Engineering can be described as being concerned with everything that is built or produced. The number of areas in engineering is considerable. Civil engineering, which is concerned with creating, improving and protecting the environment in which we live, is covered in another article. In this article, we look at several other major sectors, including some which partially overlap with civil engineering.
The main Engineering Disciplines are
This is the engineering behind the research, design and construction of aircraft and spacecraft. It takes in the forces and physical properties of the craft, as well as their aerodynamic characteristics and behaviours. Aerospace engineering sits alongside aircraft electrical and computer engineering, known as avionics, and mechanical engineering.
Aerospace engineering is concerned at various times with fluid mechanics, mechanical movement and forces, mathematics, electro technology, propulsive forces, control systems, structures, materials science and solid mechanics, software, risk factor and reliability, noise control and flight testing.
Automotive engineering is concerned with the design and manufacture of motorbikes, cars, buses and trucks. It involves aspects of mechanical, electrical, electronic, safety and computer engineering.
It concerns elements of vehicle dynamics, performance, safety engineering, fuel economy and emissions, drivability, durability and corrosion, ergonomics, driver sensation and experience, and assembly. Consideration of cost and efficiency is always involved. Within this discipline, the product engineer designs and tests components and systems, while the Development Engineer is responsible for ensuring that all these function harmoniously within the finished vehicle. Body engineers work on the vehicle’s exterior form.
Chemical engineering is concerned with conversion of chemicals into useful materials, through the application of chemistry and physics, biology, microbiology or biochemistry, mathematics and economics. Unlike chemists, they are concerned with devising economically viable processes for doing so.
These engineers, often known as process engineers, design, review and improve the processes used, so that they can be safely applied on a wider scale, while being economically viable. These roles have largely evolved along with developments in the petrochemicals and plastics industries.
Chemical engineering involves plant design for clients, and chemical reactions engineering, which ensures optimal plant operation. Process design is concerned with individual steps in converting materials.
Employment is in industry as a project engineer or university departments, conducting research and development. Post-development, the engineers may be involved in maintaining and upgrading the systems.
Construction engineering involves planning and implementing designs that have been produced by other engineers. The fields may be construction sites, transportation projects, site development, structural and geotechnical projects, etc. The construction engineer’s remit often includes the evaluation of logistical operations, assessing costings, managing contracts and other more commercial concerns.
The construction engineer, who is involved with construction processes as well as design, works alongside the civil engineer, who is primarily concerned with design. However, they are more involved with design and engineering principles than the construction managers. The construction engineer’s work is a blend of design and building requirements involved in construction.
Defence engineering is concerned with the development and production of arms technology used for national security by a country’s armed forces. It is not a discipline so much as a sector that engineers work within. Specialisms include aeronautical, avionic, civil, structural, mechanical, chemical, electrical, electronic and marine engineering.
This area of engineering considers the applications of electricity, electronics and electromagnetism, which takes in power generation and supply, telecommunications and control systems amongst other topics.
Electrical engineering can incorporate electronic engineering, although a common distinction is that electronic engineering is mostly concerned with small systems such as computers, whereas electrical engineering concerns large scale systems such as power transmission.
Divisions of electrical engineering include power engineering, concerning the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity via power grids, generators, transformers and motors. Control engineering involves modelling systems and controllers for transport vehicles and industrial automation. Electronic engineering and microelectronics also come under this discipline, as do signal processing, telecommunications and computer engineering. Instrumentation, such as flight instrumentation, is another area of electrical engineering.
Environmental engineers are concerned with using engineering to reconcile care of the natural environment with the requirements of human habitation with regards to water, air and land. Their work involves any project that might affect the environment, such as waste product transport, recovery of contaminated sites, water and air purification, safe treatment of hazardous waste products, minimising pollution, and more. They can also be involved in planning stages for projects by researching the potential effects on the environment of various engineering solutions.
Wider concerns include environmental issues such as the effects of global warming, depletion of the ozone layer and acid rain, as heightened by pollution from habitation and transport systems. This area of engineering has close connections to civil engineering, particularly with respect to water resources management, and chemical engineering in the area of air and water treatment processes.
Food engineering brings together agricultural, mechanical and chemical engineering with the goal of cost effective production of food. This encompasses ingredient production, food processing, preservation, food machinery, manufacturing and instrumentation, and packaging. Clients can include food producers and processing plants, pharmaceutical companies, consulting firms and healthcare firms.
