Choosing an engineering career can be difficult for any student because an engineering career could mean nearly any kind of job. Considering that engineering is one of the oldest sources of human civilization, it’s also one of the most important. The word ‘engineering’ comes from the original term ‘engineer’, which has been in circulation since the 14th century. The word for ‘engine’ is even older, traced back to the Latin word ‘Ingenium’ from 1250, which also gives us the word ‘ingenious’. Here are the types of engineering and the most popular careers:
Engineering: Types, Degrees, Careers, and the Future
- What is Engineering
- Aerospace Engineering
- Civil Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Software Engineering
- Popular Careers in Engineering
What is Engineering
How do we define engineering? It is defined as the “discipline and profession that applies scientific theories, mathematical methods, and empirical evidence to design, create, and analyze technological solutions cognizant of safety, human factors, physical laws, regulations, practicality, and cost.
With so many different types of engineering careers available, it can be difficult to choose the right one. From mechanical and civil engineering to software and electrical engineering, there are a variety of options that require varying levels of technical knowledge and experience. Learn what kinds of qualifications are needed for each type of engineering career, plus other important information to help inform your decision.
Aerospace engineering is defined as creating or improving aircraft or spacecraft, whether making calculations for trajectories or checking components for potential deflections from flying debris.
Aerospace engineering is the field of designing, building, testing, and servicing aircraft, spacecraft, and other related vehicles. To be a successful aerospace engineer, one should have a broad knowledge of math and physics as they relate to aerodynamics, thermodynamics, material sciences, and electrical technologies. You should also be able to demonstrate strong leadership skills as oftentimes you will act as the lead engineer for projects. A bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering is typically needed for entry-level positions.
Chemical engineering is defined as the production and manufacturing of products through chemical processes.
This includes designing equipment, systems, and processes for refining raw materials and for mixing, compounding, and processing chemicals.
With a four-year degree in chemical engineering, you can have a career as a chemical technician, manufacturing product technician, chemical plant operator, food engineer, analytical chemist, pharmaceutical manufacturer, petroleum engineer, nuclear engineer, environmental engineer, process engineer, energy engineer, mining engineer, consulting engineer, and of course a chemical engineer.
Civil engineering is defined as designing and maintaining various meaningful physical structures.
Civil engineering is a field of engineering that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of physical structures such as roads, bridges, dams, tunnels, and other public works projects. Civil engineers are responsible for creating plans that meet safety regulations, budget restrictions, and environmental concerns. Successful civil engineers typically have strong problem-solving and communication skills in addition to educational qualifications in civil engineering or a related field.
Types of jobs you can get with a degree in civil engineering include surveyor, CAD technician, building engineer, water hygiene engineer, urban planner, fire engineer, transport planner, field service engineer, construction manager, environmental engineer, construction engineer, design engineer, geotechnical engineer, water resources engineer, structural engineer, consulting engineer, nuclear engineer, planning engineer, engineering plant manager, and city engineer.
Electrical engineering is defined as drawing up electrical systems, creating innovative designs, and processing signals through networks.
Electrical engineering is a field that involves the design of, maintenance of, and experimentation of electrical systems. Electrical engineers are responsible for creating circuits, designing power grids, and generating innovative solutions to modern energy problems. To work in this field, one needs a degree in electrical engineering or another related area such as computer engineering or robotics. Additionally, strong analytical and problem-solving skills are essential for success in this field.
Some of the most common careers are electronic engineer, microelectronic engineer, signal processing engineer, power systems engineer, control systems engineer, telecommunications engineer, or instrumentation engineer.
Mechanical engineering is defined as drafting and designing components from machines to robots, from small parts to entire systems.
Mechanical engineering is the design, production, and operation of machinery. It involves the use of thermodynamics, kinematics, material science, and structural analysis to create machines that can do various tasks. Mechanical engineers must also have knowledge of electrical and electronic systems as they often control and manage components of mechanical systems. To work in this field, one typically needs a degree in mechanical engineering or an associated field such as industrial engineering. Knowledge of CAD software for modeling parts is also essential for a successful career in this field.
Software engineering is defined as developing software with design specifications for computers or other electronic devices that run on algorithm-based instructions.
