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5 ways to prepare for an engineering degree

The engineering profession is one of the most profitable and fastest-growing career paths you can pursue today. One very important factor that ensures this is that technology has quickly become an essential part of living and surviving the world at present. From automation to machine learning, there’s an undeniable level of engineering in almost every area of our lives. In the coming decades, science and technology will continue to be at the helm of all affairs.

Engineering is one industry that incorporates several areas, allows us to improve as a human being, and offers a wide range of specialties that one can choose from. For these reasons, engineering can be a good choice for anyone looking into delving into it as a career path, as it gives you the opportunity to work within any space or specialty that you’re passionate about. The options, opportunities, and growth that engineering offers make it an enticing and exciting career path for anyone that considers it.

However, a career in engineering requires you to undertake and complete an engineering degree that can be challenging and demanding. However, it can be a viable course to study if you know the right steps to take, specifically in preparing yourself.

For students who are interested in earning engineering degrees, high school is usually a preparation for the degree, specifically with a focus on foundational subjects such as mathematics and the sciences. However, whether you’re still in high school or not, there are several steps you need to take to prepare yourself before pursuing an engineering degree. In this article, we have prepared an overview of the five major ways you can prepare yourself for an engineering degree.

1. Build your STEM knowledge

Building your science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) knowledge is very important. One reason for this is that engineering evolves from a combination of the sciences and mathematics, and it’s important to have the foundational knowledge of these already. From calculus and chemistry to physics, algebra and computer science, high school is a great time to pay attention to these core subjects so they don’t become a hindrance in college. This can also be an opportunity to truly explore your options and gauge your interest in the career. If you find it stimulating and you do well at it, it may be the indication you need that you can thrive in it when you move to the next level.

However, if it poses a deep problem and you don’t find it as stimulating as you imagined, you may want to explore other career options.

Another reason to build your STEM knowledge and participate in projects is that it is a great way to show potential colleges and universities that you are enthusiastic about this area of study. Relevant STEM extracurricular activities show initiative and improve your standing for consideration when the time comes.

STEM knowledge also helps you learn how to solve problems early as it is the basis of an engineering career. You’ll learn how to think critically, ask thought-provoking questions and explore the different perspectives of a problem at hand to solve it efficiently.

One way you can build your STEM knowledge is by participating in relevant extracurricular activities. You can do that by joining organizations such as the engineering club, physics club, math club, chemistry club, robotics team, coding club or just attending and participating in a science boot camp. These clubs may already exist around you, or you may be required to start one. The important thing to note is that you should participate in relevant activities.

In addition, ensure that you work your way towards earning a leadership position. If this is not achievable, ensure that you are a major contributor either by submitting ideas, helping to achieve goals or just organizing events.

Engineering is a career path that requires active work at all times. Participating in these extracurricular activities can improve your chances of attending a reputable college and also improve your foundational learning abilities.

Once you’ve gained the right foundational skills, knowledge and experience, you can decide to test yourself by taking part in engineering competitions. From science fairs to Olympiads, you have the opportunity to enter competitions that allow you to apply the skills and knowledge that you’ve gained over time.

Whether you win awards or not, you’ll have a chance to try out your knowledge from real-life experiences, and in the long run, that’s what matters. The most important thing to remember is that you should not pass up any opportunity to learn and improve yourself while you’re preparing for an engineering degree.

2. Volunteer and take on internship roles

Moving on from building your STEM knowledge, it’s also important that you use the knowledge and skills you gain from extracurricular involvement to acquire some real-life engineering experiences. One of the best ways of achieving this is by participating in job shadowing, volunteering and taking on internships.

A good number of students learn more about engineering during internships or other volunteer opportunities than they do in classes. While classroom activities and learning are very important, apprenticeships, internships and other real-life activities provide more insight into how to practice what you’ve been taught.

It is important to point out that internship opportunities need to be sought out early on, because these spaces are often limited and highly competitive.

There are several ways to locate these internship roles. First, you can explore your existing network. From your parents or counselors, you can ask for some engineering-related connections and opportunities that they know are available. Schools will typically have student centers and career offices that can help with the scouting process.

However, if this option isn’t available for you, you can try to find opportunities on your own. With the telephone numbers or email addresses of local companies, you can cold call possible locations to request an internship or volunteer position. This may require interviews afterward, and you should prepare for them as much as you can.

Another aspect of internships is to shadow learn from an experienced engineer that you can work with.

If all these options fail, you can still gain experience through other means. Ensure that you enroll at engineering boot camps where you can gain hands-on experiences. There, you can network with students just like you, learn from the instructors and speakers, and participate in real-life activities that you can build on once you begin your studies.

Participating in real-life engineering also helps you build your portfolio from the start. One very important aspect of getting jobs in the future is the “status” of your portfolio. While employers will want to know the level of education you have been able to garner, they are also very concerned about how you can apply it to real-life situations, and how you can be an asset to their team.

Working on real-life projects is a great way to kick-start your engineering career, even while you’re still studying for it.

One thing to always bear in mind is that engineering requires a level of real-life experience. The only way you can know you’re good at something is by trying your hand at it and evaluating your expertise. These things also heighten your acceptance chances, as your prospective college wants to know that you’re qualified enough to take on the challenge of an engineering degree.

3. Get introductory knowledge through books and podcasts

Preparing for your engineering degree means that you need to go the extra mile. From taking on STEM projects and gaining real-life experiences, you need as much knowledge as possible. Prior to gaining classroom experiences, you can read some engineering books that can help you gain introductory knowledge. Some of these include:

Invention and Evolution – Design in Nature and Engineering, by M. J. French.

