Engineering Career Paths

Engineers apply scientific and mathematical principles to research, develop, and improve technology. It is a very large field, affecting every industry one can imagine. Computers, bridges, rockets, calculators, proton accelerators, petroleum pumps, levees.the list of products and applications developed and influenced goes on forever. The basic function of engineering is to link society's needs with commercial applications, and then to evaluate and continually improve on the things that are developed.

Most engineers are specialists in a certain field or even in a very specific subfield (very specialized engineers, however, are sometimes vulnerable to layoffs if their field becomes obsolete). Broad specialties include:

  • Aerospace
  • Agricultural
  • Architectural
  • Biomedical
  • Chemical
  • Civil
  • Computer
  • Electrical and electronics
  • Environmental
  • Industrial
  • Marine
  • Materials
  • Mechanical
  • Mining and geological
  • Nuclear
  • Petroleum

The skills an engineer needs are based on the specialty he or she chooses, but all engineers have a solid scientific and mathematical background, with an understanding of mechanics, energy processes, research techniques, and computer applications. Engineers also need to be good communicators, since so much of their work is shared with other scientists, as well as with the public, managers, and other non-engineers. Being able to work in a team is also important. Perhaps the biggest thing is a passion for the field and a thirst for knowledge; the engineer that doesn't continue his or her education is the one that will be booted out first.

After graduating from an engineering program, engineers usually work for a few years and then take the Professional Engineer exams - licensed engineers are known as PEs. Graduates from engineering technology programs may not be able to gain this certification, but they can hold down many types of practical engineering jobs.

Most engineers make good money, even right out of college. The ability to perform a variety of jobs and to jump from one field to another is also an advantage. The field is expected to grow about as fast as average. Many firms are able to outsource some work to less expensive overseas engineers.

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