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Naomi Rothwell-Boyd, October 4 2023

Best Career Change for Engineers - Complete Guide

Have you ever considered the possibility of a fulfilling career change for engineering professionals? As an engineer, you might be surprised by the range of alternative career paths available to you. 

We’ll explore the reasons why engineers might consider changing careers, the transferable skills they possess, and some alternative career options. We’ll also provide tips for a successful career change, helping you navigate your way to a more satisfying and rewarding professional life.

Key Takeaways

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Reasons for Engineers to Change Careers

There are several reasons why engineers might contemplate a career change, such as burnout, limited growth opportunities, job market unpredictability, or a desire to pursue other passions.

Exploring these factors can provide insight into why engineers might consider venturing into new career paths.


Burnout in engineering can be caused by a combination of factors, such as inadequate management, tedious tasks, and demanding work environments. As a result, engineers might seek a new career path to escape the stress and exhaustion associated with their current role.

Engineers with an electrical engineering degree can avoid burnout through good management, diversified tasks, and positive work environments. Yet, when burnout becomes too intense, it can serve as a compelling catalyst for engineers to seek career opportunities that resonate with their personal and professional aspirations.

Growth Opportunities

The potential for senior positions to be filled or promotions to be scarce can be a powerful incentive for engineers to consider switching careers due to limited growth opportunities, especially in fields like computer science. Engineers in fields like chemical engineering can look forward to a projected career growth rate of 3-4% in the next 10 years, offering exciting opportunities for advancement.

However, the saturation of senior positions in engineering can make it more challenging for engineers to move up to higher-level roles, leading to intense competition and limited opportunities for career progression.

Regardless of these challenges, a career change can open new avenues for growth and enable engineers to realize their full potential.

Job Market Unpredictability

The ever-changing job market, especially during times of economic hardship or global crisis, can inspire engineers to seek out more secure career paths where they can apply their critical thinking skills. Economic downturns can have a significant impact on the engineering job market, including:

Job stability for engineers has been affected differently across sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic, with some areas demonstrating steady employment growth since 2020Q2. Engineers, in reaction to these instabilities and uncertainties, might consider alternative career paths that provide greater stability and security for sustained professional success.

Pursuing Other Passions

Engineers may choose to change careers to pursue other passions and interests, such as entrepreneurship, teaching, or creative fields. For example, engineers with an entrepreneurial spirit might find success in ventures like nuts and bolts manufacturing, solar panel installation, or engineering design services.

To transition into teaching, engineers can:

In conclusion, following other passions can pave the way to a career that is more satisfying and rewarding.

Transferable Skills: Engineering Graduates' Advantages

Engineering graduates, especially those from civil engineering backgrounds, possess a wealth of transferable skills that can be advantageous in an engineering career, including software engineering, or alternative careers, such as problem-solving, technical writing, and analytical skills. These skills are often developed through their engineering education.

Such unique capabilities can enable engineers to excel in diverse roles, not limited to their initial field of expertise.

Problem Solving

Engineers’ problem-solving abilities can be applied to various fields, including project management, data analysis, and consulting. Their engineering background equips them with a powerful set of tools and techniques to tackle any problem, allowing them to break down complex issues into smaller, more manageable components and develop innovative solutions.

Examples of inspiring engineering problem-solving include devising solutions for the climate crisis, designing systems for water purification, and inventing innovative methods to prevent hot coffee from spilling. These examples demonstrate the versatility and value of problem-solving skills across different domains.

Technical Writing

Engineers’ technical writing skills can be utilized in roles such as technical writer, patent attorney, or engineering professor. Technical writing can help engineers effectively communicate valuable information, leading to improved business operations, stronger client and stakeholder relationships, and more effective employee training.

In the engineering industry, technical writers can produce valuable deliverables like project engineering plans (PEPs) and construction work packages (CWPs), which are in high demand by companies. Similarly, engineering professors can use their technical writing skills to create clear and concise instructional materials, research papers, and documentation for engineering projects.

Analytical Skills

Engineers’ analytical skills can be valuable in data-driven roles, such as data scientist, database administrator, or marketing automation specialist. Engineers with strong programming, math, and statistics knowledge can leverage data science to unlock valuable insights from data and drive informed decision-making.

Using their expertise in mathematics, statistics, and programming, engineers can develop algorithms and models to extract valuable insights from data. Additionally, they can use their knowledge of data visualization techniques to effectively present findings in a clear and concise manner, making them highly valuable in data-driven roles.

Alternative Career Options for Engineers

Having discussed the motivations for a career shift and the transferable skills held by engineers, we now turn our attention to the alternative career paths they can consider. Engineers have several exciting options, including project management, data science, and patent law, which can provide fulfilling and rewarding career paths.

Project Management

Engineers can excel in project management roles due to their technical skills, leadership abilities, and time management expertise. Their background in engineering can help them optimize business operations and anticipate potential issues, making them valuable assets in project management positions.

