How to Become a Principal Engineer?
Steps to Become an EngineerYour journey to become an engineer will vary depending on your career goals and what field of engineering you wish to practice. Engineering comprises six major branches: chemical, mechanical, management, electrical, geotechnical, and civil engineering. Each of these branches has different subcategories, training, and education needed to obtain a job. These may include environmental engineering, oceanic engineering, aerospace engineering, and nuclear engineering. Below is a generalized breakdown of what you'll need to do to become an engineer.
Select your engineering field.
There are various niches within the engineering field, and deciding which area you want to focus on is an important first step to becoming an engineer. Engineering fields you may consider include chemical, civil, mechanical, electrical, environmental, computer hardware, biomedical, industrial, aerospace, nuclear, and agricultural engineering. Once you've selected the specific area of engineering you want to pursue, you can determine what educational steps you will need to take.
Use a degree you already have.
Some engineering careers don't require a specific degree in engineering. Electrical engineers don't necessarily have to have a formal degree such as a bachelor's or master's degree, but the job does require some sort of training, such as vocational training or an associate degree. Chemical engineers can cross from chemistry or biology, and mechanical engineers can cross with a bachelor's degree in a technical field. While it's possible to find a job without an engineering degree, it will be easier with engineering credentials. This brings us to your specialized education in engineering.
Get your bachelor's degree in engineering.
Unless you have a degree in advanced math or science, you should consider getting your bachelor's degree in engineering. Most college programs offer Bachelor of Science degree options with the opportunity to choose a specialty, such as electrical, mechanical, or aerospace engineering. The Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology is the organization that accredits U.S. engineering programs. Choosing an accredited program will make it easier to complete the program and find a job.
What skills do you need to be an Engineer?
- Written Communication
- Operating Systems
- Packet Forwarding
- GO Python
- Cost Estimates
Take the NCEES FE exam.
After you graduate with your bachelor's degree in your specified engineering field, you may take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam through the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. This will provide you with a license to work as an intern or engineer-in-training. To obtain full licensure, you'll need to obtain four years of real-life job experience. Once you have your bachelor's degree and a minimum of four years of experience, you can become licensed in your line of work by taking the Professional Engineer exam.
Continue your education.
If you're leaning toward a specific engineering path, you may benefit from continuing your education. Some specialties in the engineering field require you to have a master's degree. Most graduate programs will allow you to continue to work in your chosen field while completing them.
Principal Engineer Career Path
Senior Principal Engineer
Total Pay Trajectory
Principal Engineer Career Path
Related Careers in the Engineering Industry
Interested in other Engineering careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with Principal Engineer skills. Discover some of the most common Principal Engineer career transitions, along with skills overlap.