Continuing education is important to engineers for many reasons. Not only can it help to keep things interesting and keep you engaged in your profession, but it can also help you to contribute in more meaningful ways to your team. The practical importance for engineers, of course, is that these continuing education seminars are required for the renewal of their engineering licenses. But let’s discuss a little further, how these can boost both your job satisfaction and your technical competence.
There is substantial evidence that says one of the top ways to avoid burnout, enjoy your job, and get promoted is to teach younger engineers the skills you’ve developed. Teaching is important for many reasons. One obvious one is then being able to delegate certain tasks, so you can focus on others. One less thought of benefit, however, is that it engages you in the material in a new way. It’s been shown that this mental stimulation increases job satisfaction and interest.
Similarly, learning new material can lead to the same mental stimulation and result in higher job satisfaction. Maybe a seminar allowed you to think about a concept differently or clarified some confusion you had on a section of the Code. Maybe it inspired you by showing complex analysis of a recently building failure, or the way technology was implemented into the world’s new tallest building.
In my experience, I’ve found that seminars can be both informative and inspirational. These are just two of the reasons I find them to be an important part of my career.
Engineering is a constantly evolving industry, which requires its engineers to grow along with the technical developments. The clearest example of this is the building code. Most building codes and standards are updated every three years, and engineers need to be up to date with the changes and implement them into their designs.
To illustrate this, I’ll use the example of seismic engineering. There have been so many updates to the building code with regards to seismic engineering in the last forty years. If an engineer retiring today, had been engineering buildings the same way as he was when he graduated from college, those buildings wouldn’t be safe. More reinforcing is required in the ends of concrete shear walls, moment frame connections have been completely redesigned, and the connections between roofs and concrete tilt-up panels have been significantly upgraded -- just to name a few. It’s important for engineers to learn the why and the how behind these changes, and continuing education is the best way to share that knowledge.
Finally, continuing education can also prepare you for a career change – whether it’s within the industry or a change to something completely different. The seminars you watch for continuing credits may not directly influence your work but may instead open your eyes to a new direction in which you can take your career. I know, I’ve definitely watched presentations that were a little out of my professional scope and, at the very least, daydreamed of what that career would look like!