Engineering development


BY JAMIE KHOO

What's it about 

Engineering concerns the application of scientific or mathematical knowledge to find practical, technical solutions for improving products, structures and materials that are used both in our daily lives or in more specialised area of scientific research. A large part of engineering concerns the establishment of links between initial scientific discoveries and the practical and commercial application of these concepts into a working reality.  

Due to increasing technological developments, an engineer’s job is never-ending. Engineering industries work with the times to produce new materials or improvements to existing structures and to help implement advances in technology. The growing influence of science and technology in almost all areas of our lives means that engineering disciplines are becoming increasingly varied. Engineering work can encompass any area from civil, industrial, aeronautical, electrical or electronics, telecommunication, marine, materials, agriculture and mechanical engineering to very new areas such as Internet, biomedical, microelectronic, software and electronic systems engineering.  

What do you need to study it 

Local universities require STPM. SPM leavers can go straight into engineering courses at private colleges either by taking a foundation course or engineering diploma, which is then followed by an engineering degree conducted locally or overseas with partner foreign universities.  

Where can I study it 

You would first have to determine which engineering discipline you want to study as not all institutions may offer it. More traditional disciplines such as mechanical and chemical engineering are offered in most engineering faculties, whereas the newer disciplines, such as software engineering and mechatronics for example, are not taught in as many institutions.  

Almost all local universities – Universiti Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia etc – offer engineering degrees, while colleges such as INTI College and SIT International College offer both diplomas and degrees, conducted either locally or as twinning programmes with foreign institutions.  

There are also specialised institutions such as the the German-Malaysian Institute which offer diploma courses that place strong emphasis on practical work, and specialised study, and aim to prepare students for direct entry into the industry.  

What will I learn 

This depends largely on the level at which you pursue your studies. The diploma-level deals with basic concepts of engineering which prepares its graduates for hands-on engineering work that does not require research. 

Engineering degrees teach a combination of both technical knowledge and practical applications. Because you would choose to pursue a specific engineering discipline and because each discipline differs greatly from others, the course of study would usually be very technical. There may be overlaps between engineering disciplines but the course of study usually stays quite specialised within the subject.  

Apart from being taught the basic theories and principles, there are usually also practical assignments as individual, group or lab work to demonstrate how theory can be applied practically.  

In keeping up to date with advances in the industry, several institutions also aim to equip their students with relevant management and business skills which will teach students the business of engineering itself and introduce them to the practice of managing projects, people, organisations and operations. 

Will I need to have a professional qualification 

While professional qualifications are supposed to give you more recognition within the profession it is not essential for practising as an engineer. Graduates should register with the Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM), a regulatory body, and after a few years of experience can choose to apply for a professional engineer title with professional bodies like the Institution of Engineers, Malaysia (IEM).  

How long is an engineering course 

Degrees range from between four and five years, while diplomas take two to three years.  

What are my career options 

This depends on which engineering discipline you study. As the degree may be very technical and specialised, career options are likely to be in the same line that you studied – for example, it may be difficult for an electrical engineer to switch over to civil engineering fields.  

However, with the analytical training and mathematical, problem solving ability you develop from studying engineering, you will probably also find career opportunities in areas like consultancy and the financial sector. 

Is there a demand for engineers 

Technology is always on the go, and as long as there continues to be development – from highways and oilrigs to bluetooth handsets and microchips – there will be a need for engineers. The fast development within Malaysia especially in all sectors of society means that engineering is in demand everywhere. The analytical skills and good judgement gained from an engineering background are also always sought after in industries which require good analysts, designers, planners, consultants and researchers.  

Looking back 

Vincent Ho pursued a twinning degree in electronic engineering at Taylor’s College and Sheffield University. He is currently working with Accenture as an analyst in the Resource Operating Group dealing mainly with companies in the energy, oil & gas industry. 

I’m not actually practising engineering but am in the IT & management consultancy business. Indirectly, my degree has definitely helped. It wasn’t the subjects I learned that helped me with my work but the process of learning the subjects I did. All the analytical skills, management of work, logical thinking, learning attitudes, teamwork that were fostered during my studies are key skills which are needed in what I do today. 

If you love maths and physics, engineering is a great degree to study. Majoring in a particular area doesn’t restrict you from having only job prospects in that area which you studied – I would say it’s more like a passport for you to get a job. I knew I wasn’t going to be an engineer in my second year as I wanted to do more in management. However, I enjoyed the subjects I did and was good at it. I continued to excel in the degree I was doing as I knew it wouldn’t confine me in what I wanted to do later.  

What kind of person do you have to be 

Very analytical with a great curiosity for finding out how and why things work around you. Engineers are usually strong in maths and science subjects. They also have a natural aptitude and strong interest in analytical and technical work.  

People skills are very important, as working together with others at various levels constitutes a large part of an engineer’s work. You also need to be tough enough to get your hands dirty in practical work by working on sites, directly with products and raw materials. Engineering in general is a very active profession and requires pro-active people who are able to adapt to new situations and pick up new skills quickly. 

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