How to Get Your First Engineering Job

The Prepped Team

8 minutes

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As an engineer, you have the potential to develop exciting and innovative solutions to some of society’s most important issues ranging from climate change to space travel to medical devices. With a wide array of disciplines and specializations, engineering spans almost every industry including medicine, manufacturing, energy, construction, and agriculture. 

The career opportunities in engineering are abundant and constantly evolving, but the path to becoming an engineer in Canada isn’t easy. We’re here to help chart your course from student to professional engineer. Our goal is to equip you with the knowledge to successfully land your first job as an engineer after you graduate.

Types of engineering jobs

Engineering jobs are available in a tremendous range of specializations and settings. For instance, you’ll find engineers working in the government, in the education and social sectors, the private sector, and as independent practitioners. Some disciplines of engineering include (but are not limited to): 

  • Civil engineering
  • Electrical and electronics engineering
  • Chemical engineering
  • Engineering management
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Industrial and manufacturing engineering
  • Computer engineering
  • Software engineering
  • Aerospace engineering
  • Geological engineering
  • Mining engineering
  • Metallurgical and materials engineering
  • Petroleum engineering. 

How to become an engineer in Canada

If you’ve decided engineering is the career path for you, then you’re likely already enrolled in a related academic program. But once you’ve graduated, how do you jumpstart your career? Here is a breakdown of what’s ahead for you:

  1. Meet the educational requirements for becoming an engineer

To become a licensed engineer, you need to earn an engineering degree from an accredited post-secondary institution. An accredited engineering program is one that has been evaluated by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) to ensure its graduates have the academic qualifications necessary for registration as a professional engineer (P.Eng.) in Canada. There are currently more than 200 accredited engineering programs leading to a bachelor’s degree in engineering. To determine if your engineering education meets the academic requirement for licensure, contact the engineering regulator in the province where you would like to work.

Applicants holding a bachelor's degree in engineering from a program that is not CEAB-accredited can reach out to the regulator for their province or territory to find out whether they can qualify to apply for licensure.

Many universities also offer master’s and PhD programs for students wishing to build specialized engineering knowledge and skills after completing their undergraduate degree. While higher education is good-to-have, it’s not generally a requirement for licensure.

  1. Meet licensing requirements to become a professional engineer

To practice engineering in Canada, you must hold and maintain a license from one of Canada’s provincial engineering regulators. All engineering fields, except software engineering, are regulated and require a license to practice. 

However, you can work in engineering before getting your P.Eng. license as long as you’re supervised by a licensed engineer who takes professional responsibility for your work. Most provincial regulators allow new engineering graduates to register as an engineer-in-training or member-in-training after their studies and work towards a P.Eng. license.

Once you’ve started working, you can begin the process to become a P.Eng. at any point in your career—as soon as you meet the eligibility requirements or mid-career. But you can only call yourself a professional engineer or P.Eng. after you’ve been licensed.

As a licensed engineer, you’re officially authorized to practice engineering in your province or territory and are allowed to take legal responsibility for your work. 

Although each regulator has specific requirements for licensure, there are typically five criteria that must be satisfied: education, work experience, professionalism and ethics, good character, and language (fluency in English or French). Here are the steps to becoming a P.Eng.:

Decide where you want to practice: You’ll need to narrow down where in Canada you plan to practice before beginning the process to become a P.Eng. The certification requirements differ by each province/territory, and your license will only apply to that province or territory.

Look for your first job as an engineer-in-training: Once you graduate, you need to find employment under the supervision of a licensed professional engineer who will be responsible for your work. Be sure to document your work experience during these four years since you must submit a record of your employment experience as part of your P.Eng. license application.

Apply to the provincial or territorial engineering regulator: Many engineering graduates first apply to become an engineer-in-training (EIT), also called members-in-training, interns, pre-registration candidates, or junior engineers. Becoming an EIT is not mandatory in most provinces or territories, but this route can help make your process to become a licensed engineer smoother. EIT programs help ensure you gain relevant professional work experience, references, knowledge, and proof of good character for your certification. Many recruiters hiring new engineering graduates require applicants to be registered with the province as EITs.

Once you have the required work experience, you can begin the process to become a P.Eng. by enrolling with the applicable regulator. All regulators require at least four years of work experience for licensure including at least one year in Canada. The only exception is Quebec, which requires two years of experience.

Meet other qualifying criteria for a P.Eng. license

Once you’ve fulfilled the academic and work experience requirements of licensure, you’ll need to pass the National Professional Practical Exam (NPPE) which covers ethics, professional practice, engineering law, and professional liability. You may be asked to attend an in-person assessment during your evaluation period. In addition, you may be required to demonstrate:

  • Proficiency in one official language, English or French.
  • Good character and ethics. 

When your P.Eng. is approved and you pay your registration fee, you will be a licensed professional engineer in your province or territory.

How to get licensed as an engineer after you graduate

So you’ve completed your engineering degree and decided to pursue your P.Eng. Although the certification requirements vary by province, here’s an overview of the steps required to complete the process.

