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Women in STEM: Here's Everything You Need to Know About Studying Engineering

Student Life

June 27, 2023

Women are disproportionally underrepresented in engineering. They represent only about 13% of the total engineering workforce, according to a 2019 report from the United States Census Bureau. However, there is some hope as the percentage of women engineers has increased from 13% to 17% between 2019 and 2021 in the US.

Engineering degrees can be very versatile. From mechanical engineering (the most popular), to chemical engineering, and software engineering to architectural engineering, there is bound to be an engineering degree that suits what you are looking for.

If you enjoy maths, physics, chemistry, and/or computer science, engineering may be the right degree for you! But how do you choose a specific engineering major? And if you don't enjoy some of the STEM courses listed, how do you know engineering is the right major for you?

In this article, we'll highlight the pros and cons of an engineering degree. If you want to study engineering, but aren't sure where to begin or if it's the right major for you, you've come to the right place.

Photo by ThisIsEngineering

First Consideration: You

Consider your strengths and weaknesses. What are you good at? What could you improve upon?

Make a list of these and don't limit yourself, put as many things as you can think of. For example, you may be good at coding and computer science. Next, consider your interests. These can range from the arts, to even sports. Again, write as many things down as you can think of.

Here are some personality traits you may have that could be advantageous in studying engineering:

  • Curious (you love asking questions and learning about the world)
  • Ability to work in a team (teamwork is key!)
  • Perseverant (the ability to not give up and work through a problem)
  • Passion for your area of study (love what you do)
  • Patience
  • Creative (unique solutions are key to innovative solutions)

Possible Engineering Majors

Now that you've considered your strengths, weaknesses and likes/dislikes, it's time to consider which engineering majors would suit you. I recommend doing more research on each of the engineering majors you are interested in to gain some more information on their specific courses, possible careers, etc.

If you enjoy health related studies and biology, consider biomedical engineering (although there is less biology in biomedical engineering and more mechanical engineering-related courses). If you enjoy being creative and learning about a lot of different things, consider systems engineering. All engineering programs will encompass some sort of problem solving.

Some colleges offer general engineering programs, so you can skip this step if you're still not sure which engineering major is right for you or if you'd like to study more general courses. It is always possible to specialize later on and pick a more specific subject area, so you can always switch to a field of interest one or two years into your bachelor's degree. Make sure to look at specific university policies regarding this.

Also, consider taking quizzes online to find the best engineering degree for you, like this one from the University of Waterloo.


Where Will You Study?

By now, you know which engineering disciplines interest you the most. You've narrowed down your list to your top 3-5 favourites. The next important consideration is the university where you would like to study.

It's important to note that course offerings differ from school to school, so look at all of your available options to see which colleges offer the engineering disciplines you are most interested in. For example, you might be very interested in chemical engineering. Look into different schools in your area, around your country or even abroad that offer this undergraduate degree.

Do you know someone who did their bachelor's degree in that area of study? Talk to them about it! Chances are, they'll be just as excited to tell you about the program as you are to learn more about it. They might tell you about their experience at a particular school or just general information about the program you can consider when you are making your decision.

Photo by George Pak

Pros and Cons

Let's explore the pros and cons of studying engineering.

Pro: Very Versatile

Engineering opens many doors and opportunities. It can be applied to almost all careers and areas of study.

Con: Degree can Be Expensive and Challenging

Engineering degrees tend to be more expensive than other degrees. However, financial aid is available for students depending on the university and your financial situation. See financial aid information on the websites of the colleges you are applying to.

Engineering will be hard. There are a lot of challenging courses, but challenging yourself will be essential to standing out in a male-dominated field.

Pro: Highly Respected

It goes without saying, but wherever you choose to go for your engineering degree, you will end up with a highly respected degree that will open a lot of doors and opportunities.

Con: Studying > Social Life

You will spend a lot of your time choosing studying over hanging out with friends or partying, and it will pay off in the long run.

Remember, though, it can be just as important to spend time with friends and socialize, so don't deplete your entire engineering degree crying over Thermodynamics and Differential Equations.

Pro/Con: Gender Ratio

There is a large gender gap in many STEM fields, and engineering is no exception. Although men are disproportionally more represented in engineering, women who study engineering are in demand in the job market.

Pro: Skills Acquired

You will come out of your degree with a new way of thinking and ready to conquer the world with new solutions to problems like climate change. Period.

Final Considerations: Is it the Right Choice for You?

Above, I discussed how you can pick an engineering major and university that is right for you, and I evaluated the pros and cons of engineering itself, specifically for women and other gender minorities.

Photo by ThisIsEngineering

Here is your reminder that if it isn't the right choice in the end, you can always switch majors or change career paths down the road. Your journey is for YOU to decide.

Some schools will offer a general engineering program, so you can branch off into a discipline you want to study later on if you find something that interests you. Even then, if you do finish your bachelor's in engineering and decide you'd like to give something else a try for your post-graduate degrees, it still remains an option!

Helpful Resources

Consult any of the resources below to learn more about studying engineering!

EngineerGirl is a website with the aim of making engineering more accessible for women by showcasing the possibilities of engineering-related studies and connecting young girls and women to women who have studied engineering and are pursuing their career in a field of interest within the broad field of engineering.

The EngineerGirl website is designed to bring national attention to the exciting opportunities that engineering represents for girls and women.

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is a non-profit organization that empowers women to pursue a career in engineering.

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE), founded in 1950, is a not-for-profit educational and service organization. SWE is the driving force that establishes engineering as a highly desirable career aspiration for women. SWE empowers women to succeed and advance in those aspirations and be recognized for their life-changing contributions and achievements as engineers and leaders.

Youtuber Shane Hummus makes videos where he breaks down whether each engineering degree is worth it based on different criteria.

Youtuber KatVoltage makes videos on her channel about her career as an electrical engineer and her internship at NASA.

Photo by Chevanon Photography

Good luck and all the best in your future endeavours!

Emilia Wesolkowski
20k+ pageviews

Emilia is a high schooler from Canada. She has a passion for both writing and STEM, and also enjoys reading, learning new languages, and crocheting. She has been writing for The Teen Magazine since March 2021.