You have probably heard that engineers earn a decent wage, have good job stability and opportunities for advancement and that there are always vacancies. This may have got you thinking about engineering as a possible career. However, with at least 25 different types of engineers, how will you know which one is best suited to you?
What Qualifications Do You Need to Become an Engineer?
You would have noticed that specific engineering fields indicated specific subjects you needed to have a background and grounding in. In many cases, there was an overlap. For example, all engineers need to study math and science. Thereafter, many areas expanded on the knowledge of each discipline. This included various courses in biology, microbiology, geography, geology, environmental science, chemical engineering, limnology, chemistry, ecology, plant science, mineralogy, the atmosphere, physical geography, zoology, soil science, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering, to name a few. This gives you a good idea of the scope of the whole engineering arena.
You will have to obtain a bachelor’s degree in engineering as this will form the basis of your qualification. Some prospective engineers do an associate’s degree in engineering, but this will not be sufficient to work as an engineer without a bachelor’s degree.
An online engineering management masters qualification is a good qualification to take once you have completed your bachelor’s degree in engineering. Online studies enable you to work and study at the same time.
Below, we provide a description of most engineering careers and what qualifications you will need to get a job in these fields.
All engineers make use of scientific principles to solve problems. Civil engineers are particularly concerned with the construction of structures to keep people moving and supplied with systems that are used in daily life. This may also include finding solutions to housing shortages.
Civil engineering attracts many potential engineers who wish to leave a lasting legacy in the world, such as beautifully constructed bridges that will last centuries after their lifetimes. This profession is responsible for many kinds of infrastructure such as roads, stormwater systems and dams, sewage and water systems, tunnels, and airports. Civil engineers also construct smaller projects like playgrounds and even buildings.
You will find mechanical engineers working with factory equipment design, engineering machinery, and automating labor-intensive plants. The latter reduces the need for as many workers at the lower levels in a company and allows it to hire specialists for other core functions.
Mechanical engineers need to understand how materials are constructed and affected by factors such as moisture and temperature, how much they weigh, and how best to use them to create moving parts. Two areas where you often find mechanical engineers are agriculture and robotics.
Industrial engineers focus on aspects such as the ergonomics of a design. This is somewhat in the realm of industrial psychologists, and industrial engineers study the social sciences along with the engineering subjects like physics and mathematics. They look at both products and processes to streamline them for improved efficacy and find ways to reduce the use of raw materials to preserve the environment. Their designs result in less reliance on human resources and make use of alternate forms of energy.
Examples of what industrial engineers do are making operation rooms more efficient, cutting down wait times in queues, developing mobile phones that are more compact, reducing the flammability of pajamas, and improving supply chain management processes.
A speaker from the World Economic Forum noted that rapid advances in technology had done away with the distinctions between professionals in different fields, changing the way production systems work and increasing the need for the services of electrical and mechanical engineers. They work with converting energy to propel systems and anything that requires an electrical circuit, some items as small as home appliances like toasters and others as large as satellite communications systems.
As can be seen from the descriptions of the various engineering types, there is often an overlap.
Electronics engineers are responsible for designing items such as global positioning equipment (GPS), computer hardware, sound systems, mobile phones, and laptops. A lot of their work involves writing and editing technical manuals, the assembly of products, conducting tests, and costing the things they produce. They may operate in areas such as electrical equipment, robotics, IT, computing, and power systems.
Petroleum engineers have five types of expertise that underpin their work. Firstly, they must find sources of crude oil, petroleum, and natural gas in reservoirs beneath the surface of the earth. This may include these products present in existing wells. Secondly, they are tasked with determining if there is enough of these fossil fuels to warrant an operation. Thirdly, they come up with the best methods of extraction at the lowest cost. Fourthly, they are responsible for the actual extraction process, and finally, they work out how to store or transport it.
Aerospace engineering is one of the most exciting types of engineering to choose from. Sometimes, these engineers work on secret projects that they are not even allowed to discuss with their families, such as new military aircraft. But, in general, their role is the creation and construction of spacecraft, jets, helicopters, airplanes, satellites, missiles, and rockets that go to outer space. Aerospace engineers also assess how aircraft perform to improve designs, make propulsion systems, and conform to safety standards and regulations.
Environmental engineers are very versatile as they work across a range of projects, often crossing into the territory of other engineers or collaborating with them. This requires a solid grounding in numerous subjects in their field of study: biology, microbiology, chemistry, ecology, geology, and environmental science. The latter also includes plant science, mineralogy, the atmosphere, physical geography, zoology, soil science, and limnology.
You are unlikely to find all this knowledge and training in any single environmental engineer. Rather they will specialize in certain disciplines. However, they will probably have some experience in other areas of engineering. Environmental engineers take an environmental approach to their projects, determining any risks involved regardless of whether they are dealing with waste recycling, irrigation, bridge construction, or the feasibility of a mine. They are also called in when major disasters occur.
