Education

For Engineers (as for Everyone Else), Your Field Matters

engineers

Not all engineers are created equal. Setting aside differences in employer or salary, different engineers simply do vastly different things. For example, biomedical engineers build machines used to analyse and assess the human body, helping physicians and other health care providers find and understand disease; meanwhile, civil engineers work on a much larger scale, developing the infrastructure of cities and working to safeguard civilisation against natural and manmade disasters. Though all engineers rely heavily on the application of science, math, and general logic, the results of their efforts are often incomparable.

Aspiring engineers must commit themselves to the proper field to feel fulfilled and make a positive impact in their careers. Thus, those interested in engineering should have a grasp of possible paths before beginning their thorough engineering educations.

12 Engineering Fields and What They Do

Depending on who is talking, there could be as few as few as five and as many as 40 different kinds of engineering. Some fields of engineering greatly overlap with others, and some are so unlike the rest as to barely qualify as engineering at all. Still, most engineers accept that there are 12 general fields of engineering, to include:

Civil engineering, in which engineers work to establish infrastructure within cities. This might include organising roads and railways, aligning water and power grids, and rebuilding after natural disasters.

Biomedical engineering, which is essential to the advancement of health care. Some biomedical engineers work at hospitals, maintaining or operating machinery and equipment; others work at firms or labs, developing new devices or techniques to help health care professionals better serve populations.

Mechanical engineering, which involves the design and development of mechanical systems. Often, mechanical engineers focus on thermodynamics, materials science, and structural analysis.

Computer engineering, which deals with all types of digital design and development. Typically, this field is divided between hardware and software specialists, so the former builds physical devices while the latter creates those programs that run on them.

Engineering management, which exists in every field, yet deserves a mention on its own. Engineer managers need skills usually not common amongst engineering staff ― skills such as communication, financial management, and others gained through a master’s of engineering program.

engineering management

Electrical engineering, in which energy is used and manipulated. Electrical engineers might assist with the application of energies, including renewable energies, or else design electrical components.

Geological engineering, which relies heavily on earth science to guide construction or mining projects. Geological engineers are also integral to success in the oil industry.

Chemical engineering, which is simply the application of chemistry. Chemical engineers create all sorts of new materials, including food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, beverages, and even raw elements and chemicals.

Architectural engineering, in which engineers work closely with architects do design the systems that support buildings. Architectural engineers are responsible for heating, cooling, lighting, and more.

Sustainability engineering, also sometimes called environmental engineering, which attempts to preserve or improve the natural environment. Some engineers oversee sustainable production while others work to reduce existing pollution.

Aerospace engineering, which works to improve air and space travel. A large number of aerospace engineering firms develop military technologies.

Agricultural engineering, which serves the agricultural industry to improve the quality and quantity of food. Engineers might focus on soils, machinery design, harvest techniques, or crop cultivation.

It is important to note that there are further specialisations within almost every one of these fields, and many of the fields will hire different types of engineers for more complete teams. For example, aerospace firms will likely rely on electrical engineers to design the energy systems of their aircraft; similarly, geological engineers may work for farms to help them conserve and prepare the ground and soils.

However, this flexibility isn’t unlimited. Unlike many other career fields, engineers have a clearly defined path from the very beginning of their educations. Undergraduate engineering programs are closely tailored to provide engineers with the particular skills and knowledge they need for their chosen field; though some may find unusual applications, most will find it easiest to follow the career paths already laid out for them. To most engineers, this predetermined future is a blessing: Once they gain the necessary proficiencies, they are virtually guaranteed a certain level of success. That’s why an engineer’s field truly matters: It will determine his or her future more accurately than other educational programs.