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What is engineering?

The concept of engineering began in ancient times with the development of the wheel and the pulley, creations which used basic mechanical principles to construct useful systems and tools. Since then, engineering has developed into a complicated set of mathematical and scientific principles which are used to develop economical solutions to technical problems. Engineers work scientifically, but their products serve societal needs by means of a commercial market.

When developing a new product, engineers must consider safety, cost, effectiveness and reliability. Many engineers test products in an effort to maintain quality, understand any failures and improve the current system or product.

Computers are critical tools in the engineering profession and are used to design, simulate and monitor products.

Engineering sub-disciplines & specializations

Students wanting to study an engineering degree can choose from one of the many sub-disciplines which exist within the field.  Some engineering degree specializations include:

  • Aerospace Engineering - The design of aircrafts, spacecrafts, and related topics
  • Chemical Engineering – The use of chemistry, physics, mathematics and economics to efficiently use, produce, transform, and transport chemicals, materials and energy
  • Material Engineering - The conversion of raw materials into usable commodities, and the study of the structure, properties, and performance of various materials
  • Civil Engineering - The design and construction of public and private works, such as infrastructure, bridges and buildings
  • Software Engineering - The design and development of software and operating systems
  • Electrical Engineering - The design of electrical systems
  • Environmental Engineering - The science and technology used to develop solutions to environmental problems and improve the natural environment
  • Industrial Engineering - The study of the optimization of complex processes or systems
  • Mechanical Engineering - The design and development of basically anything considered to be a machine
  • Biomedical & Pharmaceutical Engineering - the science of applying engineering principles in order to analyze and solve problems in medicine and biology
  • Sound Engineering - The technical aspects of producing sounds and music

An engineering student works on a project on their computer

What will I learn with an engineering degree?

Engineering degrees and their specific requirements differ considerably between universities. However, most professionals earn at a bachelor’s degree in an engineering specialty, or may simply have a strong academic background in mathematics or natural science. Engineering curricular usually also include at least one design course, if not more.

Engineering technology is another popular degree program which differs from the standard engineering degrees in that students learn through laboratory courses by applying engineering principles to design and production instead of through theoretic and scientific application. It is essential for engineers to be continuously learning and keeping their skills up-to-date so they're aware of the latest developments and changing technology within the field.

Careers in engineering

The demand for qualified engineers is rising in many countries, largely due to the growing levels of competition between products in the commercial market. This means that engineers (depending on their area of expertise) are needed to improve the systems of development and increase productivity.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, engineers in the U.S. can make these salaries on average:

Aerospace engineer

USD $113,030

Biomedical engineer

USD $88,040

Chemical engineer

USD $102,160

Civil engineer

USD $84,770

Environmental engineer

USD $86,800

Industrial engineer

USD $85,880

Mechanical engineer

USD $85,880

As a result of the fast advancement of technology, many new branches of engineering are developing in a rapid pace, such as computer and software engineering, nanotechnology and molecular engineering to mention a few. This is an exciting time to be in the field of engineering, and there are many opportunities for an excellent education at prestigious universities around the world.