If you plan to qualify as a chemical engineer, you need to include the following subjects in your degree: math, chemistry, biology, microbiology, and physics. Your job will entail designing and writing up chemical manufacturing processes to develop new products in multiple fields, such as the pharmaceutical industry, medicine, petroleum, fertilizers, consumer items, food production, and even vaccines. Thus, a chemical engineer would be involved in developing immunization for Covid strains.
Computer Hardware Engineers
Computer hardware engineers are active in anything to do with computer hardware and ancillary components (circuit boards, CPU processors, routers, networks, and RAM devices), from the design of blueprints and developing and testing systems to the construction of these parts based on the technical designs. They will also take note of the compatibility of applicable software with this hardware.
Innovations are the backbone of engineering. Biomedical engineering is the branch that specializes in improvements to health, which sometimes includes solutions for animals, not only humans. This could be the design, installation, and maintenance of biomedical equipment in a hospital, veterinary practice, or clinic setting. It may entail designing blueprints for artificial limbs and ensuring that they fit and move correctly. They will also manufacture artificial organs, such as kidneys, and other body parts, e.g., a hip replacement. Biomedical engineers need to ensure that the items they produce meet safety standards and work effectively.
Studies need to take into account various subjects, such as biology, materials science, computer science, and chemistry, plus chemical, electrical, and mechanical engineering. Experts in this field are much sought after due to the advance in technology and computing.
The focus of nuclear engineers is on utilizing nuclear radiation and energy. It involves research and development (R&D), such as fusion research, and the design of systems and instruments to maximize nuclear power and its uses. Radioactive materials can be used to power electricity plants, perform radiation on cancer patients, and for medical diagnostic equipment. Nuclear power fuels spacecraft, ships, and submarines.
Nuclear weapons engineering will not be taught in any curricula as the knowledge is very specialized and requires a high-security clearance. Such equipment requires the work of many different engineers as well as scientists.
Nuclear engineers are very concerned with the safe management of nuclear energy and how to produce and store it at nuclear plants and dispose of its waste. A plant will be closed and contained on their authority if there is a leak or accident until the problem has been analyzed and resolved. They sometimes carry out their work with environmental scientists and bioengineers.
Marine engineers work with naval architects to design and build vessels and their engines and propulsion systems to operate in the sea, such as submarines, aircraft carriers, offshore platforms, drilling equipment, tankers, yachts, sailboats, fishing boats, and cruise ships. They are also responsible for constructing the components for these vessels.
Tasks include plans and creation of blueprints, testing models or prototypes, and overseeing the building process. Some of the equipment they work on and design are navigation systems, fuel systems, inboard and outboard motors, propulsion devices, onboard systems, and types of fuel, including diesel engines, gas turbines, and nuclear reactors.
Materials engineers work with multiple materials (nanomaterials, composites, metals, plastics, semiconductors, ceramics, etc.) to create new materials, combine substances, and find new uses for existing materials. Any item you can think of has been made from materials tested by materials engineers, from fibreoptic components to golf balls. They study the properties of materials to see if they can withstand heat and up to what temperature, whether they bend and are flexible, how much weight they can hold, and how well they perform under specified conditions.
A materials engineer can specialize in one substance. For instance, metallurgical engineers work with different types of metals.
Mining and Geological Engineers
Mining and geological engineers are highly paid engineers, and jobs in this sector are estimated to grow three percent by 2028. Their core functions revolve around mining: designing mines, developing mining equipment, determining how metals and minerals will be extracted in the mining operations, and devising new technologies for the industry. They have to ensure that what they design and the processes they come up with comply with mining policies and procedures and applicable legislation or even contribute to new policies.
An agricultural engineer has a large scope of areas where they operate. Some are involved in food production where they manage plant and animal life, avoid overgrazing of livestock, determine when fields are fallow or should be left to regain their former nutrients before being reused, storage silos and animal housing, and husbandry, and the processing and distribution of food. Others work with water, energy, and soil management and conservation, including the prevention of erosion. They focus on sustainability, alternate energies, and renewing resources. Engineering skills also include electronic, civil, and mechanical engineering and mechanization.
Agricultural engineers can be found working on rural or urban development projects, dam construction, management of waterways such as rivers and dams, irrigation, forestry, and the design of agricultural equipment.
Health and Safety Engineers
Health and safety engineers design workplaces to reduce health and safety risks, illness, and accidents. For example, they would ensure that a building is free of asbestos, do risk assessments, perform inspections of sites, and review incidents. They need to keep updated on the legislation and health and safety regulations and provide policies for their employers.
Health and safety engineers can choose to specialize in industrial, environmental, systems, occupational, or product health and safety engineering. For example, occupational health and safety engineers focus on the work environments of employees to reduce unhealthy sound levels, ensure equipment is safe to use, and that chairs and desks are ergonomically designed for all-day use.
Engineering is an exciting area of study with so much variety that if you can study and pass your degree, you can be assured of a stimulating career.