Engineering Career Overview
Engineering professionals employ mathematical and scientific principles to develop effective solutions to real-world, technical problems. Engineers design, develop and build machinery and complex systems used in the production of a large variety of consumer goods. Engineers are also instrumental in the development of buildings, interstate highways, and transportation systems. They are also responsible developing systems and machinery for extracting and processing many raw materials used by societies worldwide. They develop alternative power sources for mankind and are involved in finding new ways to take advantage of and apply the latest technological advancements. Engineers are responsible for improving the quality of healthcare, ensuring the availability and safety of the food we eat and the integrity of critical operational, financial and computer systems that support society. In essence, engineers are at the heart of everything important to the quality of human life.
Various factors are considered by engineering professionals before designing a new product. If, for example, an industrial robot is to be developed, the engineer will analyze the precise purpose of the robot, the parts and components of the robot, the specific design of those parts and integrate the various parts and test their efficiency. An engineer also has to test whether the finished product is effective, reliable, safe and has a low cost. Many industries such as the chemical industry, information technology and products like helicopters, gas turbines and toys make use of this process.
Engineering professionals are also engaged in testing, producing and maintaining activities, apart from designing and developing. They perform supervisory functions in industries and examine products and machinery to pinpoint the cause of quality-defects and breakdowns. Estimating the time taken to complete projects as well as the value of the completed projects is also determined by engineers. Engineers may specialize in management or sales. Technical aspects can be efficiently handled by engineers in the sales department and assistance in the plan, installation and usefulness of the product can also be rendered.
This document contains an overview of the field of engineering and is followed by individual statements on fourteen branches of engineering comprising- Aerospace, Agriculture, Biomedical, Chemical, Civil, Computer hardware, Electrical and Electronic (except Computers), Environmental, Industrial (including Health and Safety) Material, Mechanical, Mining and Geological (including mining safety), Nuclear and Petroleum Industry. All other branches which are not included in the ‘Handbook’ (like Architecture- developing the interior support structure of a building and Marine Engineering-designing machines and propulsion systems for ships) are contained in college programs.
Each branch of Engineering has a basic training and education which can be applied to other fields. For example, an Electronic engineer may work in Medicine, Computing, Communicating or Missile Guiding Industries. A large engineering project has many individual problems and thus engineering professional working on one field may collaborate closely with engineers in other science and business fields.
Computers are used by engineering professionals for production, analyzing, simulation and testing of product design as well as to check the operation and generate specifications for product components. Using communication systems like the internet, an engineer can discuss designs with other professionals throughout not only the country, but also the world. Computers are also use for monitoring the quality of the product and checking the efficiency of processes. A lot of time is spent by the engineers on written report and consultations with other professional because a complex project requires a disciplined team of engineers. Large parts of a project or an entire project is handled by a Supervisory engineer.
Career Training & Job Qualifications for Engineers
All entry level engineering jobs require a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering, however those who graduate in Physical science or Mathematics in college can qualify for certain high demand engineering specialties. Electrical, Electronic, Mechanical and Civil engineering are the most popular fields but engineers trained in one field can easily work in related fields; lots of Mechanical engineers go into Aerospace. This flexibility helps employers to fill in positions for new specialization and technology for which there may be less supply. It also helps engineers to change or shift from one branch to another to take advantage of their own interests as well as good employment opportunities.
Most of the engineering studies offer concentration of study in the student’s chosen specialty along with courses in mathematics and science. A design course as well as a computer or laboratory class is included in most programs.
Most colleges also offer a two-or four- year course in Engineering Technology, added to the standard Engineering degree. Rather than focusing on theoretical and scientific knowledge, these courses (which include various practical laboratory classes) focus on current issues and prepare students for designing and production work in a more practical sense. Thus, four-year Graduate students can secure jobs identical to the jobs obtained by students who graduate in the bachelor’s degree in Engineering. Graduates of Engineering Technology are not, however, allowed to register as professional engineers under the same regulations as graduates with engineering degrees. Engineering technology graduates are sometimes viewed as having skills which lie between that of a technician and that of an engineer by prospective employers.
Most of the entry-level engineering jobs do not require graduate training; however, it is essential for engineering faculty and research and development jobs. Graduate degrees in engineering or business administration are pursued by many engineering professional to acquaint themselves with the latest technology and to widen their horizons. Many top executives in the government and in industries had begun their careers as engineers.
It is essential that prospective students study the college curriculum and check accreditations before selecting a college because around 580 universities deal with engineering sciences. Around 340 colleges offer Bachelor’s degrees and are accredited by the ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) and around 240 universities offer accredited Bachelor’s degrees in Engineering Technology. ABET accreditation depends on the success of student achievement within the program, the improvement, faculty, content of curriculum, the facilities provided as well as the commitment of the institution. Although the major branches of engineering are offered by all universities, the small branches are offered by a small number of colleges. Even the content in each program may vary from university to university. Some engineering programs focus on practical knowledge, preparing students for jobs in a specific industry, while others use a more theoretical approach and prepare students for graduate studies. Hence it is important for students to examine the curricula meticulously before applying for a college.
