What is Engineering?
Engineering is the application of science and math to solve problems. Engineers figure out how things work and find practical uses for scientific discoveries. Scientists and inventors often get the credit for innovations that advance the human condition, but engineers are instrumental in making those innovations available to the world. In his book, “Disturbing the Universe” (Sloan Foundation, 1981), physicist Freeman Dyson wrote, “A good scientist is a person with original ideas. A good engineer is a person who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible. There are no prima donnas in engineering.”The history of engineering is part and parcel of the history of human civilization. The Pyramids of Giza, Stonehenge, the Parthenon and the Eiffel Tower stand today as monuments to our engineering heritage. Today’s engineers not only build huge structures, such as the International Space Station, but they are also building maps to the human genome and better, smaller computer chips.
What does an engineer do?
Engineers design, evaluate, develop, test, modify, install, inspect and maintain a wide variety of products and systems. They also recommend and specify materials and processes, supervise manufacturing and construction, conduct failure analysis, provide consulting services and teach engineering courses in colleges and universities. The field of engineering is divided into a large number of speciality areas:
- Mechanical engineering involves designing, manufacturing, inspection and maintenance of machinery, equipment and components, and control systems and instruments for monitoring their status and performance. This includes vehicles, construction and farm machinery, industrial installations and a wide variety of tools and devices.
- Electrical engineering involves the design, testing, manufacturing, construction, control, monitoring and inspection of electrical and electronic devices, machinery and systems. These systems vary in scale from microscopic circuits to national power generation and transmission systems.
- Civil engineering involves the design, construction, maintenance and inspection of large infrastructure projects such as highways, railroads, bridges, tunnels, dams and airports.
- Aerospace engineering involves designing, manufacturing, and testing aircraft and spacecraft and parts and components such as airframes, power plants, control and guidance systems, electrical and electronic systems, and communication and navigation systems.
- Nuclear engineering involves the design, manufacturing, construction, operation and testing of equipment, systems and processes involving the production, control and detection of nuclear radiation. These systems include particle accelerators and nuclear reactors for electric power plants and ships, radioisotope production and research. Nuclear engineering also includes monitoring and protecting humans from the potentially harmful effects of radiation.
- Structural engineering involves designing, constructing, and inspecting load-bearing structures such as large commercial buildings, bridges, and industrial infrastructure.
- Biomedical engineering is the practice of designing systems, equipment and devices for use in medicine. It also involves working closely with medical practitioners, including doctors, nurses, technicians, therapists and researchers, to determine, understand and meet their requirements for systems, equipment and devices.
- Chemical engineering is the practice of designing equipment, systems and processes for refining raw materials and for mixing, compounding and processing chemicals to make valuable products.
- Computer engineering is the practice of designing computer hardware components, computer systems, networks and computer software.
- Industrial engineering is the practice of designing and optimizing facilities, equipment, systems and processes for manufacturing, material processing, and any number of other work environments.
- Environmental engineering is preventing, reducing and eliminating sources of pollution that affect air, water and land. It also involves detecting and measuring pollution levels, determining sources of pollution, cleaning up and rehabilitating polluted sites and ensuring compliance with local, state and federal regulations.
There is often considerable overlap among the different specialities. For this reason, engineers need to have a general understanding of several areas of engineering besides their speciality. For example, a civil engineer needs to understand structural engineering concepts. An aerospace engineer needs to apply mechanical engineering principles, and nuclear engineers need a working knowledge of electrical engineering. Particularly, engineers require in-depth knowledge of mathematics, physics and computer applications such as simulations and computer-aided design. This is why most college programs include basic engineering courses in a wide range of topics before students choose to specialize in a particular area.
Making good use of an engineering degree needs careful thought before and after making the decision
Looking at the number of engineering colleges in India and the number of engineers coming out of these colleges, the questions that form in everyone’s minds are, “does India need so many engineers?” Are they all employable? The negativism brought forth by such questions has crippled engineering education in India. In this global era, rather than focus on India, the question should be whether the world needs so many engineers. The answer is a big “yes.” Is there a need for scientists? The answer is again, “yes.” The world needs plenty of well-equipped, talented graduates with the right attitude. There are job opportunities for those who have the potential. In addition, opportunities for self-employment are also plenty for innovative and energetic minds.
Choosing an Interesting Course and a good Institute Is important
There are some thumb rules to be followed in choosing an engineering education:
- The interest of the candidate and his/her choice of the branch should be the criteria for admission.
- Every parent should orient the child towards finding out their natural interest and the aptitude for the particular subject or branch of study.
- Parents should avoid deciding on the candidate.
- For a strong-willed person, if the choice is made based on his/her liking and natural taste, then studying that branch will be the best thing rather than joining any other branch, for whatever reason.
- It is not wise to join a branch of study because it is popular or because the job opportunities are high.
- The choice of institution is also critical.
The other option is for the students to take the branch of study available in a reputed college, start liking that branch, plan well, and work hard. What is critical is students’ interest in the branch of study and their efforts to equip themselves adequately enough during their studies.
Most Interesting Engineering Degree
Most will agree that computer technology will continue to expand at an exponential rate. In our opinion, software engineers are still on the cutting edge of technology, the type of technology that will advance almost every major industry in the future. Software is intrinsically designed to assist with research and development. It should also be noted that out of all engineering disciplines listed, software and computer engineers may find job transition the easiest as computers are now firmly entrenched in all industries, and the demand for engineers will only increase as a result.