Software engineering is the application of engineering principles to the development of software and computer systems. They develop, test, maintain, and evaluate the software for systems such as computers or video game consoles. As part of their job duties, software engineers create algorithms that drive applications, write code to implement those algorithms, and identify any needed updates or errors. To work in this field, one typically needs a degree in computer science or related fields such as mathematics or electrical engineering. Knowledge of coding languages like C++ and Python is also crucial for a successful career in this field.
Popular Careers in Engineering
When using this information, please remember that the average income is dependent on your industry, your location, your skill level, and the years of experience you bring to the position. Entry-level employees earn less than more senior employees, and the location of you and your employer can affect the pay rate more than most people expect.
All average job growth rates have been taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics unless stated otherwise.
Average salary: $78,000 – $150,000/annually, depending on location, expertise, and employer
Job Growth: Growing 8%
Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as aerospace
What you’d be doing: designing aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. This can include designing, creating, and maintaining helicopters and airplane missiles. You’ll need to know both aviation and technology. Possible fields for employment include space exploration and federal defense. Some aeronautical engineers specialize in a field, such as flight mechanics, manufacturing, or aerodynamics. You could work with airlines, the armed forces, or agencies.
Average Salary: $40,000 – $111,500/ annually, depending on location, expertise, and employer
Job Growth: 8% which is faster than average
Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or similar
What you’d be doing: Usually civil engineers work for the government, which makes sense because this job is all about developing cities or towns. You’ll be working on roads, tunnels, buildings, airports, bridges, and everything else needed for the area. Some buildings will need to withstand hurricanes or earthquakes, so you’ll need to be able to assess the area for what might happen. That means you’ll probably take soil tests, have to determine the most effective building materials for your construction, estimate costs, submit the permit applications, and make sure everything complies with all regulations.
Average Salary: $58,000 – $120,000/annually, depending on location, expertise, and employer
Job Growth: expected to grow 9%, which is faster than average
Requirements: Bachelor’s degree majoring in either chemical engineering or something related
What you’d be doing: You’ll be working either in an office or a laboratory, and you’ll be using scientific principles from chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics to solve problems. The problems you solve will depend on your specialty and employer.
Average Salary: $79,148 – $98,715/annually, depending on your location, expertise, employer, and experience
Job Growth: 2% which is lower than average
Requirements: Bachelor’s degree majoring in computer engineering or similar. An internship will help your chances of being hired.
What you’d be doing: While software engineers are primarily concerned with computer programs and software, computer hardware engineers are researching, designing, developing, and testing computer systems and equipment. You’ll most likely be working in a research laboratory where you can build and test different models.
also known as Power Engineer or Electronics Engineer
Average Salary: $68,970 – $162,940/annually, depending on location, expertise, and employer
Job Growth: projected to grow 7% between now and 2030.
Requirements: Bachelor’s degree majoring in electrical engineering or electronics engineering, as well as an internship. Most entry-level positions won’t require more, but if you’re looking to work at the top, you’ll need a master’s degree or a Ph.D. A Professional Engineer (PE) license is required to work in higher positions.
What you’d be doing: The average day as an electrical engineer will be about electronics all day, whether that’s designing, installing, maintaining, or improving. You’ll be assembling devices, testing them out, and writing reports about them. You’ll need both people skills and computer skills. Nearly half of your time will be spent attending meetings to plan and track projects. There is organization and writing parts that will be required. Specialization happens often in this field, so you will get to choose if you’re interested in quantum electronics, acoustics, and more.
Average Salary: $52,000 – $100,000/annually, depending on location, expertise, and employer
Job Growth: Approximately 4%, which is slower than average
Requirements: Bachelor’s degree majoring in either environmental engineering or similar
What you’d be doing: You’ll be researching and developing new ways to protect and improve the environment. Some engineers focus on a specialty, such as air pollution or wastewater management. You might develop technology that could reduce automobile emissions or another large-scale project that protects the environment. This could be dealing with building constructions, such as entail obtaining permits, overseeing construction itself, or monitoring the facility use so that it meets compliance.
Also known as a Process Engineer, Manufacturing Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Engineer, or Quality Engineer
Average Salary: $56,000 – $93,000/annually, depending on location, expertise, and employer
Job Growth: expected to grow 14%, which is significantly faster than average
Requirements: Bachelor’s degree majoring in either industrial engineering or related fields, such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineer, or manufacturing engineering. A position for an industrial engineering position in research and development usually requires a graduate degree
Common qualifications include Lean Six Sigma Green Belt or Six Sigma Certification. Skills that help Industrial Engineers include having great analytical skills, strong communication skills, and data analysis skills, as well as being comfortable with computers, collecting data, English, and AutoCAD.
