Engineering Career 101


This article is provided by Road to College 

For budding scientists, the educational path to a college degree is long and complex. It is difficult to learn all that the world has to offer in the science and technology fields as it is constant and evolving. Students interested in the physical sciences and engineering have an even more difficult time in determining if engineering is right for them.
High school programs tend to emphasize Biology (ecological and cellular/molecular biology) early in high school, and many students gain an interest in the environmental sciences, molecular biology and medicine.  While this is great for the students interested in marine science, field work, and the biological sciences, many students with strong quantitative math and science skills are exposed to the physical sciences later in the process.

With Chemistry and Physics offered later in high school, students begin to get exposure into the physical sciences; however, it takes a motivated and directed student to go to the next step in order to explore engineering. If your parents are engineers, then you are one of the lucky ones who have had early exposure to a wonderful academic and career path.  For those with less personal experience in the field, you have to take it upon yourself to explore the field more carefully. Why is engineering a field that I encourage students to explore early in high school?  Pursuing an engineering degree can develop the quantitative skills set that can benefit a graduate in the professional world, there is a need for engineers within the U.S .and having a strong engineering profile can be boost to the admissions case.

As science, technology and innovation drive global economies, the US is in a talent war to remain as a leading world-wide innovator.  Some experts are concerned that the US produces fewer engineers than its industrial competitors. The US graduates only 50,000 engineers per year whereas China produces approximately 500,000 engineers each year and India produces 250,000 engineers annually.  The concern that engineering is a field in which employment is outsourced has its merits; however, there is a tremendous need for engineers in US production facilities and for engineering managers to not only manage teams within the US but overseas in a distributed and global workplace.  Earning an engineering degree in the US can lead to many business opportunities as an employee of a company or as an entrepreneur. 

From a college admissions perspective, schools with engineering programs are looking carefully for those students who are likely to complete an engineering degree. Naturally colleges pay attention to the aptitude in Math, Physics and Chemistry, but they go beyond the grades and scores to examine if prospective engineers go beyond the curriculum to learn about the range of engineering fields. Strong activities interests in the hands on world of design, auto mechanics, computer programming or electronics are all great ways to display a budding interest in engineering.  Having the resume to support the grades and scores can really help bolster an admission case for a strong engineering sciences case. It can be an especially powerful tool for female applicants as male engineers typically outnumber female engineering students by a 2 to 1 ratio. 

If you are interested in using science and math to solve practical problems, then engineering might be the path for you. Engineers design bridges, improve fuel efficiency, design new medical equipment, develop new internet and telecommunications technology and contribute to the creation nearly all of the goods and services we consume in some way, shape or form.

In order to better understand the field of engineering and to explore the range of options within the world of engineering, here are some suggestions freshman and sophomores can learn more about these amazing academic and career paths:

1) Visit a career site and research the varying areas of engineering. The bureau of labor statistics – has a detailed website outline career paths, job duties, salaries and other pertinent information about more than 3000 occupations.  You could also go to the College Board website – to get a broad overview of the range of engineering fields.

2) Take the time to understand the range of majors within engineering: computer engineering, mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, civil engineering, etc. are different and strong math and students are often surprised by the interesting range of engineering fields offered.

3) Don’t be afraid to “tinker.” Rebuild old computers. Take apart an older radio that your parents have in the attic, pursue your finished carpentry interest or test physics principles you learned in class with a “do it yourself” kit. Creativity and a willingness to explore and engage the world around really impress admissions and can validate your interest.

4) Consider a summer exploration program in engineering. There are many programs across the country offering students a chance to explore engineering. Universities offer programs that range from 1-6 weeks in length.

5) Take Chemistry and/or Physics earlier in high school rather than later. Physics in particular is a tougher course, which is often taken senior year, if at all; however, physics is a great way to introduce students to electromagnetism, mechanics, fluids, motion and other engineering related principles.

6) Join or start an engineering related club. Whether it is the Robotics Team, Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering (WYSE), Odyssey of the Mind, the computer club or some other organization, get involved. You might enjoy it.

7) Finding an engineering internship is easier said than done, but if you can hook into a company that will let you see production lines, work within the organization or volunteer to learn through osmosis, this can be a valuable experience.

Photo courtesy of stevecadman



Author Bio:

Chuck Hughes knows exactly what it takes to get into college. A former senior admissions officer, author of What It Really Takes to Get into the Ivy League and Other Highly Selective Colleges, a former teacher and Harvard graduate, Hughes has experienced the college admissions process from all perspectives. As president of Road to College™, Inc., Hughes uses his expertise to offer personalized, affordable college preparation solutions to students and parents worldwide.

Prior to co-founding Road To College, Hughes served as a product director at, where he led Monster’s successful foray into consumer revenue products, including the multi-million dollar Monster Resume Writing Service business unit, and developed college and entry-level recruiting solutions for the MonsterCampus division. Hughes’ intricate knowledge of e-commerce and online transactions allows Road to College to provide its services online, thereby making them available to all students, regardless of geographic location.

Hughes developed his extensive admissions expertise during his five years as a senior admissions officer at the Harvard College Undergraduate Office of Admissions and Financial Aid. During his tenure, his regional territories ranged from familiar Boston all the way to Alaska. In addition he served as admissions liaison to several sports programs, including football, tennis, field hockey, ice hockey, and women’s basketball.

In addition, Hughes served as incoming freshman advisor at Harvard, living on campus and helping new students adjust to college life. He served as an academic and personal advisor to dozens of Harvard freshmen each year. This experience provided him with the chance to see how the students he admitted as a counselor succeeded once they became part of the higher education experience, thus helping him to further hone his skills in admissions selection.

Prior to his engagement at Harvard, Hughes taught math, science and language arts and coached hockey and volleyball at Catholic Memorial School in West Roxbury, MA.

Hughes’ book, What it Really Takes to Get Into the Ivy League and Other Highly Selective Colleges, published by the McGraw-Hill Companies, provides detailed insights into the world of highly selective college admissions and offers valuable tips and advice on the selective college admissions process to students, parents and counselors around the world.

Hughes earned an AB in psychology from Harvard College in 1992, and was a goaltender for the Harvard 1989 NCAA Men’s National Championship Ice Hockey Team. He earned a MA in political science from Boston College in 1995. Hughes resides in Lancaster, Massachusetts with his wife and two daughters.

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