To gain introductory knowledge regarding functional design, this textbook uses examples of manufactured artifacts and living organisms to demonstrate fundamental underlying principles of engineering. It’s a great recommendation for any engineering student but would be especially useful if you’re interested in manufacturing engineering.

Bebop to the Boolean Boogie: An Unconventional Guide to Electronics, by Clive Maxfield

Electronic and electrical engineering prospects will find this book handy as it provides an in-depth description of electronic systems and their designs. It’s important to get a comprehensive overview of how integrated circuits work today, and this book helps to take you through that process.

Automotive Handbook, by Robert Bosch GmbH

Particularly handy for automotive engineering students, this book provides the basic principles of automotive electrics and acts as a go-to guide throughout the entire degree.

Engineer to Win, by Carroll Smith.

One important thing to remember is that a look through the stories of other successful engineers can be an effective guide to your engineering career. Carroll Smith was a successful engineer and professional race car driver, and there’s a lot to take away from his book. If you’re interested in a mechanical engineering degree, this is a must-read for you.

Another way of learning quickly is going the auditory learning way. Thankfully, we don’t always have to read hardcover books. Podcasts and audiobooks are also a great alternative to learning about the engineering profession even before starting your degree.

You can nurture your interest by listening to engineering podcasts such as The Engineers Collective and The Engineering Student Experience Podcast. There are other podcasts and audiobooks that can be found on several platforms. The important part is ensuring that they’re from verified professionals or students like you. One way of finding these podcasts is by following the suggestions of some of the industry’s finest or of those you truly admire.

Using some of your free time to consciously learn from others who have gone ahead of you is important. This can be another way of figuring out the specific path that interests you, before getting your degree.

4. Network and build commercial awareness

The world of engineering is competitive. To thrive, you not only need to know your craft, but you should also have a network that you can rely on throughout your career. To prepare for your engineering degree, you should have several people who do similar things to what you do in your circle. Networking is important because it helps you learn quickly, and it is great for newbies in an industry such as engineering. There are a few ways that you can build this network.

Firstly, use social media to familiarize yourself with some of the best in the industry. Social media is so effective that you don’t have to know people personally before you connect with them. Following the industry giants is a way of updating yourself on the latest developments in the world of engineering, especially if you already have a niche in mind.

While you’re building your network, it’s very important to build your commercial awareness and eligibility alongside this. One of the best platforms to achieve this is on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a global social media app that helps users to build a professional network with a wide range of employers from all different areas and organizations. Building a LinkedIn profile makes networking easy as it can be both your resume and your way of connecting with potential employers. You can also use it as a platform to quickly learn about the new developments and insights in your field.

When you spend sufficient time setting up your LinkedIn profile and working on your resume, you’ll increase your chances of visibility which will help you acquire new contacts. Start by connecting with your colleagues, and then go on to those you admire and then to the relevant people in your industry. It’s possible for you to get your first job within the network you’ve built over time.

You can also join communities and platforms that are aligned with your goals as an engineering student and connect with other learners like you. A good recommendation is The Engineering Community where you can access resources, software, stories, articles, books, news and anything else you may require to take you through your engineering career. There are close-knit communities where you can get more specific resources and one-on-one conversations and mentoring about your interests.

The most important aspect is ensuring that you have a reliable network and that you’re truly learning and contributing as much as you can to it.

5. Build solid study and communication skills

Studying engineering is as complex as it can get. Engineering students spend a lot of extra hours studying while they’re also attending regular classes. It’s important that you develop healthy and reliable study habits beforehand so you can ease through the experience. One way to know if you’re ready for an engineering degree is to figure out if studying is something that you find challenging or not. If you find studying overly challenging, you may want to consider a different career path.

You must understand yourself and figure out which style of learning works best for you while working with the most effective resources. The better you get at studying, the higher your chances of success. Start learning time management and work skills beforehand as this will help you, not just during your studies, but throughout your career. This also helps you to avoid burnout and to get quality sleep.

Another important skill that you need to develop is oral and written communication. While it may be really tempting to focus on the sciences and mathematical aspects of it, you should not neglect oral and written communication. Engineers need to be able to clearly express their ideas to others in relatable terms. Engineers also do a lot of presenting, so to be an excellent presenter, you need to be a proficient writer.

Communication skills are important as throughout your career you’ll collaborate with people, both within and outside the field of engineering, and you need to make sure you communicate your needs properly through writing and speaking. While you’re developing your science and mathematics skills, ensure that you pay great attention to your English skills. Together these skills will make you into a well-rounded and highly competitive engineering prospect. If you’re not already proficient in presenting, you can take public speaking classes that will help you become more prepared.

Final thoughts

Engineering can be an exciting field, especially when you consider that there are several possibilities and disciplines within it. From chemical and mechanical engineering, to civil, software or biomedical engineering, there’s something related to your interest in this field.

There are a number of schools that offer master engineering management online. However, getting a degree in engineering requires preparation and determination throughout the process. So, you need to adequately equip yourself to take on an engineering degree at the college or university of your choice.

The best way to be successful in engineering is to start preparing early by taking the right classes and getting involved in extracurricular activities. If you’ve been considering taking your engineering skills to the next level while learning in a flexible environment, then you should consider Kettering University Online.

Abubakar is a writer and digital marketing expert. Who has founded multiple blogs and successful businesses in the fields of digital marketing, software development. A full-service digital media agency that partners with clients to boost their business outcomes.

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