What you’d be doing: Essentially this position is about designing standardized parts or systems to save the company money and increase production efficiency. You’ll be working with a wide variety of people, from executives to line workers, so being able to talk to anyone is necessary. You’ll be using models and methods to design manufacturing and information systems. A quality engineer will be developing and implementing quality control measures, as well as designing systems to ensure the efficient distribution of goods.
Average Salary: $60,000 – $112,000/annually, depending on location, expertise, and employer
Job Growth: Job growth is expected to grow by about 8% by 2030, which is a little faster than average
Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in either material science and engineering or a related field
What you’d be doing: Your workplace depends on your employer. You could be designing things on a computer while in an office or remotely, or you could be working in a factory or a research laboratory. You’ll be working with metals, ceramics, and plastics to create new materials. After creating them, you’ll have to develop, process, and test these materials to assess all the ways they can be used.
Average Salary: $56,000 – $120,000/annually, depending on location, expertise, and employer
Job Growth: 4% which is average
Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in a related field
What you’d be doing: Marine engineers design, make, and deal with everything that goes on or in the water. That includes submarines, tankers, sailboats, and aircraft carriers. You could work for a private agency or the government. This job is mostly about the internal systems of the ship, and that includes the electrical, refrigeration, steering, and propulsion.
Average Salary: $67,000 – $78,360/annually, depending on location, expertise, and employer
Job Growth: expected to grow 7% from now until 2030, which is slightly higher than average
Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in either mechanical engineering or a related subject
What you’d be doing: Mechanical engineers use force, energy, and motion to design, develop, and test mechanical devices. Your job would be to design tools, improve the current technology, draft blueprints, make prototypes, test theories, and show how to use products and procedures. Depending on the project, you might have to change the current equipment, create new designs, or write up documents to help future users.
Average Salary: $89,000 – $108,481/annually, depending on location, expertise, and employer
Job Growth: expected to grow by 8% between now and 2030, which is faster than average
Requirements: Bachelor’s degree either in petroleum engineering or a related field
What you’d be doing: Usually you’ll be in either an office or at the drilling and well site. You’ll get to travel often, usually to sites where there will be other engineers, oilfield workers, and customers.
Average Salary: $64,490 – $173,720/annually, depending on location, expertise, and employer
Job Growth: expected growth outlook of 11% which is higher than average.
Requirements: Bachelor’s degree either in computer science or similar. Some positions require a master’s degree.
What you’d be doing: Just like it sounds, software engineers design, develop, install, and maintain computer software. Usually, you’ll be focusing on operating systems or a specific computer program or application. You’ll need to have skills in math, computer science, and engineering so that you can make new software and test it out. After all that, computer software engineers then have to constantly reassess how the software system performs and recommend any changes or updates, based on the results.
Average Salary: $55,391 – $87,387/annually, depending on location, expertise, and employer
Job Growth: expected 11% through 2026, making it higher than average
Requirements: Bachelor’s degree either in general engineer, information systems, computer engineering, or a related field. Depending on your long-term goals, you might need to also earn a master’s degree.
What you’d be doing: A systems engineer is in charge of overseeing all parts of a system or project. That can include software, product development, manufacturing, etc. You’ll be developing for clients or employers, and working with a wide variety of people. Your job would be to create a product from the beginning to the end. As a result, this job has high job satisfaction because you’ll be able to see all the hard work pay off.
Whatever field of engineering you’re in, you will develop effective problem-solving, perseverance, and leadership skills.
Do you already know what type of engineering career would be best for you, but you’re still not getting hired? Then you need to check out How to Get an Engineering Job Without Experience.
If you’d like to see what engineering roles are hiring on the open job market, check out what NESC Staffing is hiring for here. Who are we? NESC Staffing is a nationwide staffing agency across the United States that has an A+ grade from the Better Business Bureau, was awarded by Forbes as America’s Best Recruiting and Temporary Staffing Firm, and has been successfully putting people to work since 1984. You can see our latest opportunities here or contact us directly for anything that has just come in.