The teenage years are always difficult. They are a time when everything is changing, when young people experience strong surges of emotion and have to adjust to lots of new responsibilities. It’s not the easiest time to have to make career decisions that will shape the rest of one’s life, but this is what many teenagers face. With little experience of living independently, they have to figure out how to prioritise things like salary, job satisfaction, travel prospects and opportunities to play a useful role in the world. Fortunately, there are a few careers that can offer all these things – engineering is one of them.
What does it take to become an engineer?
Becoming a successful engineer requires creativity, diligence and problem solving skills. In terms of formal qualifications, teenagers should be aiming to finish school with good grades in maths and physics. Chemistry is useful, especially for chemical engineering, and more “modern” qualifications such as Design and Technology can also be helpful. Practical experience working with wood, metal or engineering design software can give borderline students the edge.
Where to study
The UK has some world-class universities for engineering, from Bristol and Southampton to Nottingham, Leeds and Edinburgh. Internationally, MIT and Stanford top the league tables, while ETH Zürich, Magdeburg and the National University of Singapore are also well worth considering. Each has distinct specialties, so prospective students should investigate thoroughly and think about which areas most appeal to them before making a choice.
Working practices around the world
One of the great things about graduating in engineering is that it’s a discipline that offers many opportunities for travel. It’s relatively easy to get work visas and as each area has its own distinctive working culture, moving countries is guaranteed to provide a stimulating and educational environment. Engineering is generally a cosmopolitan profession. One thing engineering companies have in common worldwide is that they tend to offer very good rates of pay by local standards, but the richer the country, the bigger the salary, in general.
Meggitt, an engineering success story
One engineering company, which started out in Britain and has enjoyed great international success, is Meggitt. Sir Nigel Rudd of Meggitt has worked for several high profile companies in the past but was attracted to the business because he recognised its enormous potential as a worldwide supplier of parts for the aerospace, defence and energy industries. Meggitt is always taking on new staff at its various locations in Britain and abroad, and it’s the effort it invests in developing their skills that is at the heart of its success – as well as theirs.
An engineering career is never dull; it’s a profession in which people keep learning throughout life, sometimes getting right to the top in a specialist area, or sometimes moving between different areas so that they can synthesise techniques and develop innovative new solutions to the problems before them. It’s consistently rewarding, and not just financially – engineers are among the happiest people in the country when it comes to work.