What Do Engineering Majors Study?
Many prospective engineering majors confuse engineering with general science. It's related, but engineering is about applying scientific knowledge and concepts to real-world problems. In fact, many engineers involved in discovering solutions to urgent problems must often work faster than the traditional method of scientific discovery would permit.
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Most engineering majors concentrate on a particular specialty, supplemented by courses in both science and mathematics. Depending on the program and the institution, an engineering major might study industrial practices to prepare for a hands-on job, or theoretical principles to lay the groundwork for a research or academic career.
Either way, engineering majors work on the cutting edge of technology, pioneering breakthroughs many years before they trickle down to the general public.
More recently, a number of engineering programs now supplement the traditional education of engineering majors by offering courses in business, law, and ethics. With the vast potential for engineering majors to develop solutions that evolve into businesses, educators want their students to graduate with all the tools necessary to function as effective businesspeople as well as creative engineers. Online engineering degrees reflect this new paradigm as well; they offer working adults the opportunity to qualify for specialized positions without losing their place on the career ladder. For those professionals who have mastered the hands-on aspect of engineering training, online degrees provide flexible educational options.
What Jobs Are Hot in Engineering?
Many of today's engineering majors cannot remember a time when computers did not impact every element of our daily lives. The majority of today's fastest-growing engineering jobs involve computers in one way or another.
Computer engineers continue to hunt for new ideas that can improve the quality of life as well as the speed of business. From building essential new software applications to improving existing ones, computer engineers constantly search for automated solutions to our most complex problems.
Civil engineers enjoy tremendous opportunities as our society seeks innovative solutions to the problems of energy use, water treatment, and transportation. Civil engineers can impact society by bringing new ideas to life from within a company. They also shield us from potential mistakes, serving as gatekeepers and analysts in government and in private oversight bodies.
Two of the fastest-growing engineering specialties provide some of the most exciting opportunities for engineering majors:
- Biochemical engineers study living systems to solve problems related to our food supply and our environment. Large agribusiness companies invest heavily in attracting and training new biochemical engineers who can help improve crop yields and feed more of the world's population.
- Biomedical engineers puzzle over ways that we can live longer, healthier lives. With more of our country's population growing older, healthcare companies seek engineering majors who can design new equipment and tools to ensure our wellness.
Why Should You Consider a College Major in Engineering?
Even as undergraduates, engineering majors have the chance to participate in groundbreaking research and development, especially at prestigious research institutions. Both Yahoo! and Google began their corporate lives as university-supported research projects by Stanford engineering majors. Even for students who do not launch companies on their own, a solid undergraduate experience often leads to a stable, secure career in industry, especially as more companies look to engineers to solve problems of all kinds.
Because the business world continually needs new engineers, many of today's engineering majors can expect to build relationships with potential employers while still engaged in undergraduate courses. Many engineering courses, including online degree programs, offer substantial job placement and career counseling services. Upon graduation, qualified engineers earn an average starting salary of $75,000 per year, along with stock options and other benefits. For many professional engineers, income potential is limited only by the boundaries of their imaginations.
Many engineering majors supplement their coursework with business training that can qualify them for lucrative positions as managers, analysts, and even company presidents. Despite competition from abroad, many companies create new positions for engineers faster than they can fill them. Professional engineers already active in the industry can qualify for these high-level positions by attending business school online without giving up any work experience.
A study by the U.S. Department of Labor indicates that professional engineers tend to remain employed with the same company for significantly longer stretches of time than workers in other professions. Engineering majors can look forward to long, productive, exciting careers that directly impact their communities.
What Kinds of Candidates Make the Best Engineering Majors?
If you love to solve problems and you want to make things work better, an engineering degree may be the right fit for you. Because engineering careers rely on constant innovation, the best engineers thrive in a changing environment. Likewise, a strong candidate for an engineering degree should learn to communicate well and to work productively as part of a team. Despite the occasional competition between engineers, the most important innovations occur when engineers team up and collaborate fully.
If you already have some education in a different subject, it might come in handy. Because engineering majors analyze solutions to human problems, a broad background in understanding those problems can make a huge difference. A history degree, for example, can help an engineering major understand previous solutions to recurring problems. Exposure to the social sciences can help engineers understand the social ramifications of different solutions--and can help them see problems and solutions that others don't even recognize. Even the study of literature can add that extra creative spark in the mind of an engineer, who might one day dream up a critical solution in the same way an author conjures up a character or a scene.