Engineering Schools and Careers

Higher education and salary

If you're someone who loves to solve complex technical problems, an engineering school can provide you with the skills to transform your passion into a career. Not only will you be able to perform one of hundreds of interesting jobs, you'll be well compensated, earning a higher starting salary than many other graduates with similar education levels.

How long will it take?

A bachelor's degree is a necessity when training to become an engineer. If your plan involves making the most money and getting the best job, it doesn't hurt to aim for a master's or Ph.D. You don't have to get it all in one shot though; many people enter the workforce after a four-year bachelor's program and take part-time courses to upgrade their qualifications later. Schooling options are almost limitless. To become an engineering technician, which is essentially an engineer's helper, it can take as little as a two-year associate's degree.

Skills and requirements

All engineers will have to be trained in math and science. Courses can include chemistry, physics, biology, trigonometry and geometry. Many engineers have to be knowledgeable in several specialties and there are different courses required by each specialty.

Engineers developing products have to consider function while integrating components into a specified design. Afterwards they must evaluate the product for its safety, cost and usefulness. These products can be anything from children's toys to automated manufacturing robots.

Engineers developing processes or working on bigger projects do essentially the same thing, just tailored to their specialty. They look at things that need to be done or things they would like to do and find the most cost-effective and safest way to go about it.

Essential engineer traits:

  • Analytical
  • Creative
  • Detail oriented
  • Inquisitive
  • Good communicator (oral and written)

New engineers are often supervised by more experienced professionals or receive job-specific training through company seminars. As they learn they'll be given increased independence and responsibility.

Engineering specialties

There are 17 main engineering specialties and each has their own subfield. For example, some biomedical engineers specialize in biomaterials or biomechanics subfields.

  • Chemical engineers - In the production and use of chemicals and biochemicals, these engineers are in demand. They design equipment and processes for manufacturing and treating byproducts, as well as supervising production. They may work for electronics, paper or clothing manufacturers, or in biotechnology or healthcare. Some choose to focus on subdivisions of the specialty, such as oxidation and polymerization. Others work in a specific field, such as product development.
  • Civil engineers - Almost any construction project involving roads, bridges, tunnels, dams, buildings or water and sewage systems is designed and supervised by a team of civil engineers. They must be able to estimate cost and project lifespan, while following regulations and foreseeing possible effects of natural disasters. Civil engineers must be well-versed in many other types of engineering, including environmental and structural. They find jobs as construction site supervisors, designers or city employees. Others work in the research field.
  • Electronics engineers (except computers) - MP3 and CD players, GPS (global positioning systems) and aviation electronics all have one thing in common. They were designed, developed and tested by electronics engineers. These professionals often focus on one or more subfields, which can include signal processing and telecommunications. They can also have a specialty within a subfield.

Other engineers

  • Aerospace engineers
  • Agricultural engineers
  • Biomedical engineers
  • Computer hardware engineers
  • Electrical engineers
  • Environmental engineers
  • Health and safety engineers (except mining safety engineers and inspectors)
  • Industrial engineers
  • Marine engineers and naval architects
  • Materials engineers
  • Mechanical engineers
  • Mining and geological engineers (includes mining safety engineers)
  • Nuclear engineers
  • Petroleum engineers