What is the Job of an Engineer? Top Jobs and Careers
If you are planning to start an engineering career and want to know what the job of an engineer entails, then this post will be useful to you.
It explains the role of engineers in the society and how to become one, as well as the skills and qualities you need to develop to succeed in the career.
What is the Job of an Engineer?
Engineers apply their knowledge of math, science, and technology in solving society problems and meeting its needs.
Most engineering works entails the design and development of products of economic value, including chemicals, cars, toys, computers, planes, phones, and powerplants.
The process of product creation usually involves specifying the functional requirements of the product, designing and testing its components, integrating the various components to make the final design, and lastly, evaluating the product’s overall effectiveness, reliability, safety, and cost.
Apart from designing and developing products, many engineers also work in the testing, production, and maintenance industry where they supervise the production of items in factories, find out why a component fails, and ensure the quality of manufactured products by carrying out appropriate testing.
It is also their responsibility to determine the cost and time a project may take to complete.
The use of computers is central to the work of engineers. Computers enable engineers to create and analyze designs, generate specifications for components, test and simulate the workings of system, machine, or structure, control and improve process efficiency, and check product quality.
There are six major branches of the engineering profession. These include chemical, mechanical, geotechnical, civil, management, and electrical, with each of these branches having hundreds of subcategories.
The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system of the Federal Government recognizes 17 engineering specialties while many more are recognized by professional associations.
Here are the 17 engineering specialties recognized by the SOC and summary of the job they do:
- Electrical Engineering: this involves designing, developing, testing, and supervision of electrical equipment manufacturing, such as machinery controls, electric motors, wiring in buildings, and lighting. Others include communication systems, radar and navigation systems, transmission devices, control, and power generation equipment used by electric utilities. Electrical engineers are also responsible for designing electrical systems for aircraft and automobiles.
- Aerospace Engineering: this involves designing, testing, and supervising the manufacturing of aircraft, missiles, and spacecraft. Engineers who work with aircraft are known as aeronautical engineers while those who work with spacecraft are astronautical engineers.
- Civil Engineering: this involves designing and supervising large construction projects such as roads, airports, dams, tunnels, building, bridges, and sewage and water supply systems.
- Biomedical Engineering: this involves combining the knowledge of biology, medicine, and engineering principles and practices to developing procedures and medical devices that bring solutions to challenges in the health sector.
- Chemical Engineering: this involves the application of principles of chemistry, math, physics, and mechanical and electrical engineering in designing equipment and processes for the large-scale production of chemicals and other products. Chemical engineers may also supervise manufacturing processes in factories.
- Computer hardware engineering: this involves designing, developing, testing, and supervising the production and installation of computer chips, computer systems, circuit boards, keyboards, printers, routers, and other computer hardware products.
- Agricultural Engineering: this involves applying knowledge of engineering principles to designing equipment, machinery, structures, and processes to solving problems and improving processes in the agricultural industry.
- Nuclear Engineering: this involves researching and developing processes, systems, and instruments to harness opportunities in nuclear energy and radiation. Nuclear engineers are responsible for designing, developing, operating, and supervising work at nuclear plants to generate power.
- Industrial Engineering: this involves finding the most effective ways to utilize the primary factors of production, including people, materials, machines, energy, and information in manufacturing a product or provision of a service. Industrial engineers apply mathematical methods and models in designing effective manufacturing and information systems to meet product requirements and improve efficiency in production process.
- Environmental Engineering: this involves the application of principles of chemistry and biology in creating solutions to environmental challenges. Environmental engineers are involved in air and water pollution control, waste disposal, recycling, and public health problems.
- Health and Safety Engineering: this involves the use of systems engineering knowledge and human performance, chemical, and mechanical principles to develop procedures and designs that safeguard people and property form possible harm. Health and safety engineers help identify and measure sources of potential danger and then recommend the right loss prevention measures.
- Mechanical Engineering: this involves researching, designing, developing, manufacturing, and testing of machines, engines, tools, and other mechanical equipment. Mechanical engineers work on both power-producing machines such as internal combustion engines, electric generators, steam and gas turbines and power-consuming machines such as machine tools, air-conditioning equipment and refrigeration, material-handling systems, and industrial production equipment.
