Learn more about what you can do with a degree in engineering. Find information on engineering careers, job outlook, salary, and recommended schools. View popular schools that prepare students for careers in engineering.
Engineers have unique talents in math and science that enable them to develop practical and economical solutions to technical problems. Although engineers can be employed in a number of different fields, these professionals generally work to synthesize new advancements in science and technology with commercial applications to resolve important social and consumer challenges. The practice of problem solving through the application of math, science and technology often results in the development of new products. Engineers have been responsible for the development a wide range of new products including: robots, computer chips and chemicals.
In addition to creating new products for problem resolution, engineers may also be involved in the design, development, testing and maintenance of various types of facilities. For instance, chemical engineers are often responsible for overseeing extensive chemical production facilities, maintaining operations, protecting worker safety and ensuring that production occurs in an effective and efficient manner. Engineers serving in these roles also engage in management activities including: estimating project completion times, managing inventory for product completion and general project management.
Although the specific activities and duties of by engineers will be different depending on their area of specialization, most professionals working in this field will use computers extensively in their work. Computers are widely used by engineers to simulate conditions and project how proposed problem solutions will improve outcomes for operations. Computers can also be used for addressing the management components of engineering. Various computer programs have been developed to help engineers manage products, inventories and process outcomes.
Although engineering is a broad discipline in which professionals typically use math, science and technology, professionals entering this field typically specialize. The Federal Government’s Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) lists 17 different classifications for engineers. While it is not possible to cover all of these classifications here is it possible to provide a review of some of the areas in which engineers specialize. Chemical engineering is a common area of specialization that requires professionals to apply principles of chemistry to use chemicals in new products. Civil engineering is also a popular field of specialization. Professionals in this discipline are responsible for overseeing construction projects including those involving roads, bridges, building and airports. Electrical engineers are responsible for testing and supervising the use and manufacture of electrical equipment while environmental engineers use physical sciences (e.g., biology and chemistry) to address pressing environmental problems (e.g., air pollution, etc.). Mechanical engineering is also a popular area of study for professionals. In this area of specialization, individuals focus on the development, design and manufacture of mechanical devices. Many mechanical engineers are employed in automobile companies. Finally, computer hardware engineering is also a popular field for engineers. Individuals in this field are responsible for the development, design, manufacture and testing of computer hardware components.
Starting salaries for individuals seeking positions in engineering are quite high overall, regardless of the area of specialization. Engineers are required to have at least a Bachelors Degree to enter in the field. Additionally, many engineers seek advanced degrees and specialty training in their field in order to secure employment. Certification in engineering is common and many engineers engage in certification across their career development in order to remain current with regard to emerging trends in technology and government regulation of their discipline. Even though starting salaries for engineers are high overall, there are specific disciplines within the engineering profession in which individuals can command higher salaries. For instance, annual starting salaries for petroleum engineers are, on average $83,121. Chemical engineers command starting salaries of $64,902 and salaries for computer engineers start at $61,738. Civil engineers are at the lower end of the salary spectrum with salaries starring at $52,048. Area of specialization will impact salary levels as well as demand for professionals in a particular discipline. Presently petroleum, chemical and mining and mineral engineers are in high demand. Petroleum engineers that have been in their positions for a number of years can command salaries in excess of $166,000 annually.
The job outlook for engineers is expected to be average with specific disciplines within the field experiencing significant growth. Increases in the population will require additional civil engineers to provide support for bridge and road growth. Interest in biomedical engineering will make this area of engineering a high demand field as well. Positions for engineers working in factories and manufacturing plants may decline as a number of these positions are moved overseas. Opportunities for career advancement in engineering may also create increased demand in this profession. Individuals currently working in engineering professions may choose to advance into management or sales positions. This will create new employment opportunities for entry level candidates. Even though the job prospects for engineers are quite good, those entering the field must keep in mind that continuing education will be an integral part of career success. Professionals that are willing to seek additional training and certification in their fields will have more opportunities for employment and career advancement. Advancements and changes in technological innovation may further expand employment opportunities in engineering. Changes in these areas may create additional demand for specific types of engineers or may result in the need for a new classification of engineering professionals.