Engineering: There’s Much More to It Than You Think
We’ll be honest: this article is going to primarily appeal to those who love engineering. Is that a small group of people? Probably. But engineering is critically important, if you’ve ever considered a career in engineering, this article is for you.
Engineering is the field of science concerned with the design, building, and use of engines, structures, and machines, and modern engineers use their skills for simple machines, computer technology, and building satellites.
Engineering is an occupation with extremely wide reach. Engineering covers many fields and many skills. Engineers are scientists, designers, inventors, builders and thinkers. They work to improve the state of the world, magnify human capability and make everyday life safer and easier.
Engineering Requires a Specific Skill Set:
- Understanding and practice of the scientific method
- Social, cultural, and economic awareness
- Exceptional mathematics skills
- Awareness and competence in biology, chemistry, physics and other areas of science
The many fields of engineering give us machines and devices that help us in our daily living, and engineers of all stripes make things work and then improve upon the original. Engineers use creativity and invention to design solutions for global issues.
The Many Types of Engineers
The reason many people are attracted to engineering work is because of the variety of tasks and environments available to them.
Originally, engineering had four disciplines: chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, and each discipline had several branches. Now, those branches have become their own disciplines.
Aerospace Engineers work on aircraft, aerospace vehicles and propulsion systems. They are in research and development for new planes, helicopters, jets, gliders, missiles and spacecraft.
These engineers work on conserving and developing the world’s natural resources including soil, land, water, forests, and rivers.
Biomedical Engineers work with physicians, doing research and development to improve health care and medical services.
Building Services Engineers design HVAC systems, electric lighting and power systems, water and gas supplies, and plumbing and drainage systems.
Chemical Engineering examines the ways raw materials can be changed into useful commercial end products. Researching the properties of raw materials, design and development of appropriate machines, pumps, valves, gaskets, seals, o-rings, and ongoing evaluation of operating processes are all duties of a Chemical Engineer.
Food Engineers design and develop equipment and production systems that increase the shelf life of food while maintaining its integrity and nutrition sometimes using stainless steel tanks.
Petroleum & Petrochemical Engineering
Engineers in this field explore, discover, harvest, use and improve oil and natural gas. They are constantly researching and testing new, safer, more economical methods of removing oil and gas from the earth.
The equipment that produces our millions of life-saving medications is designed and operated by pharmaceutical engineers.
Process Control Engineers create and maintain computer software and systems made to control the quality and quantity of products during manufacturing.
Civil Engineers design infrastructure, including dams, pipelines, bridges, roads, towers and buildings.
Geo technical Engineering
GE’s provide information on how the rocks and soil beneath a planned structure will behave under pressure.
Hydraulics (Water) Engineering
The stresses of nature on buildings are the concern of Structural Engineers. They must also consider human traffic, motor vehicles, and other creators of wind, vibrations, and instabilities.
Transport Engineers design, test, and improve transportation systems, including traffic intersections, train lines, and other veins of transportation within populated areas.
Coastal and Ocean Engineering
Coastal and Ocean Engineers work at the border between land and the sea, in the open ocean, and understand the dynamic natural environment.
Electrical Engineering includes electronics, computer systems, telecommunications, and electrical power. Electrical Engineers design and build machines and systems that create, transport, measure, control and use electrical energy.
Environmental Engineers assess the impact a project has on the air, water, soil and noise levels in the surrounding environment.
Industrial Engineers draw upon specialized knowledge and skills in mathematics, physics, physiological and social sciences to optimize the use of human and material resources for the most efficient outcomes in industry.
Marine Engineers design, test, and improve machinery and equipment used at sea. This can include propulsion units, electrical systems, refrigeration, air conditioning, cargo handling and domestic services equipment.
Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering
Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineers turn energy into motion and power. Mechanical Engineers design, create, and improve systems and machinery used for domestic, industrial and public use in such areas as infrared heating, hydraulic lifts, sandblast equipment, lubricating systems and other work areas.
Minerals and Metallurgical Engineering
These engineers turn raw material into valuable products; for example, they turn bauxite into aluminum. These engineers use different treatments to process materials efficiently, using physical or chemical separations and metallurgical processes.
Mining Engineers work with geologists to plan and execute the extraction of ore and mineral deposits, along with the extraction of non-metals like coal and uranium. They have to find the safest and cheapest way to remove the minerals from the earth.
Resource Engineering is about the development and use of natural resources. This includes the development, control, and conservation of water resources, soil conservation, and other land and pollution concerns.
Risk assessment by this type of engineer involves analysis based on chemistry, physics and other aspects of a project. They identify potential hazards, how likely those hazards are to occur, and what response should be made in the event the potential hazard becomes a reality.
Software Engineers design and modify software systems to support our businesses, transportation hubs, and even our digital games and social media.
Any one of these engineering disciplines can lead to a successful, long-term career.
Engineering involves many specialties and there are many opportunities for employment. Each of the disciplines listed above needs many specialists to work in the field effectively, like aeronautical engineers, agricultural engineers, automotive engineers, biomedical engineers, and many more.
Following is a snapshot of what one can earn with a career in engineering:
Engineering Occupation Average Annual Salary
Aerospace Engineers $107,700
Architectural & Engineering Managers $138,720
Biomedical Engineers $91,760
Chemical Engineers $103,590
Civil Engineers $87,130
Computer Hardware Engineers $110,650
Electrical Engineers $95,780
Environmental Engineers $86,340
Health & Safety Engineers $84,850
Industrial Engineers $85,110
Marine Engineers $99,160
Mechanical Engineers $87,140
Mining & Geological Engineers $100,970
Nuclear Engineers $104,630
Petroleum Engineers $147,520
Ship Engineers $74,600
(All data from the BLS, ABET, & NCES)
Future Engineering Challenges
Despite our society’s advancements, there are still engineering challenges facing the engineering field. Among these challenges are the following:
- Upgrading the United States infrastructure
- Educating first world engineers to solve third world problems
- Promoting green engineering to improve sustainability
- Identifying viable alternative energy solutions
- Rethinking how cities are designed and function
- Making STEM more appealing to young students
- Safeguarding data and wealth from cyber-attacks
- Addressing climate change through engineering
- Feeding the growing world population through bio-engineering and agricultural innovation
- Improving health and well-being through life sciences, nanotechnology, and bio-engineering
To address these challenges, we need more students to join the varied disciplines of engineering as soon as possible.
Engineers of the future need to be good decision-makers who protect the environment and enhance the quality of life on Earth. They must also work well with others in making the best decisions when interdisciplinary projects are attempted.
As a result of our changing world, new disciplines of engineering are emerging:
Earth Systems Engineering
This type of engineering seeks to acknowledge the complexity of world problems and encourage the use of more holistic approaches, rather than simply seeking a single solution for a problem.
Engineering for Developing Communities
As the needs of the developing world for engineering solutions continues to increase, engineers in the industrialized can contribute to the relief of the hunger, injustice, exploitation, and pain of people trying to survive around the globe.
As the population continues to expand globally, engineers may have the keys to improving life for those who suffer in poverty, with disease, and without basic machinery to make life easier.
From our first practical artists and builders, to today’s computer geniuses, engineers have defined how we live our lives, make our contributions to society, and utilize our innate talents and skills.
Their contributions to society can be seen all around us. It is the future of engineering to take these machines and processes to places where the people have never dreamed of such technologies.