Does university teach you to be an engineer?

By RachaelArchibald | editorial | December 13, 2012

So I studied for my MEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering for 5 years (for free) in Scotland. During this time I must have completed over 50 modules which came under this degree title. With such a varied selection, I always wondered how this would work when I entered a job and began some real life electrical engineering.

At the beginning of November I got the chance to complete a role which would help me find this out. Working along side the area electrical engineer, who, deals with all electrical issues on plant. I would shadow him as well as complete a couple of my own projects.

Having been in this role now for almost 6 weeks, the answer I was hoping to be able to give was that I’ve been able to do almost everything asked of me, without thinking much about it. That however, was simply wishful thinking. Instead I’ve realised how little I learnt in the 5 years I studied the subject.

I’ve discovered that those 5 years I did study were full of the theory and science of how things like transistors work, but lacking in the basics of practical electrical engineering such as being able to study an electrical diagram and explain what its showing. What the 5 years did prove, is that I am able to learn new things, and that’s what I’ve continued to do in this placement.

To become an engineer you really need to get hands on experience doing engineering, rather than studying for exams and promptly forgetting what you learnt. This placement and hopefully my next one are allowing me to do this, whether or not I become an electrical engineer by the end of it, we’ll have to wait and see!

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