Skills new engineering students can’t do without

An engineering degree takes at least three years to complete on a full-time basis, and during this time you will learn a lot about the technical side of engineering. While learning engineering principles and concepts is no doubt essential, there are additional skills you might not learn in university that will be essential in your first role.

Being aware of these skills is essential as it will allow you to prioritise them when you start to gain experience. Many engineering students will take part in internships and work experience that will enable them to start honing these skills. But you’ll never hone these skills if you don’t know what to look for. And you can see here the expected salary range.

Essential skills for all engineering students

Engineers are problem-solvers, and the skills they use to solve problems are directly related to the type of engineering they do. Obviously, engineering students need to have a natural aptitude for maths, physics and other science and design-based subjects.

Engineers use maths and science to create solutions, but they also need to be creative, analytical, and able to think with both detail and breadth. The ability to get deeply absorbed in a problem, and then take a step back and see it from a different perspective is essential.

And finally, engineering students need to be comfortable using a wide range of software packages. Students might learn how to use design software at university, but it’s important not to get too reliant on one system. An employer might ask you to use a new system, or you might have to adapt to a custom package.

These are some of the more essential skills you’ll need as an engineer. But what about the less obvious skills that you don’t realise you need until you’re in a job interview situation? Read on to learn some of the less obvious skills you should work on.

Often overlooked skills for engineering students

The most important skill for an engineer to master is problem-solving. This is because it allows them to solve problems quickly and efficiently, which is crucial when solving engineering problems that other people might not be able to figure out on their own. It also helps them think outside the box when trying to solve a problem.

The majority of graduate job interviews will focus on problem-solving as a skill, so you need to be prepared to demonstrate times you have put your problem-solving to the test. Remember that interviewers aren’t always looking for success stories. Sometimes they might ask about a time you failed to solve a problem, as this can be just as revealing.

Before an interview, you should also think about working on the following skills:


Communication skills are essential to engineering. Engineers should be able to communicate their ideas and work with other team members. And you won’t always be explaining concepts to those with an engineering background. The ability to explain complex ideas in simple terms is essential.

You may also need to know how to write technical documents, such as design specifications, software requirements, and user manuals. Engineers should also learn how to speak in public effectively and use the appropriate communication channels for different situations.


Engineers are often required to work in teams to complete projects. They need to communicate efficiently and collaborate with other team members.

Working well with others is perhaps the simplest skill to pick up while studying. Taking the lead on project work will help you to understand what makes a team work effectively, and what steps you can take to improve friction between individuals.

Not everyone has a natural aptitude for teamwork, but even if you’re happier working on your own, showing that you are willing to develop these new skills will help you in an interview setting.


Engineers who aspire to be leaders need to develop a range of skills, but the most important of these is the ability to communicate. Engineers with a strong technical background and a clear understanding of how their work fits into the business can then become leaders.

Leadership isn’t always easy to develop in the early stages of your career, so it’s important to take steps to create these opportunities. This could mean working on community projects or voluntary work.

Finding a mentor is an excellent way to develop leadership skills. You might not be the one leading, but you will learn a lot about how your mentor conducts themselves in different situations to help motivate their team.

Commercial awareness

Engineers need to be aware of the commercial side of engineering. They need to know the cost and benefits of their design decisions. Commercial awareness is a skill that engineers should have in order to be successful in the industry. Engineers need to understand how their decisions can affect the company and their customers.

At the very least, you need to understand the engineering sector and have an awareness of the latest factors that are likely to impact your role. From innovation to regulatory changes, you need to demonstrate that you are actively engaged with the sector.


Engineers are curious by nature. They are always asking questions and exploring new ideas. You will need to know how you are a natural problem solver who enjoys taking on challenges and figuring out how to make the impossible possible.

You should be a natural-born learner and be able to show how you would thrive in an environment that is always changing. Innovation in engineering means that you can no longer sit back and expect that the skills you have today will always be enough.

Closing thoughts

These are just some of the skills you should think about when you are starting your career as an engineer. The best way to determine how well you are doing in each sector is to ask for feedback. It’s common to take the path of least resistance and lean on your natural strengths, but taking an active role in turning your weaknesses into strengths will serve you well throughout your career.