There are certifications and courses available for engineers transitioning into project management roles, such as Project Management Professional (PMP), Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP), and Associate in Project Management (APM). These certifications can help engineers develop the necessary skills and knowledge for a successful transition into a project manager position.

Data Science

Data science is a suitable career change for engineers with strong programming, math, and statistics knowledge. As data scientists, engineers can:

Apply their skills to extract, analyze, and prepare data

Engineers can tap into resources like:

These resources can help engineers build the necessary skills and qualifications to excel in a data science role.

Patent Attorney

Engineers with a technical background can transition to patent law, protecting intellectual property as patent attorneys. Their impressive technical background makes them excellent candidates for this role.

To become a patent attorney, one must have specific qualifications. These include obtaining a law degree and passing the patent bar exam. By acquiring these qualifications, engineers can leverage their technical expertise in a new and exciting career path, protecting valuable intellectual property.

Tips for a Successful Career Change

Having examined some alternative career paths for engineers, it’s pertinent to share some strategies for a successful career transition, especially when changing careers.

Engineers can ensure a seamless transition by assessing their interests and passions, researching new fields, gaining relevant experience, and customizing their resume and cover letter.

Assessing Interests and Passions

The process of assessing interests and passions entails scrutinizing both current and past experiences to pinpoint what genuinely sparks enthusiasm and motivation. Reflecting on your professional journey and evaluating your personal experience from your entire career history can help you uncover your interests and passions.

Introspection can be a powerful tool for engineers to explore their values, strengths, and areas of genuine captivation, allowing them to discover their interests and passions. By understanding your true interests, you can make career choices that are aligned with your passions, leading to a more fulfilling and rewarding professional life.

Researching New Fields

The act of researching new fields encompasses a study of potential career paths, comprehension of job responsibilities, salaries, prerequisites, and seeking career guidance. Resources like KQED, CLC Illinois, PBS Nova Labs, IEEE, and ASCE can provide valuable information on various engineering careers and alternative options.

In addition to using these resources, visiting career websites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and Zippia can help you gain a comprehensive understanding of job responsibilities, salary expectations, and required qualifications for different roles. This research can be invaluable in identifying the best career path for your interests and skills.

Building Relevant Experience

The accumulation of relevant experience can be achieved through internships, online courses, or bootcamps to acquire the requisite skills and qualifications for the targeted role. Gaining experience through these methods can help you reach your goals and make a successful career transition.

Some exciting engineering jobs and internships suitable for engineers looking to transition careers include:

Bootcamps offer an efficient way to gain the skills and experience needed to make a career change, with many people successfully using bootcamps to transition to new roles such as software engineers, web developers, designers, and more.

Tailoring Your Resume and Cover Letter

The customization of your resume and cover letter should feature the emphasis of transferable skills, incorporation of pertinent keywords, and manifestation of your aspiration to progress in the new field. To best demonstrate your transferable skills on your resume, use bullet points and concise statements to highlight your accomplishments and skills.

To craft a targeted cover letter, emphasize how your transferable engineering skills make you the perfect fit for the position. Connect your skills to the job requirements and show your excitement for the role. Make sure to be clear, concise, and precise when highlighting your transferable engineering skills in both your resume and cover letter.


In conclusion, engineers have various reasons to consider a career change, and their transferable skills make them excellent candidates for alternative career paths. By exploring options such as project management, data science, and patent law, engineers can find more fulfilling and rewarding professional lives. By assessing interests and passions, researching new fields, building relevant experience, and tailoring resumes and cover letters, engineers can make a successful and exciting career change. The possibilities are endless, so follow your passion and embrace the opportunity to embark on a new career journey.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good career change for an engineer?

For an engineer looking for a career change, consider expanding their skill set to business leadership, teaching/training, mathematics, education or another science field. Finding the right balance between personal values and professional skills can lead to success in any new career path.

How do I change my engineering field?

Start your journey to a different engineering career by taking a career test, researching disciplines you find appealing, and determining if you need to retrain. Further your progress by networking, doing informational interviews, and working with a recruiter.

Is 30 too old to start a career in engineering?

No, 30 is not too old to start a career in engineering. Many people go back to school or choose programs to fit their needs, with adults getting engineering degrees at any age. It's never too late to pursue a great career in engineering!

What are some common reasons engineers might consider changing careers?

Burnout, limited growth opportunities, job market unpredictability, and a desire to pursue other passions are all common reasons engineers consider changing careers.

What transferable skills do engineers possess that can be beneficial in other careers?

Engineers possess essential transferable skills including problem-solving, technical writing and analytical thinking, which can be incredibly useful in other careers.

Author: Naomi Rothwell-Boyd

Naomi is the founder of Tribe And Seek and an EMCC and CIPD accredited career coach specialising in career change. 

Her career advice comes from her work alongside ex-olympic athletes supporting corporate clients like Kraft Heinz, and creating leadership courses at the Duke Of Edinburgh's Award.

She also left a previous career in international development consulting behind, where she led UK corporate fundraising at Habitat For Humanity.

Written by

Naomi Rothwell-Boyd

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