As an accountant, you’re probably burnt out, unhappy, and ready to seek a new career path. Perhaps you’re considering a career change to engineering and wondering what is required
In this article I discuss the practical steps required to make a successful transition from accounting to engineering that is:
- Research and validate engineering as a career path
- Network with other accounting professionals now engineers
- Get trained and qualified
- Get relevant experience
- Update professional assets
Let’s get to it!
#1. Research and Validate You Want A Career In Engineering
Engineering is a great career path because it attracts good salaries, great job security, numerous growth opportunities and good opportunities for career advancement.
But before making a final decision and following through with this career transition, it’s important to really ask yourself if this is the best career for you.
Engineering is a large field with a lot of sub-sets. There are engineers that work in academia, industry and even government.
There are also so many different types of engineers. Do you want to be a mechanical engineer, Civil engineer, software engineer, or Chemical engineer?
There are numerous engineering positions, so it’s important to have a good understanding of them before making a choice.
Next is a quick overview of what engineers do and the different types that exist.
What do Engineers Do?
Although there are many different engineering professions, at the heart of the entire industry is the need to innovate using technology, science and math.
Engineers design, build, and maintain various complex systems and structures, from buildings and machinery to software.
The responsibilities of an engineer are dependent on their area of expertise, for example;
- Civil Engineers design and supervise large construction projects, including bridges, dams, roads, and buildings among others.
- Aerospace Engineers design, manufacture and test aircraft and aerospace products.
- Mechanical Engineers design and build mechanical devices, including tools, engines and machines.
- Software Engineers apply engineering principles to developing computer software.
- Biomedical Engineers conceptualize and design solutions to problems in medicine and biology.
The work of an engineer is very important and is well respected, making a leap into the engineering field however requires specialization in terms of what type of engineering you would like to practice.
What is the typical career path for an Engineer?
Another great aspect of engineering is the growth potential the field provides. Here are some of the most common steps in an engineer’s career, right from their first job.
- Junior Engineer: Junior engineers are entry-level engineers that typically work under the supervision of an engineer.
They complete tasks assigned to them by an engineer. A junior engineer is expected to improve their technical and soft skills before advancing to a more senior role.
The average salary for this post ranges from $50,000 – 69,000
- Engineer: After gaining about 4+ years of experience in a junior role, engineers that have gained in-depth knowledge of solving problems to meet customer needs can expect to be promoted to an Engineering role.
Engineers supervise junior engineers and have a salary range of $57,000 – $79,000
- Senior Engineer: Senior engineers are highly technical engineering professionals who are expected to handle several project simultaneously, performing engineering tasks and providing guidance for teams.
They write project proposals, oversee projects, negotiate project terms with vendors and present designs to customers.
These roles have a salary range of $105,000 – $118,000
- Principal Engineer: Principal engineers are higher in hierarchy compared to senior engineers. They act as managers, ensuring that engineering teams complete their projects on time and within the stipulated budget.
Managers can earn from $140,000 – $156,000
- Director of Engineering: Directors of engineering usually lead the entire engineering department of an organization; they handle the training and hiring of new team members and also prepare team budgets.
Director of Engineering roles include Head of Engineering and VP of engineering and can earn as much as $136,000 – $139,000
#2. Network with Engineering Professionals with an Accounting Background
Now that you have a better understanding of what Engineers do and their career paths, you need to speak with engineering professionals who have a similar background in accounting.
Why is this important? Changing careers is not an easy journey. I did it four times and I know how challenging it was.
Speaking to someone who understands your journey and has been where you are is hugely refreshing.
You can share challenges, ask for pro tips and potentially request mentoring.
Think about it, a former accountant will have a more personal experience of the hardships you might face than someone who trained to be an engineer from college.
Additionally, someone who has successfully attempted what it is you’re trying to do will have much more knowledge on the best options to choose and the best way to go about things.
The place to find these professionals are
- Facebook groups: search for groups dedicated to engineering professionals. Join the group and friendly ask in the group for anyone with an accounting background.
Be honest and share you are looking to transition to become an engineer and are looking for someone with some tips.
Reach out privately to whoever responds to your message and build the relationship further.
- LinkedIn: Search for engineers and use the filter to find engineers with unique qualification or experiences that tie them to accounting.
Send a connection request with an added note asking for tips and advice.
- Forums: Go on Quora and Reddit forums that have a congregation of engineers and reach out privately to anyone willing to share their knowledge with you.
#3. Get Training And Qualifications in Engineering
Engineering requires training and in some instances certified qualifications.
Enrol in programs that will offer technical and practical trainings and qualifications required to work as an engineer.
In most cases, the basic educational requirement for an engineering career is a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Pursuing a formal education will open more internship opportunities which a lot of employers count as being experience.
Degrees are a very traditional approach and help in laying a solid foundation, but usually take up to four years to complete and are expensive.
Depending on what country you’re in and what sector you decide to work in, engineers may require a license to practice. This means it’s important to select a program that is properly accredited by the required engineering association.
However, if an engineering student has worked in a related field during their studies, some employers may overlook the four year degree requirement.
After completing their degrees, prospective engineers can sit for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination. Once the exam is passed, the candidate earns an engineer in training (EIT) or an engineering intern (EI) licensure.
Other alternate credentials include earning a one year master’s degree and a two year doctorate.
