After working as an engineer, I’ve experienced a few different career paths and have discovered the pros and cons of each type of work. Every job has its perks (and its downsides) and the balance of those can seriously affect your experience of the job. This article is going to give you a run down on what it’s really like to work as an engineer, and the different career paths you could find yourself in. If you’re interested in engineering, check out this article on how to score your dream job in engineering.
Job 1: Graduate Engineer
Pros: Good Lifestyle, Good pay
Cons: Work may not be as interesting
When I first graduated uni as an electrical engineer I worked as a project engineer in Sydney, the lifestyle was pretty great due to the good location and good pay, but unfortunately the work wasn’t particularly interesting. As a project engineer my job was mostly management related rather than technical work, I was asked to organise purchase orders for new equipment and to liaise with customers and suppliers to make sure the product was delivered and paid for on time.
Job 2: Site Engineer
Pros: Great pay, interesting work
Cons: Lifestyle is less than ideal
In my next role I worked as a site control systems engineer working on the QCLNG oil and gas pipeline. This role was much more interesting in terms of needing to troubleshoot technical issues in the control system and implementing corrections in a fast paced environment. It was also very well paid; the downside was the lifestyle was terrible. Having to do a 19 day swing straight with only 9 days off each month was incredibly draining. Every day was a 12 hour shift where you would wake up at 5am, get ready and have breakfast then be on site or travelling to site by 6am. You would then get home at 6pm have dinner and get about 2 hours to relax before you needed to go to sleep at 9pm to be fresh for the next day. To top this off you are in the middle of nowhere, in Chinchilla, away from family and friends, lifestyle wise it is pretty terrible. I also realised there is no point in having lots of money if you have no time to enjoy it!
Job 3: Research Student
Pros: Great lifestyle, interesting work
Cons: Pay is just enough to survive
Currently, I am working as a research student where I get the amazing university lifestyle and the interesting work associated with solving a research problem no one else has addressed. However, the pay is not as good as my previous roles but I love it one-hundred times more than my other roles. Somewhat idealistically, I have realised that I prefer lifestyle and interesting work over money.
Each of these different jobs were good in their own way and ultimately it comes down to personal choice as to which is the best option for you. Personally I have always favoured interesting work and lifestyle well above good pay but everyone is different and it is up to you to decide what suits you best.