts.
If someone disagrees with your design, but you still stand behind it, then don’t back down. Fireback and defend your position.
Never allow someone to bully you. I come across many loud engineers with decades of experience. Yet, they can’t complete a simple design if their life depended on it.
For this reason, you need to always have thick skin to not take anything to heart. Frankly, back and forth heated discussions over a design may improve the design. Also, for sure it’ll make you a better engineer. Win-win!
On the same token, don’t take failures to heart. We all make mistakes.
Above all, learn from your mistakes and move on. Every mistake becomes an opportunity to become a better engineer.
9) Do You Want a Stable Career and Maybe Even Become a Superstar?
The easiest question for most to answer. Most everyone wants a stable career with the chance of becoming a superstar.
If you work hard in engineering, you can build yourself a stable career. Also, you can make above-average income in almost every corner of the globe.
As a result, you can afford a nice house, car, and lead a comfortable life. But, a different story if you live in a high cost of living city like San Francisco. In San Francisco, you’ll need to move up the corporate ladder fast to live a comfortable life.
To point out, you can learn how to become a great engineer step by step. This way you can more efficiently climb the ranks.
To that end, if you want to level yourself up even higher than a salaried job, you can too. You can leverage your engineering background into starting your own business.
A technical background works great with any business, whether tech-related or not. In short, a technical background will allow you to analyze and tackle all sorts of problems.
With a business, the sky becomes the limit in how much money you can earn as an engineer. Then worse case, if your business fails, your backup plan to return to work as an engineer will serve you well.
Wrap up Over “Should I Be an Engineer?”
If you were able to answer most of these 9 questions with a ‘yes’, then you have your answer to “should I be an engineer?”
Engineering would fit your personality well. You’ll more than likely succeed in the profession.
Also, if you answered ‘no’ to any of the 9 questions, don’t worry. You can more than likely build the necessary traits and skills over time.
With some of these questions, you may only need greater exposure to engineering. Without the right exposure, you’ll never become the best version of yourself.
Above all, build the right foundation, and the opportunities will come. You can then level up in the engineering world.
With this in mind, people from all walks of life become engineers and successful. So, if you think engineering fits you well, then take a swing and give it a go.
Have you ever asked yourself, “should I be an engineer”? What do you think is the most important trait or quality an engineer must have?
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Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2019 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 a decade 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, and our history and future.