The engineering field is expected to see substantial growth in the coming decade, as the US economy is continuing its expansion. One of the advantages of an engineering career is that there are so many different engineering fields and degrees to consider.
Below is more information about the different degrees and fields that you can explore in engineering.
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Bachelor’s Degree Vs. Graduate Degrees
As with most fields, you can earn different levels of degrees in engineering. When it comes to getting that first or second job, professionals with a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering do very well. Many engineers with a bachelor’s degree find that they can get ample work with starting salaries at $50,000, $60,000 or even more.
But many engineers with some work experience eventually wonder if they should earn their Master of Science in Engineering or Ph.D. in Engineering. A master’s degree in engineering will prepare you for an upper level management position in an engineering discipline, usually without a focus on research. This is an advanced degree for the engineering professional who wants to manage others, supervise projects and earn a higher salary.
A master’s degree in engineering can be a good fit for the recent graduate who wants to focus on a specialty in engineering, or for those who are in the field and want to switch to another specialty.
A Ph.D. is usually the choice for the highly experienced engineer who want so to focus more on research, and possibly work in academia. It is worth noting that research jobs in engineering in labs, academia and industry are competitive, and tenure track faculty positions are extremely competitive.
Different Engineering Specialties
Now that you understand more about the different levels of engineering degrees, below is more information about some of the most common and popular engineering specialties. Most of these fields allow you to earn a bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. in that field, depending upon where you attend college.
There are six different major branches of engineering, each with its own degrees:
Mechanical engineering degrees are concerned with the design of mechanical systems. These systems are a critical part of such industries such as manufacturing, aeronautics, nanotechnology, nuclear power, and heating and cooling. Major focuses of mechanical engineering is thermodynamics, structural analysis, materials science and kinematics. The mechanical engineering degree is possibly the broadest of all the engineering degrees today and include many different engineering disciplines. Some of these are:
- Aerospace engineering: This engineering degree concerns the study of air and space travel. This can include things such as military aircraft design and development, as well as commercial airline design and satellite technology. The words aerospace and aeronautical are used in this field, but they are different. Aeronautical engineering involves crafts that fly in the earth’s atmosphere, while aerospace engineering refers to crafts that travel outside the atmosphere.
- Biomechanical engineering: This is the study of organisms and mechanics and how the two are used to solve problems together. The biomechanical engineering field is growing quickly and some of the practical applications include serious environmental challenges, such as controlling waste and keeping bodies of water free of pollution.
- Automotive engineering: Involves the production and design of vehicles. The automotive industry is very diverse and engineers in this industry can work in mechanical design, performance, manufacturing, electrical engineering and systems management.
Chemical engineering is simply the practical application of chemistry. This engineering degree deals with technology that uses chemical reactions to solve problems in the real world. A chemical engineer creates many types of products, such as cosmetics, foods, beverages, pharmaceuticals, and cleaners from chemicals.
- Environmental engineering: A type of chemical engineering that involves studies of science and engineering to improve the environment. It includes air, food, and water. They also study the effects humans have on our environment, such as pollution that occurs from manufacturing and human development.
- Materials science engineering: The study of materials and why they act in a certain way or react to things in a certain way. This field includes plastics, ceramics and polymers. Everything around us in the modern world is made of complex materials and materials science engineers help to come up with these materials.
Civil engineering involves developing infrastructure including buildings, bridges, roads, railways, and other general construction project management. Civil engineers have a vital role in rebuilding projects, such as rebuilding city structures after a flood or earthquake. Some of the common types of civil engineering degrees are:
- Structural engineering: This is specialized in designing different structures, such as house, commercial buildings, art museums, stores and more. Structural engineers need to understand how buildings are constructed, as well as the effects of corrosion, erosion, wind and water to make sure buildings are safely built and stable for many years.
- Architectural engineering: These engineers work in planning, construction and design phases of projects, focused largely on building structure and interior design. Includes such specialties as heating, ventilation, air conditioning, electrical, fire protection, lighting and plumbing.
Electrical engineering concerns the study of energy, which is available in forms such as electrical, hydro, wind and solar. An electrical engineering degree gives you experience with technologies and methods to assist with applying different forms of energy to various engineering projects. They may design components for electrical equipment, communications systems, automobiles, power grids and more.
- Computer engineering: This type of electrical engineering is concerned with the IT and computer industry, and combines computer science and electrical engineering. You may work in areas such as telecommunications, networking, software application development, or manufacturing. New areas include application development, web development, network security and cybersecurity.
- Electronics engineering: Responsible for designing and building electronic equipment, and work with circuits, switchboards, and other electronic configurations to build electronic devices, such as smartphones.
- Mechatronics engineering: A blend of mechanical and electronic engineering, and involves working with both electronics and software.
- Robotics engineering: Major focus is on automation and using machines to help with repetitive tasks, including those that are found in manufacturing. Robotics engineers design robotic technology and create maintenance systems to achieve top efficiency with robots.
Combines various types of engineering with business management training to provide you with the ability to manage complex engineering projects and to manage engineering teams. A degree in this engineering management field helps to provide more engineers with business and management training, which are essential to the success of engineering projects.
- MBA in engineering: Earning an MBA in engineering gives you the business management skills to become a successful engineering manager. This degree is suitable for an experienced engineer with a bachelor’s degree in engineering.
- Industrial engineering: May work for manufacturing companies or consultants to the manufacturing industry. Increase productivity and reduces spending and waste, and increase efficiency in an organization.
- Manufacturing engineering: Focuses on manufacturing processes, machinery and QC systems. As manufacturing makes up 20% of the GDP of the US, it is very important that manufacturing engineers increase efficiency of manufacturing. Includes areas such as materials science, manufacturing technology and automation.
One of the most common types of geotechnical engineering fields today is petroleum engineering. This engineer deals with the extraction of gas and oil under the earth. They also work with devising new extraction methods and technologies, such as new methods that have a higher level of efficiency and are less damaging to the environment.
Another important type of engineering degree is geological engineering. This field combines engineering and research for construction and mining projects. One of the most common employers of geological engineers is construction firms. They are responsible for assessing ground conditions and other types of natural hazards, such as earthquakes before beginning construction.
Also, nuclear engineering is becoming more common. Nuclear engineers are the key to developing new nuclear power safely and efficiently. Nuclear engineers may work for consulting firms, power plants and government agencies regarding the design and function of nuclear power plants.
Some types of engineering are a combination of several types. Below are some of the most common examples:
- Biomedical engineering: This type of engineering is the application of the principles and problem solving techniques of engineering to the fields of biology and medicine. Biomedical engineering is critical in the healthcare industry today with the proliferation of many types of implantable medical devices, such as pacemakers and artificial hips, as well as more advanced fields such as stem cell engineering and 3-D printing of biological organs. Biological engineers use and apply advanced biological principles in their engineering designs.
- Software engineering: This is the detailed study of engineering as it pertains to the design, development and maintenance of computer software. Software engineers must design software that is highly dependable, efficient, usable, accessible and maintainable. Major aspects of software engineering are development and evolution, which consist of concept creation, requirements specification, design, implementation, integration, testing and deployment.
- Systems engineering: Enables the building, analyzing, and managing of a system, whether it is electrical, mechanical, chemical, biological or one that involves logistics or business processes. Goes beyond the physical of most engineering disciplines and features multiple interacting components that perform a function that cannot be easily achieved by one part alone.
Now that you understand the different types of engineering degrees, you just need to decide which field and level of degree is best for you.
- Choosing Between a Master’s and Ph.D. in Engineering. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/top-engineering-schools/articles/2015/03/16/choose-between-a-masters-phd-in-engineering