How To Become an Engineer

Two engineers checking out windmills.

In this Article:

What Is an Engineer?

An engineer is a professional problem solver who applies scientific and mathematical principles to the design, development and construction of structures, systems or prototypes. Engineers work across a wide range of industries, developing blueprints for new applications and systems or identifying improvements for existing ones.

There are a number of different types of engineers. Before learning how to be an engineer, you may first want to consider your specialization options. Some of the most common subfields of engineering include:1 

  • Mechanical engineering 
  • Electrical engineering 
  • Industrial engineering 
  • Aerospace engineering 
  • Biomechanical engineering 
  • Chemical engineering 
  • Biomedical engineering 
  • Computer engineering
~2550 BCE Text
The first known engineer in history, Imhotep, lived around 2550 BCE and designed the Step Pyramid in Egypt.2

Why Is Engineering Important and What Does an Engineer Do? 

If you’re thinking about becoming an engineer, you might first wonder, Why is engineering important? Engineers are charged with solving problems and improving the quality of life for society by applying scientific and mathematical principles. An engineer might work on everything from renewable energy technology that helps mitigate climate change to prosthetic legs to give amputees the opportunity to walk again. The specific tasks an engineer may do depend on their subfield and the project they’re working on. In general, they may do the following:3

Analysis Text

Engineers conduct analyses of existing structures, systems and devices, and they also analyze various problems.


Engineers may also redesign existing equipment, devices or systems in order to improve them.


Engineers design new equipment, devices or systems that are intended to solve problems or improve quality of life.


Engineers develop prototypes of their designs to test them and analyze the results.

No two days are the same for an engineer, as they may work on a variety of projects — everything from designing household products to troubleshooting problems in aircraft and spacecraft. An engineer uses critical thinking, analytical reasoning and creativity to develop solutions to problems. 

How To Be an Engineer: Experience and Education 

Once you know more about how to become an engineer, you may find it easier to determine if this career path could be right for you. Becoming an engineer generally involves the following steps: 

High School Diploma 

If you’re still in high school, consider speaking to your school counselor about your career aspirations. It’s ideal to take plenty of courses in mathematics and sciences in your journey toward becoming an engineer, including chemistry, physics, trigonometry and calculus. Courses in computer programming and mechanical drafting may also be helpful. If you’re interested in biomedical engineering specifically, consider taking biological science classes.4

How To Become an Engineer With a College Degree 

Engineers are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree in engineering. They may choose to earn an engineering degree that offers a specialization in their chosen subfield, such as mechanical engineering.5

Undergraduate Certificates 

Although a bachelor’s degree is generally a requirement to become an engineer, you may wish to pursue one or more undergraduate certificates along with your degree.5 Look for certificates that may complement your chosen specialization. For instance, if you’re interested in computer engineering, you might consider a certificate in a programming language.


Internships may help future engineers prepare to confidently enter the workforce after graduation.5 Consider looking for internship opportunities while earning a bachelor’s degree. Career Services at Grand Canyon University is part of the Academic and Career Excellence (ACE) Centers. We can provide you with resources, professional knowledge and support to help you transition from academics into your chosen career field. 

Entry-Level Roles 

There are a number of entry-level roles you might pursue after graduating with a bachelor’s in engineering. For example, you may apply for jobs as an engineering assistant, field engineer, quality engineer or sales engineer.6

Professional Certifications 

Licensure is not typically required of entry-level engineers. Students enrolled may qualify to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which enables them to be an engineer-in-training (EIT). After gaining the necessary work experience, EITs may then qualify to take the Professional Engineering (PE) exam. A passing score on the PE exam qualifies engineers to obtain an engineering license — this is the case for Arizona — but there may be other requirements necessary in other states.5

Now that you’re familiar with the process of how to be an engineer, you can begin preparing to make your mark on one of any number of engineering subfields. The first step is to focus on your education.

Best Degrees for Becoming an Engineer 

It’s possible to earn a general bachelor’s degree in engineering that doesn’t include a concentration in an engineering subfield. However, it may be ideal to determine which engineering subfield appeals to you most, and then to earn a degree with a concentration in that area. This allows opportunities to develop specialized knowledge in your chosen subfield.

An engineering degree program, regardless of specialization, will include a blend of classroom instruction and hands-on, experiential learning activities. You can expect to be challenged to develop innovative designs that demonstrate what you’ve been taught.

Engineering degree curricula vary, depending on specialization, but may include:

  • Robotics 
  • Project management 
  • Mechatronics 
  • Aerospace

GCU Recommends These Degree Programs for Becoming an Engineer 

Engineering degree programs are designed to teach not only technical skills, such as computer-aided design, but also soft skills like critical thinking, analytical reasoning and problem-solving. By working through a comprehensive curriculum that blends instruction with experiential activities, you can prepare to pursue a career in the engineering field.

