Insights for technology professionals

Why You Should Be an Engineering Major

Posted on July 1, 2013 by Nick Trompert

For many years, college has been seen as the path to a brighter future. That mantra still applies, but since the onset of the recent recession, it comes with more qualifiers. According to the College Board, students attending public schools are typically leaving college with over $20,000 in debt. Those who choose to splurge on a private college are stuck with over $40,000 to pay back. If those numbers seem hard to wrap your head around before graduation, they’ll seem especially staggering when you start getting the bills.

College debt is a very big issue that should be taken into consideration when you’re planning your future, but it doesn’t need to be a deterrent for getting a college education. Even though the job market for graduates is competitive, it’s still better for those with a college education than it is for those without. You can increase your odds considerably by thinking carefully about the decisions you make in college that will help you find profitable work once you finish.

One of the most important decisions you make in college is what to study. You want to do your best to choose something you’ll stick with, to avoid changing majors later. A recent survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) offers a useful glimpse into the likely earning power attached to several major degree areas. The winning degree, in terms of profitability: engineering.

With a starting average salary of $62,535, engineering majors are in a good position to get out of debt quickly and earn a comfortable income. In some areas of engineering, the starting salary jumps even higher – petroleum engineering majors start at $93,500.

The reasonable question likely to occur to discerning minds at this point is: why does a starting salary matter? We’ve all heard our share of scary stories about the job market and the special challenges facing recent graduates. According to a number of employers, jobs for engineers definitely are available. At a recent college job fair, talent scouts from several companies, as varied as Google and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, all shared their views on the value of an engineering degree. Each of them expressed a need for engineering majors at their company.

With the baseline practical concerns of jobs and money covered, you also need to take into consideration what you’re good at. Engineering is a broad subject area with a wide range of specialties. Based on your aptitudes and interests, and hopefully with the help of an academic mentor or two along the way, hone in on the area that’s right for you. This could be working with chemicals, helping to build bridges, improving our knowledge of electronics, or any number of other common specialties.

As an important component of that last step, consider what you care about. Engineers have the ability to do innovative, meaningful work. Engineers played a role in how

powerful and compact much of our everyday technology now is. They are working to develop solutions to environmental problems. Some are responsible for helping plan and build our transportation infrastructure. With a background in engineering, you could find yourself involved with the next great technological innovation of our time, or be the person who helps solve a nagging problem people regularly experience.

In spite of the many compelling reasons to consider engineering, you do want to be sure an engineering major matches your skill set and aptitudes. Certainly, doing your research to understand the best choices you can make now to ensure your degree pays off later is important. That said your choice shouldn’t be entirely dependent on the numbers. If you start out studying engineering and end up switching majors later, you risk wasting time and money. Talent 101 works with several colleges and universities that have programs designed to help students define which major are the right choice.

For many college students, an engineering degree is a smart choice that will lead to fulfilling, profitable work after college.

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Topics: Today's Labor Market, Education and Training

Nick Trompert

Nick Trompert is Talent 101’s Marketing Manager. He is responsible for connecting with the best engineering and information technology talent and resources in the world. He is one of the founders of Talent 101 and joined full time after college. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Marketing from Tabor College.