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Six Paths to Continuing Your Engineering Education (Part One)
Your education in engineering and technology doesn't end the day you get your diploma.
In fact, in order to stay competitive in your field, you will need to devote a great deal of time to updating your skills, learning the newest information in your industry, and staying up to date with the latest technological innovations and scientific breakthroughs.
Yes, education is going to be a part of your life for a long time to come.
Luckily, there are numerous paths you can take to continue your engineering education. Part one of this article covers college, online courses, and webinars. Part two will cover conferences, professional education, and local seminars.
No, You're Not Done With College Yet
Many people start their engineering careers with just a basic bachelor's degree. But in order to take your career further, chances are very high you're going to need an advanced degree, such as a master's or a doctorate, or perhaps more specifically a certification in a certain area of technology. That's why many professional engineers or technologists go to school part-time while they work.
The advantage of this approach is that many employers will pay to have their employees go to school. Depending on the company, you might be able to get one, two, or even three courses paid for every year. Of course, this does make you in some ways indentured to your company. You won't be able to leave for a certain number of years after they pay for your education. (If you want to leave earlier, they may ask you to pay back some of that money.)
You could also decide to pay for your advanced degree yourself, or need to if your company does not pay for education. Whether or not you can do that depends on how much you are making at your job, and how much more you want to add to your student loans. (Ouch.) But depending on your industry, it may be the only possible step if you hope to stay employed in the long run.
Online Web seminars are another great way to keep your education going. They are often free, or inexpensive. You don't need to travel, which is great. They usually cover the most cutting-edge topics. And you can often find good ones outside of your or field to help broaden your knowledge base and make you a more attractive employee.
Many webinars also offer Continuing Education Units (CEUs), which, depending on your industry, can be very valuable.
Somewhere between these two options are online courses, which could be offered by a university as part of a broader online program (maybe offering college credit toward an advanced degree) or by a company or organization as a single class. These online courses are often self-paced, meaning they can be taken at any time and at any speed. While rarely free, online courses can be much more affordable than in-person classes, while still offering the same end-result.
One of the problems with all three of these options is that they leave you on your own too much. Working graduate students don't hang around college campuses to network with their fellow classmates. They rush off to their homes or jobs as soon as classes are over. Webinars and online courses, similarly, offer little to no interaction with your fellow students. This can be lonely or isolating, but remember the end goal: making yourself a more valuable employee.
Go to Part 2.
John Platt is a marketing consultant and journalist living in coastal Maine.
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