June 14, 2018
There are dozens and dozens of types of engineering. Because when it comes down to the basics, engineering is about using specialized bases of knowledge to solve a problem. Since we encounter a wide variety of problems, we have an equally wide range of engineering disciplines, many of which are highly specialized, designed to solve those problems.
In broad terms, engineering can be divided into four main categories - chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering.
Chemical engineers use their knowledge of sciences - such as chemistry, biology, physics and math - to solve problems that affect the use or production of chemicals, food, drugs and more, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They often work in offices and laboratories, and nearly all of them work full-time, according to BLS.
Chemical engineers use their knowledge in the sciences as well as manufacturing to bring chemical processes developed in a laboratory to a commercial or industrial process to create products and then evaluate and improve those processes, according to the American Chemical Society.
Chemical engineers translate processes developed in the lab into practical applications for the commercial production of products and then work to maintain and improve those processes. They rely on the main foundations of engineering: math, physics, and chemistry (though biology is playing an increasing role). The primary function of chemical engineers is to design and troubleshoot processes for the production of chemicals, fuels, foods, pharmaceuticals, and biologicals, just 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 and health safety specialists or technicians, according to BLS.
Civil engineers solve infrastructure problems. The projects they design, build and maintain span a wide range in both the public and private sector, including bridges, roads and tunnels; dams and water and sewer systems, according to BLS. Infrastructure such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Erie Canal and the Thames Tunnel in London were all made possible because of the work of civil engineers. Those are just three on a list of dozens of civil engineering landmarks listed by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
They often split their time between an office and project sites. Similar occupations include construction manager, landscape architect and urban or regional planning, according to BLS.
Electrical engineers focus on the design, testing and manufacturing of electrical components, such as motors, navigation and communications systems, and power generation, according to BLS. They work in a range of industries, including research, manufacturing, telecommunications and more.
Electrical engineering is one of the industries broadest fields, which means the available jobs can vary widely from one sector to another. From working with circuits and making computers and other electronics to building fiber optic networks or vision sensors for cars, many disciplines employ electrical engineers.
Similar occupations include electrician, biomedical engineer and architectural and engineering manager, according to BLS.
Mechanical engineers design, build and develop mechanical and thermal sensing devices, such as engines, tools and machines. Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest of the engineering fields, according to BLS, and they can be found a huge range of products from electric generators to batteries to refrigeration systems. Mechanical engineers analyze projects to determine how a mechanical device can be used and then design and test machines to help the project. They can also investigate equipment that has failed to determine how part of the mechanics needs to be repaired, according to BLS.
Other similar occupations include materials engineer, petroleum engineer and mechanical engineering technician, according to BLS.
There are nearly as many types of engineers as there are industries overall. Here's an overview of a dozen specific types of engineering.
Joe Cote is a staff writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Follow him on Twitter @JoeCo2323.
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