A Guide To Engineering Careers: For Parents

Guide To Engineering Careers

“Science can amuse and fascinate us all, but it is engineering that changes the world,” said the late Isaac Asimov, best known for his science fiction and popular science works.

What lies ahead for tomorrow’s engineers, and how can we guide our children along this path, if they should express interest? Veteran engineer Mervyn Sirisena offers some sound advice.

What is an engineer?

Engineers are people who make things happen. They design, manufacture, and turn ideas into practical reality. Engineers constantly look for new ways and methods to improve the functionality of things and seek job satisfaction in what they do to benefit others.

What do engineers love about their work?

If you want to improve people’s lives, engineering is the way to do it. Engineers believe in the efficacy and efficiency of things.  

What else can you do with an engineering qualification?

An engineering qualification trains an engineer to be logical, analytical, practical, and rational—what we dub as the “engineering mind.” An engineering mind equips a person with tools and processes to solve problems in a systematic way.

Such training is not only applicable to the engineering field, but also to other industries like banking, law, and academics. Many of Singapore’s founding fathers and cabinet ministers have an engineering degree; they have adapted their engineering disciplines to solve problems and make crucial decisions (in their current fields and capacities) that have benefited Singapore.

Where can you find engineers?

Other than the challenging role of engineers working at construction sites, there are many kinds of engineers who work in a variety of exciting fields. Examples are engineers who analyse data to understand why things happen; engineers who are involved heavily in testing, calibration, and analysis; engineers in R&D, project management, and so on.

These days, engineers can be found working in different settings like factories, offices, labs, and design workshops, according to their specialisation. They also get plenty of opportunities to work in different engineering disciplines in their career.

How much do engineers in Singapore get paid?

The starting salary of an engineer with a degree is about S$3,500.

What opportunities lie ahead for engineers?

We live in the era of artificial intelligence, robotics, and driverless cars. These trends create a huge demand and countless opportunities for engineers.

What subjects must one be good at, to be an engineer?

A solid foundation in mathematics, physics, and chemistry is needed to pursue an engineering course of study. Mathematics is important due to its utilisation in analytical tools. Computing skills have also become increasingly important in this technological age.

Do you need to go to university to be an engineer?

You can attend a university or a polytechnic, but that is only the start of the learning journey—the key is to continually study and acquire new skills. It is like having a tool box of knowledge, experience, and ideas. In order to fully utilise the tools, you have to keep filling the box with new knowledge, experience, and skills, or face being sidelined very quickly.

What are essential professional engineering academic qualifications?

Engineering qualifications from recognised universities and polytechnics provide the start. Locally, students can look for university programmes that have been granted full accreditation by Singapore’s Engineering Accreditation Board.

The Professional Engineer and Chartered Engineer schemes are the next steps in the professional development of engineers. Such qualifications help engineers gain recognition for their professional competence. Together with continual learning, this recognition will open up career opportunities and lead to the desired remuneration.

For a new engineer, what’s the best way to gain experience and exposure?

Joining associations, organisations, or institutions will open doors of discussion with many other engineers. Through the exchange of experience, engineers from varying disciplines can learn from each other and gain valuable knowledge and insight.

What would you say to encourage young people to choose engineering?

Look around and see how our quality of life has improved significantly because of the work of engineers, from better furniture to better housing. Engineering has transformed things in our daily lives to be more efficient and less bulky, and to have better usability. There is a saying in engineering, “Do more and more with less and less, until we do everything with nothing.”

Mervyn Sirisena is the Vice President of the Education Group at The Institution of Engineers, Singapore (IES).