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What skills are MUST for a career in engineering?

What are the most important skills a student interested in going into engineering should have since now? And what about the ones we might have to develop during college?

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John’s Answer

Gloria most aspiring engineers will need at least a bachelor’s degree from an engineering school or university, and the best-paid engineers often have a master’s degree or Ph.D. in their field. Besides the proper educational background and relevant technical experience, you will need to demonstrate many so-called “soft” skills in order to advance your engineering career. For example, leadership and communication are interpersonal skills that successful engineers employ on a regular basis. Engineering is very technical and relies on concise and accurate communication between colleagues. But you will also have to communicate with people outside of the field, such as clients and sometimes the general public, who do not have a technical background. It's important that you are able to translate your specialized knowledge into terms that those within and outside your department can understand. Due to the highly technical demands, communication often proves one of the most challenging soft skills for engineers.

TEAMWORK – Engineers almost never work alone; you will work with a wide range of employees, both fellow engineers and people outside your department, to bring your projects to fruition. This is the essence of department integration and collaboration. You need to be able to work collaboratively with different types of people at every level, applying skills as varied as verbal communication and appropriate body language to goal-setting and prioritizing problems. You need the character and integrity that will induce other people to trust you and rely on you as you all work together.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL – Engineering is fundamentally about problem solving and multi-tasking, and that means finding new ways to apply existing knowledge—a truly creative process. You may be attracted to engineering because of its creative element. Projects in engineering are extraordinarily complex. They involve dozens, if not hundreds, of people. A small mistake at any point during planning, development, or construction can result in failure. A failed project not only loses money but could also injure or even kill people.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT – Frequently, engineers manage teams and must integrate with auxiliary departments while trying to meet deadlines on a budget. Because of the administrative demands required of most engineers, many of them go on to become CEOs and thought leaders. Like other professionals that need project management skills, some engineers seek a project management certification. Some companies will offer their engineers the opportunity to get certified in project management. If you seek employment as an engineer and already have a bachelor’s degree, you can often find graduate programs at low cost that help you take and pass the PMI exam.

While the skills above highlight to most important hard and soft skills required of top engineers, there are several others. If you love complexity and understanding the building blocks of innovation, many of these skills will come to you naturally.

Hope this was helpful Gloria

Thank you so much, it was really helpful! Gloria S.

Thank you Dexter for your continued support. Whether we respond to life or react to life determines how far we're gonna go in life. John Frick

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John’s Answer

Desire to solve problems! In some positions communication skills, both verbal and written are needed. Attention to details and patience, persistence and the ability to stay focus as you design or solve problems is greatly needed.
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Jerome’s Answer

Math and science are the obvious answers. However, most successful engineers will -- unless you're one of those rare individuals who's so advanced in your field that no one cares if you're completely obnoxious -- also have sufficient "soft" skills so that you can interface well with other humans as well as your computer. Make sure you can write clearly and express yourself effectively in addition to listening and documenting what you've heard.

Many employers appreciate a well-rounded individual, so if you've settled on a specific branch of interest, explore related topics in school if you can. For example, if you're going into software engineering, a basic electronics course will serve you well in understanding how that computer works from a hardware level. If you're going into mechanical or civil engineering, try to have at least a basic physics course under your belt, and so on.

Best of luck!
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David’s Answer

Hi Gloria - It depends on they type of engineering that you would like to get into. If you're not sure, choose a university that doesn't require you to commit to a particular engineering discipline your first year. Usually they will offer courses that give you an overview of all the disciplines. One caveat to this is that software engineering is often not included in an engineering program but in a computer science program.

Generally though, those who are the most successful in engineering careers are those who have an affinity towards certain areas. If you like to build things, maybe mechanical engineering. If you like computers, computer science. If you enjoy math, multiple levels of engineering would be good.
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Robyn’s Answer

So I'm still a student, but I've done 6 co-ops (totaling at 23 months of work now).
In addition to what everyone else is saying about communication and problem solving, I see a lot of people struggling to ask for help. From the perspective of a co-op student, other co-ops are often too shy or too cocky to ask for help. When you're new and starting off, full-time employees expect you to ask for help because ... how is it possible for you to know everything already? A good manager/co-worker may act like a mentor towards you and train you in multiple areas to increase your value to the company.
Another important skill to have to determine if you'd enjoy working at that company. If a full-timer tells you off for asking questions ... well sounds like bad workplace culture. A sign of a *good* company is one that asks you what you want and what areas you are interested in exploring.
TLDR: have confidence (not too much), ask questions and don't trap yourself
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Nischal’s Answer

Academically speaking, good grasp in Math's and Science is helpful in any field of engineering.
When it comes to professional engineering life, ability to listen and learn from system matter experts will take you far.
Hard work, being ethical and being consistent at your given work are some of the behavioral skill that I think are important.
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Jonathan’s Answer

I think one of the most important and often overlooked skills for Engineers is their ability to communicate ideas effectively. A lot of engineers tend to focus on the hard skills and ignore the soft skills and limits their ceiling until they start working on communication.
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Joe’s Answer

Math skills are generally the most needed for a career in Engineering. You don't necessarily need to have all the answers or be a math expert right now, but you will need a willingness and ability to learn and grow in these areas. All the other skills mentioned are super helpful as well, and are necessary for success in Engineering. However, a strong math background is necessary as a baseline to move forward in an Engineering Career.
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Vasu’s Answer

As an engineer, the generic skills needed irrespective of the Engineering discipline is Problem Solving, Team work, Math and some computer skills. Each engineering discipline requires its own set of specific skills but working on the skills mentioned above and keep improving would be very useful as you go through school and later in the career. Problem solving requires using past experience from classroom, projects or work experience. It happens naturally as you spend more time in the field and one remains diligent to keep up with the engineering discipline. Working together constructively and challenging and discussing ideas is also a skill that will help. Sometimes there are many ways to solve a problem and the first may not be the most optimal or best. Listening and gathering ideas from others and working collaboratively is needed. Almost every field requires number crunching and modeling and hence math and computer skill (not necessarily being an expert) will be very useful. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.
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