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We see them on the roads everyday. We may even own or drive one. Whether it's a car, bus, motorcycle, or truck, each requires a group of engineering gurus to intricately design, assemble, and test before the vehicles hit the roads.

Engineering is a broad industry; some choose chemical engineering as a profession, while others choose civil, mechanical, or electrical. But for the car buffs out there, they'll touch upon branches of those types of engineering as an automotive engineer.

There are opportunities in everything from mechanical to thermal to software engineering in the automotive world, says Michael Ihns, owner and president of Improved Racing Products LLC. When in the process of hiring engineers, Ihns says that he looks for individuals with specialized skills. My advice for maximizing your success and earning potential is to focus on a specialty and a skill set that makes you unique among other engineers.

According to Ihns, breaking into the industry can pose as a challenge for new grads, but he encourages young people to be persistent. Don't be afraid to start at the bottom and work your way up. Try to show that you have knowledge and skills that are useful to the employer, be it through a research project, thesis, or even a hobby, he says.

One way to ease into the auto industry is to take your bachelor's or master's in automotive engineering. The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) offers both undergraduate- and graduate-level automotive engineering programs and is also one of the only automotive engineering programs in the country.

Students are learning everything starting from the components, design, dynamics, control, stability, and also testing, says Dr. Moustafa El-Gindy, an associate professor of automotive engineering at UOIT. We have a facility here: the Automotive Centre of Excellence, in cooperation with General Motors.

Dr. El-Gindy encourages students to maintain a high GPA to further their success when scouting for jobs. To get into the industry, they need to be good students here first, he says. Usually the automotive companies like to hire students with a GPA over 3.0. He also suggests that students consider going into graduate school for automotive engineering to further increase their chances of finding jobs and even higher-paying salaries; master's grads would likely be on the higher end of the average salary of $66,271.

Aside from the acquired knowledge through academics, Ihns says it's beneficial for automotive engineers to be flexible and able to fulfil multiple roles. Skills not often found in engineers such as excellent writing skills and great people skills will give you an edge, he says. These skills allow an engineer to double as a product design engineer and a technical sales engineer, talking to customers and attending trade shows.

Ultimately, those who choose a career in automotive engineering have an interest and breadth of knowledge in cars. When hiring employees, one of the primary things we look for in candidates is a passion for cars, says Ihns. We have found these kinds of candidates have a much better inherent understanding of our products, what we are trying to accomplish, and fit in very well with our company culture.

Photo: Alexandr Mitiuc/Thinkstock