From the wheel and the lever to the combustion engine and the semiconductor, engineers have been responsible for just about every technological advance in human history. Today's engineering degree programs are highly specialized and designed to train students to tackle the important and complex tasks facing engineers in various fields.
As a field of study, engineering is divided into numerous specialties, and each type of engineering has its own set of tasks and expectations. Here are a few of the types of engineering and a brief description of each:
- Aerospace engineers design and test aircraft, satellites, spacecraft and missiles.
- Mechanical engineers develop and build tools, engines and other mechanical or thermal devices.
- Biomedical engineers develop effective solutions for problems in biology and medicine.
- Civil engineers conduct major construction projects like city infrastructures and transportation systems.
- Nuclear engineers research and build vital components for nuclear energy and medicine.
Engineers typically need at least a bachelor's degree to begin working in their chosen field, and some positions can require a master's degree or higher. Degrees in related fields -- such as organic chemistry for a chemical engineering position -- can sometimes take the place of dedicated degrees in engineering.
Coursework in Engineering Degree Programs
Engineering programs can be found at most colleges and universities, but it would be a rare occasion to find that two of them were exactly alike. Despite the common differences, there are some fundamental engineering concepts that students in engineering degree programs can expect to study at one point or another:
- Natural sciences
- College algebra, geometry and calculus
- Basic computer science
- Science of materials
- Differential equations
- Chemistry for engineers
- Fluid mechanics
Some colleges and universities offer degrees in engineering at the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree, while others may allow students to take some additional credits and earn a Bachelor of Engineering (B.E.) professional degree. Hybrid bachelor's/master's degrees in engineering can also be found at some institutions.
Career Outlook for Professionals with Engineering Degrees
Engineering job opportunities are expected to increase by 9 percent between 2012 and 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), but that figure can be misleading. Certain individual disciplines of engineering are projected to see much faster increases -- for example, employment of civil engineers is projected to jump 20 percent by 2022, and biomedical engineers should see a 27 percent rise in employment in the same period.
Professional engineer salaries can vary quite a bit, depending on education, job experience and geographical location. Here are some 2013 national median annual wages for several engineering disciplines, as reported by the BLS:
- Nuclear engineers: $101,600
- Electrical and electronics engineers: $89,180
- Aerospace engineers: $103,870
- Mechanical engineers: $82,100
- Biomedical engineers: $88,670
- Petroleum engineers: $132,320
- Environmental engineers: $82,220
- Civil engineers: $80,770
Graduates from engineering degree programs might also find work in other fields. Trained engineers can often become mathematicians, for example, who earned a median figure of $102,440 in 2013. Those with a great deal of job experience or a graduate degree in business or management could become engineering managers, whose 2013 median salary was $128,170.
Major Areas of Engineering Degree Programs
The field of engineering comprises a range of disciplines and specialties. The following six areas of engineering form the core of the engineering profession:
|Chemical Engineering||Bachelor, Master's & Doctorate Degrees in Chemical Engineering|
|Civil Engineering||Master in Civil Engineering, Associate in Civil Engineering Technology|
|Electrical Engineering||Undergraduate and graduate programs in Electrical Engineering|
|Industrial Engineering||Industrial & Systems Engineering, Product Development Engineering|
|Materials Engineering||Materials Science & Engineering, Advanced Materials Design|
|Mechanical Engineering||Mechanical Engineering Technology, Automotive Engineering|
Online Engineering Degree Specializations
Online engineering degree programs with specializations from accredited universities and colleges:
|Aerospace Engineering||Master's degrees in Aerospace Engineering, Astronautics|
|Computer Engineering||Graduate degrees in Computer Engineering & Computer Science and Engineering|
|Engineering Management||Graduate degree and certificate programs in Engineering Management|
|Environmental Engineering||Graduate programs in Environmental Engineering & Environmental Technology Management|
|Gas Engineering||Graduate degree and certificate programs in Oil and Gas Engineering, Petroleum Engineering|
|Manufacturing Engineering||Master's degrees in Manufacturing Systems Engineering, Systems and Operations|
|Software Engineering||Undergraduate and graduate programs in Software Engineering|
"Mechanical Engineers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 January 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/mechanical-engineers.htm
"17-2141 Mechanical Engineers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2 June 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172141.htm
"Aerospace Engineers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 January 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/aerospace-engineers.htm
"17-2011 Aerospace Engineers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 6 June 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172011.htm
"Nuclear Engineers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 January 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/nuclear-engineers.htm
"17-2161 Nuclear Engineers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2 June 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172161.htm
"Biomedical Engineers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 January 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/biomedical-engineers.htm
"17-2031 Biomedical Engineers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2 June 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172031.htm
"Civil Engineers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 January 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/civil-engineers.htm
"17-2071 Electrical Engineers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2 June 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172071.htm
"17-2171 Petroleum Engineers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2 June 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172171.htm
"17-2081 Environmental Engineers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2 June 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172081.htm
"17-2051 Civil Engineers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2 June 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172051.htm "15-2021 Mathematicians," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12 June 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes152021.htm
"11-9041 Architectural and Engineering Managers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12 June 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes119041.htm