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Important Engineering Skills for a Successful Career

September 21, 2020
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The word engineering comes from the Latin words ingenium, meaning "cleverness," and ingeniare, meaning "to contrive or devise,” so we know successful engineers are intelligent. There’s more to becoming a successful engineer than one’s intelligence, though.

Qualities of Successful Engineers

According to, some of the most common qualities you’ll need to be a successful engineer include good communication, high interpersonal skills, enthusiasm, organization, and technical expertise. While these are helpful qualities to possess, let’s expand on this generic list a bit.

First and foremost, you need a mind that’s geared toward problem-solving. Part of being a good problem-solver includes the ability to remain objective, determine obstacles, identify opportunity, take action, and implement reverse engineering. Fantastic problem solvers also need to be able to delegate responsibility and push their (often large) egos aside.

Successful engineers pay very close attention to detail. So, if you’re one of those people who look through everything with a fine-toothed comb and sometimes aggravate your peers with your precision, you can check that skill off your list. You’ll also need a thirst for knowledge. 

So far, we’ve touched on a series of innate, not-really-related-to-engineering skills that are often associated with your personality. If you do possess most of these qualities, then you may be an engineer at heart. In the meantime, we can revisit technical expertise and cover the engineering skills you’ll need to actually be good at your job.

Let’s break down the skills you’ll need by the five most popular engineering disciplines because at the core of a successful engineering career lies qualifications in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects at the master’s and post-graduate levels.

Civil Engineering Skills

  • Math, science, IT skills
  • Ability to explain design ideas and plans clearly
  • Ability to analyze large amounts of data
  • Project management skills
  • Ability to work within budgets and deadlines
  • Knowledge of relevant legal regulations
  • Experience conducting experiments, designing systems, components, or processes that meet desired needs for economic, environmental, social, health and safety, and sustainability factors

Electrical Engineering Skills

  • College math
  • Computer structure and logic
  • Knowledge of AC-DC electronics, networking, probability, physics, microprocessor systems, power systems, semiconductors, electro-optics, and linear control systems
  • Ability to produce and interpret technical diagrams
  • Understanding of electrical health and safety regulations

Mechanical Engineering Skills

  • IT (software, computer-aided design)
  • Technology design technique skills
  • Knowledge of blueprints and models
  • Budgeting skills
  • Ability to adapt to changing circumstances
  • Ability to work under pressure and deadlines

Industrial Engineering Skills

  • Science (some physics and chemistry), technology, and mathematics
  • Production and processing
  • Design techniques and tools
  • Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software

Environmental Engineering Skills

  • Math (arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications)
  • Chemical composition and structure
  • Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, computer hardware and software, design techniques, and tools
  • Relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies
  • Relevant laws and legal codes
  • Practical application of engineering principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment
  • Business and management skills
While there are different educational backgrounds and classes that play a more dominant role in certain engineering disciplines, the crux of becoming a successful engineer lies in the skills you can’t always learn in the classroom.

Keep in mind that the most successful engineers have those distinctive qualities we mentioned earlier—an analytical mind, superb communication skills, logical thinking, creativity, and a desire to continue learning.

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