Mr. 15HWW has recently posted an article about The Booming Electronics Sector. I made some comments on that article but honestly, there was so much more that I wanted to say but couldn’t in a small text box. It actually kinda made me pretty motivated to talk about how it’s like being an engineer, and where else can I talk to people that I don’t know? Thus, the birth of this post. (Thank you 15HWW for the inspiration!)
This post would be perfect for polytechnic/university undergrads that want to know more about their potential career in the engineering industry. At the same time, working adults that are thinking of coming over to engineering will have some extra points to contemplate on. We will discuss about what you can expect and touch on some sensitive topics that you can’t ever discuss with any of your colleagues (ka-ching!).
Of course, these experiences are based on my own. Having being quite “fresh” myself with about 4 and a half years working in 3 different companies, I believe that not all of the information might be relevant to you. So just take everything I said with a teaspoon of salt. And don’t forget to keep your blood pressure in check. 😉
First things first.
Who Are We, Exactly?
We are in the category of Professionals, Executive, Managers and Technicians (PMETs). So yes, I am supposed to be a “professional”, and so is every other engineer in my company. In recent years (and sadly only after I graduated), the Singapore government has been actively promoting engineering and also increased the basic salary for fresh graduates that start their careers as engineers by 20% in the public sector.
Why so? Because the world needs engineers, and Singapore wants to increase her technical competence as a whole. Without this expertise, it would be hard for Singapore to make herself prominent in the world map. Also, the world would be a boring place. No computers, no iPhones and you can’t even take a hot shower!
There are many types of engineering and we comes in many forms (and shapes and sizes :p). You can take a quick glance across the list of courses that are offered in the university to know what kind of engineers there are. For me, I work as an Electrical Engineer in R&D. My main job is to design electrical boards called Printed Circuit Boards. Email me if you’re interested to know more.
The Stigma of Engineers
If you’ve graduated from a local university like me, it would be common for you to find that many of your peers are being forced to study engineering due to poor grades. The cut off points to enter engineering are a lot more than business and finance courses.
And you will also realized that a big bunch of graduates will not continue with engineering and choose to pursue other industries where the pay checks would seem more promising.
I will now tell you that this is absolutely not true. There are engineers who can earn as well, if not, higher than finance industries. The best part? It is easier for engineers to change industry even after many years of experience than vice versa.
So Tell Me How Much Already!
You can check out the salary guide here from Adecco (they are a HR recruiter for many of the big MNCs) and the numbers are quite relevant to mine as well. Here are some numbers for the salary range of my friends and mine (basic pay, excluding 17% employer contribution to CPF), and you can use them as guide.
Year 1 to 2: Fresh graduate and enthusiastic to earn my first real pay check! Absolutely zero value and would be elated if any company wanted me. Junior positions start with an annual salary of just $33,000 to $50,000.
Year 2 to 4: Got promoted! Gained some experience, as well as confidence. Realized that I could ask for more and I was adjusting pretty well to work life. Job hopped for better career prospects. The typical annual salary for this stage will be bumped up to about $45,000 to $55,000.
Year 4 to Present: Was expecting a promotion but I got headhunted by a recruitment agent before that could happen. Went for the interview and they loved me very much. Was willing to offer slightly lesser than what I’ve asked. Be expected to be drawing around $50,000 to $65,000.
While typing this, I realized that my income increased by 60% to 70% after 4.5 years. This was definitely a nice surprise, and with the added element of luck. And yes, job hopping really helps to significantly improve in your income, as compared to what you get with a normal increment.
You can expect a much higher pay scale (>20%) if you are in the public sector, or working in the government.
Career progression in engineering? Unfortunately, we’re not too big on titles. Here’s a typical chain of command that you can find in almost all MNCs and SMEs.
Technician/Assistant Engineer (Minimum Diploma) –> Engineer (Minimum Degree onwards) –> Senior Engineer –> Principal Engineer / Manager –> Director
Usually, a normal employee can stay in a position for 3-10 years. Don’t get discouraged however, because some companies offer multiple promotions within one position (jump in grade rather than title), and promotion is quite predictable. Some engineers with more experience could even be earning more than their managers.
If you’re planning to do the big shift from another industry, I would say that it would be very difficult to enter as a Senior Engineer and above without any relevant experience. An internal transfer might yield higher chances of parallel movement within companies but for external hires, you can virtually forget about it. So I do not recommend coming into the industry half way, unless you can live with a significant cut in your pay check and a junior title.
Work, And More Work?
Most of our work are project based and the busy periods come in waves. When you’re busy, you can be really busy but when you’re free, you can also be shaking leg for quite some time in office.
Now, I mentioned earlier that we were PMETs, so most of our overtime will be not eligible for claim. But this varies from company to company so do check with your HR to know what applies to you.
In general, most offices now incorporate flexible working hours and I have to say that I’ve enjoyed a healthy balance between work and personal time from all companies. So actually, it would be good to be an engineer (especially in MNCs) if you have a life outside of work.
Having being an engineer myself, I would encourage you to be one if you are thinking about entering the industry. The skills that you can learn from engineering holds no boundaries. Many problem solving tools and thought processes that we use on a daily basis can be used in other industries as well. You will also get a sense of achievement after completion of a project.
I hope this article was useful for you. If you’re an engineer yourself and would like to point out some of your own opinions, share them in the comments below. I would love to hear them.
Thank you for reading!