Undergraduate engineering college require, as admission criterion, a solid background in mathematics (namely in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus etc), sciences (like biology, chemistry, physics) and knowledge of English, Social Sciences, Humanities and Information Technology. Although most bachelor degree programs are four year courses, it usually takes a student around four to five years to complete their Graduation. Mathematics, basic sciences, introduction to engineering, humanities and social studies are taught in the first two years and the major courses (concentrating on a specialization) is taught in the remaining two years. For instance, the last two years of Aerospace engineering may include courses in fluid mechanics, heat transfer, applied aerodynamics, analytical mechanics, flight vehicle design, trajectory dynamics, and aerospace propulsion systems. Some Engineering schools, however, offer basic engineering courses; students are then expected to specialize in Graduate studies or on the job.
There are certain engineering schools which have agreements with two year colleges who provide the initial training of the first two years and then take in students for studies in their remaining two years. Also, certain college arrangements allow a student to spend three years in a liberal arts college pursuing pre-engineering courses and spend two years in an engineering college studying core subjects, and receive a bachelor’s degree from each college. There are some schools which offer five year Master’s degree programs and others which offer five or six year cooperative plans which integrate theoretical and practical teachings and afford the students impressive experience while helping tem earn their way through college.
Licenses are required for engineering professionals in all the 50 states and the District of Columbia, if their services are offered directly to the public. Licensed engineers are called Professional Engineers (PE). A degree from an ABET accredited engineering college, four years of practical and pertinent work experience as well as passing in a State examination are required for a license. The licensing process can be handled in two stages by a recent graduate. The first exam—Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) can be completed after graduation. Students who pass this examination are called Engineering Interns (EI) or Engineers in Training (EIT) and call take the second test after work experience. This is the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. In case students need to re apply for licensing, there are certain continuing education required imposed by many states. States recognize licensures from other states if the other state has license conditions which equal or exceed those of their own state. A lot of Civil, Electrical, Mechanical and Chemical engineer are licensed PEs.
Engineering Job and Employment Opportunities
Employment opportunities for engineering professionals are expected to increase in the 2002-2012 period. Two reasons for low demand for engineers are because previously, engineering professionals were concentrated in the manufacturing segment which is a slow growing industry and because employers were outsourcing engineering services from foreign countries. Despite these conditions, the new job openings will be expected to absorb all engineering graduates during this period. Specialization in engineering fields also causes variation in employment opportunities. According to studies, decline in employment of engineers in mining, geological, petroleum and nuclear fields and an above average growth in environmental fields is projected.
Competition and new technology are forcing companies to upgrade and develop new product designs and to attain optimization and efficiency regarding manufacturing. Thus employers are relying on reengineering professionals to achieve greater productivity, as the amount invested in plant and building will lead to expansion in the output of goods and services. The advances in Information Technology enable engineers to improve product design more quickly and efficiently than before and help them collaborate with engineers overseas. These widespread applications of the computer and communication systems are not likely to limit employment but help engineers to do their job better. Public Facilities like road, bridges, water ways etc as well as methods of pollution control need to be improved and upgraded by engineers.
One factor which is responsible for low growth of engineering job opportunities is the availability of a large quantity of trained English speaking engineers in other countries who work as low salaries as compared to US citizens. These foreign engineers can contact employers in the US due to the rise of internet and communication systems and thus reduce the number of jobs available to native engineers.
In comparison with other workers, a very small proportion of engineering professionals leave their jobs every year. However, new job opening will arise to fulfill replacement needs, which reflects the large size of the engineering profession. Many new jobs will be created by engineering professionals who get transferred to managing, sales and other such occupations; others will be created when engineers leave due to retirement and other personal reasons.
A large number of engineering professionals work in long-term R&D projects or in certain other enterprises which proceed even during economic depressions and slow periods. In electronics and aerospace industries, huge cutbacks in defense, government research and development funds as well as hiring foreign and domestic engineering firms for fulfilling contracts, has lead to a downfall in demand for engineers.
Therefore, it is important for engineering professionals (especially those who work in other technical occupations) to pursue their education throughout their careers because knowledge of new technology is a great boon for employers. Even though the speed of technological innovations depends on engineering specialty and field, technical advances have had a significant affect on every engineering discipline. Engineers involved in technological fields like advanced electronics and the IT industry find out that technical knowledge becomes outdated very quickly. Engineers who pursue their education may also find themselves ousted out of the industry if their specialized technology or product line becomes obsolete. The best solution and the greatest benefit is provided by those engineers who keep up-to-date with technological changes. Those who do not keep abreast of changes in their field are prone to loosing beneficial promotions or jobs. The high- technology fields provide the highest pay while having the greatest challenges and the most interesting work. Thus the choosing a specialty in engineering not only involves an overview of gains that a field provides, but also the risk of becoming obsolete once the technology is upgraded.
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