Most engineers specialize. Following are details on the 17 engineering specialties covered in the Federal Government’s Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. Numerous other specialties are recognized by professional societies, and each of the major branches of engineering has numerous subdivisions. Civil engineering, for example, includes structural and transportation engineering, and materials engineering includes ceramic, metallurgical, and polymer engineering. Engineers also may specialize in one industry, such as motor vehicles, or in one type of technology, such as turbines or semiconductor materials.
Aerospace engineers design, develop, and test aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles and supervise the manufacture of these products. Those who work with aircraft are called aeronautical engineers, and those working specifically with spacecraft are astronautical engineers.
Agricultural engineers apply knowledge of engineering technology and science to agriculture and the efficient use of biological resources. Some engineers specialize in areas such as power systems and machinery design; structures and environment engineering; and food and bioprocess engineering.
Biomedical engineers develop devices and procedures that solve medical and health-related problems by combining their knowledge of biology and medicine with engineering principles and practices. Some specialties within biomedical engineering include biomaterials, biomechanics, medical imaging, rehabilitation engineering, and orthopedic engineering.
Chemical engineers apply the principles of chemistry to solve problems involving the production or use of chemicals and biochemicals. They design equipment and processes for large-scale chemical manufacturing, plan and test methods of manufacturing products and treating byproducts, and supervise production.
Civil engineers design and supervise the construction of roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and water supply and sewage systems.
Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, test, and oversee the manufacture and installation of computer hardware. The work of computer hardware engineers is very similar to that of electronics engineers in that they may design and test circuits and other electronic components, but computer hardware engineers do that work only as it relates to computers and computer-related equipment.
Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment. Electrical engineers specialize in areas such as power systems engineering or electrical equipment manufacturing.
Electronics engineers, except computer are responsible for a wide range of technologies. Many electronics engineers also work in areas closely related to computers. Electronics engineers specialize in areas such as communications, signal processing, and control systems or have a specialty within one of these areas—control systems or aviation electronics, for example.
Environmental engineers develop solutions to environmental problems using the principles of biology and chemistry. They are involved in water and air pollution control, recycling, waste disposal, and public health issues. Many environmental engineers work as consultants, helping their clients to comply with regulations, to prevent environmental damage, and to clean up hazardous sites.
Health and safety engineers, except mining safety engineers and inspectors prevent harm to people and property by applying knowledge of systems engineering and mechanical, chemical, and human performance principles.
Industrial engineers determine the most effective ways to use the basic factors of production—people, machines, materials, information, and energy—to make a product or provide a service.
Marine engineers and naval architects are involved in the design, construction, and maintenance of ships, boats, and related equipment. They design and supervise the construction of everything from aircraft carriers to submarines, and from sailboats to tankers. Marine engineers and naval architects apply knowledge from a range of fields to the entire design and production process of all water vehicles.
Materials engineers are involved in the development, processing, and testing of the materials used to create a range of products, from computer chips and aircraft wings to golf clubs and snow skis.
Mechanical engineers research, design, develop, manufacture, and test tools, engines, machines, and other mechanical devices. Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines.
Mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers find, extract, and prepare coal, metals, and minerals for use by manufacturing industries and utilities.
Nuclear engineers research and develop the processes, instruments, and systems used to derive benefits from nuclear energy and radiation. They design, develop, monitor, and operate nuclear plants to generate power.
Petroleum engineers search the world for reservoirs containing oil or natural gas.