Engineering Careers and the Education You'll Need

If you think you'd like to enter the engineering field but don't know what to do next, read on for a step-by-step guide.

What is an engineer?

Engineering is the art of applying scientific and mathematical principles, experience, judgment, and common sense to make things that benefit people. Engineers design bridges and important medical equipment as well as processes for cleaning up toxic spills and systems for mass transit. Engineering is the process of producing a technical product or system to meet a specific need.

 

What types of engineers are there?

The five largest engineering areas are:

There are also more specialized engineering fields, including:

What qualities do successful engineers have?

  • Strong in mathematics and science
  • Highly analytical and detail oriented
  • Imaginative and creative
  • Good communication skills
  • Enjoy working in teams
  • Enjoy building or improving the way things work

Should I earn a master's or doctorate engineering degree?

This depends on your career goals and what area of engineering you'd like to practice:

  • Master’s programs are designed to expand and deepen the knowledge and skills acquired as an undergraduate. Master's degree programs in engineering require two years of full-time graduate study.
     
  • Doctoral programs require five-to-seven years of graduate study, while PhD programs are generally designed for people primarily interested in research and education in the engineering field.

Do I need to be licensed as an engineer?

All states require licensure for engineers who offer their services directly to the public. Engineers who are licensed are called Professional Engineers (PE). Civil, mechanical structural, industrial and environmental engineers are most likely to seek licensure because they often work for government agencies. Computer engineers are least likely to seek licensure.

Although licensure laws vary, most boards require four steps:

  • Earn a bachelor's degree in engineering from a school accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)
  • Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination
  • Complete at least four years of engineering experience
  • Pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) examination