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What Are the Different Types of Engineering?

Engineering fields range from testing and developing new materials to aerospace engineering.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 26 March 2014
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Engineering is a vast field in the sciences which covers everything from developing new chemicals to protecting the natural environment. The different branches within this field are offered at many schools which have engineering programs, although some schools may opt to focus on a particular facet of engineering. Students who want to pursue careers in this field should think ahead of time about the type of engineering they want to do, so that they can select an appropriate training program.

Many engineers work with the natural environment, including geotechnical, environmental, ocean and marine, mining, and agricultural engineers. People in these fields come up with new techniques and approaches to dealing with challenges in the environment, ranging from developing submarines which can reach very deep parts of the ocean to finding a more efficient way to harvest crops. They usually spend time in the field testing and developing new products.

Some classical fields within the engineering sector include: nuclear, aerospace, automobile, computer, electrical, mechanical, and chemical engineering. People who are interested in building things might be intrigued by civil, architectural, and industrial engineering. Engineers also work in the manufacturing sector, working with things like ceramics and materials, petroleum products, industrial equipment, and workplace efficiency.

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Those who are drawn to this field because of its connection with the sciences might enjoy biological engineering, also known as bioengineering, along with the engineering sciences, which apply the principles of this field to mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology. Engineers also work on safety issues in fields like fire protection, and they can be found in the entertainment industry, as sound and light engineers.

Other engineers may be drawn to management and puzzle solving. Forensic engineers specialize in figuring out why things break, and how failures of products can be prevented. Specialists in engineering management are good at coordinating and organizing projects which can involve supervision of a very diverse group of people. Engineers may also opt to specialize in projects which pertain to a particular industry or application, as members of the Army Corps of Engineers do, for example.

Training in any branch will require strong mathematics and science skills, along with an eye for detail and precision. A good engineer is thoughtful, able to think ahead, and capable of making adjustments to a project as new issues and concerns emerge. Flexibility is a key trait for people who work as engineers, as they must be prepared to adapt to constantly changing situations.

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Discuss this Article

Mammmood
Post 5

@SkyWhisperer - Yes, there will be some crossover, but that doesn’t mean you can just jump into any industry that you want.

Most of the guys who work at our software firm didn’t major in computer science. They majored in electrical engineering, but with that degree they were able to make an easy transition to software engineering.

From my experience, people will civil engineering degrees, by contrast, will more likely remain within their specialization, rather than move into Information Technology.

SkyWhisperer
Post 4

@Charred - I agree that choosing the correct specialization is important, but you have to realize that there is some crossover in engineering specialties.

For example, biomedical engineering deals with the use of technology for medical applications. Obviously when you’re dealing with instrumentation, you’re using mechanical engineering and when you’re dealing with medicine you’re involving chemical engineering.

And the courses you’ll take will be similar too. I believe that all engineering specialties would require an understanding of physics and calculus.

Charred
Post 3

@allenJo - Well, the old saying goes, do what you love and the money will follow.

I agree that structural engineering is not as technical as something like aeronautical engineering, and in general the more technical the degree is, the higher the salary potential.

However, if you’re good at what you do, you will make money regardless of what branch of engineering you specialize in.

If industrial or civil engineering is your passion, you will make money. If you choose a light specialization simply because you don’t really have any focus, then that’s a different story.

I would hope that anyone who pursues an engineering degree would really study the different types of specializations and pick a major that truly reflects their passions and their talents. Everything else will be gravy after that.

allenJo
Post 2

I believe that all engineering jobs having their place, but they don’t all pull the same weight in terms of demand and salary.

For example, I’ve heard that industrial engineering and civil engineering don’t pull the same weight as some of the really technical specializations. I am not an engineer myself; this is what I’ve heard from friends with engineering degrees.

I do believe that you should pursue whatever specialization you like if it really represents your career goals. However, as with so many degrees, the really technical degrees pull a lot more in terms of salary potential.

I am told that petroleum engineers, for example, are offered very high starting salaries right out of college.

If you don't prefer any one specialty over another, I would definitely recommend that you pursue the more technical specializations in engineering, especially those that are in demand and pay well.

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