I don’t think that I ever knew what career I wanted when I was younger. I’d thought about being a vet, translator or doctor but nothing really struck me. I knew that I liked to be creative and hands on, solve problems, speak languages and I wanted to do something that helped others.
I chose to study Geography, German, French and Graphics at GCSE level and at sixth form French, Mathematics and Biology. Whilst at sixth form I attended a career fair as I still was unsure of what career I wanted to pursue. I spoke to a representative who informed me of a residential University course where you could discover more about engineering degrees.
He explained to me that engineering wasn’t about overalls and fixing cars and that it was a professional career.
I attended Cardiff University for a week, and here I learnt about the different engineering disciplines and visited various companies. This is where I heard about Medical Engineering, and it really appealed to me. It ticked more boxes than anything had before, and knowing that I could study something to go into several different professions (such as accountancy, management, teaching, as well as engineering) I knew that I hadn’t cut off my options to change careers in the future. After attending this course I applied to study Medical Engineering at Cardiff University. My time at university was great, the course was incredibly challenging at times but also very enjoyable and interesting. I also had the opportunity to earn money, travel and spend time abroad in my University holidays (6 weeks in Madrid and 10 weeks in London).
Medical engineering involves applying technological and scientific principles to medical problems. This could mean recording a joint movement in the body to understand how the volunteer is moving, or modelling a medical implant on a computer to see the stresses that are imposed on it in the human body. You could be designing the next hip implant or using your knowledge to design, make and issue specialist seating wheelchairs to clients with complex postural shapes (this is what I currently do).
One of the things I love about engineering is the many different sectors that you can work in, and often the subjects that you pick can show what type of engineering that you are interested in. For a career in engineering it is important that you put a lot of effort into your core subjects of science and maths. Also engineering leads to many opportunities abroad, so if you enjoy travelling and speaking languages while earning a competitive salary, it may be for you.
If you’re interested in a career in engineering I recommend contacting one of the many engineering organisations within the U.K. to attend a course or event. Even if you’re still not sure if it is for you, it is definitely better to take something off the list of what you might be in the future to never knowing. You have to make sure that you ask questions and look for all opportunities though; you cannot wait for it all to come to you.
STEM Cymru organises residential courses at engineering departments in Welsh Universities. In 2011, courses were held at Swansea University and the University of Glamorgan. For more information on these pages, visit the Headstart Cymru page.