Abbie Hutty talks us through her top ten misconceptions about a career in engineering, as well as the ExoMars Rover Vehicle!
1. You don’t need to get your hands dirty, or wear a hard hat on a muddy building site
Only a fraction of the roles in engineering involve site trips or factory working – most professional engineers work in offices or labs, and do their work on computers. Some may go and visit their projects on site or in manufacturing facilities once or twice a month, others more regularly, and some will never!
2. It’s a REALLY creative job
Engineers solve problems and think of new solutions to all kinds of challenges. You could help provide clean water to developing nations or build skyscrapers. You could develop green energy technology or send spacecraft to other planets. It really helps to be a creative, “outside-the-box” thinker.
You often have to sketch your ideas or make models to show your colleagues they would work. So if you love design technology - or art - and you’re good at solving problems and thinking logically too, then engineering is absolutely for you!
3. Engineers are well paid
Surveys consistently show that engineering graduates earn among the top lifetime salaries of any profession. You might not have the sky-high starting salaries of finance and law that make headlines, but you get paid a solid wage that increases progressively throughout your career. The job stability in engineering is great too.
4. Engineering is a skilled profession, like law or medicine
The word “engineer” is sometimes used to refer to people who aren’t professionally trained engineers. To become a chartered engineer (a strictly controlled, independently verified title) you need a master’s level degree or equivalent, and at least 4 years of professional experience, covering a range of roles from management to innovative design and corporate law. It’s a status to aspire to, like becoming a qualified lawyer or doctor!
5. Engineering in the UK is thriving and world leading!
Many people believe that engineering in the UK is “not what it used to be”, but advanced engineering in the UK is world leading. We design cars, advanced electronics and robotics, green energy, medical implants and prostheses, advanced communication satellites, medical scanning machines, the very latest in advanced building technologies, and much more. There are so many engineering roles in the UK that there is actually a shortage of engineers to fill them!
6. You don’t have to want to take stuff apart to be an engineer
You often hear engineers describe how they were turned on to engineering because they loved taking things apart and seeing how they worked. But that isn’t for everybody. Some people were inspired by wanting to make a difference to society, or to help improve living conditions for people in developing countries. Some were inspired by new technology, like artificial intelligence and robots, or space missions, or creating things and solving problems. So if taking a TV apart doesn’t appeal to you, that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t love being an engineer!
7. Engineers are great communicators – so it’s a really social job
Engineers sometimes get wrongly stereotyped as being nerdy and socially inept. But to be a great engineer you need to be able to communicate your ideas. A great invention is no good if you can’t explain your idea - and its value - to other people!
Also, engineering normally involves working in big teams with experts from lots of different specialisms, so you need to be able to communicate with all the people on your project. It’s a really social job: you’re always talking to new people and discussing new ideas - it’s great!
8. Professional engineers don’t fix broken things
Professional engineers are much more likely to design you a more efficient engine for your next car than to fix your current one when it breaks! The term “engineer” is widely used and in day-to-day life people see repair technicians when they visit homes and offices, so they know what these people do. But they don’t see the chartered design engineers or manufacturing engineers who create the things in the first place!
9. Engineering is inclusive, no matter your background, gender, nationality, disability
Engineering is a profession that requires logical thinking, academic ability, clear communication, and an analytical approach to problem solving. As such, it appeals to people from all backgrounds, cultures, nationalities, genders and ages. If you’re good at your job, your colleagues will respect and accept you.
If you’re from a different background, people are really interested in your opinion. You might approach problems in new ways and offer solutions that a less diverse team might not consider!
10. You can’t explain what “an engineering career” is like. It can be whatever you want it to be!
Engineering is such a broad discipline and the career opportunities are endless- you can find a role that matches your ambitions and desires. Some people want to travel; engineering jobs can take you all around the world, from rural villages in Africa to oil pipelines in Saudi Arabia or high-tech labs in China.
Some people want to have a desk job in modern offices while others want to be out in the fresh air watching their projects being built, or in a lab making things with their own hands. Some people want to help the world or work at the cutting edge of technology. All these and more are possible in engineering!