What Do I Do With A Degree in Engineering? 

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Jennifer Agor, Assistant Director, Duke Career Center
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You’re studying engineering–whether mechanical, biomedical, civil, chemical…the answer to that question has endless possibilities.  

Did you know that Roush Fenway Racing’s NASCAR driver, Ryan Newman, graduated from Purdue University with a degree in mechanical engineering?  While it wasn’t a direct line to his dream of becoming a race car driver, he is quoted in a Purdue College of Engineering News article “Educated racer” as saying, “Because of my schooling, I have a common language with the engineers on my team. We understand each other. So when we go to make a change on the race car, we are more likely to do it the right way the first time, and that definitely helps the entire team.”   

photo by  www.mikaelowunna.com 
See more: www.mikaelowunna.com

Photographer Mikael Owunna, B.S.E. ’12, who you may have seen at the 2018 DEMAN weekend, took his engineering degree to the camera. “For me, engineering is creativity. The two go hand-in-hand, and I structure my ideation–in tackling questions of identity visually–around the scientific method. I ask a question–do research–construct and test a hypothesis around the visual outcome–troubleshoot the procedure until the visual hypothesis works–and then analyze my results. This has been fundamental for my photography, including in working with communities and refining my approach along the way. In my latest project, I use ultraviolet frequencies of light to construct alternative lived realities for the black body. This came out of the same scientific method approach and creativity of my engineering schooling; including the fact that I had to build my ultraviolet equipment by hand, myself! There are so many things that you can do with engineering degree that transcends the field itself, and it forms the base of a new way of seeing the world.” 

Find something that interests you as a major, and then instead of focusing on an end result of X within that major, learn ways of thinking, transferable skills, and multifaceted perspectives that help you to move your education towards multiple opportunities, not one limited field. 

Engineering is a field of study that offers technical knowledge as well as skills in problem solving, critical thinking, project management, materials science…the list is extensive. 

So how do you find out which discipline works for you and where you can go from there? Search around on LinkedIn and the Duke Alumni Directory to find people with the degree you’re seeking and look at what they’re doing, as well as the path that took them there. Perhaps you could set up some informational interviews to discuss most prominent skills, what prompted each career choice, and how they prepared in college to take their first steps. 

Research opportunities within engineering. Start with What Can I Do With This Major?  This website offers insight into the various industries and organizations that hire in a wide variety of engineering fields. Look at the Duke Pratt School website and discover where grads from each of the disciplines tend to end up. Check out this example for Biomedical Engineering (and there are more for all majors). Once you find some specific job titles, O*Net Online, a database created by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, can help you research things like job outlook, related careers, technical skills needed, and salary ranges. 

Then do some other reading. iDTech offers an article with a broad range of suggestions and ideas for engineers, “Engineer Your Future: 17 Unique Jobs You Can Get with an Engineering Degree.” While this is a bit simplified, it is an example of the myriad ways in which engineering is utilized across industries. 

Continue to research, attend speaker events, connect with alumni, Flunch your professors, and talk to everyone you can. The more information you have, the more you can find the niche that fits your skills and strengths. Don’t forget to visit the Career Center (make an appointment on CareerConnections) for more advice, job search tips, exploring opportunities, and to talk through what you’ve found! 

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