Engineering, Manufacturing & Transportation
Engineering describes building solutions to engines, machines, structures or processes. Engineers apply mathematic, scientific, technical and design knowledge and skills to develop new processes or improve existing ones. There are many specializations in the field, and roles can vary, from research and development to product design. A few examples include:
- Biomedical Engineering: Design and build solutions for biological and medical conditions, such as machines, drugs, and equipment for healthcare purposes.
- Electrical Engineering: Design electronics and electrical equipment, such as lighting, robotics, telecommunication systems, and generators, and develop the application process for this equipment.
- Mechanical Engineering: Design engines, tools, machines, and mechanical devices.
- Industrial Engineering: Identify ways to make the production process more efficient in an organization (considering people, machines, materials, energy, and information).
- Civil Engineering: Design and maintain various public and private structures, like roads, bridges, airports, sewage systems, and more.
- Manufacturing Engineering: Work on the design and operation of systems (computer networks, machines, equipment, etc.) for the production of various products.
- Transportation Engineering: Develop and maintain transportation systems by using technology and scientific principles.
Other industries can overlap with engineering and incorporate similar roles and skill sets. This includes:
Manufacturing transforms raw goods into new products for consumption. Because manufacturing includes complex processes, there is a broad spectrum of types of positions. In this field you will find engineers, technicians, administrative and supervisory staff, production works, quality control inspectors, sales representatives, and clerical support staff.
Transportation is the movement of people, animals and goods from one location to another. Modes of transport include air, rail, road, water, cable, pipeline and space. The field can be divided into infrastructure, vehicles and operations. Some types of companies who hire in this field include travel airlines, cruise lines, railways, cargo trucking, and air and express delivery services.
Skills to develop for success in this field
The following skills encompass many engineering specializations. Some technical skills may be applicable for a certain area of the industry.
- Analytical thinking/problem solving
- Attention to detail
- Critical thinking
- Following instructions
- Ability to use manufacturing machinery (for manufacturing)
- Basic knowledge and experience in Microsoft Office programs (Word, PowerPoint and Outlook)
- CAD Software; Analytical or scientific software
- Computer programming languages (i.e. Java, C/C++, Python)
- Conceptual, process improvement, and functional skills
- Foundation in algorithms, data structures and computer science concepts
- Knowledge in math, science and engineering principles
- Knowledge of Microsoft Excel applications (interactive excel, macros)
- Knowledge of MicroStation and 3-D corridor modeling, OpenRoads Designer (for civil engineering)
- Knowledge of safety procedures
- Laboratory research experience (for biomedical engineering)
- Project management
- Supply management (for manufacturing)
Online Resources specific to the industry
- Firsthand* is a comprehensive resource for information on what it is like to work within an industry, company or profession. *Note: Registration using Northwestern email address is required for access.
- Energy and Resource Systems Analysis Laboratory (ERSAL): develops mathematical models and other support tools that can be used by manufacturers to identify pathways toward more sustainable products and processes.
- Engineering Career Development: provides engineering-specific career prep and assistance through various learning programs.
- EngineeringJobs: is an online platform which provides a comprehensive list of current engineering-related job and internship postings.
- IndustryWeek: identifies new technologies and best practices within the manufacturing industry.
- Manufacturing & Design Engineering (MaDE) Student Resources: lists helpful forms and advising information for students.
- Materials Science and Engineering Resources for Students: shares information regarding undergraduate degrees and research opportunities in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
- NU Transportation Center: shares information about Northwestern’s research initiative with UC-Berkeley and UT-Austin’s McCombs School of Business and provides news from the transportation industry.
- ScienceDaily: is an online platform that aggregates news of the day in the science space.
- Versatile PhD Industry Resource: provides resources to help graduate students prepare for careers in a variety of industries, including engineering. *Log in using your NetID
Key information or knowledge for this field
- Networking is an important part of the recruitment process. Start your networking efforts by talking with upperclassmen who are pursuing a similar career path. This can be a more comfortable starting point and also provide insight into the recruitment process. Also plan to network with NU alumni who work at companies of interest in the engineering, manufacturing or transportation space through Our Northwestern, Northwestern Mentorship Network, or LinkedIn.