After sitting for the Fundamental of Engineering examination, an engineer in training is expected to gain at least four years of practical experience in the field before finally sitting for the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) examination.
A licensed engineer can further decide to join professional engineering societies of their choice although it is not necessary.
A typical engineer’s career path may look like this, but each sub-discipline of engineering has its own specific requirements, certifications and professional resources.
This is one of the areas where networking with similar professionals in the field is very handy; they will be able to better help you navigate through these certification and qualification processes easily.
#4. Acquire Engineering Experience
Acquiring engineering knowledge is great but the sad truth is employers don’t care much about your knowledge.
What they care about is how your knowledge can create value for their business. This is why it is important to have relevant experience to demonstrate you can create value.
Engineering roles that do not require work experience are very hard to find, competitive and difficult to secure. Acquiring work experience in the field will let you stand out among other candidates when applying for jobs in the industry.
Acquiring work experience will show employers that you have the right skills for performing essential duties and meeting safety and regulatory laws on the job. Some skills that can be gained from work experience include;
- Ability to use company software
- Ability to communicate properly through both written and verbal means
- Knowledge and application of industry standards and information
- Ability to design product inventions and enhancements
Work experience will also help you gain some necessary soft skills you’ll need to excel in the profession. These include; analytical skills, problem solving skills, creativity, attention to detail, discipline and dedication.
Another great thing is that your work experience will give you a more personal look into the day to day happenings of the field and may serve to harden your resolve.
This is another step where networking with professionals can prove very useful; someone in your network may be willing to have you on as a mentee.
The best ways to acquire work experience in engineering is through internships, apprenticeships, or placements.
Internships will allow you work in an environment with professionals in the field whom you will be able to learn from, you will also learn to apply your skills while simultaneously building your network.
Apprenticeships are more heavily competed for than internships, mostly because they offer the opportunity to earn as you learn.
Placements are another way to get work experience. Keeping up to date with your colleges career office is the best way to fish outplacement opportunities, as some companies may advertise these opportunities through colleges.
#5. Update Your Professional Brand Assets
At this point, you have all the ingredients required to build and update your professional brand assets.`
Your professional brand assets are your CV, your LinkedIn profile, and your personal website.
I call them professional brand assets because they are resources that you own and control that are able to provide you with a future economic benefit i.e. a job as an Engineer.
Building and polishing these professional assets will position you and make you attractive to recruiters and hiring managers.
- Your CV/Resume: Take all your newly acquired knowledge, skills, and experience and include them in your resume in a way that fits the requirements of a Business Analyst.
Analyze at least 10 engineering live job vacancies that you would like to apply to. Review the requirements i.e. the section that says ‘your responsibilities’ or says ‘in this role, we are looking for…’
This is essentially the business telling you what they’re looking for in an ideal candidate. Analyzing 10-15 vacancies will uncover some patterns and keywords.
Ensure these keywords are featured on your CV/Resume.
Pro tip: Matching your CV/resume to actual job roles is a great way to get through the ATS (Application Tracking System) system.
Your CV is an effective way to show employers how you will be a great asset for the position you’re applying for.
- Your LinkedIn Profile: Most recruiters and hiring managers use Linkedin to fill job positions. Actually, Over 90% of them do this!
At the very minimum, make sure the information on your Linkedin profile matches what is on your CV.
As someone moving into a new career as an engineer, it’s also important to let recruiters know that you’re open to hiring and looking for new opportunities.
Connect with recruiters and follow mentors and new colleagues on Linkedin.
Optimize the headline section of your profile by listing major skills that will be required in your new profession.
Also optimize the summary section of your profile by highlighting your work experience, certifications, technical skills, and expertise.
You do not need to worry about building a personal website at this point.
Bonus Tip: Take Action
Changing careers will always be a scary and daunting thing to follow through, but the good news is that it is very doable. You are not the first; many others have done it ahead of you. But you still have to do your own part to make this work for you.
Stop waiting until all your conditions are perfect. there is no perfect time to start, so do not over think things.
Now that you’ve decided that an accounting career is no longer for you and you’re interested in pursuing an engineering career it’s time to stop, get up and do it!
Be committed to making this career change an actual reality. Motivate yourself and surround yourself with like-minded people who are ready to support you.
After using this guide to draft out your action plan the only thing that’s left for you to do is to get up and start doing it. Continue to build your momentum by taking action.
Need to do more research into the engineering field? Start now, Need to decide the best program for you? Run it by your network and make a decision already. Connect with professionals in the field and start acquiring all the work experience you’ll need as soon as possible.
Be patient with yourself, but also give yourself a timeframe for achieving this dream of yours.
Changing careers can be a difficult thing to do, but with the right tools and attitude, you can make it happen! The five tips in this article are tested and proven when making the action plan that’ll you’ll need to make this career change a successful one for you.
Do some research into how an engineering career best fit your experience, skills, personal needs and wants. Network with professionals who have a similar accounting background with you, build on your foundational knowledge by acquiring more work experience, skills, technical degrees and qualifications you’ll need for your new role.
Update your professional brand assets to align with the requirements for an engineer and market yourself as a perfect candidate for opportunities in your new career path.
Finally, take action and treat your career change as a job in itself. Make sure to invest your time, energy and any other resources you require into turning this dream of yours into a whole reality.
Engineering is a great second career choice for previous accountants, equipping yourself with all the experience, skills and qualifications that are needed to succeed will help you do things right and will make the transition much smoother for you.