1. Careers
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Engineer: Career Information

By

Turbine construction machine fitters with low pressure cylinder
Maxamillan Stock Ltd./Stone/Getty Images

Job Description:

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 including:

Employment Facts:

Engineers held 1.5 million jobs, according to 2012 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates. The greatest number of these jobs were in electrical and electronics engineering (295,520), civil engineering (258,100), mechanical engineering (252,540) and industrial engineering (243,620).

Educational Requirements:

To get an entry-level job, one usually needs a bachelor's degree in engineering. Sometimes a bachelor's degree in physical science or mathematics may suffice, especially in high-demand specialties. Generally engineering students specialize in a particular branch of engineering but may eventually work in a related one.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements?

Other Requirements:

Engineers who offer their services directly to the public must be licensed. These licensed engineers are called Professional Engineers (PE). To become licensed one must have 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.

Advancement Opportunities:

As entry level engineers gain experience and knowledge, they may work more independently, making decisions, developing designs, and solving problems. With further experience, engineers 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.

Why Do You Need to Know About Advancement?

Job Outlook:

In general, engineering employment is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2020, although outlook will vary by branch.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that environmental engineers will experience growth that is faster than the average for all occupations while biomedical engineers will experience growth that is much faster. Civil, petroleum, and geological and mining engineering will grow as fast as the average and industrial engineering will grow more slowly than the average.

Why Do You Need to Know About Job Outlook?

Earnings:

Recently graduates have higher average starting salaries than their counterparts with degrees in other fields of study. Salaries vary by branch of engineering and level of education.

Median annual earnings for several branches of engineering (US, 2012):

  • Electrical: $87,920
  • Civil: $79,340
  • Mechanical: $80,580
  • Environmental: $80,890
  • Nuclear: $104,270
  • Biomedical: $86,960

Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much engineers currently earn in your city.

What Do Engineers Do?:

Engineers who work in design and development:

  • design, plan, and supervise the construction of buildings, highways, and transit systems;
  • develop and implement improved ways to extract, process, and use raw materials;
  • develop new materials that both improve the performance of products and take advantage of advances in technology;
  • analyze the impact of the products they develop or the systems they design on the environment and on people using them;

Engineers who work in testing, production, or maintenance:

  • supervise production in factories;
  • determine the causes of breakdowns;
  • test manufactured products to maintain quality;
  • estimate the time and cost to complete projects;

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Engineers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos027.htm (visited June 25, 2013).
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oes/ (visited June 25, 2013).

Should You Become an Engineer? Take a Quiz to Find Out.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.