Why is engineering so popular?

Why is engineering so popular?

Why is engineering so popular?

Given that there is a vast sea of career options today, Ali Khwaja proposes that a student explore, find out details and consult knowledgeable people before choosing a stream

Adarsh was labeled as a bright student when he scored more than 80% in SSLC.  He took up Science and was shocked when in 1st PUC his marks came down to around 50%.  When his 2nd PUC results came, he had just managed to inch up to 58% in Physics, Chemistry and Math.  When he came to us for career counseling, I asked him what his career preference was.  Without batting an eyelid, he said “IIT, Sir”.

  I gently nudged him and said I wanted to know what career he would like to take up, not which institute he would like to study in.  Adarsh could not answer, since over the past four years he had been taking “IIT coaching” and thought that IIT itself is a career goal.

Adarsh is not to blame.  He is fascinated with computers and he feels that engineers earn the most money.   But his lack of information, ignorance of career options, and fascination for a particular engineering college, took him in a direction where he had to suffer major disappointment and heart-break.

There are many like Adarsh facing similar dilemma.  They do not know why they are opting for science, then engineering, and even why IITs are considered the best option among engineering colleges.  They do not know which branch of engineering would suit them most, and what type of career they would be taking up.
Adarsh’s classmate Venkat had a completely different problem.  As a child he would look at the sky and the aeroplanes, and developed a fascination towards aeronautical engineering. Only now he came to know that Aeronautical Engineering is offered only recently by just a few engineering colleges in the state at the undergraduate level.  There were however, advertisements announcing aeronautical diploma courses, and he was not sure whether they are recognized or not.

Streams within engineering

A little advance planning could have helped so many like Adarsh and Venkat look at all options, match their interests to their aptitude, and move into a career that will not only be lucrative, but also deeply satisfying.  To start with, most engineering aspirants do not know that Karnataka itself offers more than 30 branches of engineering, and if one is looking at all-India institutes, the number goes close to 50.

There are many streams within engineering like, aeronautical, aerospace, automobiles, biomedical, biotechnology, ceramics, chemical, civil, computer science, electrical & electronics, electronics & communications, environmental, industrial engineering & management, industrial production, information science, instrumentation technology, manufacturing science, mechanical, mechatronics / robotics, medical electronics, metallurgy, mining, polymer technology, printing technology, silk technology, telecommunication, textiles, transportation, and so on.

Guidelines to choose a stream

For those who have completed 10+2, or will be doing so in the next 2 or 3 years, here are some practical tips to ensure the right choice.

* Do not get taken in by peer pressure, or people talking highly about a particular field having great “scope”.  You will be working a minimum of 40-50 years in your chosen career, and the scope may go up and down many times during that period.

* First of all, check out whether you have a specific interest in a specialized field.
You may love working in a hospital environment and seeing patients being healed, then you can consider medical electronics or biomedical engineering. Your family may have affiliations to a particular trade, for example clothing, or transport.  If so, you can opt for silk technology, textiles, or transportation engineering, since you will get openings through your personal contacts. If you have a love for a particular subject, say chemistry, then you may opt for Chemical Engineering, ceramics, polymer technology.

* Similarly you need to ask yourself whether you are the “hardcore technology” type, or the “management” type.  If you would like to go deeper into technology beyond your graduation, then you should be careful in choosing the subject of your choice, so that you can opt for the right specialization.

* On the other hand, if you are a people-oriented or money-savvy person and are likely to move into management, administration, military or entrepreneurship, it may be advisable to get into any of the basic streams of engineering such as mechanical, electrical, electronics, industrial engineering management, manufacturing etc.  These branches will give you the proper foundation and the flexibility to take up management of a wide variety of industries.  Also, they can act as a base for you to move, either through post-graduation or by work experience, into a field you have a fascination for.  Majority of students selected in IIMs are engineers, and highly specialized fields like aerospace or automobiles do require engineers from basic streams.

* Those interested in the booming IT sector should keep in mind that Computer Science Engineering or Information Science engineering are not the only avenues to get in.  The sector employs many mechanical, electronics, instrumentation, telecommunication and other engineers too.  Also keep abreast of the fact that the phenomenal rise of IT industry may not continue over the next few decades.

Be open-minded

Many engineers branch out into totally unconnected fields.  There are engineers today who are top-notch bankers, police commissioners, stock market experts, behavioral scientists, ministers, and of course – luminaries like our illustrious former President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam.  My junior from IIT Bombay, Nitin Nohria, has the honor of being the first non-American to be appointed Dean of Harvard B-School.  When the media asked him how his study of Chemical Engineering helped him reach that position, he replied in a lighter vein, “Five years of studying Chemical Engineering in IIT taught me that I do not want to be a Chemical Engineer.” 

While this may sound as a frivolous remark, it actually reflects the wider potential of reputed institutes, who prepare students to excel in fields very diverse from what is taught from text books.

Regardless of the type of work they are doing today, none regrets having studied engineering.  That is one of the greatest advantages of engineering education in India.

 It prepares you for taking up challenges, sharpens your analytical skills, induces team spirit, builds up your confidence levels, and generally lays the foundations to excel in whatever you choose to do.

Keeping this in mind, make sure you select a good college, not just based on the number of “campus recruitments” they have, but on the basis of infrastructure, quality and longevity of faculty, interaction with industry, caliber of students, visits by illustrious guest faculty, and the sincerity of the top management.  Do not restrict your choice to colleges in large cities like Bangalore and do not be stuck only on labels like IITs – there are some excellent colleges located in far flung places which also provide superb education.

Sea of rewarding careers

Before going blindly into engineering, be aware that there are many more professional courses that offer equally rewarding careers. Explore, find out details, talk to knowledgeable people, and then take your final decision. Some of the other professional courses are, n 5-year Law course offered by the National Law Schools and other reputed Law Colleges

* 3 or 4-year paramedical courses in Speech & Audiology, Renal Dialysis, Physiotherapy, Radiography, Pharmacy, etc.

* 4-year Bachelor of Hotel Management, or Travel and Tourism

* 4-year courses in Agricultural Sciences, Horticulture, Agricultural Engineering, Forestry etc offered by universities of agricultural sciences

* 5-year Bachelor of Architecture (admission through NATA test)

* 3 or 4-year courses in general or specialized areas of design

* Integrated 4 or 5-year courses in Pure Sciences

Almost on a daily basis I get inquiries based on rumors, “Will PUC be abolished and merged with CBSC? Is it true that 10th standard marks will also count for engineering admission? Should we ‘buy’ a management seat before CET results come? I was told it is impossible to get through CET without coaching, what should I do? and so on.”  Please do not be misled.  The selection process is fairly transparent; most details are put up on the website (www.kea.kar.nic.in), otherwise go directly to the concerned authority and get the right information.

(The writer is an engineer turned counsellor)