THE BLOG

6 Reasons Why You Should Be An Engineer

03/14/2014 12:53 pm ET | Updated May 14, 2014
  • Gene Marks Small business management columnist, author, speaker, and business owner

They are the geeks. They are the nerds. They are the kids who are last picked for the team. They build robots. They join the math club. They watch "Star Trek" (even the ones from the '70's). They are socially awkward.

They are engineers. And I wish I was one.

But I could never have been an engineer. That's because I'm not smart enough. I've never been smart enough. I went to a college that specialized in engineering. Half of my freshman classmates were engineers. By sophomore year that number was down to a quarter. What happened to those aspiring engineers? They became business majors, like me.

Not that majoring in business or arts or some other type of science is bad. It's just that in my opinion engineering is, of all there college majors and all specialties there is, the very best one.

To be an engineer you need a certain type of intelligence that you won't find in a communications, government or economic major. You need to be creative like an artist, and detailed like an accountant. You need to be independent and self confident. You need math and science and programming skills. It's a specialty that requires using both the left and right brains. Some people have it, that technical and creative predisposition. And some don't. If you have it then you should major in engineering. Why? Because the world needs engineers.

The world is made up of hardware. Smartphones. Planes. Cars. TVs. Laptops. Tablets. Switches. Routers. Scanners. Drones. 3-D printers. Robots. Manufacturing equipment. Someone needs to design these things. Someone needs to build these machines. Someone needs to figure out the circuitry, the storage, the wiring, the plastic, the glass, the packaging, the portability and how the data gets in and how the data gets out. This is what engineers do. They build hardware. They build every single device we use, from remote controls to bullet trains.

The world is made up of software. And what runs all of these devices? Software. Things are no longer inanimate. They have life. They think. They move. They detect. They respond to our requests and do our bidding. They go higher into the sky and dive deeper into the ocean. They talk to each other. They avoid other things. They learn. Every bit of hardware needs software to tell it what to do. Engineers write this software.

The world is getting older. Within the next two decades more than 20% of our population will be over retirement age. U.S. life expectancy at birth was 39 years in 1800, 49 years in 1900, 68 years in 1950 and 79 years today. These people will need care. They will need pharmaceuticals. They will need new body parts. They will need machines to help their hearts beat and their lungs to breathe. They will need aids to help them walk and eat. Engineers will make these things.

The world is getting bigger. Today the world's population is 7.1 billion people. In the next 30 years the population is expected to increase to 9.6 billion. The population of the United States will rise to 438 million in 2050, from 318 million in 2014. More people will require more roads, more bridges, more tunnels, better transportation systems, higher buildings, comfortable homes, safer cars, faster planes and better infrastructure. Engineers will also make these things.

The world is getting more competitive. Worldwide deaths from battle have plunged from 300 per 100,000 people during World War II to fewer than one in the 21st century. Most countries have realized the benefit of peace. So they're investing in education. They're building better products. And they are searching for smart people, like engineers, to help them to do this. Unfortunately, war is never out of the question. So the world's largest militaries continue to invest in weapons, ships, planes and tanks to defend their people and keep peace through strength. Their armies look for engineers to help make these weapons and build their camps. Hopefully these engineers will never have to put their minds to the task of killing others. But their services are valuable to the people they protect.

Finally, the world needs more entrepreneurs. Being an engineer means you're technical. But if you've got other skills, like analytical, marketing, communications, sales, finance or legal you can build off your engineering background to run companies, motivate teams, educate groups and lead the effort to innovate and make the world a better place. Look around at the CEO's of our most exciting new startups, the investors in our greatest companies, the partners of our smartest law firms, the business owners who make up the backbone of our country's economy and you'll find engineers who have the ability to manage other technical people because they are technical themselves.

Are you smart enough to endure the rigors of an undergraduate and graduate course in engineering? Are you patient enough to last through the next decade learning the technicalities of the profession you've chosen? At that point will you be comfortable just doing your job, designing and building and fixing? Or will you be the type to take those skills and build a team around you to create more stuff. Whatever your decision, good for you. You're an engineer. And I envy you.