In your journey toward becoming an engineer, you may want to consider any of the following degree programs:

Bachelor’s Programs 

Master’s Programs 

Other Programs 

What Skills Does an Engineer Need? 

Although specific skills can vary depending on the engineering specialization, many skills are applicable to many subfields. Engineers need strong technical skills, of course, but transferable soft skills are also helpful. The skills that can benefit an engineering professional include:4,5 

  • Analytical reasoning 
  • Problem-solving
  • Strong communication 
  • Creativity and innovation 
  • Mathematics proficiency 
  • Mechanical competency

Median Annual Wage

Median annual wage for mechanical engineers as of May 20237

Salary expectations can vary depending on a number of factors, including years of experience, additional certifications and licensure status, as well as the employer. In addition, the median annual salary for engineers can vary depending on their subfield. According to the BLS, mechanical engineers have a median annual wage of $99,510 as of May 2023.7

Projected Job Growth

Estimated job growth for mechanical engineers from 2022 through 2032.8

The specific job growth rate for engineers varies depending on their subfield. In mechanical engineering, the job growth rate is much faster than average, according to the BLS. The BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for mechanical engineers to be 10% from 2022 through 2032, indicating that about 28,500 new jobs are estimated to open in the subfield.8

Where Do Engineers Work? 

All sorts of industries and types of companies rely on the work of skilled engineers. These include:9,10

Manufacturing Facilities
Manufacturing companies rely on engineers to develop or improve equipment and systems.

Research Labs 
An engineer specialize may work in a research lab, focusing on design and development.

Oil and Gas Extraction
Petroleum engineers collaborate with geologists to coordinate and oversee drilling operations.

Computer Companies
Some engineers specialize in software or hardware engineering. They bring their talents to computer companies.

Construction Sites
Some engineers split their time between the office and remote locations, like construction sites.

Healthcare Companies
Biomedical engineers develop and troubleshoot biomedical equipment, working on devices like diagnostic machines and artificial body parts.

Advancement Opportunities for Engineers 

After gaining some work experience, an engineer may qualify to earn their PE license, thereby providing a pathway to position yourself for potential career advancement. An experienced engineer may eventually become a manager or administrator. In addition, it's important to note that while many four-year colleges and universities require a doctorate for teaching at that level, there are alternative paths. For instance, individuals can opt to earn a graduate degree in engineering, which may open doors to pursue research and development programs or to apply for a faculty position within an engineering department at a university.5

Prepare to push the boundaries of innovation and solve problems that impact people every day. Apply today to one of Grand Canyon University’s many engineering bachelor’s degree programs.

Carlson, D. (2023, Sept. 29). What do engineers do? Specialties, roles and duties. Indeed. Retrieved on March 23, 2024.

Smith, R. J. (2024, Feb. 19). Engineering. Britannica. Retrieved on March 23, 2024. 

3 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, Sept. 6). What mechanical engineers do. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved on March 23, 2024.

4 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, Sept. 6). How to become a bioengineer or biomedical engineer. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved on March 23, 2024.

5 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, Sept. 6). How to become a mechanical engineer. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved on March 23, 2024.

6 Indeed. (2023, Jan 26). 14 Entry-Level Engineering Jobs (With Duties and Salaries). Retrieved on April 16, 2024.

The earnings referenced were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Mechanical Engineers as of May 2023, retrieved on March 23, 2024. Due to COVID-19, data from 2020 to 2023 may be atypical compared to prior years. BLS calculates the median using salaries of workers nationwide with varying levels of education and experience. It does not reflect the earnings of GCU graduates as Mechanical Engineers, nor does it reflect the earnings of workers in one city or region of the country or a typical entry-level salary. Median income is the statistical midpoint for the range of salaries in a specific occupation. It represents what you would earn if you were paid more money than half the workers in an occupation, and less than half the workers in an occupation. It may give you a basis to estimate what you might earn at some point if you enter this career. Grand Canyon University can make no guarantees on individual graduates’ salaries. Your employability will be determined by numerous factors over which GCU has no control, such as the employer the graduate chooses to apply to, the graduate’s experience level, individual characteristics, skills, etc. against a pool of candidates.

8 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 to 2022 may be atypical compared to prior years. Accordingly, data shown is effective September 2023, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Mechanical Engineers, retrieved on March 23, 2024.

9 Indeed. (2023, July 31). 14 types of engineering careers to explore (with salaries). Indeed. Retrieved on March 23, 2024.

10 Indeed. (2023, Jan 26). 14 Entry-Level Engineering Jobs (With Duties and Salaries). Retrieved on April 16, 2024.

Approved by the assistant dean of the College of Engineering and Technology on May 20, 2024.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.