Engineering Careers

Career Information

Engineers at work
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Do you like solving technical problems? Are you good at science and math? You might consider becoming an engineer. Engineers are problem solvers who use their expertise in science and math to do their job. They work in various branches of engineering. Let's take a look at several of them:

  • Aerospace Engineer: Designs aircraft and test prototypes to make sure they function as designed.
  • Agricultural Engineer: Solves problems related to agriculture
  • Biomedical Engineer: Designs prosthetic limbs and artificial organs, as well as the material used to manufacture them.
  • Chemical Engineer: Solves problems that involve the production or use of chemicals. 
  • Civil Engineer: Design, builds and supervises construction projects and systems.
  • Electrical and Electronics Engineer: Designs and tests electrical equipment and systems.
  • Environmental Engineer: Solves problems in the environment. 

Quick Facts

  • Median annual earnings for several branches of engineering (U.S., 2015):

  • Engineers held 1.6 million jobs, according to the 2015 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates. Most of them were in electrical and electronics engineering (313,970), mechanical engineering (278,340), civil engineering (275,210),  and industrial engineering (272,470).
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts environmental and petroleum engineers will experience growth that is faster than the average for all occupations through 2024 while employment of biomedical engineers will be much faster. Employment of civil and mining and geological engineers will grow as fast as the average for all occupations and employment of industrial engineers will change little or not at all.

    A Day in the Life of an Engineer

    What is it like to be an engineer? We found some answers by looking at typical job duties listed in employment announcements on

    • "Prepare roadway plans, detail drawings, project specifications, and cost estimate" (Civil Engineer)
    • "Provide civil engineering and design support for large earth structures including dams, landfills, mining projects, and power projects" (Civil Engineer)
    • "Design and execute engineering experiments, and statistical parameter control" (Mechanical Engineer)
    • "Prepare engineering calculations, diagrams and technical reports" (Electrical Engineer)
    • "Write technical and regulatory documents in compliance with quality management system" (Biomedical Engineer)
    • "Oversee and manage the setup, performance, and reporting of the laboratory testing. Ensure that projects are completed on schedule and within budgetary constraints" (Environmental Engineer)
    • Document and present analysis results to technical leads, management and/or customers" (Aerospace Engineer)
    • "Research, draft, and coordinate acquisition packages for materials being purchased or upgraded" (Materials Engineer)

    How to Become an Engineer

    To get an entry-level job, you will need to earn a bachelor's degree in engineering. Sometimes a bachelor's degree in physical science or mathematics may suffice, especially in high-demand specialties. Some students specialize in a particular branch of engineering but then eventually work in a related one.

    If you want to offer your services directly to the public and be called a Professional Engineer (PE), you will have to get a state-issued license. This requires a degree from a program that is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), four years of relevant work experience, and successful completion of a state examination.

    Requirements vary by state.

    What Soft Skills Do You Need?

    In addition to your education and an aptitude for math and science, you need certain soft skills, or personal qualities, to succeed in this occupation.

    • Active Listening and Verbal Communication: These communication skills are essential for working on teams.
    • Critical Thinking: You will need to use logic when testing products and solving problems.
    • Reading Comprehension: You must have the ability to understand written documentation.
    • Active Learning: You must be able to incorporate new findings into your work.

    How Do Engineers Advance in Their Careers?

    As entry level engineers gain experience and knowledge, they may work more independently, making decisions, developing designs, and solving problems. With further experience, they may become technical specialists or supervisors over a staff or team of engineers or technicians.

    Eventually, they may become engineering managers, or may move into other managerial or sales jobs.

    What Will Employers Expect From You?

    To find out what qualities employers were looking for when hiring engineers, in addition to education and technical skills, we again turned to Here's what we found:

    • "Strong communication and interpersonal skills are required"
    • "Ability to organize work and deliver on time work products"
    • "Goal oriented – able to set goals and achieve them"
    • "Ability to take ownership of assigned tasks in a timely manner, and learn new principle ideas and concepts"
    • "Organized, self-motivated, and detail-oriented, with the ability to adapt quickly in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment"
    • "Ability to read and interpret product drawings."

    Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

    • Holland Code: RIC (Realistic, Investigative, Conventional)
    • MBTI Personality Types: ENTJ, INTJ, ESTJ, ISTJ, ESTP (Tieger, Paul D., Barron, Barbara, and Tieger, Kelly. (2014) Do What You Are. NY: Hatchette Book Group.)


    Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 (visited May 8, 2016 ).
    Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited May 8, 2016).

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