Simply put, engineers use science and math to develop solutions to technical problems. There are many kinds of engineers, each specializing in a particular aspect of building, planning, or problem solving. Engineers can find careers in government in the fields of aerospace, agriculture, biomedicine, chemistry, civil engineering, electricity, and the environment. They can also help protect public health and safety, design ocean-going vessels, or develop mechanical innovations in engines and turbines.
Aerospace engineers design and test aircraft, spaceships, and missiles and oversee their manufacture. They develop new technologies in structural design, guidance, navigation and control, instrumentation and communication, and production methods. Some also specialize in specific types of aerospace products, including commercial aircraft, military fighter jets, helicopters, spacecraft, and missiles and rockets. As changing times call for new innovations, including the possibility of a need to fight new kinds of wars, these kinds of engineers are likely to be in demand. There always has been, and it appears there always will be, a need for engineers who design weapons of war.
Agricultural engineers use their knowledge of technology and science to determine the efficient use of biological resources. They design machinery and equipment. They specialize in areas like power systems, machinery design, structural and environmental engineering, and food engineering. They find ways to conserve soil and often work in areas like research and development, production, sales, or management.
Biomedical engineers build devices and devise procedures to solve medical and health-related problems by combining biology and medicine with engineering practices. They also create new technologies in medicine, in the form of machinery and medicine. The famous film director John Huston was once asked what steps he took that resulted in such a long and creatively productive life. “Surgery,” was his answer. Indeed, there have been great strides in the medical profession in the last few decades. Many people are alive today because of cutting-edge procedures that did not exist until recently, including new surgical techniques, new ways to transplant critical organs, and new ways to fight fatal diseases such as some forms of cancer and even AIDS.
The history of the United States is full of notable engineers. The Holland Tunnel, used by scores of Manhattan commuters each day, was named for its chief engineer, Clifford Holland. Twentieth-century Renaissance man Buckminster Fuller engineered the geodesic dome as a sturdy and inexpensive living structure. And the Brooklyn Bridge was designed by engineer John August Roebling.
Chemical engineers apply principles of chemistry, physics, mathematics, and mechanical and electrical engineering. They may specialize in fields like materials science, where they participate in and contribute to the development of specific products such as plastics, medicine, detergents, and fuels.
Civil engineers design and supervise the building of roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and water-supply and sewage systems. Civil engineering is one of the oldest engineering disciplines and includes many specialties: structural, water resources, construction, environmental, transportation, and geotechnical engineering. Many civil engineers work in supervisory positions, whether that means supervising a construction site or working as a city engineer.
Electrical engineers design, develop, and manufacture electrical equipment, such as electric motors, machinery controls, lighting, wiring in buildings, planes, trains, automobiles, and more.
Environmental engineers endeavor to create solutions to environmental problems using the sciences of biology and chemistry. They are involved in curbing water and air pollution, encouraging recycling, waste disposal, and solving public health issues. They deal with the proper disposal of hazardous waste. They struggle to reduce the effects of acid rain, global warming, automobile emissions, and ozone depletion. They are involved with the protection of endangered species.
Health and Safety
Health and safety engineers promote worksite and product safety by applying knowledge of industrial processes and how they interact with mechanical, chemical, and human performance. They identify and measure hazards to people and property, including the risk of fires and the dangers involved in working with toxic chemicals. These are the engineers who are helping to reduce harmful toxins in the air, water, and all other aspects of people's lives, in particular their workplaces.
Industrial engineers determine the best way to produce products and services by inspecting the essential factors of production: people, machines, materials, information, and energy. They then strive to integrate these elements to maximize a company's productivity.
There are many well-trained, English-speaking engineers around the world willing to work at much lower salaries than U.S. engineers. The Internet has made it easy for engineering to be done by professionals in other countries. This trend will tend to hinder employment opportunities. However, the need for onsite engineers to interact with other employees and with clients will not change.
Marine engineers and naval architects are involved in the design, construction, and maintenance of ships, boats, and related equipment — everything from aircraft carriers to submarines. They bring knowledge from a variety of disciplines to the design and production process of seafaring vessels. The ocean is truly “the undiscovered country.” Scientists know more about the surface of the moon and Mars than they do about the deep recesses of the world's oceans. More and more previously unknown species are being discovered every year, and marine engineers are among those leading the way in discovering this new territory.
Mechanical engineers are involved in the research, development, and building of engines, machines, electric generators, internal combustion engines, and steam and gas turbines, and many other kinds of machines.