Engineering, like many rewarding careers, requires a college degree. To make the most of your future, you'll need a well-rounded education that includes plenty of math and science, along with communications, history, literature, and the arts. Start planning now to take the kinds of classes in high school that will open the doors to a college education and great opportunities in the future. Obviously, the classes you take will depend upon what is offered in your high school, but the information below may help when arranging your schedule.
Math and Science
Try to take at least four years of math and four years of science classes if you can. If you can take the AP options, that would be even better. This will be important when you get to college, and the more you take in high school the less you will need to worry about it later on. If you are worried about math or science courses, try looking at these tips for succeeding in your classes. For an idea of some of the specific math classes you may want to take check out this post on reasons to take math in high school.
Pre-Engineering and Technology Classes
In addition to math and science, you may be lucky enough to attend a school where you can take special classes in pre-engineering or technology. If you can get such classes, they will definitely give you a head start so be sure to take them! If pre-engineering classes are not available at your school though, don’t worry. You can learn everything you need at the university, but it wouldn’t hurt to look into starting a robotics club or see if your school will let you start a technology interest group. Your math and science teachers may have some other ideas for how you can get a head start in learning about engineering principles.
Communication skills are critical to success in any career. Take every opportunity to strengthen you reading, writing, and speaking skills. That means four years of language classes that can include English composition, literature, speech/communications, debate, and journalism/broadcasting. Already know a second language? Great! If not, consider taking a couple of years of foreign language classes. Learning about the culture and customs of another country is fun and can be a valuable job skill. It may even open opportunities for travel in college or on the job.
History, Geography & Government
Many of these courses will be required of everyone, but don’t think they aren’t important to an engineer. It's a small world, and getting smaller. Many engineers are working in other countries or in cooperation with engineers from other countries. Understanding history and the governments in other parts of the world gives you perspective. Courses you may want to consider taking now and in the future include U.S. history, ancient and world history, government, and current events.
Sports, the Arts, and Other Opportunities
To be a good engineer, you'll need communications and teamwork skills -- the kinds of skills you get by trying new things and taking a wide selection of classes in school and participating in many extra-curricular activities. Don't wait until high school is over to begin exploring different classes and opportunities to learn about the variety in the world. Creativity is an important part of engineering and there are lots of opportunities to explore the arts in your community. Explore visual arts like sketching, sculpting, painting, photography, and film. Performing arts, such as dance, drama, choir, and band also take teamwork and can give you something to write about on your college entrance applications. You may also want to consider participating in a sport. To be an athlete, you don't have to be the on the school basketball team or spend your weekend training for a triathlon. Athletics of any kind, from swimming at the community pool to a canoe trip with the church youth group, are opportunities to be active, stay healthy, and learn discipline and teamwork.