How To Build A Professional Engineering Career

How To Build A Professional Engineering Career
Engr. Ola Taiwo

Engr. Ola Taiwo is the Chairman of the Apapa Chapter of Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), in this exclusive interview with Ifeoma Oguamanam of MMS Plus Weekly, he gives an insight on what it takes to build a professional career in the engineering occupation.

What does it take to become an engineer?

First and foremost, the student must have studied sciences and must have five (5) ordinary level credits in the subjects of English language, mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology. You may want to ask, why English language? English language as the Lingual Franca of Nigeria is very important because whatever your knowledge, you still need to communicate your knowledge to other people, you need to be able to put that knowledge down on paper if necessary, so English is very important.

You are at liberty to choose from any of the engineering courses. Engineering courses available in Nigeria are; mechanical engineering, civil engineering, chemical engineering, electrical electronics engineering and some schools offer agricultural engineering and a few other engineering courses.

What are the requirements a person must meet to be certified as a registered engineer?

After 5 years of studying in an accredited university, a minimum of 4 years learning is required before you are qualified to apply for professional exams. The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) year is inclusive in the 5 years. The professional examination is conducted by the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE). The exam is of three stages; the technical report, oral interview and professional examinations.

Technical report requires you to submit a report on an engineering project or design which you have supervised or have been a part of to NSE, if they are satisfied with the project, you proceed to the second stage for oral interview.

The Oral interview is aimed at testing your practical experience and understanding of some other issues that relates with being a member of a professional association.

The professional examination comprises of different aspects; essay writing, multi choice questions and others.  After sitting for and passing the NSE professional examination, you are inducted as a corporate member of the NSE, by this you can have the title MNSE (Member, Nigerian Society of Engineers) after you name.

After obtaining the NSE corporate membership certificate you are qualified to apply to the Council for the Regulation of Engineers in Nigeria (COREN). If your application with COREN is successful, you will be issued a COREN number and qualified to have the title Engr.  As a prefix before your name.

Until you have done this you are not an engineer, anybody that puts Engr. before his name without being registered with COREN is a violator of the COREN decree, in fact it is now an Act of the National Assembly, and a violation of that Act is punishable by law.

What are the benefits of being a registered engineer?

Some of the benefits of being a registered COREN Engineer are; registration protects the public from quacks, charlatans and unworthy persons, it provides a yardstick against which the engineering professional may be judged.

For the registered engineer, it provides proof of standard education, training and experience. It also provides international recognition, increased mobility across a wide range of employment, it keeps the person abreast with latest developments and stimulates career development.

The NSE corporate membership certificates also qualify you to apply for corporate membership of any engineering division like the Nigerian Institute of Mechanical Engineers (NImechE), the Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture (MENA) division, civil division, electrical electronics divisions, mining division, water division, aviation division, naval division, etc. Without sitting for any further examinations. Although you will have to pay some fee to get certified as a corporate member of these engineering divisions.

After serving as a member of NSE for a specified number of years, you will be qualified to become a FNSE, that is, Fellow Nigerian Society of Engineers, which is the peak of engineering titles. FNSE is not an automatic title; a panel is set up to screen individuals to become Fellow of NSE. From experience becoming a FNSE is also determined by the years of practice you have to your credit.

What separates marine engineering from other aspects of engineering?

Marine engineering is a specialization. Before now most of these specializations used to be under mechanical engineering, it is quite generic. You start with mechanical engineering as an undergraduate course and with time, for the post graduate study you can choose to specialize in marine engineering.

Perhaps, when you graduated from your first degree, you got a job with a shipping company and you steered towards marine, but now some universities in Nigeria have started offering marine engineering as a first degree course. University of Port-Harcourt in Rivers State is one of them.

Apart from specializing as a marine engineer, there are also some certifications required of a marine engineer known as Certificate of Competency (CoC). If someone has studied marine engineering without certain certifications in marine you cannot go on board a ship to work. So the CoC is required. It is in three classes; class one, class two and class three. Without it you cannot work on a vessel.

How much does it cost to train an engineer?

It varies from institution to institution and from place to place. To train as an engineer in the United Kingdom (UK) or the United State America (USA) cannot be the same with someone who trained in Nigeria, Nigeria will be relatively cheaper.

So, it depends on the type of engineering you have done and where. As a marine engineer if you graduated as a mechanical engineer and get your CoCs, you might not need to get a masters degree since you have CoC and already work on a ship.

It is expensive to obtain a CoC because presently as it stands there is no institution here in Nigeria where you can get your CoC certifications. It is gotten from overseas and you know what it means to get a VISA, ticket, pay the school fees and other fees. So it is quite expensive.

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