Engineering is the use of scientific principles to solve complex problems, design and build machines, structures, and other items. The discipline of engineering encompasses a broad range of more specialized fields of engineering, each with a more specific emphasis on particular areas of applied mathematics, applied science, and other types of application.
Engineering encompasses many forms—mechanical (one of the broader applications in engineering), civil, chemical, biomedical, electrical and computer, aeronautical—but ultimately might be a good career if you are strong in problem solving, critical thinking, quantitative methods and like to design, create, tinker or innovate. It can be applied in fields such as automotive, robotics, medical devices, manufacturing, urban planning, sustainability, renewable energy and many more.
Overall, whatever aspect of engineering you focus in, it’s a well-paying job which gives you a variety of skills which are widely transferable.
There are many different types of engineering focus (these are just the most common).
- Aerospace--Aerospace engineers design, analyze, model, simulate, and test aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, missiles, and rockets. Aerospace technology also extends to many other applications of objects moving within gases or liquids. Examples are golf balls, high-speed trains, hydrofoil ships, or tall buildings in the wind
- Biomedical--Biomedical engineers study biology and medicine to develop technologies related to health care. This can extend from medical devices and technologies to organs grown in a lab.
- Civil--designing and building infrastructure, like bridges, dams, buildings, highways and tunnels, from planning and construction to maintenance and demolition.
- Chemical--Chemical engineers discover and manufacture better plastics, paints, fuels, fibers, medicines, fertilizers, semiconductors, paper, and all other kinds of chemicals.
- Computer--Computer engineering is the design, construction, implementation, and maintenance of computers and computer-controlled equipment.
- Electrical-- The study, design and application of equipment, devices and systems which use electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism.
- Environmental--Environmental engineers use the principles of engineering, soil science, biology, and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems.
- Mechanical—The broadest of the engineering disciplines, mechanical engineers work on just about anything that involves a mechanical process.
There are Associate degrees offered in Engineering, but they will give you a foundational knowledge of engineering principles. You’ll most likely study calculus, physics, chemistry, information systems, and similar courses. It’s a good way to get some basic technical skills and background, but to practice as an engineer, you’ll need to complete a Bachelor’s degree.
There are many positions available to an engineer with a bachelor’s degree. You will have a choice between a BA and a BS—both will focus on math, technology and sciences, however, a BA might have more of a liberal arts bent, while the BS may allow you to focus in more specifically into math and science disciplines.
If you want to specialize, a Master’s degree will be more focused. Especially if research and development is an interest, an advanced degree will be helpful.
Certifications and Licensing:
In order to work as an engineer, you must complete your Professional Engineering licensure. This involves completing a four-year degree, at least 4 years of qualifying engineering experience, passing two competency exams and earning state licensure. Since licensure is regulated state by state, it is important to check each state’s requirements.
Some technologies used in Engineering include:
Computer Aided Design (CAD)
Java, C++, Python
Microsoft Visual Basic
Skills and Abilities:
- Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
- Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
- Science — Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
- Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
- Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
- Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
- Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
- Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
- Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
- Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
Here is a list of some of the professional associations one might get involved in if networking in the Engineering world is of interest (certainly not an exhaustive list!).
“world’s leading organization for chemical engineering professionals,” one area of interest is nanobiotechnology
“Focused on all branches of acoustics, both theoretical and applied.”
Focus is to “advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people”
Non-profit, international, scientific and educational organization that unifies professional activities within the various fields of nuclear science and technology.
Represents more than 140,000 members of the civil engineering profession worldwide and is America's oldest national engineering society.
Focuses on building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration, and sustainability.
“A non-profit membership organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing, career enrichment, and skills development across all engineering disciplines.”
“To inspire, inform and influence the global engineering community, supporting technology innovation to meet the needs of society.”
IEEE is the world's largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity.
Largest professional society for industrial engineers
professional engineering institution headquartered in London; focuses on "improving the world through engineering."
International educational and scientific association of transportation professionals who are responsible for meeting mobility and safety needs.
The National Society of Black Engineers is one of the largest student-governed organizations based in the United States. NSBE offers its members leadership training, professional development activities, mentoring, career placement services, community service opportunities and more.
“Focused on addressing the professional concerns of licensed PEs across all disciplines.”
“international society advancing an interdisciplinary approach to the science and application of light”
A global association of more than 138,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industries. Publish technical reports and voluntary consensus standards.
SHPE changes lives by empowering the Hispanic community to realize its fullest potential and to impact the world through STEM awareness, access, support, and development.
Organization focused on all aspects of manufacturing
The Society of Women Engineers is the world’s largest advocate and catalyst for change for women in engineering and technology.
Majors and Concentrations
Most engineers major in an engineering discipline, such as civil, mechanical or electrical and computer engineering. Some colleges and universities might offer more specific majors—Aeronautical, Marine, Nuclear—or these might be offered as a concentration. Regardless of major, students will come away with skills in problem solving, critical thinking, the engineering process, math and technology.
A solid background in science and math, chemistry, physics and other related subjects is also important, depending on which engineering discipline you’re thinking of focusing in.
Often, students will get a more general engineering education in their undergraduate degree, and then get more specialized as they gain advanced degrees.
Jobs and Experiences
Just as the variety of engineering focuses are broad and diverse, so are the companies who hire engineers. The following companies often hire engineers in various roles, and are considered among the most attractive to engineering students:
- Energy: ExxonMobil, Shell, BP
- Technology: Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Google
- Aerospace: Lockheed-Martin, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Boeing, SpaceX
- Automotive: Tesla, BMW, Volkswagon, Toyota, Ford Motor Company
Manufacturing/Industrial: Samsung, General Electric