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Engineering Specialization in a Rapidly Evolving World

Caliper on top of drawing plans

At some point in every engineer’s career, they ask themselves if they would achieve greater professional success if they specialized. Over the past generation, we’ve seen even more sub-specialties emerge in the engineering field. The evolution of the industry makes this question more important than ever and the potential benefits of early specialization clear.

Just how important is it for an engineer to specialize? We asked several Aerotek recruiters if engineers who specialize early in their careers enjoy greater success than engineers who remain generalists.

A definitive trend

Industries are increasingly seeking skilled specialists over engineering generalists. The sooner engineers choose their paths and start to get experience, the better. Engineers who do this see their careers grow faster and usually have a clearer path to rewarding positions than those that stay too general or don’t find their niche until later in their careers,” says Aerotek Recruiter Matt Wiehe.

“We see this a lot in the automotive and aviation industries,” adds recruiter Melanie Wilson-Herring.  “Take one of our clients that manufactures aviation equipment, they prefer that if candidates don’t have a lot of experience, that they have degrees focusing on aerospace/aviation and engineering from Embry-Riddle, an aeronautical university. And another client that manufactures automobiles specifically seeks design engineers that have brake or pneumatics experience, and a mechanical engineering degree. They haven’t been open to mechanical designers from different industries. The marketplace is very competitive and clients who want specific experience will not look at candidates outside of their industry.”

“When an engineer is a subject matter expert in an area or industry, they enjoy greater success throughout their career and make themselves more valuable to an employer with the knowledge and experience they’ve gained through the years. They also gain respect from their colleagues in the industry,” says Aerotek Recruiter Sam Yeomans.

Follow your passion

“If you do specialize, you must be prepared to move or go where the positions are,” Wilson-Herring adds. “For example, in the Greensboro territory, you have a few original equipment manufacturers (OEM). You also have some top-tier automotive suppliers, but if you want to pursue automotive, you might have to be prepared to move to other areas in the U.S. to stay within that industry. This may or may not be the best situation for you or your family. That’s when spreading your wings and getting experience elsewhere might be the best decision to make.”

The bottom line

When it comes to specializing as an engineer, our recruiters are seeing that you really need to develop your strengths and pursue a specialization that you’re passionate about. The decision about what to specialize in shouldn’t be based on just what the market needs now or what you think companies want. The engineering job market is evolving so fast that those factors will not last long-term, and you run the risk of getting stuck on a career path you’re not happy with. Our recruiters note the old adage: if you love what you do for a living, it will always feel a lot less like work.

If you’re looking for your next rewarding career opportunity, take a look at current engineering openings. Create a free Aerotek career account and share your job preferences and we will send you a notification when the perfect opportunity for you becomes available.