The field of engineering is a diverse one, and much of the machinery and systems built by engineers are instrumental to our lives. For instance, civil engineers design the roads, bridges, and buildings that we use regularly. Biomedical engineers design solutions to improve the quality and effectiveness of health care. And environmental engineers devise solutions to environmental issues, ensuring the availability and safety of important resources.
Engineering is a broad discipline that consists of specialized areas, including mechanical engineering, industrial engineering, and nuclear engineering. No matter the discipline, students will learn how to employ mathematical and scientific principles to develop innovative and effective solutions to real-world technical problems. Students will most likely select a specific discipline to study.
Engineering Course Work Basics
Engineering students will take similar courses during the first two to four semesters of the program. The engineering foundation will consist of mathematics and science courses in chemistry, calculus, biology, and physics. Eventually, students will take courses specific to their field of study. For instance, a civil engineer might take a class on structural principles, while a chemical engineer might study thermodynamics for chemical engineers. An engineering major may take classes in the following subjects:
- Differential Equations: This course will cover the definitions, terminology, and mathematical models used in a differential equations course. Students will learn modeling with higher-order differential equations and series solutions of linear equations.
- Engineering Leadership and Team Building: This course will teach students how to write and present effectively. Students will learn about the essential characteristics of leadership, and they will develop teamwork skills, since engineers often work with other engineers in the workplace.
- Probability and Statistics for Engineering: This course will cover topics such as basic probability, random variables, mathematical expectation, discrete and continuous distributions, and estimation theory. Students will also receive an introduction to standard experimental design.
- Engineering Math: Students will learn about mathematical techniques in the more advanced areas of mathematics that are most pertinent to engineering. The course will cover vector calculus, Fourier transforms, and Laplace transformations.
- Theory and Methods in Product Design: Students will learn about the engineering design process and the conceptual design of products. Students will gain experience in preliminary project planning of various engineering systems.
Engineering students may have to participate in a cooperative internship program, which provides students with on-the-job experience and is required by most engineering schools. Regardless, students should seek opportunities to obtain real-world engineering experience. The curriculum may also include a final capstone project, in which students apply engineering theories to further research or conduct experiments.
Careers for the Engineering Graduate
Engineers may go on to work in a range of environments, based on their area of expertise. For instance, aerospace engineers will design modern aircraft using sophisticated computer equipment and software design tools. Biomedical engineers might work in hospitals to determine whether the devices they have created are improving the health and well-being of patients. Of course, there is overlap among these specialties, and some engineers will work closely with engineers from other disciplines. For instance, structural engineers may work closely with civil engineers to ensure that a planned building meets safety requirements.
As work environment can vary, so does salary. While engineering is a well-paying field, wages may differ based on discipline. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual wage of civil engineers was $82,710. Aerospace engineers, meanwhile, earned $103,870 in mean annual wages, which is substantially higher than the earnings of civil engineers. Of course, actual earnings can vary from BLS figures. Factors such as the individual’s qualifications, their location, and their employer will also affect their individual earnings.