• Question: Is engineering a competitive career/ competitive university course?

    Asked by hannahgrimes to Alex, Chris, Jed, Ken on 21 Mar 2012.
    • Photo: Ken Gibbs

      Ken Gibbs answered on 21 Mar 2012:

      Hannah: It’s people who are competitive, not courses. I am thus going to assume you meant something slightly different, if I may ?

      I think you probably meant to ask if there is great competition for places at university engineering courses ? Well, I can’t answer this because I do not have the facts and figures to hand but I do know that getting almost any university place – irrespective of which course – will depend largely on how good your GCSE or A-level results are. The better they are, the more likely it is that you’ll get an offer of a place at university.

      Moving on to engineering as a career: Speaking personally, I cannot remember ever feeling that I had to compete with others for a specific position though quite obviously, I was never the only candidate being considered. This was possibly because I didn’t apply for 1,000 jobs hoping that I’d be accepted for just one of them. Rather, I searched around and spoke to loads of people about what choice might be the most suitable for me, and eventually, the best jobs seemed to come to me almost certainly because I had spent time with my prospective employer(s) and they knew what I could do, and I generally liked their approach. So, in answer to your question, I think it can be competitive but you can place yourself at an advantage if you know a lot about the firm that you wish to join, and they know something about you.

      So, good results are essential; an ability to talk to possible employers before making any application is a great advantage; good communication skills can be really helpful – like being able to write (and spell) well and to speak grammatically correct English clearly and coherently. It’s also truly amazing how useful it is to be able to smile. Good presentation is a universal requirement (meaning that you probably shouldn’t come to an interview in crumpled clothes with dirty shoes and chewing gum at the same time, as this is likely to count heavily against you. You did want the job, didn’t you ?) In all these senses, getting any job can be competetive.

      Oh yes. It’s not just the engineering skills that potential employers want – it’s what else you can do as well. Handle a computer competently ? Good ! Speak another language fluently ? Good. Better still if you can speak more than two. Play tennis or another sport to keep fit ? Good – it probably means that you will not be off work sick as much as someone who is not fit. If you put all these things together – and if you have all these extra attributes – then engineering probably will not be as competitive for you as for others.