Few careers offer such diversity either in terms of work or work environments as engineering. A qualification in this area does more than prepare you for one career - it provides expertise that grants access to a wide range of jobs.
The work of an engineer
What makes a good engineer
How to become an engineer
What can you do to prepare?
Do's and Don't's
The Work of an EngineerEngineers are involved in the design and manufacture of the hardware that surrounds us - everything from motorways to microchips, robots to razors. They generally specialize in two dimensions - during training they specialize in one branch (i.e. mechanical) and after training they specialize in one activity or function (i.e. design). Transfer between branches is possible and as new areas emerge demarcation between branches are becoming less clear.
The main branches of engineering include
What Makes a Good EngineerA person considering Engineering as a career should have a strong interest and ability in mathematics, physics and chemistry, a good imagination, creative ability an interest in how things work, good concentration, a capacity for detail, problem solving skills, perseverance and the ability to meet tight deadlines.
As well as these requirements that relate to the technical side of the work. Engineers for the most part need to have excellent interpersonal and communication skills. It is estimated that engineers spend one third of their time discussing work with colleagues, customer/clients, staff and bosses. An engineer must be able to explain what he is doing and why he is doing it. Furthermore, he is very often required to be a team leader or a team member.
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How to Become an EngineerTo qualify as an engineer takes at least four years of study in a third level college. There is now a variety of courses available, with some colleges requiring students to specialize from the outset and others offering a common period of study of one or two years duration, for all branches.
UCD will introduce denominated entry to engineering degree programmes from 2001. This means that students applying for Engineering at UCD this year will have to specify their degree programme preference on their CAO form. Denominated entry will apply to the following degree programmes:
TCD will continue to operate its omnibus entry to engineering with a first and second year programme common to all branches except for its latest addition Manufacturing Engineering with Management Science (TR038) which is by direct application through the CAO.
The points required to secure a place on an engineering degree course in 2000 ranged from 290 - 495. In addition to the points it is important to note the course and college requirements for each of your choices. Generally applicants must obtain a HC in Mathematics and in some cases a laboratory science is also required.
The ladder system - certificate, diploma, degree - in operation in the Institutes of Technology, offers an alternative route to a career in Engineering and may be the preferred option for students who wish to gain experience in the workplace between each step.
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What Can You Do to Prepare?Begin by talking to practising engineers about their work. Visit places where engineering work is in progress - trade exhibitions and displays of proposed projects put on by County Councils and other bodies - to get a feel for the work involved. Try to find work experience in an engineer's office or try to find an engineer who will allow you to work shadow him.
Thoroughly research the courses available. Get the college brochures and study them carefully. Find out about the quality and content of the courses, the subject options available in second and subsequent years, the type of work placements provided, if any, and the job outcomes that emerge from them. Former students of your school can be a great source of information, as can the college open days. There is also much information available on the web. The Institute of Engineers of Ireland have an excellent website which also provides a list of link sites.
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Case HistoryMaire Nic Reamoinn BA BAI, MIEI, ICE works at present as a graduate civil engineer in a Civil, Structural and Environmental engineering consultancy. She did her Leaving Certificate in Colaiste Iosagain in 1994 and in 1994/95 she took a Business Linked Diploma in Ballsbridge College of Business Studies. In 1999 she graduated from Trinity College with BA BAI Hons - specialising in Civil and Environment branches.
Her decision to choose engineering was based on consultations with her school's Careers Guidance Counsellor and made on the basis of it being a "broad" qualification i.e. being able to keep her options open with respect to career. She believes that it is easier to change discipline with an engineering qualification than with other qualifications.
She chose an Engineering course in TCD because it offers a general education in first and second year i.e. the student doesn't have to specialise in a discipline until third year. She chose to specialise in Civil and Environmental Engineering because she had always been interested in enviromental and health issues. Of the two she found Civil engineering the more interesting discipline both in college and in her career to date.
Her career path to date has involved work in a Civil Engineering Consultancy firm as a student engineer. At present, Maire works as a graduate engineer in the Planning and Development Department of the same Engineering Consultancy and is concerned with the design of roads, watermains and drainage for housing estates.
The Ups of the Career
Do's and Don't'sDo engineering