Engineering is a broad field that encompasses everything from designing bridges to computer hardware to artificial organs. That’s one reason the National Society of Professional Engineers established National Engineers Week almost 70 years ago – to call attention to the important contributions engineers make to society.
Held annually during the week of George Washington’s birthday, since Washington is considered the nation’s first engineer, Engineers Week is also an opportunity to bring engineering careers to life for students, educators and parents.
Engineering is a growing and lucrative field, with nearly 140,000 new jobs projected for the decade ending in 2026 and a median salary over $90,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Engineering is typically divided into four main categories – chemical, civil, mechanical and electrical – but there are many highly specialized subcategories dedicated to solving a wide range of problems.
About 23 percent of new engineering jobs are projected to be for civil engineers, the largest engineering occupation. Civil engineers study and design infrastructure, such as bridges, roads, dams, water systems, earthquake-proof buildings and more.
Mechanical and industrial engineers are second and third in projected job growth, accounting for about 36 percent of new engineering jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. One of the broadest engineering fields, mechanical engineering involves the design of mechanical systems in industries like manufacturing, nuclear power production, HVAC, and nanotechnology. Industrial engineering is more focused on how to streamline processes, or how to make or do things better.
Manufacturing employed more than 578,000 engineers in 2016, the most of any industry, the BLS states. Within manufacturing, the largest number of engineering jobs were related to the production of computer and electronic products, transportation equipment and machinery.
In terms of salary, the highest paid among the engineering occupations are petroleum engineers, who design equipment and develop methods of extracting oil and gas from below the earth’s surface. In 2018, their median annual salary was over $137,000, according to the BLS.
Here is a look at a few of the other opportunities within the broad field of engineering:
Aerospace: These engineers design, analyze, model, simulate and test various aircraft, rockets, satellites and other craft. Aerospace engineers may help develop space mission protocol or design aircraft for the military.
Agricultural: These engineers study science and biology to develop efficient measures to grow and maintain plant life. Many agricultural engineers now focus on protecting resources and the environment.
Biomedical: These engineers combine knowledge of biology and medicine to develop technologies related to health care. Diagnostic machines, artificial organs, joint replacement components and medical instruments are just the tip of the iceberg.
Chemical: Chemical engineers discover and manufacture medicines, fertilizers, plastics, paints and other chemicals used at home and for commercial purposes.
Computer hardware: Thanks to the digital age, computer hardware engineers are in high demand. These professionals research and develop components like memory devices, networks, routers, circuit boards and other device-related hardware.
Electrical: The design, testing and manufacturing of electrical components is key to this field. Electrical engineers work on motors, navigation systems, communication technology and more.