  • Your application for certification: Carefully review the requirements and deadlines for licensure provided by your provincial or territorial engineering regulator. The Ontario regulator, Provincial Engineers Ontario (PEO), for example, will assign the applicant deadlines to meet its requirements and submit information, as necessary. If the deadlines are not met, the application may be closed.

At this time, you should review the regulator’s engineer-in-training program to decide whether you wish to enrol or if you’d prefer to gather work experience and apply for a P.Eng. directly. Check your regulator for details:

  • Enrol as an engineer-in-training: To begin the four years of work experience required for your P.Eng. license, it’s a good idea to enrol in the regulator’s EIT program (you must be a graduate of an accredited engineering program to obtain EIT status). Although most regulators do not require applicants to become an EIT, it is highly recommended. In Ontario, for example, the Engineering Intern (EIT) program is voluntary, but strongly encouraged by the PEO. It can help you assess the quality and acceptability of your work experience, and the regulator can also advise you of any deficiencies to help ensure your future P.Eng. application is approved. 
  • Build work experience in engineering: Finding your first job in engineering can take time. Ideally, you should begin your job search before or soon after graduating. If you’ve enrolled as an EIT, you will likely have more opportunities for relevant work experience via the regulator’s network of engineer professionals, events, partnerships, and conferences. Additionally, employers often have special programs for engineers-in-training. Some even require recruits to have the EIT status for certain roles. 
  • Record and submit work experience: Be sure to document your work experience over the course of four years since you will be required to submit a record of your employment experience as part of the evaluation to become a licensed P.Eng. Each regulator will provide details on what information to submit.

The PEO, for example, provides specifics on how to complete the Engineering Experience Record from formatting tips to what types of activities to include. It also requires your work experience to complement your academic engineering training and show development in responsibility, judgment, communication skills, and self-confidence.

  • Write required exams: All regulators require you to pass the National Professional Practical Exam (NPPE). There may also be other technical exams specific to each province or territory. In Ontario, the PEO requires all applicants to pass the NPPE within two years of the date you started your application process (and had your academic credentials approved by the regulator). 
  • Apply for P.Eng. licensure: Once you fulfill all requirements, you can apply for your P.Eng. licensure. In Ontario, the PEO assesses your engineering experience against five criteria: application of theory, practical experience, management of engineering, communication skills, and awareness of the social implications of engineering. Upon approval, you receive your P.Eng. after paying your dues.

If you completed your engineering degree outside Canada, read Arrive’s article on How to immigrate to Canada as an engineer for information on the certification requirements for internationally-educated engineers.

How to write a resume for your first engineer-in-training job

Your resume will likely be the most important document for your job search. Along with your cover letter, your resume will help employers determine if you’re a good fit for the role and if they should interview you. That’s a lot of pressure placed on one single document. Thankfully, there are some dos and don’ts to crafting an impressive resume that’ll help you land that first engineering job. Here are some expert tips to get you started:

  • Choose the right resume format: Start with a resume format that’s most suited to your skills, experience, and career level. Since you’re looking for an entry level engineering role, a functional resume format will probably work best because it draws attention to your strengths and transferable skills and de-emphasizes your lack of professional engineering work experience.
  • Do your research: Carefully review the job description, and invest time and effort into researching the company you’re applying to. What does the role entail? And how will this position contribute to the organization’s larger goals? Networking with professionals in your industry and target companies is a great way to gather valuable information. Not only will these insights help you craft an impressive resume, it’ll also come in handy during job interviews. 
  • Highlight transferable skills: Although you may not have a work history in engineering, you’ve likely acquired valuable skills through your studies, internships, and volunteer or part-time work that employers want for an entry level engineering role. Valuable hard and soft skills for engineering jobs include: excellent communication, attention to detail, commitment to continuing education, critical thinking, computer skills such as AutoCAD, and other technical skills relevant to your engineering discipline. 
  • List your engineering credentials: Your engineering degree and provincial registration should be prominently placed on your resume. If you’re an EIT, you already convey a serious commitment to building your engineering credentials. Be sure to include any additional certifications or training such as proficiency in specific software, certificates in engineer management or occupational health and safety, and industry-specific training.
  • Clearly communicate your work experience: Even though your resume emphasizes your education over your work history, employers still want to know you’ve held past jobs—through part-time work, volunteer experience, or internships—to indicate your work ethic, responsibility, ability to prioritize tasks, and willingness to learn. Be sure to keep your descriptions brief and capture only what’s most relevant to the job you’re applying for. Wherever possible, highlight your achievements or accomplishments instead of merely jotting down what you did in each role. This will help employers visualize the difference you made in previous roles and give them a compelling reason to hire you.
  • Craft an ATS-friendly engineering resume: No matter how impressive your resume is, you won’t likely get an interview if it can’t pass the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) many employers use. What can you do? Where relevant, include exact-match keywords from the job description in your resume and cover letter. If you’re not sure your resume is ATS friendly, use the Prepped Resume Scanner to check how closely your resume matches the job description.
  • Always include a cover letter: The value of a powerful cover letter cannot be overstated. Your engineering cover letter is your opportunity to demonstrate your passion for the discipline you’ve studied, motivation to become a licensed engineer, why you want to work for the company, as well as your most relevant skills and achievements. 

