The products of engineering expertise appear in daily life. Across the many branches of engineering, professionals invent, design, build, and maintain a diverse array of structures, machines, materials, and processes.
Engineering encompasses a multitude of specialized disciplines, such as
mechanical, electrical, chemical, and civil engineering. However, all engineers share the drive to solve problems using scientific knowledge, mathematical principles, and empirical evidence. Balancing efficiency, performance, cost, and ethics, engineers deliver solutions that build on scientific discoveries to improve human life.
Engineering careers typically attract detail-oriented critical thinkers, creative problem-solvers, and tinkerers who enjoy figuring out how things work and imagining how to improve them. To succeed in their field, engineers need extensive knowledge of mathematics, science, and computer applications. Many prospective engineering professionals begin to concentrate on these subjects before college. Typically working in a team environment, engineers also need strong project management, collaboration, and communication skills.
Colleges and universities offer online, hybrid, and traditional degrees in engineering at all levels. Most entry-level jobs in engineering require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree. However, individuals with associate degrees may qualify for employment as engineering technicians. Many students use their associate degree credits to fulfill prerequisite and general education requirements when transferring to a bachelor’s program.
Bachelor’s candidates in engineering typically enroll in specialized programs targeted toward various engineering careers. Many bachelor’s programs focus on popular branches of engineering such as environmental, mechanical, civil, electrical, biomedical, or computer engineering. Students with niche interests can also find unique programs in subjects like marine engineering, audio engineering, and wind science. Some schools offer generalist engineering degrees.
Many engineers pursue master’s degrees to gain specialized training and increase their earning potential. Doctoral degrees confer additional potential for career advancement and provide opportunities to conduct advanced research and teach at the university level.
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Career Outlook and Salary Potential in Engineering
Due to its rigorous educational and technical requirements, engineering tends to be a lucrative profession. Professionals in the field garner a median annual wage of $81,440. Engineers often find work in high-paying sectors such as biotechnology, aerospace, and the petroleum industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects engineering job growth to increase 3% from 2019-2029, keeping pace with the national average.
Type of engineering, experience level, industry, and location can influence salary.For example, agricultural engineers working for the federal government take home a median annual salary that’s more than $28,000 higher than their colleagues who teach at colleges and universities. Petroleum engineers and computer hardware engineers are among the highest-paid professionals in the field.
The following list gives a few examples of common engineering careers, along with salaries and projected growth rates.
Individuals interested in engineering careers can pursue a diverse array of specializations. In the following section, we discuss several popular engineering specialties.
An expanding, rapidly developing field, computer engineering combines computer science with electrical engineering. Offering constant learning opportunities and a high degree of autonomy, the field attracts creative, analytical individuals. Computer engineering programs emphasize math and science, as well as subjects such as circuit analysis, digital systems design, and software languages.
Computer Hardware Engineer
Hardware engineers design, develop, and update the physical components of computing, including circuit boards, processors, routers, and memory devices. They frequently collaborate with software engineers to ensure seamless integration of hardware and software.
Electrical and Electronics Engineer
In the tech industry, the roles of electrical and electronics engineers frequently overlap with those of hardware engineers. These professionals produce and improve electronic circuits and components for a variety of purposes.
Using engineering principles and programming languages, software engineers develop computer systems and software, including applications, games, communication networks, and operating systems.
Innovation engineers create and work with emerging technologies. They research, develop, and test new devices, products, and processes across many branches of engineering. They may also establish safety protocols and evaluate the effectiveness of novel systems. Attention to social, ethical, and environmental issues is a key aspect of technology innovation.
Innovation-oriented biomedical engineers develop new technology used to deliver medication, diagnose illness, and heal injuries. They may work in cutting-edge fields such as tissue engineering, robotic surgery, or gene editing.
Engineering managers coordinate, train, and supervise development and research teams across diverse industries. Individuals pursuing management-level engineering careers typically need a master’s degree.
Chemical engineers are at the forefront of innovation in many areas, including agriculture, bioengineering, nanotechnology, and electrochemical energy. They may conduct research or design equipment and processes.
The manufacturing industry offers a wide variety of jobs in engineering. Manufacturing engineers develop new products and improve existing ones. They also design and implement systematic fabrication and automation processes. Manufacturing-oriented engineering degree programs often feature courses in computer-aided design, automation hardware and software, materials, operations management, and quantitative analysis.
Mechanical engineers use engineering, physics, mathematics, and computer science to solve problems in almost every industry. Their work focuses on machines, materials, fluids, and thermodynamics.
