Is Engineering Worth it? Should I Study Engineering?

**Note: this "article" is pretty much the script for the above video. As a result, it's not put together very well. I'd like to apologize in advance.**

This is a common question from those thinking about pursuing the engineering field. There are already a few videos on this topic, but I felt that they were mostly anecdotal. They all contained one biased individual talking about their experience and whether they thought it was worth it for them. And that's fine. Some people like to hear anecdotal stories before making a decision because those types of stories can sometimes paint a more realistic picture of the choice they’re about to make. 

With that in mind this video will be different. I'm going to give each of you a tool that will feel more concrete and tailored to you, to determine if engineering is worth it. This tool is known as a decision matrix. If you're already in engineering, or an entrepreneur you're probably familiar with this tool. A decision matrix is a logical and rational way to make a choice. It essentially gives different scores to different options that you are considering, and the option with the highest score is the best one. I’ve included a link to a decision matrix template in the description that you can use if you would like to follow along with me or you can use it after you watch the video to come to your own decision. 

This video is going to force you to put in a little work and thought but ,hopefully, by the end you will know whether engineering is worth it for you. Here's how we will start. 

01 | Make A List

Make a list of all the things you could be doing besides engineering, here was mine: 

  • so study engineering
  • study sciences and maybe go into med
  • work as a mechanic at our family repair shop  
  • become a music producer

These were really the 4 choices I was choosing between when I graduated from high school. 

02 | The Important Factors

The next step is to list all the important factors that you must consider when deciding what to do after high school. Here were mine:

  • Cost
  • Enjoyment/fulfilment
  • Free time
  • Starting salary
  • Median Income, which is how much you make after working for a decade or two
  • barrier to enter field…so how long before I could work in a certain field
  • current skill level
  • and lastly, employability

03 | Weighing 

Now the next step is to weigh how important each of these factors are to you relative to one another on a scale from 0-100. So again, here are my weightings:

  • Cost (80)
  • Enjoyment/fulfilment (90)
  • Free time (60)
  • Starting Salary (70)
  • Median Income (50)
  • Barrier to enter field (40)
  • Current Skill level (90)
  • Employability (100)]

So my most important factor was employability. Whatever I pursued, I wanted to make sure I could get a job and make some money. The next two most important factors were enjoyment and current skill level. I wanted to go into a field that I could enjoy, and one that I was already fairly good at. The next most important factor was cost. Of course, I wanted to save as much money as possible. After that, the most important factor was starting salary, followed by free time, which was followed by median income. Free time was important but not important enough to me relative to all the other factors. I put median income below both of those two, because personally I couldn’t see myself working in the same career for over a decade. Because of that, median income in that field might not even be relevant to me. And then I put barrier to entry as the least most important factor. As long as all the other factors were met, It didn’t matter to me how long it took before I could work. 

04 | Assign Points

Now, the final step is to assign points to all your choices against all the different factors and then calculate a final score. The choice with the highest score is the best choice according to the decision matrix. I’m going to use the point scale of 1,3,and 5. 

So, I’ll start with cost. Engineering costs more than becoming a mechanic or a producer but less than pursuing med so I’ll give it a 3 in cost, give sciences a 1, and the other two choices a 5. 

I enjoy creating things, solving problems, and using math more than i would enjoy studying biology or fixing cars but less than I would producing music. So i’ll give the following scores. 

Engineering and med would provide me with less free time than the other two. So this is how I’ll assign the points.

Out of all the choices, medicine would likely have the highest salary, but engineering also has a really good starting salary relative to the time studied. So I’m going to give both of those career choices a 5. Being a mechanic at my families repair shop had more financial potential than creating music.

I gave the same scores for median income. A doctor and an engineer would both make really comfortable salaries a decade into their career. Much more comfortable than the other two choices. 

I would say that medicine has the highest barrier to entry. It will definitely take a long time before I could work as a doctor. Engineering would take 4 years. Becoming a mechanic would probably take two, and because my family owns a shop, it would be really easy to enter that field. But it can take longer depending on what type of mechanic you want to be. Becoming a music producer doesn’t technically require any schooling so that would be the lowest barrier to entry. 

My current skill level in math and physics was really good. My skill in biology was okay. I didn’t know anything about fixing cars and My skill in producing music was beginner to average at best. Not nearly high enough to warrant a career. 

Engineering, medicine, and being a mechanic all had equally high employability for me. Being a producer had a much much lower employability because it’s such a hard industry to make a name and to make money in.

Now the final scores are calculated by multiply the the weights of each choice by the points given to each field and summing everything up. Here are my final scores:

  • 2240 for engineering
  • 1760 for medicine
  • 1860 for mechanic
  • and 1660 for producer

As you can see, engineering was clearly the best choice for me at that time. How you choose to weigh the different factors and how you choose to assign the points will obviously be different from me. Someone whose a good photographer, and has the skill to start free lancing may find that engineering is not worth it for them. I hope this tool can help you come to a decision about whether engineering is worth it for you.