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There are dozens and dozens of different types of engineering, but when it comes to the basics, engineering is all about using specialized knowledge bases to solve a problem. Since we encounter such a wide variety of problems, we have an equally wide range of engineering disciplines, many of which are highly specialized, designed to solve these problems.

In general terms, engineering can be divided into four main categories – chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering. Each of these types require different engineering skills and training.

1. Chemical engineering

  • 2020 median salary – $ 108,540
  • Typical training required – Baccalaureate
  • Employment growth outlook until 2030 – 9%

Infographic with the text 4 categories of chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical engineering

Chemical engineers use their knowledge of the sciences – such as chemistry, biology, physics and mathematics – to solve problems that affect the use or production of chemicals, foods, drugs and more, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They often work in offices and labs, and almost all of them work full-time, according to the BLS.

According to the American Chemical Society, chemical engineers use their knowledge in science as well as in manufacturing to bring chemical processes developed in the laboratory to a commercial or industrial process to create products and then evaluate and improve those. process.

Chemical engineers translate the processes developed in the laboratory into practical applications for the commercial production of products, and then strive to maintain and improve those processes. They draw on the main foundations of engineering: mathematics, physics and chemistry (although biology is playing an increasing role). The primary function of chemical engineers is to design and troubleshoot production processes for chemicals, fuels, foods, pharmaceuticals, and biologicals, to name a few. They are most often employed by large-scale manufacturing plants to maximize productivity and product quality while minimizing costs.

Similar occupations include biomedical or nuclear engineering and occupational safety and health specialists or technicians, according to the BLS.

2. Civil engineering

  • 2020 median salary – $ 88,570
  • Typical training required – Baccalaureate
  • Employment growth outlook until 2030 – 8%

Civil engineers solve infrastructure problems. The projects they design, build and maintain span a wide range in the public and private sectors, including bridges, roads and tunnels; dams and water and sewer systems, according to the BLS. Infrastructure such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Erie Canal and the Thames Tunnel in London have all been made possible through the work of civil engineers. These are just three on a list of dozens of civil engineering monuments listed by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

They often divide their time between an office and construction sites. Similar occupations include the construction manager, landscape architect and urban or regional planning, according to the BLS.

3. Electrical engineering

Electrical engineers focus on the design, testing, and manufacture of electrical components, such as motors, navigation and communications systems, and power generation, according to the BLS. They work in a range of industries including research, manufacturing, telecommunications and more.

Electrical engineering is one of the largest fields in the industry, which means what you can do varies widely from industry to industry. From working with circuitry to manufacturing computers and other electronic devices used to build fiber optic networks or vision sensors for cars, many disciplines employ electrical engineers.

Similar occupations include the electrician, biomedical engineer and director of architecture and engineering, according to the BLS.

4. Mechanical engineering

Mechanical engineers design, build, and develop mechanical and thermal sensing devices, such as motors, tools, and machines. Mechanical engineering is one of the largest fields of engineering, according to the BLS, and includes a wide range of products, from electric generators and batteries to refrigeration systems. Mechanical engineers analyze projects to determine how a mechanical device can be used, then design and test machines to help the project. They can also investigate equipment that has failed to determine how part of the mechanics should be repaired, according to the BLS.

Other similar occupations include the materials engineer, petroleum engineer and mechanical engineering technician, according to the BLS.

Other types of engineering

There are almost as many types of engineers as there are industries as a whole. Here’s a look at a dozen specific types of engineering.

Aerospace engineering

Agricultural engineering

  • 2020 median salary – $ 84,410
  • Typical training required – Baccalaureate
  • Employment growth outlook until 2030 – 5%
  • The BLS states: “Agricultural engineers attempt to solve agricultural problems relating to power supply, machine efficiency, use of structures and facilities, pollution and environmental issues, as well as storage and processing of materials. agricultural products “.