Highest Paid Engineering Degrees
Some people view the “best degree” as the one that pays the most. While this will be subject to change over time and may even depend on your location and demand, you will have the potential to be paid very well if you are involved in the mining industry. Petroleum engineers and chemical engineers typically have the most scope for expansion into higher-paying roles within their industries.
Petroleum Engineering Degree
According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), petroleum engineers earned an average of $114,080 per year in 2010, approximately $20,000 more than other types of engineering degrees. In addition, the employment of petroleum engineers is expected to grow by at least 17 per cent by 2020. As oil and gas companies continue to seek convenient and cost-effective methods for extracting petroleum products and drilling operations become more complex, the need for qualified petroleum engineers will grow over the next several years. Mathematics courses, including algebra, trigonometry and calculus, biology, chemistry and physics, are important for students working toward a petroleum engineer career. Important qualities include excellent analytical skills, creativity, strong math and problem-solving skills. In addition, petroleum engineers must work well in teams as the position requires working with various backgrounds and work habits.
Biomedical Engineering Degree
Although the median pay for biomedical engineers was slightly lower than that of petroleum engineers at $81,450 per year in 2010, the job outlook for this type of engineering degree is excellent. According to the BLS, the biomedical engineering field is expected to grow by a staggering 62 per cent by 2020 due to the ageing baby-boomer generation and advances in medical technology. Important qualities in those who are considering a biomedical engineering degree are good analytical and math skills and the ability to communicate effectively. Courses that benefit prospective biomedical engineers include chemistry, physics, biology and calculus, drafting, mechanical drawing and computer programming.
Civil Engineering Degree
The median pay for civil engineers was approximately $77,560 per year in 2010. The industry is expected to grow by 19 per cent by 2020, indicating that a civil engineering degree is a good prospect for those seeking an engineering major. Civil engineers manage many different infrastructure projects, including building bridges, designing roads and upgrading levees or dams.
Sustainability Design & Engineering Degree
As the population grows, the demand for water and waste treatment also grows, requiring municipalities to design, build and maintain water and waste treatment systems. Coursework in statistics, engineering mechanics and physics are the best options to prepare for college-level civil engineering studies. Important qualities in candidates include solving complex problems, excellent decision making, leadership abilities, and an understanding of complicated mathematics. Because only licensed civil engineers can sign off on infrastructure plans, they must monitor and evaluate job site progress, making project management another critical skill. Civil engineers must report to other professionals, including architects, planners and administrators at the state, county or city level, so writing and communication skills are also critical.
Environmental Engineering Degree
According to the BLS, the job outlook for environmental engineers is excellent, with a 22 per cent expected growth by 2020. In 2010, the average median salary per year for an environmental engineer was $78,470. As the federal government pushes to clean contaminated sites throughout the country and concerns the need for wastewater treatment growing, the need for environmental engineers is expected to grow significantly. Because all levels of government must comply with environmental regulations, which in some areas are extremely restrictive, many municipalities hire environmental engineers to be sure that all regulations are met. Courses in biology, chemistry, physics, algebra, trigonometry, and calculus are beneficial for those considering environmental engineering as a career. Like all engineering positions, problem-solving skills are critical to becoming a successful environmental engineer. Other important qualities include good systems analysis abilities, communication skills and reading comprehension. In addition, environmental engineers often must work with others to achieve common goals, so working as a team is also critical.
Best Engineering Degree for the Future
This is the ten-million-dollar question. We have stated reasons why we believe the roles included are well placed for future employment and opportunity. Our research seems that any electrical engineering, environmental/sustainability engineering, or computer/tech-related engineering degree is primed for future success. That said, the staple engineering categories and fields such as civil engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, and petroleum engineering are all excellent fields to be in. Generally, engineering is one of the top fields to be in for the future. For the best engineering degree for the future, however, we decided to go with one of our previous selections: the computer engineering degree. Here’s why: the advancements in computer engineering over even the past decade have far outweighed the progress in nearly any other engineering field. Put, the largest companies that are seeing the most traction and the highest value – whether it be a private company or publicly held – are nearly all technology companies. If they are not a tech company, they almost certainly need some technology behind them, where computer engineers come in. Also, there are multiple deviations of the computer engineering degree – software engineering, hardware engineering, and robotics engineering (related to mechanical, of course) are all several. Add in the application, mobile, and game development, and the list continues.
Least Demanding Engineering Degree
This might seem like an odd category to include, but some people may view the best engineering degree as the one that is the simplest to get. Unfortunately, it is well known that engineering degrees are typically one of the most challenging of all degrees. The dropout rate far exceeds most others, including medicine. While being far from a walk in the park, industrial engineering is arguably the least demanding of all engineering degrees. Not because it is considered easy by any means, but because there tend to be more industrial engineering graduates when compared to a computer, electrical or chemical engineers in the field. Still, any engineering degree is going to be challenging.
Engineering a Brighter Future
The engineering degrees listed above offer the best opportunity for job outlook and salary potential in the future. For students with an aptitude for math and science and the ability to problem-solve, obtaining a degree for one of these types of engineering positions may provide them with good pay and a career that is rewarding and fulfilling. Remember, the best engineering degree for you may be completely different as job satisfaction is generally more about the individual and satisfying natural curiosity.
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