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University life vs. Engineering career

How college life differs from being a real world engineer

Your first several weeks of university are a blur, but it is one of those defining times. You are starting to reach out into the academic world to build a solid foundation for the start of your professional career. You savor all moments, or they pass you by without notice. You meet, what seems like an endless amount of people, and you start off on the right foot taking diligent notes, attending all classes, and studying. You prepare yourself for 4 or 5 years of engineering work, networking, and working towards admittance into the workforce. University life is an adventure.

Sometimes you are waking up late because you were out last night at some party or hanging out with some friends. Because of this, you miss your early mechanics of materials class. You swore to yourself that you could easily wake up this early all the time. That seemed to only last a few weeks. After all, you want to do well in school and have a decent social life. University life is a delicate balance.

Maybe you stayed up all night studying for the differential equations or numerical methods final. You also stayed up pretty late working with your classmates on your group project in systems engineering. You do well on the exam and the project, but there is just not enough coffee to keep you awake on Friday. You are now ready to sleep the entire weekend and not do much else. After all, Monday is right around the corner.

Occasionally you will feel like giving up. Too many presentations, too many math equations, and too many laws and theories to learn and understand. You will sit there wondering if it would be easier to switch majors now and save yourself the headache later. You realize though, for whatever personal reasons, it is time to keep going. You already spent too much time, money, and effort. Time to make sure you get rewarded for all of this.

Eventually though, as you walk across the stage, you realize that you finally made it. All those years of hard work are about to pay off. Your family could not be prouder. You are a graduate, and ready to show the world what you can do with your skills and ideas. Your university journey has ended. It is time to focus on starting your new career as an engineer.

You are now looking for your first job. This can be a difficult time, especially if you did not do an internship during college years. So many employers demand at least several years of experience. You are stuck wondering how you obtain it without ever working. You learn firsthand that economy, budgets, investors, and many other factors contribute to your finding a new position as an engineer. All is not what it seemed.

You finally landed your first job and all is new and exciting! You get to meet new faces, you get exposure to real life projects, and you are finally getting paid for your efforts. Maybe at first you will not do anything critical, but you will start to get your feet wet. You will learn company policies, practices, engineering standards, real life applications, and client demands. You will begin to understand the big picture of how this particular company along with others function in the real world.

You are now a mid-level engineer with some experience, and more is expected of you. Your designs, drawings, analyses, ideas, and input are now taken more seriously. What you do starts to matter not only to your boss, but to project managers, other engineers, and sales personnel. People will look to you more for answers rather than just striking up a random conversation or trying to remember your name. You start to really put in those hours and apply your skills and knowledge. This is the work.

In reality, university and career are two different worlds. Think of college as the tutorial for your entire career. Of course engineering coursework can be difficult, definitely classes and projects are overwhelming, and yes, not everyone will complete all requirements. When you do finish, though, you move from the puddle to the ocean. You can work R & D for spacecraft or draft small mechanical components. You can create bridge and skyscraper designs, or work on small housing projects. You can be a part of the team that creates the next generation solar panels or simply program tasks into the start menu. The point is, there is a logical progression from university to career, but the accelerator will have some more weight on top of it.


How college life differs from being a real world engineer