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A Guide to Engineering Career Pathways

Are you interested in an engineering career? Learn all about engineering career pathways for you to explore here!

By Fellow.app  •   January 10, 2023  •   7 min read

From aerospace engineering to civil engineering, you can have a successful future in all sorts of engineering fields. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the average salary of a mechanical engineer, for example, is $97,000 as of May 2021. 

Whether you’re looking for entry-level roles or still finishing your education, you’ll likely find the below guide to engineering career pathways super useful. You’ll learn all about how to become an engineer and figure out which type of engineering is best for you.

How can I become an engineer?

If you’re considering a career in engineering, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in an engineering field. Depending on the career path that’s caught your eye, you might need a more advanced degree too. At some universities, you can apply for a program that combines your bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years. 

As you figure out your education, you should consider the four main types of engineering careers: chemical engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering. Each of these engineering types is home to all kinds of engineering career pathways. In whichever field you choose, you’ll need a deep love of figuring out – and understanding – how things work. 

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7 engineering career pathways and education requirements

Here are seven popular engineering careers and their education requirements.

1Software engineer career path

If you love technology or computer science, software engineering might be for you. This role is all about software design and development. 

Software engineers often work with a team to decide how a software platform will operate. You’ll work closely with designers and coders, which means you’ll need to know some coding yourself. 

To work in software engineering, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, computer science, or a similar degree. Organizations often prefer that candidates come to the table with hands-on coding and programming experience. 

2Systems engineer career path

Systems engineering is the creation and management of any computer system (both hardware and software). It’s often associated with a career path in information technology (IT). A common aspect of systems engineering is managing the computer systems within an organization for the smoothest experience possible. 

For this type of role, you’ll need a bachelor’s in engineering, computer science, or something related. Depending on the route you go within this career path, you might also want to look into IT certification. 

3Project engineer career path

This is the project management role of the engineering world. The project engineer oversees engineering processes and products. They’re in charge of managing the engineering team’s daily, weekly, and monthly work and tasks. In this role, you’d be responsible for three key project logistics: time, cost, and scope. 

You’ll need an engineering degree, and it helps if you get a project management certificate at a university too. If you have some internship experience or any real-world experience in managing projects at an organization, that’s also a plus. 

4Materials engineer career path

In this career path, you’ll work with all kinds of materials to create processes and products that people use every day. You’ll test materials to find the right ones for the job so that whatever you’re building works exactly as needed. This is why materials engineers often work with semiconductors, plastics, and other items that are in just about everything. You might also get to work with 3D printing as a materials engineer.

This path involves a lot of trial and error and problem-solving, so you should love the puzzle and the end results. You should have at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering, and you can get a master’s in material science and engineering to find more opportunities.  

5Computer hardware engineer career path

The computer hardware engineer tests and creates components and systems to improve computer technologies. They often work hand-in-hand with software developers to align hardware with the most recent software updates. They’ll make changes to give an organization the best possible tech experience.

It’s common for a computer hardware engineer to have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, especially computer science or computer engineering. For entry-level roles, some organizations might want real-world experience in the field too. It also doesn’t hurt to have a good grasp of software development. 

6Aerospace engineer career path 

If you’ve always wanted to take your ideas off the ground, aerospace engineering might be for you. There’s room in this field to create groundbreaking innovations and advance current inventions with new ideas or technologies. You’ll work alongside clients and other engineers to consider safety and environmental impacts before launching into design and implementation. 

You’ll likely need to decide whether you’re interested in astronautical engineering or aeronautical engineering. The former works with spacecraft, while the latter works with aircraft. For either, you’ll need a bachelor’s in aerospace engineering or a similar field such as mechanical engineering. That said, given the many hats an aerospace engineer might wear, you should know plenty about all four main types of engineering. 

7Civil engineer career path 

There are all kinds of engineers and career paths within the overarching field of civil engineering. These engineers create and develop construction solutions such as electrical systems, fire protection, and structural soundness. 

You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or a similar field to work as a civil engineer. Depending on the role and how far you want to move up the ladder, you might eventually need a master’s too. 

Engineering career pathway key components for success

Below, you’ll learn the key ingredients needed for a successful engineering career, no matter your role or path. 

1Organization

Whether you decide to work in project engineering, civil engineering, or another engineering field, you’ll need good organizational skills. You might need to project-manage a whole team or get your own ducks in a row every day. If you’re crafting something from start to finish, staying on top of your work makes oversight or human error much less likely. 

2Analysis 

There’s a lot of problem-solving when you work as an engineer, so you should enjoy the art of analysis. You should be the kind of person who’s always solving a puzzle in their mind, looking for the perfect solution at the fastest speed. You should also know how to think critically about the challenge in front of you. If you look at things from every angle and feel motivated, not discouraged, when you hit setbacks, you’re off to a great start.

3Collaboration

As an engineer, you should want to break down silos because you know that teamwork makes the dream work. You’re fully aware that success with a project, product, or process starts with people from different departments working together to make big strides. If you’re used to cross-functional collaboration and you’re inspired by the power of teamwork, then everything is within your reach. 

4Communication

Since you’ll be collaborating with different people to get your job done right, effective communication is a big ingredient in your recipe for success. After all, for engineers to design, develop, or strategize projects the right way, they have to communicate regularly with other team members. You might also have to present your ideas or findings to clients, so it’s extra important that you master your communication skills.  

5Focus

As an engineer, you should know how to focus on even the tiniest details of a project or product. It’s through these details that you can find the missing puzzle pieces needed to make a product a success. This attention to detail and ability to zoom in on a certain element can take you a long way in any engineering field. 

Find the path toward engineering success 

As you head down any engineering career pathway, you should really think about what you love doing. Look back on your past experience (or at least what you’ve liked most in school) to figure out which field is best for you. Then, as you get started with your career, make collaboration and trial and error top-tier priorities. They’re how you’ll learn how to deliver better software faster and automate your workflows. 

As you start your first job in engineering or move on to other engineering opportunities, you can ask your managers for hands-on feedback. This way, you’re always getting better at what you do. You can use Fellow’s feedback tools to get and give feedback on what’s working and what needs some adjusting. You can also use Fellow’s OKR tools to track objectives and stay on top of your growth goals. With these tools in your toolbelt, there’s no puzzle you can’t solve. 

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