How Can I Get Experience in Engineering Without a Degree?

by Debra Kraft

Engineering career options are vast, and the differences between them can seem equally huge. An electrical engineer shouldn't perform chemical engineering, and vice versa. If one common thread links engineering fields, it's education. Engineering positions, even those identified as entry level, typically require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree. Students can gain work experience prior to graduation, however.


Prospective civil engineers should consider taking the engineer-in-training examination offered by the board of engineering examiners in each state. These examinations are the first step toward becoming licensed as a professional engineer. Taking the test before completing a degree program provides evidence to potential employers that a job applicant has sufficient engineering knowledge to begin working at an entry-level position. Each state board, however, determines its own prerequisites, and some require degrees. In California, applicants must have three years of experience, education or a combination of the two.


Prospective information technology engineers can pursue technology certifications. Look for programs offered by leading vendors, like Microsoft and Cisco, based on specific areas of interest. Certifications in networking, telecommunications, security or applications show potential employers that an applicant has received training specific to technologies in use. Certification programs that include lab work also provide applicants with direct experience working with the technologies.


Students enrolled in any type of engineering degree program should explore internship opportunities. Companies turn to colleges to hire interns who can complement their professional engineering staffs. Interns get exposure to actual engineering department work and gain practical experience in their fields by working directly with experienced engineers. These positions can also lead to permanent placement opportunities for interns who gain the respect of the engineers with whom they've partnered.


Networking with professionals in the prospective engineer's field of study can open doors for temporary or permanent job opportunities. Build relationships with former classmates, professors and members of professional engineering associations. Getting involved with professional associations as a volunteer can build a prospective engineer's network and show potential employers the engineer's commitment to the field.

About the Author

A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.

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