Engineering is a broad field encompassing many specialized disciplines involving design, construction, and maintenance of physical systems and infrastructure. Engineers solve complex problems and develop innovative solutions using science, technology, and mathematics.
Types of Engineers and What They Do
There are numerous engineering branches and specialties to match skills and interests. This guide covers some of the major engineering types and what each one entails.
Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical devices and systems. They work on power-producing machines including engines, turbines, and power plant equipment. Other mechanical engineering projects involve robotics, machinery, tool design, transportation systems like ships and aircraft, and HVAC systems. Mechanical engineers analyze the forces and thermal environment impacting these systems.
Civil engineers handle the design, construction, and maintenance of public infrastructure and works. This includes roads, bridges, tunnels, dams, airports, water and sanitation systems, utilities, and more. They coordinate projects, survey land, plan site layouts, test building materials, draw up budgets, and ensure compliance with regulations. Civil engineering is divided into sub-disciplines like geotechnical, transportation, environmental, and construction engineering.
Electrical engineers focus on electrical systems and signals. They work with electronics to develop and maintain electrical control systems, telecommunications systems, microprocessors, electric motors, radar and navigation systems, lighting, or power generation equipment. Electrical engineering involves designing, testing, and supervising the manufacturing of these electrical systems. This field includes specializations such as electronics, embedded systems, telecommunications, and power.
Chemical engineers apply physics, chemistry, biology, and math to solve problems involving the production and use of chemicals, fuel, drugs, and more. They design processes and equipment for activities like chemical manufacturing, refining, combustion, nanotechnology, biomedical engineering and waste management. Chemical engineers are responsible for testing, troubleshooting, designing, and overseeing plant operations.
Industrial engineers find ways to eliminate waste and increase efficiency in production processes. They strive to improve quality, productivity and workflow in organizations. Industrial engineers determine the most effective ways to use personnel, machines, materials, data, energy and time. This field uses principles of engineering, physics, mathematics, computer science, and social sciences.
Aerospace engineers design and test aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, satellites, and other aeronautical craft and systems. They determine the structural stability, propulsion, aerodynamic qualities, control systems, and safety of these vehicles. Aerospace engineers solve complex technical problems using mathematics and scientific computation. This field is closely linked to astronomy and aerodynamics.
Biomedical engineers combine knowledge in engineering with biological and medical sciences to develop devices and systems for healthcare purposes. Applications include artificial organs, medical equipment, surgical devices like implants and pacemakers, imaging machines, regenerative tissue growth, and pharmaceutical drugs. Biomedical engineering improves patient diagnosis, care, and quality of life.
Computer engineers apply electrical engineering and computer science to create computer hardware and software. They work with circuits, processors, routers, networks, and operating systems. Computer engineers research and develop computer systems, microprocessors, sensors, routers, and integrated circuits. Specializations include network engineering, software engineering, and hardware engineering.
Environmental engineers identify and solve issues affecting the environment and human health such as pollution, recycling, public health, and sustainability. They design municipal water supply and wastewater treatment systems, manage solid and hazardous waste disposal, and monitor pollution levels. Many subfields exist like water resource engineering, ecological engineering, and air quality engineering.
There are many other recognized engineering branches like geological, mining, nuclear, petroleum, biomechanical, nanotechnology, acoustical, and agricultural engineering. Engineers can further specialize in sub-disciplines based on industry, technology, or product focus. The field one chooses depends on natural abilities and interests. All engineering work aims to creatively enhance lives by conceiving new solutions and advancing emerging technologies.