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Study abroad : Subject Guides

8 traits every engineer needs

A vital checklist of top traits needed to become an engineer, designed specifically for international students.

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When trying to figure out which career you want to pursue or which course to study at university, a great place to start is by matching your traits to a profession. Certain fields and roles require specific qualities or attributes from their employees, so the earlier you can develop your skills to match the job you want, the better. As a popular degree and profession, we’ve investigated the traits that make a great engineer.  This can help you discern which traits you may have that match and where you could develop. This kind of research and evaluation is an important part of any study abroad journey.


What does an engineer do?

There are several branches and specialisations within the field of engineering such as chemical, mechanical, electrical, civil, management, biomedical and geotechnical engineering. Within each of these, there are a plethora of subcategories such as computer engineering, architectural engineering and engineering management, to name a few.


Therefore, specific roles and requirements will vary according to each specialization, but broadly speaking, engineers use maths, technology and science to improve the world. So, this might be designing buildings, constructing machinery or developing railway systems. However, the foundational principle of engineering is finding solutions to problems.


Let’s kick off our list of the traits that engineers require:


1. Problem solving

Engineers must be able to use their problem-solving skills to create more effective systems and processes. This involves using logic, common sense and analytical thinking to solve an issue. The associated attributes include resilience, adaptability, flexibility and teamwork skills. While you might not feel confident right now with your ability to problem-solve, an engineering degree will teach you how to think and act in this way.


2. Innovative

As engineers are hired to challenge existing processes and current ways of thinking, much of the work involves innovation and creativity. ‘Thinking outside the box’ is a hugely essential skill for any engineer to create new and transformative solutions to challenges faced within society. For example, MRI scanners, dialysis machines and satellite navigation are all examples of innovative engineering feats which have massively improved or eased people’s everyday lives.


3. Curious

Being curious is one of the most vital characteristics needed to become an engineer. You need to question current ways of living and working in order to improve and develop new products or ideas. Every innovative idea or creation tends to start with curiosity as this is a great motivation for change.


4. Attention to detail

It is crucial that engineers pay attention to the finer details as this could have a detrimental effect on the functionality and effectiveness of a project. You might be given the responsibility for complex plans and developments which need to be followed rigorously to avoid any complications.

This means having a keen eye for detail and an ability to plan ahead. For many engineering roles, there can be several phases including conceptual, planning, implementation and testing. Paying attention to detail at every stage is the key to success.

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5. Mathematical capability

While computers and certain software have automated some of the technical calculations for engineers, an understanding of mathematical principles is still necessary. This is partly because mathematics involves problem-solving which, as outlined above, is a major requirement for engineers. More specifically, applied mathematics is used heavily in engineering to solve practical problems.

What is a STEM subject?


6. Teamwork

Being able to work as part of a team is another essential skill for any engineer. The work of an engineer can be multifaceted and complex, meaning that you need to build trust and respect with your team to ensure that the project is successful, and everyone is working towards the same goal. If members of the team cannot work together, this could hugely affect how the project is conducted and the result of the task at hand. 


7. Communication skills

Are you able to express an idea verbally and in writing with confidence? This is a skill that you’ll need to embrace and develop if you want a career in engineering. Most projects will involve some teamwork and contributions from external shareholders, such as senior staff and customers which requires good people skills. In addition, you’ll also need to be respectful when others are sharing their own ideas to promote an open environment where people feel they are listened to.


8. Leadership

In addition to working well within a team, engineers across all disciplines will need to take control at times when leading and advising others. This requires self-assurance and confidence in one’s own strengths. If perhaps you feel like your leadership skills aren’t quite up to scratch, joining a university society could be a great way to develop those skills. Being president of a society shows that you can take on the responsibility of leading others and is an excellent experience for any future role.


Top universities for engineering (based on QS World University Rankings 2020):




Why study engineering in Canada?






Still not sure if engineering is the right degree and career for you? Use our course matcher tool to do some more research and find courses that match your profile.

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