Training options for a job market where engineering grads are in high demand

Career Guide: Engineering and Technology

There are good job prospects for graduates in this ever-changing industry: A UCD chemical engineering student, above.

There are good job prospects for graduates in this ever-changing industry: A UCD chemical engineering student, above.

Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 01:00

The first engineers invented the wheel. Today, engineers continue to bring scientific ideas to life, inventing and maintaining the variety of products and tools we use in our everyday lives. This article would never reach your eyes without engineers to invent and maintain the printing presses or the computer you’re reading it on. Technologies from mobile phones to digital televisions and 3D cinemas exist because of engineers. So do hearing implants and laser surgeries. But engineers have also sent humans (and dogs) into space. Indeed, any invention you can think of exists because engineers exist.

Engineering and technology courses are for people with inventive, technical minds, who not only like seeing how things work but also like making them work better. And yes, an aptitude for maths is essential.

Engineering is intricately linked to science, and it is a highly diverse field. Most college courses are neatly divided into chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, but this doesn’t adequately describe what engineers do, with acoustic, software, biomedical, manufacturing and aerospace engineering among the many other fields.

Engineering courses can be demanding, with students putting in longer classroom hours than those lazy slobs in arts. But they are incredibly useful careers, with engineering and technology graduates in high demand across a range of careers.

Demand for engineering and technology courses is on the rise, with applications for courses surging by over 51 per cent in the past five years. Meanwhile, a record one in three students sat higher level maths this year. All this hints at a promising future for engineering and technology graduates.

Where to study

Engineering and technology courses are perhaps the most well-represented at third-level, with Level 6/7 and Level 8 degrees on offer in each of Ireland’s seven universities and almost every institute of technology. Students may find it a little bewildering.

Not sure what type of engineer you want to be? General entry engineering courses, where students study a broad syllabus in first year before moving on to specialise, are available in UCD, DCU, DIT, CIT, NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth, and Trinity College. All of these institutions offer courses in the main branches of engineering.

Some students are already pretty clear on what they want, and they can find courses in electronic engineering or biotechnology at NUI Maynooth, sustainable energy engineering at WIT, biological and chemical sciences at UCC, and mechatronic engineering at DCU, to name but a few.

Choosing what to specialise in can be a little bewildering. Green energy and sustainable and environmental engineering are major growth areas. CIT offers an Environmental Science and Sustainable Technology course; NUI Galway has an Energy Systems Engineering course; UCC offers a BSc in Energy Engineering; while WIT also focuses on sustainable energy engineering.

Biotechnology is the deliberate manipulation of living organisms and systems such as cells or cell components to make useful products, and direct-entry courses are on offer at NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth, DCU and Athlone IT. Meanwhile, the biomedical industry, which engineers products for use in medicine, continues to thrive in Ireland; courses can be found in NUI Maynooth, UL, NUI Galway, and DCU.

Computer science and technology graduates are in high demand and this is unlikely to change. DCU is gaining a particularly strong reputation for its suite of technology courses, while UCD’s BSc in Computer Science degree is the highest-ranked computer science course of its kind in Europe, and remains more popular than that of closest rival Trinity College.

Ireland has a burgeoning computer games industry with excellent employment prospects, and courses are available at Athlone IT, Letterkenny IT, Limerick IT, IT Tralee and UL.

Career opportunities

Despite a lull for civil and structural engineers, there’s usually good job prospects for graduates in this ever-changing industry. Engineers and computer technology specialists are highly valued for their ability to look at a problem and find a solution, and their skills are highly mobile; even in the worst employment market in Ireland, they’ll always find work abroad.

At the moment, Ireland has a chronic shortage of electronic engineering graduates which is expected to last long beyond 2018, according to Forfás, a State agency which advises on future skills needs, and which has a relatively solid record of predictions. The organisation’s Expert Group on Future Skills Needs says that demand for software developers and designers and IT experts will remain high. In the manufacturing sector, demand for process engineering skills at professional level, as well as demand for precision engineering skills for tool design and polymer technology, are likely to be in demand well beyond 2020.

Meanwhile, computer science graduates are needed not just in technology companies, but right across every company, big and small, whose success will depend on continued innovation in every aspect of their business.

Salary expectations

Engineers and IT professionals are among

Ireland’s top earners. According to gradireland’s salary survey, engineers and manufacturing professionals can expect starting salaries of €30,000, while IT and telecoms professionals start off on €29,000, among the highest starting salaries in Ireland. CPL Recruitment says that a civil engineer on a high salary will earn around €50,000, a chemical engineer or an electrical engineer will make in excess of €65,000, and a quality manager will make over €80,000. Meanwhile, a software engineer on a high salary could take in around €65,000, and a database developer will make €66,000.

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