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It Takes How Long!

It Takes How Long!

Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 60) – All IMHO:

How long does it really take to become an Engineer? 

I have recently been helping some engineering graduates navigate their way into full time employment as Engineers in Training (EIT’s). After 4 years of engineering study at some prestigious universities, the graduates seem, lets say, confused about the next steps.

So for any others that may be reading my ramblings I want to give you the “straight goods” on the journey to being a Licensed Professional Engineer in North America.

However before we get into it, lets acknowledge why a graduate may be confused about the next steps:

  1. It is in the universities interest to suggest, you will be earning $70K to $90k on graduation. Universities are a business and charge obscene amounts of money for your education. They need to justify it somehow. 
  2. The real journey to being an Engineer takes 9 years! If they tell you that up front maybe you might chose another profession?
  3. An engineering degree is a great academic accomplishment but is really a ticket to start your training as an EIT, you have qualified to be trained further. Again, universities and colleges do not like to scare you off with realities like this. 

From an employers perspective, a graduate with an engineering degree is 100% potential but of little practical value until they have further on the job training. 

There many routes (full or part time study) but there is no shortcut to becoming a trained, qualified, Licensed Professional Engineer. Typically, it consists of:

  1. Completing a 4 year engineering degree
  2. Training under experienced and licensed Engineers for 4 to 5 more years 
  3. Passing professional licensing exams 

No amount of big thinking or academic study can get you beyond the the skills you do not have. Engineering requires applied training as well as academic study. The old apprentice systems recognized this with hands on training and learning by repetition. This still applies today. To put this in formula format:

Academic Study (4 years) + Training as EIT (5 years) + Experience under wise “Obi Wan” mentor + Licensing exams = Qualified, Licensed Professional Engineer. 

What does a successful Engineering career look like or how long before you get the recognition and big $’s? 

  • 4 years Academic training = Graduate 

    • Can be part time study but will take longer
  • 4-5 years EIT = Ready to sit Licensing exams

    • Training under experienced, senior Engineers
    • Learning by repetition and experience
    • Developing soft skills
    • Learning legal and duty of care requirements 
    • Single discipline e.g. electrical, mechanical, civil etc….
  • Year 9 pass licensing exams = Licensed Professional Engineer (27 years old best case scenario)

You are now qualified, hopefully competent and valuable to an employer. Your salary should now reflect this value. However the good thing, IMHO, about engineering, particularly with regards to buildings, is that you never stop learning and adding to your value. So the career progression from year 9 can look like:

  • Years 10 to 14 = Senior Engineer

    • Learning about other disciplines and their impact on your work
    • Managing project teams 
    • Developing client relationships that generate repeat business
  • Years 14 onwards = Director 

    • Technical leadership
    • Project & company leadership
    • Profit and loss responsibility 

I would encourage anyone who finds engineering interesting to go for it. However do it with your eyes wide open, knowing what is required. It is a long road but it is worth it.

The reward for your hard work is membership of an exclusive club. You effectively become part of a limited “monopoly”. The Engineering License provides barriers to entry to others. You can only be an Engineer with the appropriate level of study and training (for many good reasons). This is one of the reasons Engineers earn above average salaries, the rewards are there in the long run. 

An engineering career in say, building design and construction, is very rewarding. It is creative, exciting and valuable to society (the world needs engineers). Ah, I guess I am biased as I am a big fan of building development and architecture (I see buildings as an art form). IMHO Engineers matter and are very valuable to society…..

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