Engineers design, develop and build electrical and mechanical devices, roads, bridges, buildings and other structures. Engineers also often have management and supervisory responsibilities to see a project to completion. Engineers are highly educated, as all engineers have earned at least an undergraduate degree in civil, mechanical, electrical, chemical, aerospace, biomedical, industrial or materials engineering. Many will also put in the time and effort to qualify for a professional engineer, or PE, license.
Civil engineers have been trained to calculate structural strength, weight-bearing loads and the like so that can design safe and highly functional roads, bridges, buildings and other structures. Civil engineers often work with architects in designing and building large structures. Geotechnical engineers spend most of their time taking and analyzing soil samples to make sure that the foundations of structures are solid and secure. Structural engineers work with engineering software in the safe design and construction of large structures. Transportation engineers design roads and plan and construct large public facilities like harbors or airports.
Mechanical engineers design and build mechanical devices and systems. Mechanical engineers are employed in a diverse range of workplaces, ranging from factories to power plants to universities. A typical day for a mechanical engineer employed at an oil refinery might begin with a meeting with production engineers and floor supervisors regarding the new pump system being installed, then a review of gauges and other instrumentation with an outside safety consultant, followed by a few hours working on the computer designing the intake system for a new boiler coming in next week.
Electrical engineers design and develop all types of electrical equipment and the processes to manufacture them. Besides their design responsibilities, electrical engineers make calculations to determine manufacturing and installation specifications and often also work in quality control capacities. Electronics engineers design electronic components and analyze small- and large-scale electrical systems to make suggestions regarding efficiency improvements or upgrades based on projected future requirements.
Aerospace engineers design and develop all kinds of aircraft and spacecraft. Their primary responsibility is to make sure that the craft they design are functional, safe and financially feasible. Aeronautical engineers typically work on designing aircraft flight and propulsion systems, and astronautical engineers are primarily involved in research on spacecraft materials and design.
Biomedical engineering is a hybrid engineering discipline that has just come into its own in the last couple of decades. Biomedical engineers design and develop devices and systems to improve medical care. Although biomedical engineers spend a good bit of time doing research and developing models using computers, most also spend a good bit of time in the lab and working hands-on with patients. Design of prostheses and development of medical devices, including artificial organs, are two major sub-fields in biomedical engineering.
- Penn State: Licensure -- What is a PE?
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Civil Engineers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Mechanical Engineers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Electrical Engineers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Aerospace Engineers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Biomedical Engineers
Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.