My son is keen to pursue a career in engineering, but is not very clear as to which discipline he should specialise in.
S. Jones, Dubai

Incidentally, a fair majority of students I meet are keen to pursue engineering! While quite a few have a passion for the subject, some, I sense, choose this subject partly because of pressure from their parents.

There are extensive areas in the profession including research and design, where one can specialise in and there will always be a demand for well-qualified engineers, particularly in the fields of IT and electronics. It is also extremely interesting to note unemployment in this field ranks amongst the lowest when compared to other professions.

Graduates with engineering degrees are needed in almost every sector of society and this provides a multitude of different job options for new graduates. Specialisations can be in software, information, manufacturing, automotive, aeronautical to name just a few. Areas to specialise in could be design, production, marketing or sales depending on your aptitude and interest.

With technology continually evolving engineering professionals continue to experiment with new materials and processes, making this field truly exciting and challenging. Thanks to changing world employment patterns, engineers today can look forward to a truly international career.

If a student shows an aptitude for engineering or an allied field, I recommend he/she concentrate on physics and mathematics in addition to English. Studying at least one foreign language always helps when pursuing an engineering course overseas.

In the first years of the engineering degree, all students normally study the same subjects. They are required to choose their specialisation subjects only in the final years. In America unlike the UK you have more latitude as you have the first two years to make up your mind before you zero in on your choice of degree.

That said, it is vital to keep in mind specialisation in one field does not mean the student will not be able to switch to another area of engineering, provided they have the required skills and qualifications. Thus, a chemical engineer for instance can switch specialisations and pursue a career in mining engineering, of course after completing the requisite courses. An extremely popular combination is to either do a few finance subjects along with your engineering or do an MBA as a second degree. There are many bankers and hedge fund professionals whose first degree is in engineering.

After securing an engineering degree you need to become a member of a professional engineering institution. To qualify for Chartered Engineering status, you will need some years of training in a responsible position. In all economies the industry contributes significantly to the gross domestic product and is therefore very important for growth and development.

To answer your query, do encourage him to pursue this career. I strongly suggest he undertakes a psychometric test to match his interest with his skills. To help him identify his strengths and aptitude he should consult a career guidance centre or a counsellor. Most schools have counsellors who will be glad to offer advice.

Sanjeev Verma began his career with Ernst & Young before moving on to set up the Gulf operations of IDP Education Pty. He now leads Intelligent Partners in Dubai developing a wide range of solutions in areas of international education.