How to get an engineer-in-training job without prior work experience

Applying for your first engineering job can be overwhelming, especially when you’ve just graduated and don’t have any experience. Where do you look for jobs? And more importantly, how do you convince employers that you’re qualified? Here are some tips to help you land your first job as an engineer-in-training:

Gather part-time or voluntary work experience

This is something you can (and definitely should) start doing before you graduate. While in university, look for part-time jobs that require skills that apply to the engineering discipline you’re pursuing, such as working for a construction company if you study civil engineering, or in a lab if you study biochemical engineering. You can also enhance your skills by volunteering for a charity, such as one that builds homes for the disadvantaged, to gain experience in infrastructure. 

Even if your previous jobs weren’t in a related field, you have likely cultivated transferable skills that are useful for an engineering job. For instance, if you had a summer job landscaping, you’ve developed customer service skills and an ability to work collaboratively on a team.

Make an engineering portfolio

An engineering portfolio features samples of your work and projects to highlight your skills and achievements that’s easy for recruiters to review. Your work portfolio can be displayed as a website, a powerpoint presentation, or even a pdf. Include your sketches, engineering projects, graphics, diagrams, video clips, research papers you’ve written, and even a modified resume. Keep it simple and easy for the recruiter to scan, with your best work displayed most prominently. 

Build a strong network 

Networking is key to opening up employment opportunities and there are many ways to connect with other engineers. As an EIT, you’re a member of the regulator’s community of engineers who are often willing and eager to help new engineers find their footing. Some also have mentoring programs to match you with a professional engineer, as well as regular networking events and conferences that may expand your network globally for even more career opportunities.

You can also leverage LinkedIn to build connections with engineering alumni who attended your school—message them to set up a coffee chat. You can rely on your expanding network for guidance, job referrals, and to be introduced to hiring decision-makers in various companies. Building a professional network can provide additional benefits such as peer-to-peer learning and mentorships as you forge your career path.

Ask for references

As an EIT, you will be required to provide detailed references for your licensure submission. But collecting strong references is simply good practice so that you’re prepared when a potential employer requests them. An ideal place to start asking for references is your engineering professors. And, if you worked or volunteered during your studies, ask your managers if they can be your references, as well.

Look for job openings online and through recruiters

When it’s time to actively seek full-time jobs, keep a close eye on various online career portals for new job postings. The Engineering Institute of Canada lists industry-specific jobs across Canada on its engineering careers portal. Also check your local engineering associations, such as the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, for career resources and listings—many of which may be connected to the region’s largest employers of engineers. You can also visit popular platforms like Workopolis, Monster, or LinkedIn. 

Don’t forget to connect with recruiters who specialize in engineering careers and post jobs on their websites. Keep in mind not all available job opportunities are posted publicly. Your network can help you access the hidden job market and learn about jobs that aren’t widely advertised.

What does the recruitment process look like for engineering jobs?

Your resume has been shortlisted and now you’re wondering what the interview process will entail. How many steps can you expect? And how long will it take to get a job offer?

While the answer will be different for each person, many companies—especially those that actively recruit engineers-in-training—often have scheduled periods when they focus on hiring recent graduates and EITs. Typically, these are during the fall and winter, and sometimes early spring if they’re hiring summer interns. 

Many employers visit campuses in September and January for recruitment drives. Prepare your resume and portfolio with these dates in mind to improve your chances of being interviewed (and hired) more quickly. Career fairs are a great entry point for your engineering career, and being prepared for an on-the-spot interview by recruiters is key. While these may be perceived as casual conversations, a recruiter will take note if you’ve researched the company and can make a compelling case for why you want to work there. 

That said, be prepared for multiple interview rounds before landing a job offer, which may include a culture fit interview, and one or more panel interviews. Most colleges and universities have a career centre to help you prepare for interviews including tips, in-person practice, and feedback on where to improve.

Common interview questions for engineering jobs

Interviews are often the most stressful part of the job search process because you can’t always predict what questions will be asked. Most interviews will have at least a few general questions, behavioural questions, and culture fit questions. In addition, there may be technical questions applicable to your engineering specialization to help the employer assess your readiness for the engineering role. Here are some questions you may encounter while interviewing for entry-level engineering jobs:

  • Why do you want to become an P.Eng.? 
  • What do you know about our company and why do you want to work here?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • How would you describe your ideal working environment? 
  • Why are you a good fit for this company?
  • How are you different from other candidates?
  • How do you handle criticism?
  • Provide an example of how you applied problem-solving skills to a design challenge.
  • Describe your most successful/favourite engineering project and why?

Preparing for commonly asked questions in advance will ensure you’re confident and ready to ace your interviews and get your first EIT job. You can also record yourself and practice answering these common interview questions with Prepped AI Interviewer.

Be Prepped for your job search 

At Prepped, we want to help you get the engineering job you’ve always dreamed of. Our tools will help you build an ATS-friendly resume and improve your interview skills, so you can land your next job with confidence. As you embark on your new engineering career, sign up for Prepped and get access to resources designed to support you at every stage of your job search.