Electrical and Electronics Engineer
These engineers create, improve, and maintain electrical power systems and electronic devices. They design and test products with a variety of applications in fields such as manufacturing, communications, aerospace, and healthcare.
Working in both the public and private sectors, civil engineers are responsible for envisioning and creating infrastructure systems and constructions, including roads, bridges, and dams.
One of the most widely applicable types of engineering, materials engineering supplies the building blocks used in all other branches of the field. Materials engineers study the physical, structural, electronic, and mechanical properties of substances such as plastics, ceramics, metals, and composites. They apply their knowledge to develop new materials.
These engineers work in the fossil fuel industry. Individuals pursuing petroleum engineering careers often earn a degree in petroleum engineering. They may also major in mechanical, civil, or chemical engineering.
These professionals focus on the production and use of chemicals, food, drugs, fuel, and other substances. Chemical engineers need in-depth knowledge of biology and chemistry in addition to physics and mathematics.
Nuclear engineers design equipment for nuclear facilities, monitor safety compliance, and manage nuclear waste disposal. They may also research and develop uses for radioactive material.
Qualified managers are in demand in all branches of engineering. These professionals are responsible for coordinating projects and collaborating with other departments in their workplace.
Chemicals and Additives
Chemical engineering applies the principles of engineering on the molecular or atomic level. Professionals in this field develop processes, systems, and equipment for manufacturing new materials. This type of engineering is integral to many industries, including nanotechnology, bioengineering, energy storage, and computing. Chemical engineering degree programs emphasize coursework in chemistry, mathematics, and physics.
Often collaborating with other engineers in interdisciplinary teams, these professionals conduct research, devise mathematical models, and develop processes and safety procedures related to chemical manufacturing.
Petroleum engineers devise and innovate methods for locating, extracting, transporting and storing oil and gas. These professionals need a strong background in physics, chemistry, and geology.
Versed in soil science, biology, and chemistry, these professionals use engineering principles to advance environmental protection. Their work may focus on issues such as hazardous waste management and pollution control.
Biomedical engineers synthesize engineering and biological knowledge to design equipment, devices, and software for medical use. They may also perform research in collaboration with other scientists.
Financial Aid & Scholarships for Engineering Students
Engineering students at all levels may qualify for financial aid, including scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study programs. Project-based fellowships are common at the graduate level. Graduate students may also work as teaching or research assistants.
Scholarships, grants, and fellowships are particularly sought after, as these types of aid do not require repayment. Federal student loans may be subsidized or unsubsidized. Unsubsidized loans do not accrue interest while borrowers are enrolled in school at least half time. Students participating in work-study programs earn part of their tuition through working at their schools in a variety of capacities.
The first step to securing financial aid is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Since schools and scholarship foundations use FAFSA data to determine financial need, filling out the form as early as possible is crucial for all students, whether or not they qualify for federal tuition assistance.
Scholarships for Engineering Students
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, most undergraduate students receive some form of financial aid, including scholarships. Many schools and private organizations offer scholarships reserved for engineering students and other STEM majors. These students also enjoy access to general scholarships awarded based on factors like financial need, academic achievement, or extracurricular activities. Many awards also cater to populations such as veterans, women, minorities, and nontraditional students.
Scholarship applicants must typically submit transcripts, recommendation letters, and personal statements or essays. Engineering scholarships often prefer applicants to be enrolled in programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Applicants can increase their chances of winning engineering scholarships by demonstrating high grades in math and science and participating in extracurricular activities such as STEM clubs or robotics competitions.
Engineering Careers FAQ
What is STEM?
STEM is an acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. Prospective engineers should choose an educational program that provides a strong background in STEM disciplines.
What is engineering?
A diverse field that incorporates many areas of applied science and mathematics, engineering uses knowledge derived from scientific research to solve practical problems.
What does an engineer do?
Working in both the public and private sectors, engineers develop, test, operate, and improve a wide variety of machines, structures, products, and systems.
Do engineers make a high salary?
With median annual salaries ranging from about $80,000 to over $137,000, jobs in engineering typically pay well above the national median for all occupations.
Professional Organizations and Other Resources
Professional organizations provide opportunities for established and aspiring engineers to network, boost their careers, and advocate for and within their field. Members enjoy access to benefits such as continuing education resources, job boards, and conferences. These organizations often enroll students at a discounted membership rate. In the following section, we present some leading professional organizations in engineering.
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