It isn’t surprising so many parents hope their kids will major in engineering. Even during a recession, engineering graduates are in demand. Many engineering grads will have starting salaries of $60,000 or more. While the job prospects are appealing, students should be aware that engineering is a very tough major and the majority of students who enter freshman year as engineering majors will eventually change majors. Instead of focusing on job prospects or salaries, I encourage you to consider whether your student is showing signs that engineering will be a good fit. Here are some characteristics commonly seen in future engineers.
Loves to tinker and fix stuff
Future engineers are the kids who are great with mechanical stuff. They tinker, take stuff apart and fix it. They are the kids you call on to repair your appliances. They often enjoy spatial toys and building models.
Persistence in problem solving
These are kids who aren’t easily stopped. They enjoy the challenge of a good puzzle or problem and will persevere until they find a solution. Engineering requires the ability to stick with a task and continue to plug away with different ideas until a problem can be solved.
This generation of engineers tends to be highly capable with computers. These are kids who will be setting up computer systems and troubleshooting problems for friends and family. They may be learning computer programming languages on their own. Many are involved in creative projects such as designing apps. While these kids may enjoy consuming electronics (such as playing video games) the successful future engineer will have as a primary interest in computer hardware or software. They don’t just consume electronics, they understand it and they design it.
High math and science ability
If your student is having to really work at getting through algebra 2 or pre-calculus engineering will not be a good fit. Encourage your student to look over the typical course of study for engineering majors. Make sure the classes fit in with their natural strengths.
Engineering is a good fit for students who enjoy being exacting and paying attention to details. Big picture people who don’t enjoy the nitty gritty details of tasks with generally not be a good fit for engineering.