Choose wisely for that career edge

A few weeks back, I received a call from Raghav, a student whom I had counselled six years ago. He was happy to share good news that he got a placement in a well-known IT company at a starting package of Rs 6 lacs. He had done his graduation in Computer Science Engineering and then completed MSc in artificial intelligence. However, all students are not as lucky.

In the last few years, employment opportunities for engineering graduates have undergone a radical change. With reduced number of new jobs for traditional streams, employers have become more selective resulting in a large number of graduates joining non-engineering sectors, especially into sales & marketing.

Students with specializations in new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence [AI], Machine Learning, Data Analytics and Virtual reality will have greater potential for placement. Significantly, there’s increased demand from employers for candidates specialized in these areas, where there’s apparently a shortage. In this context of lopsided availability vis-à-vis demand, students opting for engineering courses in the next academic year should follow a systematic approach to be ready for future jobs.

Know your interest and passion

Students completing their 12th /PUC should evaluate and identify what their interests really are. Further, selection of courses also depends on family background, especially in the case of those who have businesses to manage in future years.

Identify sunrise industries and corresponding streams

There are around 20 engineering streams differing in employment potential. While traditional streams like Civil, Mechanical, and Electrical continue to have potential, the demand is much higher for Computer Science/IT streams, with new specializations. Industries are now looking at increased automation to replace those tasks that usually need human intelligence such as speech recognition, visual perception, and translation of languages etc., which deal with finding innovative solutions to problems and are classified as Artificial Intelligence [AI].

Understand skill sets needed and identify the gaps in your skill sets

Assuming that you are interested in AI careers, you have to be proficient in Mathematics-especially logic and algorithms. If you want to consider a career in AI, related to biological applications, then you must be broadly familiar with Psychology and the functioning of the nervous system. Logic, algorithms and subject knowledge helps to design programs that help to replace human intelligence with AI. Therefore, proficiency in programming is a must.

Similarly, for any career, you have to identify the skill sets needed.

Define a methodology to upgrade your skills to match the profile for preferred stream

Assuming that you actually want to get into AI careers, but you are relatively weak in programming, then the question is should you give up your dream? The answer is no, but you must bridge the gap in your programming skills, by pursuing additional courses or doing an internship.

Identify universities and colleges offering the preferred stream

A lot of websites give out information related to options of streams, universities and colleges, admission process etc. For example, if you are identifying colleges offering Chemical Engineering in Karnataka, the list can pop up on your screen in a matter of seconds. However, a ready list may not be available for newer courses like Artificial Intelligence which being a branch of Computer Science, may be available in just a handful of colleges for graduate degrees and more for master’s degree courses. Also, be wary of colleges offering AI courses to take advantage of the boom without necessary infrastructure for such a course.

Evaluate the colleges on following

  1. Number of years in operation: New colleges take considerable time to develop infrastructure and hence this can be a simple yardstick to evaluate. Also, check for industry affiliations, professional memberships and strategic tie ups.
  2. Number and Quality of faculty: Similarly, an institution takes time to develop faculty; but good faculty can make a huge difference to your learning. Do check the educational background and experience of head of the department and faculty members related to your preferred stream. Another factor to check is the ratio of full time faculty to number of students.
  3. Approvals/Recognitions: Approval of authorities such as UGC/AICTE/Technical Boards, Council of Architecture etc. is important and mandatory. Institutions without approvals luring students with freebies such as foreign trips, laptops etc., is not uncommon. If you are choosing an institution overseas, ensure that it’s recognized in the country where you want to pursue the career.
  4. Course content: Check the syllabus to ensure the right combination to ensure comprehensive learning. Another key factor to check is the teaching pedagogy, internships, projects etc. which can vary-especially overseas universities.
  5. Infrastructure: Campus, library, labs, hostels, transport etc. These are key infrastructural facilities that will facilitate your learning and living. Some of these details may not be readily available online and hence do offline exploratory research to ensure infrastructure exists as claimed, especially if the institute is one of the preferred one.
  6. Placement record: A 100% placement authenticates the quality of the institution and is a reassurance that you are getting into the right institution.
  7. Check feedback and reviews: Look for feedback & reviews by others, to take cognizance and validate your selection.
  8. Alumni groups/LinkedIn: Alumni groups can give you not only information but very useful tips related to your learning/living. Networking with professionals on LinkedIn will also be useful.

Identify 3-4 colleges for admissions

Evaluate eligibility for admissions and identify colleges that meet your requirements considering infrastructure, fees, ease of admission, location etc.

Prepare accordingly

In most cases, preparation is common and must begin early. Do well in your 12th/PUC and JEE/CET or other exams. Some institutions have individual entrance exams and you must take a call as to how many additional exams can you take. Remember each entrance exam means researching the format and preparing, which would take away time and add to your pressure. Hence, limit the number of entrance exams as per your need and capacity.

Mahatma Gandhi had said, “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will”. A strong self-motivation separates you from others and is a key to extraordinary achievement. Therefore, while deciding the course, remember to follow your dream, with self-motivation. If you love your career, you will enjoy your life too.

New Engineering Stream Options

  • Artificial Engineering
  • Computer Science [Specialization in Artificial Engineering]
  • Computer Science and Engineering [Specialization in Data Science & Artificial Intelligence]
  • Mechatronics [Robotic]
  • Computer Science and Engineering [Specialization in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning]
  • Robotics & Automation Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Print & Media Technology
  • Thermal Engineering
  • Food Technology
  • Geo Science Engineering
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Transportation Engineering

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V Pradeep Kumar

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