- Marine Engineering and Naval Architects: this involves designing, constructing, and maintaining ships, boats, and other marine-related equipment. Marine engineers utilize knowledge from various fields to master the entire process of designing and producing all forms of water vehicles, including submarines, tankers, sailboats, and aircraft carriers.
- Mining and Geological Engineering: this involves locating, extracting, and preparing metals, minerals, and coal for utilities and manufacturing industries to use. Mining engineers ensure mines are operated within established safety and environmental regulations.
- Materials Engineering: this involves developing, processing, and testing materials required for creating various groups of products, including golf clubs, batteries, aircraft wings, and computer chips. Materials engineers work with various substances, such as ceramics, metals, plastics, composites, and semiconductors in creating new materials that satisfy certain chemical, electrical, and mechanical requirements.
- Petroleum Engineering: this involves designing processes to effectively extract oil and gas from deposits below the earth surface. Petroleum engineers ensure designed processes achieve maximum oil and gas extraction that produces high levels of profitability.
- Electronics engineering: this involves designing, developing, testing, and supervising the manufacturing of electronic equipment, including broadcast and communications systems, and portable music players.
Top Engineering Jobs and Salaries
As an occupation that helps bring solution to societal complex problems, most engineering jobs will continue to grow.
According to report from the bureau of labor statistics, BLS, biomedical engineers will experience the highest job growth of all engineering specialties. Its employment growth is estimated to be 23.1% between 2014 and 2024. The report also showed the annual median salary of biomedical engineers in 2015 to be $86,220.
The next engineering field to have the highest increase in jobs between 2014 and 2024 is environmental engineers with a 12.4% increase in employment. The median annual salary for 2015 was $84,560
Petroleum engineering come next with a 9.8% job growth (with median annual salary of $129,990 in 2015), while marine engineering and naval architects follows with 8.9% growth (with 2015 median annual salary of $93,110), then followed by civil engineering with 8.4% employment growth (with 2015 median annual salary of $82,220).
Mining and geological engineering jobs will grow by 6.4% (with median annual salary of $94,040 in 2015), health and safety engineering, except mining by 6.2% (2015 median annual salary of $84,600), and mechanical engineering by 5.3% (2015 median annual salary of $83,590).
Some engineering specialties will however lose jobs, according to the BLS 2014-24 report.
Electronics engineering jobs, except computer will shrink by -1.4% (2015 median annual salary of $98,270), aerospace engineering by -2.3% (2015 median annual salary of $107,830), and nuclear engineering by -4.0% (2015 median annual salary of $102,950).
Skills and Qualities for Engineering Jobs
Engineers need to have certain skills and qualities to be effective on their job. Here are important qualities most employers of engineers normally require from prospective hires:
- Must be detailed oriented and creative with inquisitive and analytical mind
- Great people skills with the ability to perform excellently in a team setting
- Strong ability to communicate both in writing and speaking effectively.
How to Become an Engineer: Training and Career Guide
To become an engineer, you must have strong grades in math courses, including algebra, trigonometry, geometry, and calculus in high school. You must also be good in the science courses, including physics, biology, and chemistry. You will also need to have a solid background in English, humanities, and social studies courses.
After completing your high school diploma program, you will need to enroll for a four year bachelor’s degree program in engineering with an ABET accredited college or university.
Usually, in the first two years of a bachelor’s engineering degree program, you will be required to take courses such as mathematics, introductory engineering, basic sciences, social sciences, and humanities, while the last two years will have you take most courses in engineering, with focus on one specialty.
However, some programs offer a four year general engineering program where graduates are expected to specialize on the job after graduating from college, or when they enroll in a graduate school.
After completing your training program at college, you will need to obtain a license to practice in any of the States. Licensing procedure varies with each state but generally entails taking an exam after four years of relevant work experience.
You will be designated as professional engineer, PE, after obtaining a license.
Fresh graduates can start work towards getting a license and becoming a professional engineer by taking the licensure exam in two stages. The first exam is the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE), which can be taken immediately after graduation from college.
Having passed this exam, you will be designated Engineer in training (EIT) or Engineer Intern (EI). After some relevant work experience as an EIT, you can take the second exam known as the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.
If you are thinking of starting a career in engineering, this post will help you learn about the various engineering jobs available and how to become the engineer you are suited for.