Opportunity Knocks: Careers for Women in Science and Technology
"Real women study science." "Engineering is exciting."
While these mottos may not be plastered on billboards across the country or popping up on prime time television just yet, successful female engineers and organizations such as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the IEEE want individuals choosing a course of study and potential career path to consider scientific fields -- like engineering.
There's more to this line of work than meets the eye. Here are some of the many reasons female students should think about pursuing a career in engineering.
1. Design and innovate: According to Dr. Irena Atov, chair of IEEE Women in Engineering and technical manager at Telstra, a network architecture reliability group, "Engineering jobs are involved with the invention, design and manufacture of products and systems." Essentially engineers apply the principles of science and mathematics to develop economical solutions to technical problems. "Everything you use, everywhere you go in the man-made environment has its basis in engineering," offers Dr. Atov.
2. Play with technology: Technology isn't just for catching up on social networking or trading e-mails. At the crux of engineering are technologies used to design, produce, test, and simulate how a machine, structure, or system operates. You can actually "play" with the concepts that you are developing before they are put to market.
3. Science can liberate: There's something empowering about a career in a field that has such widespread touch, impact and relatability. According to Dr. Atov, "Engineering is such an interesting field in that every day when you go to work you can create things you never thought possible -- a true way to follow your dreams."
Additionally, the talent pool provided by female engineers is growing and women can bring a new perspective to the field and its social force.
4. Hands-on work in different specialties: For those who love to get inside a problem and work toward a solution, engineering has multiple fields of interest to pursue. Engineering pervades so many subsets that there are dozens of specialized concentrations within this field of study. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 17 engineering specialties recognized by the Federal Government's Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. These include: agricultural engineers, biomedical engineers, civil engineers, computer engineers, environmental engineers, and nuclear engineers, among others. Individuals interested in a specific area of study can likely find an engineering specialty that works in conjunction with that field.
5. Engineering can be lucrative: Thanks to the widespread demand for engineers in all facets of the economy, engineering can be a stable and intellectually stimulating career. In a time of economic uncertainty, it can be a smart move to choose a career path that ensures long-term employment, like engineering. Although salaries vary according to country and area of specialty, it's not uncommon to earn a starting salary of $80,000 and upward per year, which according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is "among the highest of all college graduates."
6. Travel opportunities abound: A truly global career path, engineering jobs exist all over the world. Dr. Atov says, "Engineering offers international portability -- enabling you to work in different countries." Domestic companies may place employees to work in foreign subsidiaries, or global companies may be looking for a larger pool of applicants.
"Especially in the field of academia, engineers don't just pursue careers in their home state, or even country. University jobs are now advertised worldwide and it is quite the norm, to have applicants from every continent -- thus ensuring that the best candidates in the world are chosen," she says.
"Women should know, now more than ever, that engineering is a career that brings together passion, creativity and intelligence to a job where you can help people," says Atov.
Engineering careers generally require a four-year degree from an accredited university. Internships can help individuals further clarify the intricacies of a career in engineering, especially one in a certain specialization.
Regardless of age or level of education, if your dream is to join the ranks of other successful women engineers -- such as Dr. Radia Perlman, known as the Mother of the Internet, and Nancy J. Currie, a NASA astronaut, engineer and officer in the U.S. Armed Forces -- visit www.TryEngineering.org or www.ieee.org/women to take action and get your career started down the right path.