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:
Table of Contents
What is Engineering
Types of 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.
In the current contemporary era, engineering is split into four categories: chemical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.
4 Types of Engineering
Each type of engineering requires a different background and form of study and for good reason. The 4 different types of engineering are chemical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.
Chemical engineering is about “applying a chemical, physical and biological sciences to the process of converting raw materials or chemicals into more useful or valuable forms.” Chemicals are everywhere in our lives, both natural and artificial. A chemical engineer might work on making new medicines, sustainable plastics, pesticides, different types of paint, and so much more.
Possibly the original form of engineer, civil engineers take care of the physical constructions that affect everyone’s everyday life. Civil engineering handles the design, construction, and maintaining the built environment, such as roads, bridges, canals, dams, airports, sewage systems, railroads, and the structural component of buildings, etc. This also includes planning urban areas, and transportation, and creating massive structures, like the Eiffel Tower or the Golden Gate Bridge.
Electrical engineering is about studying, designing, and applying the use of equipment, devices, and systems that use electricity and electronics. This is a fairly new field since it depends on the commercialization of electricity, but consider all the ways we use electricity! From communicating with other people to taking care of our food, we’d have very different lives without electricity. As a result, going into electrical engineering is a way to decide that you’ll work with electricity, but not in what capacity yet. The options range from telecommunications to research to manufacturing and so many more.
If you’re good with tools, then you might want to consider mechanical engineering. Mechanical engineering combines engineering physics and math with materials in order to create, analyze, manufacture, and maintain mechanical systems. This can include areas such as mechanics, thermodynamics, structural analysis, and electricity.
Popular Careers in Engineering
When using this information, please remember that the average income is dependent on your industry, your location, 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.
also known as Biomedical Engineer, Bioinstrumentation Engineer, Biomechanics Engineer, Clinical Engineer, Genetic Engineer, Rehabilitation Engineer or Systems Physiologist
Average Salary: $55,360 – $166,050/annually, depending on location, expertise, and employer
Job Growth: 6% which is above average
Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in bioengineering or biomedical engineering, or related. Some positions require a graduate degree.
What you’d be doing: This position works in manufacturing, research facilities, or for large corporations. Most work full-time and over 40 hours a week.
What you’d be doing: This position has multiple options, such as designing equipment or devices that would replace body parts, such as artificial organs like an artificial heart. You could be installing, maintaining, or providing technical support for biomedical equipment, or collaborating with the manufacturing staff about that equipment. This engineer might be training clinicians on how to use the biomedical equipment, or working with scientists with their research on how engineering principles apply to human biological systems. There’s also an option to work with statistical models, prepare procedures, and present research findings to scientists, clinicians, managers, other engineers, or the public. A bioengineer/biomedical engineer will frequently work in research and development.
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 are 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 engineer. 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, 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 about 8% until 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 2020 to 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.