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How do I Gain Engineering Work Experience?

Vicki Hogue-Davies
Vicki Hogue-Davies

Gaining engineering work experience while you still are in college will greatly benefit you when seeking engineering employment after graduation. One of the most common ways to gain engineering work experience is to work in an engineering internship during your college years. For this reason, it is important when considering college engineering programs to factor in whether engineering internships are offered before deciding on a program. In the best engineering programs, internships not only are offered, but completion of internships is required for students to graduate. Be sure to take advantage of all of the engineering internship opportunities that your program provides as well as any other work-related opportunities.

Typical engineering internship positions often are on-site at the companies offering the internships. Internships sometimes involve research that is funded by an industry but takes place on engineering school campuses. Some engineering schools partner with companies to provide distance-learning internships for students at rural or out-of-the way schools who can't physically work at company locations. If your school is in a somewhat remote location, ask about possible distance-learning opportunities as a way to gain engineering work experience.

Businessman with a briefcase
Businessman with a briefcase

If your program doesn't provide formal internship opportunities as part of its curriculum, speak with your department chairperson or professors for help in arranging an internship during summer or another school break. If this isn’t an option, seek one on your own by contacting job recruiters who specialize in the engineering field, by reviewing job boards, by visiting job fairs that feature engineering companies and by searching engineering company websites. Consider contacting smaller firms that might have only unpaid internships available but still could give you valuable experience. Another route you might take is to look for engineering internships in other countries, which will provide not only engineering experience but also experience with another culture. One organization offering engineering internships in different countries is the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE).

Another way to gain engineering experience is to look for part-time work in an engineering company, as an engineering assistant or in another engineering-related position, while you are in school. You might not perform actual engineering tasks, but you still will be exposed to the engineering work environment. You also can consider contacting smaller engineering companies in your area, explaining that you are studying engineering and asking whether they would consider allowing you to shadow an engineer for a few days — on an unpaid basis, of course. Also, consider joining student chapters of engineering organizations, which won’t provide direct engineering work experience but can provide networking connections.

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