Engineering encompasses a diverse array of fields from chemical and civil engineering to electrical, mechanical, and biomedical. Despite the broadness of the discipline and the recent economic recession, engineering has remained one of the most in-demand occupations. Compared to a national unemployment average that sits above 8 percent, the unemployment rate for engineers is at an incredible 2 percent.
Taken as a whole, engineering is currently benefiting from a number of positive socio-economic conditions. To begin with, the increasingly technical nature of societys problems means a growing demand for people capable of solving these challenges. Research and development, information and computing technology, manufacturing, and a slew of other sectors find themselves faced with questions that require a high degree of skill to answer. With only 4.5 percent of all undergrads coming out of school with engineering degrees, there are simply not enough engineers to meet industry needs across the United States and Canada.
Consequently, degrees in engineering can be a lucrative option for skilled young students. Entry level jobs, often acquired through internships, are at a premium, and landing one can be an excellent first step toward a long and rewarding career.
Getting an Internship Position
Acquiring an entry-level internship with a company typically requires a Bachelors degree in Engineering, usually in the field associated with the job (i.e., a Civil Engineer would have a degree in Civil Engineering, or a Computer Engineer would have a degree in Computer Science, Information Systems, or Software Engineering).
Despite there being a number of possible openings, potential candidates for entry-level internships should expect a competitive evaluation process. Many companies invest a great deal of time and money in their interns, and they expect to be rewarded for their energy. This can mean everything from expecting an influx of fresh, innovative ideas, to preparing the intern for a permanent position within the company.
With this in mind, the search for the perfect internship should begin as early as possible. Maintaining a solid GPA, boosting your resume whenever possible, networking with professionals working in industry, volunteering to help out professors, securing excellent letters of recommendation, and beginning the hunt for opportunities as much as a year in advance are all solid pieces of advice.
Remember, simply securing an internship is not the end of the process. Ideally, an internship should be a springboard for a career, helping the intern to make connections while adding to their real world knowledge and experience. Being open to learning, having a strong work ethic, and an agreeable personality are often more important than a sterling GPA. While you might be able to secure an internship with good grades and a decent interview, building a career is more a combination of resume, knowledge and skill, motivation, and likeability.
Benefits and Advantages
Perhaps the most important advantage of an internship is the ability to gain the work experience necessary for licensure. The necessity and degree of difficulty involved in becoming a licensed engineer is very much dependent on the particular branch of engineering being considered and the jurisdiction in which it is being pursued.
With that said, in the United States, acquiring experience is generally as important a part of the licensing process as completing the Fundamentals of Engineering and Principles and Practice in Engineering exams. Currently, most states require four years of qualifying work experience generally consistent with the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveyings Model Law.
A good internship will provide you with multidisciplinary, practical experience as well as focused work in your area of expertise. By challenging you with real world situations, you are expected to gain a variety of useful strategies and problem solving skills while still receiving the guidance and mentoring of seasoned engineers. For even the brightest and most experienced engineers, consultation, training, and insight should always be welcome, and the same is true ten-fold for those just starting out.
Unlike other skilled degrees, one of the major benefits that many engineers enjoy from internships is a competitive starting salary. Although unpaid internships do exist, the ability to learn and earn an income has become a fairly standard part of most engineering professions. Coupled with the ability to build a professional network of contacts, and it becomes easy to see why the best internships are so highly prized.
Companies that Offer Internships for Different Engineering Disciplines
Virtually every industry is in need of some sort of engineer, and determining what type you are most interested in/passionate about is one of the keys to narrowing down your internship search.
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Defense companies like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are at the forefront of an industry that has boomed of late. Similarly, the recovery of the auto industry means an increasing number of jobs and internships for companies like Chrysler, Ford, and GM.
As with all engineering professions, the title Civil Engineer can cover a great deal of ground so make sure that the internships you apply for reflect your career goals. Accordingly, you will have the ability to choose everything from governmental positions, to construction companies like Bechtel, to environmental engineering firms like Black Veetch and many more.
Often in high demand, this type of engineer can also cover a range of fields. Check out computer and tech companies like IBM and Apple, as well as large telecommunications companies like ATT, power companies like ComEd, and traditional electronic companies from GE to Sony can also be great places to look.
As a general rule, keep in mind that the larger the company, the more likely they are require a larger number and variety of engineering professionals.
Utilizing technical know-how, science, and mathematics to solve problems has become a vital part of our modern industrial world. With an expanding but competitive market, young engineers across the various branches of the discipline should be able to look forward to a secure and exciting future. On the road to success, obtaining the right engineering internship for you is one of the first and most important steps toward building your career.