7 Things Every Engineering Student Needs to Know

7 Things Every Engineering Student Needs to Know

Sep 29, 2016

By Jacob Beningo, DesignNews

The lesson that every engineering graduate quickly learns after graduating college is that despite being educated for years on engineering theories and practices, they are ill prepared for the real world. In order to smoothly transition into the practical, here are a few tips every engineering student should ponder.

Tip #1 – At a Minimum, Learn Python

We live in a digital world controlled by software. Software drives everything in our modern world and every engineer whether your expertise is electrical, industrial, mechanical, or sanitary should understand programming language fundamentals. There are times when something needs to be automated or test data needs to be analyzed where knowing how to write a few lines of code can make the job orders of magnitude easier. A great cross platform and easy-to-learn language is Python and a great language for those engineers looking to round out their skills in the pragmatic.

Tip #2 – Take a Business Course

Once an engineer, not always an engineer. We often start our careers on the front lines; developing, designing, programming, testing, and so on. For many engineers, their careers quickly take a turn into project management, marketing, and sometimes even running a business. The problem is that engineers aren’t taught these skills in the standard engineering curriculum. Taking a course on business or marketing can give engineers insights into how their employers businesses operate and provide the skills they need further into their careers.

Tip #3 – Get Hands-On

Hands-on, practical experience will trump theory any day. Understanding the theory for how a UART works and actually making it communicate are two totally different animals. Engineering students need to get hands-on by experimenting, developing, and playing with the technologies that they will one day be using in industry. Embedded developers can easily purchase a low-cost development kit and write code. Electrical engineers can design circuits and PCBs using freely available software and practice soldering surface mount components. Mechanical engineers can use freely available CAD software and then use a 3D printer to test their design. The possibilities are endless and make great examples to show and tell during interviews.

Tip #4 – Speak, Write, and Get Comfortable

Engineers don’t need speaking, writing, or presentation skills. Wrong! Just because engineers are designing and building things doesn’t mean they will never have to give a presentation or speech. It doesn’t mean they won’t have to write an engineering report or analysis. Speaking, writing, and presenting are all skills engineers must have to be successful so get comfortable with the idea and take a class or two if needed.

Tip #5 – Diversify Internships

The sooner an engineering student can get involved in internships, the better. Internships provide real-world experience and also allow the student to test drive an area they are interested in. Students shouldn’t just settle for a singular experience, though. If possible, try out multiple companies or work in different departments within a large company to make sure you enjoy the path you think you want to pursue. Sometimes early on there isn’t much choice, but work experience often dictates the jobs we are qualified for so starting in EMC and then trying to change to embedded software could be quite challenging.

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