Differentiating Yourself as an Engineer

The field of engineering has always been a competitive field to work in but recently with down turns in the global economy and outsourcing of engineering services to foreign companies, our field has become even more so as we compete for fewer and more specialized opportunities.So how can a young motivated engineer rise above the background noise and get the attention of employers?In my experience, there are three primary ways to turn heads; earning an advanced degree, becoming a licensed professional engineer and earning an IEEE professional certificate.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in the engineering field is quickly becoming the bare minimum to get a foot in the door with an employer.The rapid rate at which technologies are advancing is forcing engineers to continually learn new skills and adapt to volatile market conditions.Earning an advanced degree goes beyond the basics as the engineer learns the techniques necessary to stay current, innovate and tune their raw potential.Engineering students are no longer simply limited to Master of Science degrees with degrees such as Master of Engineering or Master of Business Administration being highly sought after by employers.These degrees not only get an employer’s attention but have the potential to provide access to higher level jobs and salaries that would otherwise be inaccessible.According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics, engineers with advanced degrees on average earn $200 more per week.

However, advanced degrees aren’t for everyone and luckily for us it is not the only option available.Becoming a licensed professional engineer is an outstanding way to show that you not only have book smarts but that you have the experience to back it up. Professional Engineering Licensing is overseen by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) which promotes uniformity of the licensure process across the United States.Each state board has their own requirements for licensure so it is a good idea for interested engineers to check the NCEES website for their own state.

Attaining the license involves meeting standards in education and experience such as a bachelor degree from an A.B.E.T. accredited university.After receiving the bachelor degree, the engineer takes the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam which covers basic engineering principles.The exam is closed book but a booklet of equations and constants is provided that pertains to what is needed during the exam.During the afternoon session, there is an option to continue with a general skills engineering exam or take an exam focused on a particular discipline such as electrical engineering.

Prior to taking the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam, the engineer must meet the states work experience requirement. This is usually four years or more of progressive work experience which sometimes must be performed under the supervision of a professional engineer. Once again it is wise to check your states requirements. The PE is an open book exam focused on a specific discipline of engineering that once completed allows you to work as a professional engineer.

If neither of the previous two options is appealing then perhaps an IEEE professional certificate will be more appetizing.These certificates demonstrate that the engineer has skills and knowledge that are essential for professionals working in a variety of fields.IEEE has developed a number of Professional Certificates written by engineers working in the industry which allows certified engineers to be recognized for their abilities by a third party. Earning IEEE certification credentials can enhance professional credibility, increase opportunities for career advancement and demonstrate commitment to the profession.IEEE offers a number of certification programs such as the Certified Biometrics Professional (CBP), Certified Software Development Associate (CSDA), Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP) and Wireless Communication Engineering Technologies (WCET).Each program has its own requirements based on minimum amounts of education and experience.

In highly competitive and global markets it is essential for an engineer to differentiate themselves from their peers.We’ve briefly glanced at three of the most popular options currently available to engineers.While none of these options could be deemed “the easy way”, they are a way to show that you are equipped for the challenges that face this generation of engineers.