Five Tips for Choosing Your Engineering Specialization

Tips to Choose Your Engineering Specialization

  • Find Your Passion Through Internships
  • Consider the Specialization's Job Outlook
  • Review the Expected Salary Potential
  • Evaluate Your Own Technical Skill Sets
  • Ask for Advice from Practicing Engineers

Engineering specializations are wide-reaching, so narrowing down the branches to choose your perfect match is a tall order. All engineering disciplines involve some form of technical design and problem-solving to solve a real-world issue for safer, easier everyday life. College students are attracted to engineering for the ability to innovate, travel the world, positively impact people's lives, and claim hands-on, recession-proof work. According to Niche, engineering is ranked the United States' fifth most popular major granted to 104,762 students yearly. From there, the profession splinters into nearly 250 sub-fields though. Here we've outlined five great tips for picking the right specialization for your engineering career.

1. Find Your Passion Through Internships

Ingrained interest in an engineering specialization is essential to stay motivated through tough courses like differential equations and the job hunt. Applied learning opportunities like internships and co-operatives are the best way to experience the specialty firsthand. Take a career quiz to gauge which types of engineering jobs align with your enthusiasm. "Green" enthusiasts would be suited to environmental engineering, while gamers could be ideal for software engineering and so on. Then, head to your university's career services department to find openings in these sub-fields and give it a shot.

2. Consider the Specialization's Job Outlook

Engineering students definitely don't want to put their schooling towards a specialization that's experiencing a hiring lag. Therefore, use the Bureau of Labor Statistics database to assess which sub-fields have the sunniest prospects to shorten your future job search. Keep in mind that civil, mechanical, and industrial engineers make up nearly 66 percent of the industry's workforce. Biomedical engineering is a hot concentration poised to swell by 23.1 percent by 2024 but is relatively small with 22,100 jobs. Limited plant production is causing nuclear engineering to decline by 4 percent for 700 jobs lost.

3. Review the Expected Salary Potential

Judging engineering specializations by future pay alone isn't wise, but your earning potential is an important factor to ensure a secure livelihood later. PayScale regularly puts several engineering bachelor's majors in the top 25 on its "College Salary Report." Yet some disciplines fare better than others. For example, petroleum engineering provides a median early-career salary of $96,700 and mid-career income of $172,000. Systems engineering comes in second for an average mid-career pay at $121,000. On the other end of the spectrum, agricultural engineers and civil engineers report average salaries of $73,640 and $83,540 respectively.

4. Evaluate Your Own Technical Skill Sets

Before specializing your engineering degree, you'll have to practice self-awareness to determine whether you have the abilities and personality needed for the job's scope. For instance, students who aren't computer-savvy could still succeed in fields like chemical engineering or nuclear engineering but wouldn't cut it in IT engineering. Introverts may excel in electronics engineering or materials engineering yet fall short on the leadership duties of engineering management. Take an honest introspective look into your strengths and weaknesses when picking a niche.

5. Ask for Advice from Practicing Engineers

Selecting an engineering specialization isn't a decision that you must make alone. Schedule an appointment with your university advisor to get suggestions. If you're interning, don't be shy in inquiring about the job with supervisors or senior mentors. Ask professors during their office hours what their engineering branch is really like. They'll help you determine the types of careers available in each branch. For example, aerospace engineering jobs include satellite systems engineer, navigation systems engineer, turbomachinery aerodynamics engineer, flight test instrumentation engineer, and more.

One of the biggest benefits of engineering degrees is that your college coursework can apply to several sub-fields even if you pick the wrong specialization in school. Whenever you start loathing Sundays, getting lots of negative feedback, or losing your passion, you could transition into one of the other engineering specializations with added on-the-job training or perhaps a graduate certificate.

Related resource:

Top 25 Ranked Engineering Programs with the Best Return on Investment (ROI)