There’s a lot more to engineering than just design work. As an engineer, there are a variety of jobs you can do both in the realm of engineering and outside of it. So what can you do with an engineering degree? Here are 11 jobs you can do with a degree in engineering.
- Design Engineering
- Engineering management
- Product management
- Patent law
- Clinical work
- Test engineering
- Data/computer science
1. Design Engineering
The most obvious thing you can do with an engineering degree is to be an engineer! When you think “engineer” most people think design engineering. Design engineers work on pretty much everything. Engineers design everything from rocket ships, to heart valves, to cake mixers. Look around and everything you see, an engineer worked on the design of at some point.
Read How to Become a Design Engineer: 5 Tips for more details on how to get into design engineering.
Not every engineer is meant to be a design engineer. Contrary to popular belief, you can still be a great engineer without ever designing anything. Many engineers choose to go into manufacturing over R&D for a variety of reasons:
- It’s very hands-on
Manufacturing is very rewarding. You can directly see the product of your efforts. In R&D, you could spend years designing a product that never makes it to market. In manufacturing, it might take some time, but you will eventually see the product come to realization. This relatively fast turnaround is very appealing to many engineers.
- It’s easier to get into management
It’s easier to get into management in manufacturing. With design engineering, it takes many years of experience to become a manager. The only real management positions in R&D are managing a team of engineers.
In manufacturing, it’s much faster. You can start as a line manager, meaning that you manage a small group of technicians who work on the device. This is a great role for younger engineers because you’re managing a small group of people who work on a small part of a project. From there, you can work your way up to larger management positions.
- You can be involved in a wide variety of stages
In manufacturing, you also have a lot of control over what stage of the project you want to work on. Lot of engineers are interested in design but are overwhelmed by the lack of direction that’s provided. If you fall into this category, upstream manufacturing might be the right role for you. Upstream manufacturing takes brand new products from the R&D stage to manufacturing. They work with R&D to set up the lines and develop the tools and methods needed to manufacture the product. This takes a lot of creativity and critical thinking but is more structured than R&D.
On the other side of things is downstream manufacturing. With downstream manufacturing, you are sustaining the manufacturing of products that have been on the market for a while. These products already have set manufacturing processes and you’re mostly responsible for handling the day-to-day problems that arise in order to keep manufacturing running smoothly.
The more downstream you go, the less potential for change and creativity you have. With the most upstream manufacturing, you can change things relatively easily. On a downstream manufacturing line, it’s very hard to change anything. Even the smallest changes require tons of paperwork and approval.
Quality is another sector that many engineers go into. Quality is probably the slowest-paced engineering job you can have. As a quality engineer, you make sure devices comply with safety regulations. This involves a lot of paperwork, visiting manufacturing lines, and being present for product testing.
It’s not the most exciting job, but that’s why many people chose it. If you’re looking for a relatively low-stress job that won’t require you to stay late, this is the job for you.
It’s also said that “quality is the fastest way to the top”. Lots of engineers chose quality as a stepping stone to transfer into a different position. So if you choose to stay in quality, you can typically advance faster that your peers in other positions.
4. Engineering management
An engineering manager is a technical manager that oversees a team of engineers for a specific product. They delegate design tasks to the team and split their time between technical duties and managerial duties.
Engineering managers are a great fit for people who still want to be involved in design work, but see themselves in more of a leadership position. As a manager, you receive more responsibility. You are responsible for the success of the product design, the project timeline, and hiring engineers for the team.
You typically need roughly 10 years of experience and an MBA to get a job as an engineering manager. However, these requirements vary by company.
5. Product management
Product managers (PMs) manage the cross-functional teams working on a specific project. It is a much less technical role than engineering manager. PMs oversee all aspects of a product, including engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and finance.
Your role is primarily to create project timelines and make sure all teams are working together to meet the time and functionality goals of the project.
6. Patent law
Venturing outside the scope of traditional engineering, going into patent law is a great option for engineers.
To be a patent lawyer, you do need to go to law school, so this is not a career you can do with just an engineering degree. However, you typically need an undergraduate degree in science or engineering. Few people have a degree in engineering AND law. Therefore, patent lawyers are in high demand and have extremely high salaries.
You can also look into being a patent examiner for the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This is a job you can get with just an undergraduate engineering degree and does not require law school.
Read 8 Work From Home Engineering Jobs for more information on being a patent examiner.
Consulting is a huge field for engineers. Consultants listen to the problems their customers are facing and recommend solutions or products to fix the problem(s). Many engineers work for tech companies as consults. As an engineer, you have the technical knowledge required to understand the company’s products and their capabilities.
Consulting can be thought of as the business side of engineering. If you are a people person and enjoy talking to people/customers, traveling to meet clients, and enjoy public speaking, then this is a great option. It allows you to still be involved with technology and problem solving without being directly involved in the design/engineering side of things.
As an engineer, there are many education jobs you can go into. Tutoring is a great side-hustle for engineers. People that can tutor more advance math and science subjects are hard to find and are therefore in high demand.
If you’re looking for a full-time job, you can be a high-school math/science teacher. Again, it’s hard to find people qualified to teach higher-level math and science courses. So having a degree in engineering makes you a great candidate for this.
If you want to be a professor or lecturer at a collegiate level, that is possible too, but might require more education. To be a professor, you typically need a Ph.D. and need to be involved in research. However, as a lecturer, you are typically only responsible for teaching and not research, and might be able to get away with a master’s degree.
If you’re interested in this route, check out job postings for assistant or associate lecturers at your local colleges. This is a great way to get your feet wet.
9. Clinical work
There are many types of jobs open to engineers in the medical device industry. Obviously, you can work as an engineer either in design, manufacturing, or quality. However, many engineers choose to focus on the clinical side of it.
For example, there are teams of engineers dedicated to physician training. These engineers become extremely familiar with a specific product and then work with physicians to train them on how to use the device.
There are even some engineers that are present in the clinical setting during clinical trial use of the device. For example, when surgical implants first enter clinical trials, there are often engineers in the OR to help guide the surgeon. The surgeon has the skills to implant the device, while the engineers have a deeper knowledge of the design and intricacies of the device.
10. Test engineering
A test engineer is someone who is in charge of developing the tests necessary to determine the functionality and limits of a product. Designing a product is one thing, but figuring out how to test its efficacy is a whole separate issue. Most companies have entire teams dedicated to just testing. If you’re someone who enjoys critical thinking, problem-solving, and hands-on work, then this is a great job choice.
This is more of a “true” engineering job that requires design work, just a different type of design work.
11. Data/computer science
As an engineer, you’ve probably had some sort of introduction to coding. Programmers and data scientists are in high demand right now. With a degree in engineering, you can probably learn the additional skills you need either on your own, through an entry-level job, or with a master’s degree. This is a great choice for engineers who enjoy coding and want the option to work from home.
Read 8 Work From Home Engineering Jobs for more engineering jobs that allow you to work from home.