Career Insights: So you want to be an engineer, huh?

There are many paths that engineering students can choose from as part of the Elon dual-degree program. Here are some ideas for creating the most competitive portfolio for the industry including internships and extracurricular experience.

By: Rachael Rysz, assistant director of career services, Elon College, the College of Arts & Sciences 

Engineering, as an industry or major, has been a popular choice among students with strong STEM backgrounds who aspire to enter the field after earning a bachelor’s degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in engineering are growing at a baseline of 4 percent projected between 2014-24, with rates as high as 23 percent for biomedical engineers. Pretty attractive, right?

Rachael Rysz, assistant director of career services for Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences

But there is more to the field than a great starting salary and job growth. The basic premise of the field is the culmination between science and math and how that intersection is utilized to solve problems. That said, there are multiple specialties that anyone interested in engineering could pursue, and it really boils down to function area. Take a look at this recent article for a deeper dive into the difference between function areas, for reference.

At Elon, we have traditionally had a dual-degree program for engineering, which allows students to spend their first three years at Elon and then two years at an affiliated school, which results in two bachelor of science degrees.

Last year, however, Elon launched its first Bachelor of Science in Engineering program, which allows students to stay at Elon and complete their degree in four years. A major difference that students here at Elon can expect is that courses will be more structured and there are three different concentrations:

  • Bachelor of Science in Engineering – Build-your-own Concentration
  • Bachelor of Science in Engineering – Biomedical Concentration
  • Bachelor of Science in Engineering – Computing Concentration

With a little more context in mind about offerings at Elon and across the field, a question still remains. What does it take to be successful in the industry, regardless of specialty? A few major takeaways and industry highlights for anyone interested in pursuing a career in the field of engineering are as follows:

Start your internship search early. The field is highly competitive and hands-on experience is often valued as early as one can get it.

Portfolios are not just for Communication or BFA students! As I have been helping students navigate through the job and internship search, one surprising (but perhaps not so surprising) application requirement was that employers are often seeking a link to see a visual representation of the students’ work. Here’s a helpful link to showcase some examples and highlight more of what goes into a successful engineering portfolio.

Don’t undermine the power of projects. One helpful way to show an employer that you have experience without actually having an internship or job experience is to show them that you’ve been dedicated to working on something that interests you outside of the classroom. This not only shows effort but also tells someone that you can think outside the box, which is fundamental to the field of engineering.
If you feel like engineering might be the right pathway for you, I would encourage you to start researching which specific area is most interesting to you and start having conversations early with both faculty and alumni in various engineering specialties of interest.

This is one in a series of columns written by the Student Professional Development Center’s professionals who offer industry insights and career guidance.