Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

How To Become An Engineer

A highschool student sent me this note, asking how he could become an automotive engineer:

Hi, I was reading your article on pushrod engines, when I took a look at your profile. You say you are an engineer working for an American automotive company. I'm a highschool student, and I plan on becoming a mechanical engineer. My dream job would be to get a job with an American automotive company, as I have a great passion for cars. I was just wondering, first off what company you worked for, but mostly, I was interested in whether you had any tips on how to become an engineer at an automotive company, what I should do during college, and so on, to give myself the best chance at achieving this goal. Any advice, or insight into what you did when you were younger would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Here is my response:

Sorry, my employer needs to stay secret, I don't want to get in trouble (companies can get touchy if they think their employees are blogging).

If you want to be an engineer, here is the basic list of things to do:

  • Do well in math and science in high school. Take AP calculus, AP physics, AP chemistry if you can.
  • Go to a decent college, with a respected engineering program. I don't know where you are from, but examples in the Michigan area are U of M, Michigan Tech, Kettering University. Major in mechanical, electrical, or computer engineering, depending on what your interest is. If you want to work in engine design, for example, you need to get a good base in Finite Element modeling, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics. Materials science is also important.
  • Become a student member of SAE and participate in SAE events. You will meet people this way, networking with industry folks is important.
  • GET AN INTERNSHIP! Try to get an internship with one of the auto companies, or a major supplier. This will really get your foot in the door, and help your chances.

Of course, my first urge was to write, "DON'T DO IT! GO TO MEDICAL SCHOOL!", but engineering isn't really a bad gig, and it won't go away any time soon. There just may not be as many jobs at "American" auto companies as there once were. And I was also tempted to add something like "learn Japanese or German", but perhaps Chinese would be better.


Anonymous said...

I'm still wondering if it was worth it too =p. (Structural Engineering in my case.)

Great advice!
I'd add, make the nerdiest friends possible. Friends who spend time talking about the TI-85 programs they've written will make you a better engineering student. You want to be close to your classmates and do homework cooperatively. They should be your social network too.

In college, don't take more than two or three important classes at once. Go to industry thingies and talk to people, get business cards, don't be afraid to email them after events. Many will be willing to talk to you.

But be flexible. I used to think I wanted to design bridges, but now I'm doing construction, on schools - mostly because I like the company I'm at more than the ones that I thought I'd end up at. You might find yourself in a similar situation one day. Good luck!


(PS: As an engineering student, go to the other side of campus as often as you can!)

Anonymous said...

Take it from a physician, medicine has *huge* problems as well that rival what's happening in the auto industry, believe me. The difference is that the auto industry will collapse and implode and refashion inself leaner, meaner, and ready to compete in the next few years, while I'll take 20-40 years of slow, painful decline for this to happen in medicine... The grass is always greener!

The Angry Engineer said...

That's excellent advice, Mr. Prophet. One thing that I would add is a suggestion to seek out hobbies and extracuricular activities that are in any way related to to the field of interest. I'd dare say that I would not be successful as an engineer if not for the skills and knowledge I developed through my hobbies.

Bob F. Dorkmyer said...

Excellent advice. If I was to do it all over again it would be bio-engineering. People are living longer and most desire a more active life style. Medical equipment to joint replacements are huge and will continue to grow!

As an engineer, please consider professional registration / licensure. It carries creditability and sets you apart. Take a look at and

Vishal13 said...

Hey "Auto Prophet" and fellow engineers. I am a young mechanical engineer that graduated this year from a local University in Trinidad and Tobago and I am a bit confused about getting certain achievements in my life. I would like to be an engineer or whatever you would like to call it that deals with the design of vehicles in a company like "Nissan" or somewhat similar (I have a liking for Japanese vehicles). What aspect of the vehicle? I am not too sure but most likely a specialized part like the engine or aerodynamics or may be all if possible. I am however employed at the moment with a Non Destructive Testing Inspection Company and I am not happy because I don't like what I do.
I am asking for your help or guidance to lead me along the correct pathway. I am actually going to start by attempting some detailed Autocad courses.

-Thank you