This form of engineering involves utilising new tools, materials and knowledge to develop new products and processes. At every stage of research, development and production, quality and safety issues are paramount. At the same time, efficiency in terms of production costs and energy consumption are essential, while environmental impact is also a consideration when it comes to emissions and effluents.
This broad engineering sector concerns production processes and the associated technology, with the design and development of manufacturing equipment and technology being a key area. It shares common areas with industrial, electrical, mechanical and electrical engineering, as well as electronic and computer engineering.
Automation and robotics are central to manufacturing engineering, allowing greater safety and cost efficiency on production lines.
Similar to transportation engineering, this sector is concerned with the engineering of marine vessels, including ships and oil rigs. It encompasses vessel superstructures and propulsion systems in the design, development and maintenance stages, as well as the ongoing engineering work on the vessel when it’s in operation.
This very broad branch of engineering is concerned with mechanical systems and their analysis, design and manufacture. These systems might be intrinsic to industrial equipment, transport systems, medical devise, aircraft, etc.
Central to mechanical engineering is the production and use of mechanical power and heat for machines and tools, drawing on mechanics, thermodynamics, materials science, structural analysis, etc, alongside computer aided engineering and other approaches.
Mechanical engineering overlaps with civil engineering, electrical engineering, petroleum and chemical engineering and also aerospace engineering.
Also known as bioengineering and biomedical engineering, medical engineering is a multi-disciplinary area, bringing engineering together with the medical requirements of the healthy, diseased or injured human body. The developments are frequently innovations in medical care, from life support systems to pacemakers and replacement hips.
Medical Engineering can overlap strongly with mechanical or electronic engineering, as well as materials sciences, physics or biology. Basic medicine can involve areas such as biomechanics, implant design and artificial organs, rehabilitation engineering, biofluids and biomaterials, computer and robotic assisted surgery, medical imaging and diagnostic techniques.
These engineers are concerned with developing ways to break down the molecules in oil to produce simpler components that can be recombined to produce products such as plastics, polymers, synthetic compounds and fibres, and many products used in everyday settings.
Petroleum engineers work closely with geologists in determining the rate and extent of extraction of hydrocarbon resources, and the related economics. This area of engineering works alongside geophysics, petroleum geology, well engineering, oil and gas facilities engineering, etc.
This newer engineering discipline involves designing and modifying software so that it’s high quality yet affordable, being easy to produce and maintain. Within the discipline are elements of mathematics and computer science.
The usual training route of the engineering disciplines listed here, is the 3-5-year Bachelor of Engineering (BE or BEng) or Bachelor of Science (BSc Eng) degree. Different institutions offer different specialisms within the spectrum of this vast subject. Postgraduate study is also required for some of these disciplines, in the form of a Masters in Engineering (MEng). Doctorates are also available.
Upon qualification and securing of the first professional position, engineers usually gain an additional professional qualification that brings affiliation with a recognised association, such as the Chartered Engineer (CEng) or Incorporated Engineer (IEng).
Chartered engineers need an accredited Masters of Engineering or an accredited Bachelors degree plus recognised further learning to Masters level. Incorporated engineers need a recognised Bachelors degree, or a Higher National Certificate or Diploma (HNC/HND) with further accredited workplace learning.
The Engineering Career progression is different from one discipline to another. In some fields and firms, recently graduated engineers are expected to work in a monitoring role alongside the more senior engineers, whereas in others, they are asked to perform routine analysis or design and interpretation tasks. More experienced engineers usually complete the more complex analysis or design work, managing the complex design projects, or heading teams of engineers. Many engineers become consultants, working in specialised roles as project managers on certain types of construction.
Skills Required For Engineering Jobs
Engineers need to be able to combine the skills and knowledge of their discipline with the ability to evaluate and assess project elements within contracts. You need to demonstrate an ability to work independently, as you’ll usually be approaching a new project and immediately having to communicate with various agencies, companies, public bodies and departments.
The ability to prioritise work amongst many tasks, while responding to the priorities of other parties, is valuable. Flexibility and adaptability allow you to respond to sometimes demanding schedules. At other times, you may need to stand firm by your findings while resisting pressure to make alternative recommendations.
Motivation is highly valued. The employers need to feel confident that you can produce and implement cost effective solutions and they are only going to feel confidence in you if you express confidence in yourself.