It’s your senior year in high school, and you’re trying to decide what to do with the rest of your life. You know the next step is college, but what should you major in? When I was 18, I wanted to be a pediatrician, but also knew that medical school was expensive and competitive to get into. So, I asked my dad what I should major in that would pay decent, and would allow me to easily find a job when I graduated. He told me Mechanical Engineering. To some, engineering does not sound like an option because it seems limiting. Want understand how UNlimiting an engineering degree is? See my post “Why Major in Engineering?”. In the post I recall a conversation I had with a friend about staying with her current major. My conversation got me thinking about other great reasons to major in engineering!
1. There is a great variety of engineering degrees. The three most engineering degrees people think of are mechanical, electrical, and chemical, but you might be surprised to learn how many degrees there are in engineering. Some of them include:
- Aerospace Engineering
- Computer Engineering
- Manufacturing Engineering
- Architectural Engineering
- Computer Science Engineering
- Materials Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Chemical Engineering
- Environmental Engineering
- Nuclear Engineering
- Civil Engineering
- Industrial Engineering
- Software Engineering
- Ceramic Engineering
- Metallurgical Engineering
- Petroleum Engineering
- Many other, more specialized engineering majors
To learn more about each degree, visit TryEngineering.org.
2. Job opportunities. When I graduated from college, I had 5 job offers in hand, during a slow economy. Then when I reentered the workforce after having my first child in 2010, it took me two months to find a job. I can tell you many stories where, even in a slow economy, engineering majors are able to find great paying jobs in a relatively short amount of time. Why is this? Supply and demand. With the advancement of technology (and our love of a new version of everything every month), technical degrees are in high demand. On the other side, there are not enough engineers graduating every year to fill the demand. So, even when the economy is slow, engineering majors are able to find jobs because companies are trying to fill gaps that have been in their company for months.
3. Career opportunities. In my post “Why Major in Engineering“, I told you about my friends and husband who have moved on from engineering into various different types of careers. This is not to say they left engineering because they did not enjoy the work, but that a engineering degree leads to a variety of other careers that do no have specific undergraduate degrees (for example project management). A degree is Engineering can also lead to management positions. According to BusinessInsider.com, “33% of the S&P 500 CEOs’ undergraduate degrees are in engineering and only 11% are in business administration.”. I don’t think most people realize that a undergraduate degree in engineering is more likely to lead you to senior management than a undergraduate degree in business.
4. Entrepreneurship! According to an article by Inc.com, advanced engineering degrees are three
times more likely to be CEOs and founders than MBA graduates. When comparing company leaders with only an undergrad education, “the number with degrees in business and engineering was about evenly split.”
5. Paid internships and co-ops. College is expensive, even with scholarships and working a part time job, most students struggle to keep afloat. While most majors provide internship opportunities, many of these are not paid! The internships are just provided as an opportunity to put something on your resume. This is not true for engineering degrees. While I had scholarships and some money from my parents, I realized after my third semester that the money was running out. So I applied for an internship as a 19 year old college student, and started making $15/hr! While the internship gave me great experience, it was only two months long, and I needed more funds to finish up my degree. This is when I decided to join the co-op program at my school, and spent three semesters working in two different locations for a more defense contractor. The paid internships and co-ops allowed me to not work during the semesters I went to school, and to start my career with no debt and a few dollars in the bank.
6. Lower requirements for graduate programs. While I have not pursued an advanced degree, before I started college I thought I would be a doctor. So my parents and I took a couple of trips to medical schools to understand what I would need to be accepted after college. When I told them I was considering a major in engineering, they highly recommended it. They told me that the GPA and GMAT requirements were often lower for engineering majors. They told me the reason for lower requirements is because admissions at the school knew the rigorous engineering course work would prepare me for medical school. Also, the problem solving skills learned from an engineering degree would teach me the way doctors approach a diagnosis, and, so, I would not have to be taught how to think. This didn’t make much sense to me at 18, but now, understanding how engineers are taught to think, it makes perfect sense! So I was not surprised to learn that my kids’ pediatrician was first an electrical engineer, and after about 5 years he decided to go to medical school.
7. Great Starting Salaries! Not that it should be the primary reason you base the decision on what you want to do with your life, but engineers do have the highest college graduate starting salaries, which is great for starting off life, and paying off loans!
According to an article by Think Advisor, below are the highest 10 engineering degree starting salaries:
1. Petroleum Engineering:$102,300
2. Chemical Engineering: $69,600
3. Computer Engineering: $67,300
4. Nuclear Engineering: $67,000
5. Computer Science and Engineering: $66,700
6. Electrical and Computer Engineering: $66,500
7. Electrical Engineering: $65,900
8. Aerospace Engineering: $64,700
9. Electronics and Communications Engineering: $64,100
10. Material Science and Engineering: $64,000
Though I left the engineering field, I am still very glad I chose an engineering degree. It changed how I approach problems, and gave me more opportunities than I could have imagined. If you are not sure what you want to be when you grow up (like most of us), I would encourage you to pursue engineering. You never know what doors it will open!