“Design is not how it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works,” said Steve Jobs, the late Apple co-founder and CEO. An engineer knows the importance of having excellent design principles paired with effective mechanics that make the design’s practical application worth the time and investment. Jobs cared about all aspects of design and created products successful beyond his wildest imagination. Engineers are constantly being challenged to innovate and develop the next cutting-edge design, which will solve a problem or propel a company forward. There's no doubt engineers are in high demand across all fields. If you are mechanically inclined, the kid who loved submitting their entry in the school science fair, then perhaps a career in one of the many exciting engineering fields of study is for you.
Engineering is a broad field with many disciplines; there are many intriguing ways to specialize. A variety of engineering degrees showcase all the ways you can make Bill Nye the Science Guy proud. If you’re looking for a particular engineering degree, or want to learn more about your options, make sure you pay attention to the six different categories of engineering: mechanical, civil, electrical, chemical, geotechnical, and management. Traditionally, the 'big four' engineering categories were limited to civil, electrical, mechanical, and chemical. However, new categories are evolving to keep pace with the times. For example, environmental engineering is becoming more and more popular. “The problems I’m trying to solve are large-scale water resources issues -- the question of how much water and when -- and the quality of that water,” says Joel Stewart, an environmental engineer. Environmental engineering is about more than just the environment: it’s also about society, communities, people, and politics.
Within every category are some fascinating specialties. Prospective engineering students should do their research ahead of time to make sure the degrees they choose help them land their dream jobs. Here are five exciting engineering fields of study, which will lead to excellent careers you won’t want to miss.
1. Structural engineering
A student studying structural engineering learns the disciplines needed to analyze, design, plan, and research structural components and systems, as well as take into account not only safety factors but aesthetic (the look of the structure) and social factors, and how a structure will affect communities, among other things. A structural engineer works under the civil engineering category. He or she might be asked to design bridges or large commercial buildings. Civil engineering was listed as NewEngineer.com's fourth most in-demand engineering job this year, and with an average starting annual salary of $59,000, you can rest assured that this engineering degree will pay off.
2. Robotics engineering
Is R2-D2, the robot from Star Wars, one of your most favorite characters of all time? Do you dream of creating robots that can do menial tasks for you? A degree in robotics engineering (also sometimes called mechatronic engineering) will teach you all about robots! Aspects of design, construction, and their operation, as well as systems for their information processing and computerization will likely be on the syllabus of a course or degree in this field. This subcategory is found in the electrical engineering field, but students also benefit from having a foundation in mechanical engineering. Also called an automation and robotics engineer, this job was recently listed as one of the most in-demand engineering jobs, with an average starting annual salary of $77,000 USD.
3. Environmental engineer
Environmental engineers solve some of the most important and pressing problems our planet faces today. Engineerjobs.co.uk highlights this field under the chemical engineering category. It explains, “An environmental engineering degree will build upon fundamental civil/construction engineering and project management principles in regards to social, economic and environmental issues.” Maybe solving the world’s water shortage or harnessing the power of the wind for an alternative energy source appeals to you. Alternative Energy Engineer is fast becoming one of the most in-demand engineering jobs in the world due to the rapid environmental changes from climate change. With an average starting annual salary of $65,000 USD you will be wel compensated for putting the planet first with your engineering expertise.
4. Petroleum engineer
A geotechnical engineering degree which combines specific skills to do with structures and properties related to soil, groundwork, and construction practices upon these terrains, the petroleum engineer is one of the most in-demand engineers in the world today. A student studying petroleum engineering becomes an expert on hydrocarbons such as crude oil and natural gas. The average starting annual salary for a petroleum engineer is $97,000 USD. You will likely be able to recommend where to drill, how to extract reserves, and where to find crude oil and natural gas pockets. As a world economy, we are heavily reliant on accessing petroleum safely and efficiently. If you choose to specialize in this degree, you’ll have job security and be in-demand for positions at multiple companies.
5. Aerospace engineer
But maybe staring at the stars and understanding the intricacies of the solar system is more your jam? If so, a specialized degree in aerospace engineering may be right up your alley! A specialist degree in the field of mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering boasts a variety of topics including aircraft performance, control, structures, composites, noise, and space flight. Programs in aerospace engineering allow you to learn more about how to build and design structures that can survive re-entry into earth’s atmosphere. With an average annual salary of $69,000 USD, this field is not to be overlooked. Just think: how exciting would it be to work on the next machine that will collect data from Mars? This -- and so much more -- could be your future!
Samuel Malachowsky, a senior lecturer in software engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, says, there is so much crossover between engineering disciplines that engineers of different types often work in similar jobs or work together on the same projects, and he says the two fundamental skills taught in engineering programs – design and process – are universal among all branches of engineering. Malachowsky adds, "There are a lot of engineers who have studied under another banner — so maybe they started as an electrical engineer and now they're a computer engineer or vise versa."
No matter what engineering field you specialize in, make sure you pick the one that most excites you. And remember: if you dream it, you can build it!