Types of Engineering Jobs (Overview of All Careers)

Updated on July 7, 2018
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Katy has mentored young professionals beginning their careers and financial journeys to make informed decisions.

Kinds of Engineering Fields

Engineering is a huge area that covers designing, building, and testing everything we use today. As you can imagine there are many branches in industry. Colleges offer the following engineering undergraduate degrees:

  • Mechanical
  • Electrical
  • Civil
  • Environmental
  • Software
  • Chemical
  • Aerospace
  • Petroleum
  • Geological
  • Mining

This is not a complete list but it does provide a good starting point for understanding the breadth of engineering. Learn about the courses required for each field and what careers are available.

Required Education

Do You Need a Master's Degree to be an Engineer?

Most of the industry jobs listed below can be done with a four year Bachelor’s of Science degree. An advanced degree like a Master’s of Science will help an engineer learn more specialized skills and quickly become an expert in their field.

Learn more about what it takes to complete an engineering degree.

Utilities companies hire electrical and mechanical engineers.
Utilities companies hire electrical and mechanical engineers. | Source

The Core Engineering Fields

Most accredited engineering colleges in the United States are structured so that their main engineering department gives degrees in Mechanical, Electrical, Civil and now Environmental. All four of these fields have a similar foundation with the last one to two years covering areas more specific to that degree.

Mechanical Engineering (MEs)

Mechanical is the most popular engineering degree by far with 24% of all Bachelor engineering degrees award in 2015 being Mechanical. The second highest was Civil at 11%.

This field of study encompasses what many people think of as what a typical engineer knows. Courses that MEs take includes heat transfer, machines, materials and circuits.
Mechanical engineering programs have the greatest number of students and the most job opportunities. These could include manufacturing, aerospace, utilities or automotive industries.

Electrical Engineering (EEs)

Electrical engineers (aka EEs) learn to all about designing systems that use electronics. The courses have a concentration on circuits and signal processing. Electrical engineers typically have to be even more immersed in math courses than other fields.

EEs can find work in robotics, avionics for aerospace, or consumer electronics. Almost any system or product makes use of electronics so this a great career choice.

Civil Engineering

The name Civil implies that these engineers work for government projects, which is true much of the time but the skills of civil engineers are in demand in the private industry as well.
For their civil degree students learn to calculate forces on a theoretical design and how to best use materials to implement that design. Expect to study statics and become familiar with CAD (computer aided design) programs in school. Most degree programs also teach student surveying.
Civil engineers can expect job opportunities in any type of infrastructure from bridges and building to tunnels and city planning. Much of their day to day work is in coordinating construction, budget and schedule.

Structural Engineering

Specific types of civil engineers are needed to analyze the loads on structures. These engineers spend more time in school or on the job learning how to design buildings or vehicles or bridges to withstand loads.

Environmental Engineering

The environmental program is the newest in this list but is already well established. Students will a passion for helping the Earth will gravitate to this degree. They will learn about the processes and infrastructure that affect our air and water. On top of a typical engineering core curriculum these students will take more chemistry and biology classes than their counterparts in other disciplines.

Environmental engineers are hired by companies around the world to design and consult on their projects to ensure they meet regulations. These engineers have the skills to determine how much pollutants are safe and how a process can reduce its affect on the environment.

Software Engineering

Software engineering is a relatively newly recognized discipline. It has less of a conventional foundation in physicals and materials than other fields and focuses more on computer science. The software field reaches so many as aspects of our everyday lives and therefore so many industries.

Computer Science Degree

Can you be a software engineer with a computer science degree? Absolutely. Most job postings for a Software Engineer accept candidates who have a computer science degree.

Someone who completes their Bachelor's in Computer Science will probably get a job as a Software Engineer. Many colleges don't offer a specific "Software Engineering" degree. Instead, their Bachelor's of Science in Computer Science teaches programming as it applies to real world projects to prepare their students.

Software engineers need computer science and programming skills.
Software engineers need computer science and programming skills. | Source

Chemical Engineering

Chemical engineers have the classic engineer foundation and then dive more deeply into chemical processes and mass transfer.

They’re involved in any manufacturing process that combines two or more materials. Jobs include manufacturing, utilities and oil and gas.

Niche Engineering Degrees

There are a handful of other engineering fields that have great career outlooks. These are sometimes labelled as niche degrees because not all colleges offer them and they prepare students for a specific sector. In these fields it pays to have a mentor to help establish your career.

Aerospace Engineering

This degree is closest to Mechanical Engineering but goes more in depth with engine design, fluid mechanics and aerodynamics. This gives the student a more specific skill set.
In the United States most job prospects for aerospace engineers tend to be at large companies based out of only a handful of major cities.

Petroleum Engineering

There’s some cross over between Chemical and Petroleum Engineering but students in a petroleum program will take classes specific to drilling.
This can certainly be a lucrative degree but the industry is known to cyclic.

Geological Engineering or Mining Engineering

These degrees are loosely related to a civil engineering degree but go in more depth with geology and mine construction.
Mining and resource companies use these engineers to find the most likely location for resources and figure out the logistics of extraction. Geological engineers can find themselves in a job that gets them outside much more than their colleagues

Aviation projects need aerospace engineers, electrical engineers and mechanical engineers.
Aviation projects need aerospace engineers, electrical engineers and mechanical engineers. | Source

Other Engineering Fields

The above is by no means an exhaustive list of engineer types. You might have heard of a Manufacturing Engineer or a Medical Device Engineer and wondered what degree that person holds. Since so much of the knowledge that an engineer needs is acquired through on-the-job experience there's not necessary a B.S. offered for every type of engineer.

Many engineers will start out as a Mechanical Engineer or Civil Engineer from college and then after years in a career are eventually better described as a Construction Engineer or Project Engineer.

Learn More about Engineering Fields

Did a particular engineering degree from the list spark your interest? Want to find out more about how to become and engineer or find an internship?

Any undergraduate engineering program will have a lot of resources to guide you through the process. Visit the school or send a request to admissions to learn more about a specific program. They will give you course lists and job prospects for the particular major. Once you're enrolled in a program you'll be able to talk to an adviser who can guide you on the courses to take for your specific career path.

If you already have some education and work experience but are thinking about changing to an engineering discipline, do your best to find a mentor in the field.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Katy Medium

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