Physical and Mathematical Sciences is a broad sector, with many potential career paths for those with qualifications and suitable skillsets, including medical work, engineering, teaching, finance and technology.
The engineering sector itself is made up of a wide range of companies providing a diverse range of products and services.
The most usual route is through taking a degree at a third level college, often following this with a post graduate qualification.
Students can study mechanical engineering at Level 6, 7 or 8 in colleges across Ireland or they can study a general engineering degree then specialise in mechanical engineering in the final year.
Physicists want to understand how the world works, in every detail and at the deepest level. This includes everything from elementary particles, to nuclei, atoms, living cells, solids, liquids, gases, living organisms, the brain, supercomputers, the atmosphere, galaxies and the universe itself.
There is a whole host of career opportunities for mechanical engineering graduates.
A wide range of opportunities exist in both electrical and electronic engineering.
Smart Futures is a government-industry programme providing science, technology, engineering andmaths (STEM) careers information to second-level students, parents, teachers and careers guidance counsellors in Ireland.
Shauna Hurley is a structural engineer. Her job involves analysing building stability and designing structural elements such as floors, beams and columns, ensuring structures are safe and capable of withstanding harsh weather conditions.
Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?
My grandfather was the manager for the local John A. Woods quarry and my dad and uncles worked there, so the construction sector was always appealing to me.My dad told me to make sure to choose a career where no two days are ever the same and one that doesn’t involve being stuck at a desk all the time.
Describe a typical day?
I work on many different projects daily. Some projects are located close to home and others are worldwide. My typical day includes: carrying out detailed design calculations on a structure for large scale projects, regular meetings with people from other disciplines and travelling to site when required. I have done a lot of travelling around Europe recently to carry out visual building inspections for a global client.
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
Structural engineering involves designing structures that are safe and capable of withstanding wind, earthquakes and other forces; therefore, my day-to-day workload involves analysing overall building stability and designing structural elements such as floors, beams and columns and producing structural drawings. It also involves working alongside other professionals including architects, mechanical and electrical engineers and project managers, in order to produce an economical and sustainable structure.
Engineering lets you be part of a group of extremely talented people who make a difference in the world around us. For me, it’s looking at a structure or building and saying, ‘Yes, I was part of the team that designed that’. Also, being able to walk into that building to see the element I designed gives me an overwhelming feeling of pride.
What's not so cool?
Similar to many industries, different types of technology are constantly being introduced in the field of engineering. This means that it is necessary to attend training and spend time getting used to the various types of software.Only recently, I attended a training course on the essentials of seismic engineering. Earthquake design is not applicable to buildings in Ireland; however, it is a necessary requirement in other parts of the world. As Arup works on global projects, it is brilliant that I get the chance to attend this type of training, as I can apply what I have learned when I work on international projects.
What is your education to date?
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
My undergraduate degree has proven to be the most useful as it has given me the basic building blocks and understanding which I can apply to my job every day. I have learned so much since joining Arup, not only by working on various large and small projects, but by working with different people from all disciplines.
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
My job allows me to have a great work-life balance. We have a brilliant social aspect at Arup, as the company organises many events such as office cycles, soccer matches and tag rugby events.There are also brilliant opportunities to progress within the company. Since the beginning of my career, I have worked on large scale, important projects. I gained brilliant experience on these projects, which really stands to me and helps me to improve as an engineer. The opportunity to work on projects outside of Ireland has also helped me to progress within the company, as I have added to my skills in ways that I may not have achieved had I only worked on projects in Ireland.
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
When I was in transition year, I was stuck between two very different career choices, Architecture / Engineering or Beauty Therapy. After doing a week of work experience in both areas, I was able to make a final decision. I recommend doing work experience of some sort to help you decide or to see if you would like to work in that chosen field.Arup offers work experience which gives students the chance to discover what an engineer does every day. During the week, the students are given a project where they become the client, the project manager and the engineer. My colleagues from various disciplines go through the stages of the project with them. In this way, the students find out about the different types of engineering.It can be difficult to decide what to study in college and what kind of job you would like, so I think that getting some practical experience is the best way to find out whether or not you will enjoy that type of career.