Biomedical genius

  • 2020 median salary – $ 92,620
  • Typical training required – Baccalaureate
  • Employment growth outlook until 2030 – 6%
  • BLS says, “Biomedical engineers combine engineering principles with medical sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems and software used in healthcare.

Computer hardware engineering

  • 2020 median salary $ 119,560
  • Typical training required – Baccalaureate
  • Employment growth outlook until 2030 – 2%
  • BLS says: “Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks and routers.

Environmental genius

  • 2020 median salary $ 92,120
  • Typical training required – Baccalaureate
  • Employment growth outlook until 2030 – 4%
  • BLS says, “Environmental engineers use the principles of engineering, soil science, biology and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems. They participate in efforts to improve recycling, waste disposal, public health and control of water and air pollution.

Health and Safety Engineering

  • 2020 median salary $ 94,240
  • Typical training required – Baccalaureate
  • Employment growth outlook until 2030 – 6%
  • BLS says, “Health and safety engineers develop design systems and procedures to protect people from illness and injury and property from damage. They combine their knowledge of engineering and health and safety to ensure that chemicals, machinery, software, furniture and other products will not cause harm to people or property. “

Industrial engineer

  • 2020 median salary – $ 88,950
  • Typical training required – Baccalaureate
  • Outlook for employment growth until 2030 – 14%
  • BLS says, “Industrial engineers are finding ways to eliminate waste in production processes. They design efficient systems that integrate workers, machines, materials, information and energy to make a product or provide a service. “

Maritime genius

  • 2020 median salary – $ 95,440
  • Typical training required – Baccalaureate
  • Employment prospects until 2030 – 4%
  • BLS says: “Marine engineers and naval architects design, build and maintain ships, from aircraft carriers to submarines and from sailboats to tankers. Marine engineers are responsible for a ship’s internal systems, such as propulsion, electrical, refrigeration, and steering systems. Naval architects are responsible for the design of the ship, including the shape, structure and stability of the hulls.

Materials engineering

  • 2020 median salary – $ 95,640
  • Typical training required – Baccalaureate
  • Employment growth outlook until 2030 – 8%
  • BLS says, “Materials engineers develop, process and test the materials used to create a wide range of products, from computer chips and airplane wings to golf clubs and biomedical devices. They study the properties and structures of metals, ceramics, plastics, composites, nanomaterials (extremely small substances) and other substances in order to create new materials that meet certain mechanical, electrical and chemical requirements. “

Mining and geological engineering

  • 2020 median salary – $ 93,800
  • Typical training required – Baccalaureate
  • Employment growth outlook until 2030 – 4%
  • BLS says, “Mining engineers and geologists design mines to safely and efficiently remove minerals such as coal and metals for manufacturing and utilities.

Nuclear engineering

  • 2020 median salary – $ 116,140
  • Typical training required – Baccalaureate
  • The BLS says: “Nuclear engineers research and develop the processes, instruments and systems used to derive the benefits from nuclear energy and radiation. Many of these engineers find industrial and medical uses for radioactive materials, for example in equipment used in medical diagnosis and treatment. . “

Petroleum engineering

  • 2020 median salary – $ 137,330
  • Typical training required – Baccalaureate
  • Employment growth outlook until 2030 – 8%
  • BLS says, “Petroleum engineers design and develop methods to extract oil and gas from deposits below the Earth’s surface. Petroleum engineers are also finding new ways to extract oil and gas from older wells.

What is the best field in engineering?

With so many different fields in engineering, a natural question is, which one is better? While most differ in work environment, salary, education, and job growth, the answer to this question depends solely on the individual. Someone who wants to work in a medical facility, for example, will have a different ideal field of engineering than someone who wants to work outside with geology.

Understanding your own background and career goals can help you determine which area of ​​engineering interests you the most. Successfully matching your goals to the right area might be your first step before pursuing the necessary education.

Joe Cote is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Follow him on twitter @ JoeCo2323.



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