Engineering is an occupation, but for many of us it is much more. I presume that the main reason we all go to work each day is to support ourselves and our families. As engineers, there are many other reasons in addition to "making a living".
Some people just love to learn. Engineering gives us an outlet to explore what is possible. The big advancements we see in the world around us are largely due to those engineers who pioneer. They are almost consumed with what they might learn about the world around them by forging on through science.
This is a little different than pure science, but it is related. Basic interest doesn’t necessarily involve chartering new frontiers, it’s just satisfaction when you get a machine to run optimally, or troubleshoot a process. Basic interest is what makes a waking up each day so worth it.
Some of us are, well - uh, not exactly rock stars. In the real world, having a high IQ, speaking properly, and maximizing the efficiency of each daily process doesn’t get you into all the "cool" circles. Industry events can be awesome for us, because we have a chance to hang out with other people that we can relate to (and they can relate to us). This industry is where engineers can be celebrities. Simply imagine the similarities of presenting a paper at a trade show to any other form of entertainment.
Being Part of Future Technology
The thing I like about being an application engineer is that it allows me to work (in a small way) on so many different applications. If you are working on the next cell phone design for instance, you will be almost connected to that design when you start seeing it actually being used. The same thing applies to working on assemblies that go into planes, computers, solar cells, and game consoles – you see the fruit of your labor outside of work. In many cases we have a chance to watch people using our technology to improve their daily lives.
Yeah, we get paid to go to work each day, but an engineer that loves their job gets so much more out of their career.