Written by special contributor
Build, design, fix, create, code, invent…
Does that sound like you? You might be a future engineer! Engineers work with math and microbes, with computers and concrete, with robots and nanomedicine. It's an exciting, diverse field with lots of opportunity to make an impact on industries, communities, and individual lives.
There are so many new inventions, technologies, products, and ideas being explored that the engineers of tomorrow will be working with. Materials, starting companies, and developing products that we can't even begin to imagine!
Let's take a look at what engineering careers might be in demand in the future.
- Industry trends: the Industrial Revolution 4.0
- Skills for engineers: advice for engineering careers
- Programs to study: what programs does Waterloo offer related to this field?
We're at the beginning of Industrial Revolution 4.0, where a mass of new technologies is going to change everything! (We mean everything!)
Let's break a few of these areas down and see what your future in engineering might look like.
Biotechnology uses living organisms or biological material – like plant or animal cells, molecules and tissue – to make products such as pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, environmentally friendly chemicals, and biofuels. It can be applied in all sorts of industries including health care, agriculture, and the energy sector.
Medical and health care applications hold particular promise. As an engineer, you could help treat illness and enhance healthcare with innovations like new methods of cancer detection, artificial kidney dialysis, or biosensors for medical research. In agriculture, you might develop a nanocoating to keep food fresh without plastic waste, or develop probiotics for plants to boost hydroponic production.
Careers in biotech
Your engineering career may lead to a career in a start-up, government, private companies, or clinical laboratories. You might invent something, like bio-ink to help faster 3D printing of kidney tissue. Or, you may have a career as a genetic counsellor, a biomedical engineer developing treatment for Alzheimer's, or helping amputees regain mobility with high-tech prosthetics.
If you’re looking for jobs of the future that will also make a difference, the fight against climate change needs you! And it opens up so many frontiers and opportunities in engineering.
Engineers make a big impact on the planet and on our communities. As our infrastructure ages and the climate changes, buildings, roads, and bridges will need to be reinforced, retrofitted, or rebuilt. We’ll need to establish new, climate-resilient building standards and introduce improved, greener materials – like lower-carbon cement, or bricks grown from bacteria. As a civil engineer, you could help design net-zero buildings, or work on public transportation projects that help communities reduce emissions.
As a chemical engineer, you might find ways to use chemistry to tackle waste. Chemical engineers have discovered how to turn plastic bottles into pollutant-absorbing material, or remediate waste and make biofuel at the same time.
As an environmental engineer, you can help combat the critical environmental challenges facing our natural and built structures. You'll gain the skills to design smarter water treatment and distribution systems, clean contaminated soil, or even prevent E. coli outbreaks.
The global shift to – solar, wind, geothermal, even tidal – means demand for electrical and mechanical engineers will grow. Maybe you’ll develop better batteries, or new methods of energy management. If you’re adventurous, you might work on microgrids for remote communities.
Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) generally involves extracting carbon from emissions – often right at the source – and converting it into a solid, which is then stored in geological formations underground. Experts increasingly think that CCUS technology will be necessary to meet the world’s climate targets. Governments around the world are eager to adopt it. The catch: CCUS is still new. There’s opportunity here to push existing technology. You might even discover new methods of carbon capture, such as transforming CO2 into useful chemicals.
The Internet of things (IoT)
As more and more sensors are developed and connected to networks, we'll have the ability to collect data from more and more places and things on land, in the air, water, and space.
By 2025, there will be over 41 billion connected products, and that means huge amounts of data — already, the world uses five quintillion bytes per day! One of the factors slowing down the growth of the internet of things is a lack of trained workers. There's going to be a worldwide demand for data engineers to set up and manage data networks, collection, and storage. Expect plenty of career opportunities in data analysis, too.
The opportunities are limitless
You might be involved in making sensors for everything from smart contact lenses to monitors for diabetes. Or employed as a design engineer creating products for businesses or homes. Or how about an autonomous shuttle?
AI innovation and machines that learn
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one piece of a puzzle that will see machines helping people, doing dangerous or repetitive jobs, and informing smart decision making.
AI is based on computer-coded instructions that allow machines and robots to learn, then execute tasks or make decisions. The applications seem to be limitless with up to 97 million new jobs being created by 2025!
A demand for engineers
Engineering grads will be needed in all sectors from government to finance. You'll design and develop the software, hardware, and interfaces powering AI-based products and services like guide self-driving semi-trailer trucks, predicting virus mutations, identifying and protecting against cyber-attacks, or tracking and predicting weather patterns.
As an engineering student, you'll learn about many facets of engineering – like developing structures or creating electric systems – and work with new, exciting technologies. What you're passionate about will determine your focus and where your career takes you. Waterloo’s co-op program, the largest in North America, gives you the opportunity to test out a job or industry before you graduate while earning money and building professional connections.
Here are some transferable skills that will help engineering grads build successful careers:
- Analytical skills. Engineering involves tackling complex problems: you’ll need to be able to use complex reasoning, pick up on patterns, and gather and organize data.
- Problem solving skills. Engineering grads should be able to define problems clearly; understand context; take different points of view; and break down a big problem into smaller questions or steps.
- Collaborative skills. Most jobs in the workforce today involve working in teams. Conflict resolution and organizational skills translate into leadership skills and become even more important as you advance in your career.
Here are some degrees to explore, listed with a handful of possible job titles for graduates. Worth noting: for some of these careers, a range of different degrees could be your first step; some may require additional training or an advanced degree. If that’s part of your plan, Waterloo’s Centre for Career Development has dedicated advisors who support students all the way through the graduate program application process. The best degree to pursue is the one that excites you the most!
- Architectural Engineering
- Professional engineer
- Building owners and operators
- Consulting firms specializing in structural and/or architectural design
- Architectural designer
- Urban designer
- Applied Mathematics
- Software engineer
- Strategy analyst
- Biomedical Engineering
- Brain-computer interface designer
- Clinical application developer
- Medical device product designer
- Biomedical data analyst
- Chemical Engineering
- Supply chain analyst, cosmetics
- Production engineer, pharmaceuticals
- Automotive and aviation industries
- Clean energy development
- Civil Engineering
- Transportation engineer
- Structural engineer
- Water supply and distribution system design
- Computer Engineering
- Firmware engineer
- Software engineer
- Microprocessor design
- Robotics engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Electrical designer
- Microelectronics engineering (in computers and smartphones)
- Environmental Engineering
- Bioremediation expert
- Water resource engineer
- Water project management
- Green building engineer
- Air pollution control system design
- Geological Engineering
- Hydrogeological engineer
- Geothermal energy lead
- Mining and environmental consulting
- Management Engineering
- Data scientist
- Engineering program manager
- Product manager
- Internal auditor
- Software test specialist
- Mechanical Engineering
- Quality control engineer
- Nuclear and thermal engineer
- Medical device development
- Aerospace engineer
- Mechatronics Engineering
- Firmware engineer
- Telematics engineer
- Artificial intelligence research and development
- Nanotechnology Engineering
- Optoelectronic display engineer
- Pharmacovigilance analyst
- Nanoscale therapeutics development
- Implantable device design
- Community planner
- Transportation planner
- Software Engineering
- Innovation specialist
- Web development engineer
- Systems Design Engineering
- Project manager
- Transportation planner
- Product developer
I can link my success in life to the skills and perspective I gained in my time at Waterloo. The next generation of thinkers, leaders and doers will come from Waterloo.
- Learn more about Waterloo's Faculty of Engineering.
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