This is a good question. I don’t think this is totally true of structural engineering; the first and most important thing is being technically excellent at your job. This means really understanding the engineering which you learn whilst studying at school and then university. Even if, towards the end of your career, you end up managing other engineers as part of your job you will not be able to do this correctly without really understanding the engineering first. So the lesson here is: focus on the engineering first!
It all depends on the person, I usually find. Management positions sometimes pay more because they come with more responsibility and sometimes that tends to be the direction people go. It’s not necessarily true that they involve a different set of skills though. In Engineering, I think actual Engineers make the best managers because they’ve been on the work floor, getting their hands dirty – they know what the industry is actually like and what problems are faced, so they can deal with them better.
The great thing about Engineering though is that you don’t have to give up the technical stuff if you don’t want to. I work at a University rather than in a business company, so our goals tend to be more open – we don’t have to worry about profits. The teams also tend to be quite small because the funding is driven mainly into the instruments, and that means that we all have to do actual technical engineering or it wouldn’t get done – even the managers.
Yeah that’s true, quite a number of engineers here move up towards management. But I’ve seen a number of them lose motivation for their jobs, they end up doing more paperwork, deal with people’s moods :), and they do less and less of the actual engineering – the very thing that attracted them to the job in the first place.
A lot of them actually become excellent managers – they knew what it was like for them as engineers, they just took on a bit more responsibility now and again, and they probably ended up doing managerial work without realising it!
It also depends on the person, whether they actually want to become managers or consultants the ‘higher’ they go up the career ladder. We here do have meetings each year with our own line managers to discuss the next step in our careers, so there’s some control over it in a large companies.
Sometimes that is true, but it very much depends on the individual. Generally as an engineers career develops, with promotion comes more responsibility and that can lead to being in a management position but it is by no means the only option.
Not really it depends on what you as an individual want to do. I have moved into a management position because that is the route that I wanted to take although I still have a lot of technical involvement with my team and the customer. Some of our Engineers, however, do not want a management position and are happy to remain in the technical area. Each to their own. What is important is that you do keep learning so it should be possible to pick up different skills without necessarily moving into a management position.