- In order to stay informed, create a profile on the career portals for companies you are interested in and also follow them on Handshake. Consider participating in employer-hosted engineering events throughout the academic year. You can find events by searching in Handshake or reviewing available events with McCormick School of Engineering.
- Prioritize maintaining a strong academic record, including course selections and GPA. On average, employers in the engineering, manufacturing and transportation fields are looking for a minimum GPA of 3.0.
- Use Handshake filters to better search for potential internship and job opportunities. While on the Jobs page, narrow down opportunities by using the Job Function filter. Some examples students can select from include: Engineering -- Civil / Mechanical / Other, Engineering -- Web / Software, Logistics & Supply Chain, Transportation/Parking. Students can also search using the Employer Industry filter. Some examples students can select from include: Automotive, Civil Engineering, Electronic & Computer Hardware, Internet & Software, Manufacturing – Other.
- The internship recruitment cycle can vary by company, but on average, internship recruiting in engineering, manufacturing and transportation begins in the fall (October timing) and ends in the winter (February timing). Full time recruiting begins in late summer and will continue until early winter.
- Employers value experiences, both directly and indirectly related. Use the summer to pursue internships, co-ops and /or research, as well as get involved in campus activities and add value. Enhance your leadership experience within your student organizations by chairing a committee, initiating a project or developing research.
- Consider highlighting technical capabilities and showcase knowledge of engineering, math and science principles in your resume. This can include previous internship, co-op or work experience, course projects, or academic competitions. When listing technical capabilities, you should indicate your level of proficiency in those skills. It’s important to remain succinct, but you do not have to stick to a one-page resume.
- Companies will deploy both behavioral questions and technical questions to ensure that an applicant understands engineering processes. Study, review and practice for various types of formats (phone, virtual, in-person) and interview questions.
- Technical interviews are used to assess content knowledge regarding a particular discipline. Engineering employers may present an engineering-based issue and ask applicants to solve the problem. The employer may also ask applicants to explain their approach to solving the problem. Manufacturing employers may ask questions about an applicant’s manufacturing-related skills. Technical interviews are usually a separate interview process from behavioral interviews.
- You can find entry level positions in engineering with a bachelor’s degree. However, several high-level positions or competitive employers will require an advanced degree. Additionally, students will want to pursue a master’s or PhD to obtain a specialization (i.e. earning a MS in Structural Engineering, which is a specialization in Civil Engineering). Some examples of areas which offer advanced degrees include: Biotechnology, Civil Engineering, Engineering Management, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, Manufacturing and Design Engineering.
- When looking for entry-level positions, the title of the role could vary by specialization or by company. Below are a few examples to consider, but should not limit your search:
- Biomedical Engineering: Biomedical Engineer, Biomedical Designer, Quality Engineer
- Electrical Engineering: Electrical Engineer, Electrical Design Engineer, Systems Engineer
- Mechanical Engineering: Mechanical Engineer, Process Engineer, Mechanical Design Engineer
- Industrial Engineering: Industrial Engineer, Quality Engineer, Operations Analyst, Structural Engineer
- Civil Engineering: Civil Engineer, Construction Engineer, Environmental Engineer, Engineering Technician
- Manufacturing: Manufacturing Engineer, Quality Systems Administrator, Data Analyst
- Transportation: Design Engineer, Construction Specialist, Analyst, Account Manager
- Manufacturing has grown increasingly automated over the years, and this shift in the industry has created additional opportunities for engineers, who are needed to program, install, and maintain automated machinery.
- Some areas of the engineering field also require certifications or licensure (i.e. the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, ABET accreditation, etc.) in order to be a registered Professional Engineer or EIT (Engineer in Training). You should ask employers of interest if they require any specific certifications for entry level roles or if there will be certification requirements once in the role.
Relevant student groups and professional organizations
Northwestern Student Groups:
- Association of Undergraduate Women in Science (AUWS
- Engineers for Sustainable World (ESW)
- Engineers Without Borders (EWB-NU)
- Engineering World Health
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
- Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE)
- McCormick School of Engineering Undergraduate Student Organizations
- National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)
- NU Solar Car
- Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE)
- Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
External Professional Organizations: