Thursday, May 23, 2024

How To Choose The Right Engineering Branch – Kill ‘Engineering Doubt’

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It is now again the time of the year when students, having completed their twelfth standard exams along with being ambitious about taking up professional courses as their graduate specialisations, fret over the numerous options available. This is also applicable to potential engineers; now it is worth remembering that the last decade has seen nearly a tenfold increase in the number of engineering graduates in India.

Naturally, with engineering courses at the graduate level being the key point of focus, students (and their parents alike) would naturally remain spoilt for options leading to students often choosing the wrong branch of engineering as their specialisation that does not work in tandem with their key strengths and talents. Therefore, to enable students take informed decisions with respect to choosing the right engineering branch, we spoke to career counsellors and experts; all of who echoed one common statement which is “Don’t let money making dominate your societal goals.”

First things first, engineering is ‘engineering of solutions’ and problem solving

“Before you even opt for seats in engineering colleges, take a while to analyse the plaguing societal issues; think of answering these through technologies and accordingly select your specialisation,” advices Dr Radhakrishnan HK, a Bengaluru-based career counsellor possessing more than two decades of experience in helping students achieve career success.

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The above sounds completely valid because students today tend to lean towards engineering branches which they think offers them rewarding careers only in terms of finance. However, this mindset too is not completely illogical.

“Engineering solutions to issues should get you money, you needn’t worry. But focus on completely utilising your engineering potential towards a holistic society,” states Dr Radhakrishnan.

With development of solutions being a primary focus area, students can do a refresh (or even a bridge course) of the skills acquired in the twelfth standard (also known as I PUC in some states) to completely understand the technical haves and wants. This should do a world of good to students when they arrive for seat selection to engineering courses.

Engineering exists outside of Information Technology as well; analyse the ‘scope’

With students today extensively researching on the engineering branches that are the “in-thing” with respect to lucrative careers, the first thing that springs up in mind is a career in the Information Technology enabled services (ITes) sector, Telecommunication, and Electronics. All these domains are undoubtedly ‘cool” today. But there are others that are considered ‘traditional strongholds’ as far as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) study is considered.

There is no doubt that computer science and IT engineers get a better start and more assured job as soon as they graduate, but it is also a fact that in the long run, engineers of other streams may find steady growth and more meaningful work,” states Dr Ali Khwaja – a career expert, and chairman of Bengaluru-based Banjara Academy that is doing its bit in guiding the Indian youth towards appropriate career paths.

At this point in time, students should ponder over their exact subjects of study taken up prior to engineering. This is the key to evaluating the pre-engineering strengths of an individual, as per career experts.

Analysing pre-engineering strengths and weaknesses

In case of students having taken up Computer Science (CS) as a pre-engineering subject, then it is vital (for students) to understand if they have a fetish for pure IT-related aspect such as coding better programs, developing smart solutions (to solve existing problems) via smart technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and even by harnessing the Internet of Things (IoT), provided they have the right understanding of these technical terms, then a career in IT is definitely worth considering.

In these cases, students should be willing to even take up work (at least initially) within Indian startups that have of late mushroomed across much of our country’s metropolitan regions in a bid to find smart solutions to existing societal issues. However, students would also potentially require external training on smart aspects outside of their engineering curriculum.

Nonetheless, with wide penetration of the Internet, there are lots of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) open-source projects that students can use to familiarise themselves with latest technical innovations.

“Complete knowledge and analysis of technology is the key to students opting for IT-related engineering courses,” adds Dr Radhakrishnan.

Students should remember that incidents such as career burnouts, due to landing improper jobs that is a result of having chosen the wrong engineering branch, are not stray anymore. We are getting to witness these very frequently.

“It is important not to get taken in by short-term benefits and grab the most paying job, even if the work profile is not encouraging. Such people may get into a burnout after five to ten years,” warns Dr Ali Khwaja.

“Those who stick to their areas of expertise and develop domain specialization, and at the same time keep an eye on the expected future developments, are the ones likely to breeze through their entire life and be happy and contented in the work they will be doing all through till their retirement.”

In case of students not opting for IT courses, there are other branches viz. civil, electrical, mechanical, industrial management, chemical, environmental, aeronautical, and even jewelry design to consider. These branches consist of subjects that require to be mastered with varying levels of intensity. The domains also require excellent problem-solving abilities. Therefore, students should analyse if they possess these skills, prior to choosing engineering graduate specialisations.

The burning question – Which College and Which Branch

This is one issue that majorly gets answered when students actually get admitted into institutions and enter college on the first day. Therefore, prior knowledge on this area becomes imminent.

“Remember that there is neither a good engineering college, nor a bad one; this rule is true in the case of engineering branches as well. All colleges possess academically qualified teaching faculty, onus should be on students to master engineering effectively. Reputation of colleges is directly proportional to academic reputation of students. So, carefully choose your engineering specialisation,” states Prof. Krishna Rao, head of department of mechanical engineering at one of the well-known engineering colleges in Karnataka.

Career experts also second Prof. Rao’s thoughts. The former recommends students to extensively research on both the engineering branches as well as a college before finalising these. Reputation of colleges comes into picture when placements are considered.

It is true that higher the reputation of colleges (based on students again); better are the chances of getting placed at companies offering lucrative careers. But students should keep in mind the fact that merely grabbing placements is not a passport to a satisfying job.

The higher studies aim

There are innumerable students preferring to take up higher technical courses after engineering. Courses here include the likes of M.Tech, MS, and even MBA. So, focus here should be on the higher study aspect and the area of research intended to be taken up.

Then, choosing the appropriate engineering branch at the graduate level definitely offers a passport to satisfying careers and lucrative ones as well.

Here, students should remember that aim of higher studies should be to research, rather than plain money-minting.

“Nowadays, the trend is for students to go abroad for higher engineering study, and thereby land a high-paying job there. This is seemingly disastrous as the economy of that country improves whereas ours lags. Therefore, it is vital for students to constantly research ways to improve our economy substantially,” states a senior engineering professor (speaking to us on the condition of anonymity) who also consults for both the Government of Karnataka and Government of India on technical aspects.

Nonetheless, working abroad on sponsored projects (by the companies) and even studies along with short-term work (depending on individual tastes) outside of the home country are completely the in-thing now.

Kill ‘engineering doubt’

Think about this, “Why does an Infosys, a Wipro, a Robert Bosch, a Kirloskar, a Volvo, or even an IISC, or even engineering startups exist in India and continue to flourish?” This is because there is equal and equivalent scope for all engineering branches in the country. All it requires from students is honing of their academic skills to suit the nature of these sectors (engineering).

This involves elimination of what career experts term ‘engineering doubt’. “Most students desirous of entering engineering are majorly in doubt, this is due to peer pressure, external influence, and more. So, the only way out here is to critically self-analyse rather than dance to ‘external’ tunes,” advices Dr Radhakrishnan.

On closely analysing Dr Radhakrishnan’s statements, the aspect of extensive academic research comes to the fore. Students can take time to use the internet and research on the subjects offered by each engineering specialisation before coming to conclusions. This is also a tool to be used in the pre-engineering phase (as stated in the preceding sections).

Your engineering branch should enhance your employability

This a is a major aspect to ponder over before choosing an engineering field of study. A shocking trend broadcast in a recent survey which stated that only a sub-10% of Indian engineers were employable as of 2016.

While the Indian government implements newer reforms on the academic syllabus, students should focus on updating their skills by taking up that engineering branch that offers maximum opportunity here. Even the post-engineering skill enhancement comes into picture at this instant. All of these in tandem ensure that engineering life (both during and after completion of degree) is smooth and hitch free.

“Finally, remember that before entering engineering, your minds would also have to be engineered for competency and competition. Fine tune yourself and stand out from the rat race,” signs-off Dr Radhakrishnan.

Experts Consulted

Dr Radhakrishnan HK a Bengaluru-based career counsellor possessing more than two decades of experience in guiding students
Dr Ali Khwaja a career expert, and Chairman of Bengaluru-based Banjara Academy
Prof. Krishna Rao Head of Department of Mechanical Engineering at a well-known engineering college in Karnataka.
Anonymous senior engineering professor at a reputed Karnataka college, who also consults for governments
Multiple senior counsellors, and fresh engineering graduates

Written by Rahul R, Senior Technical Journalist at EFY

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