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Answered December 21 2019
Some of the different types of engineering include Aerospace Engineers, Civil Engineers, Electrical Engineers, Biomedical Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, Reliability Engineers, and Maintenance Engineers. The training requirements to become an engineer are robust, but they are highly dependent on the industry you choose. With so many options, it can often be hard to know where to start. Whether you are at the beginning of your professional journey, or are making a career switch to a new industry, engineering is an incredible place to start. We've simplified the complex process for you and have narrowed down the industry into 7 broad sectors. Let's take a look at what each different engineering job looks like, the history of the field, and what each one requires in terms of education, training, and growth potential.
Aerospace engineers work with airplanes, airports, and all things related to human flight and aviation. Beginning in the 19th century, aerospace technology has quickly expanded since the first airship. Aerospace engineers can be found in manufacturing settings, as well as larger governmental contract companies, like Boeing or Northrop Grumman.
Though flight seems to be a recent technological development, surprisingly, the Aerospace industry has been around for at least the past two centuries. The first steam-powered airship was pioneered in 1852 by Jules Henri Giffard. It would be impossible to mention the field of aerospace engineering without a nod to the founders of the original airplane, Orville and Wilbur Wright. For a momentous 59 seconds, the Wright brothers flew the first airplane. As aviation equipment has grown more expansive, the industry has evolved from commercial flight into the realms of spacecraft aviation and military operations. With the development of the modern helicopter in 1942, aviation and modern flight took off and needed the right people to support and maintain important equipment for all sectors.
The engineers who create and take care of the roads, city buildings, water supplies and more. Civil engineers ensure strong infrastructure and are at the forefront of how structures are built. The field of civil engineering is in many industries, whether it is environmental engineering or wastewater management, civil engineers have a strong foundation in physics and mathematics to keep your building foundations in place.
The first remnants of the civil engineering industry were seen in 2000 BC in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Water management systems in Ancient Greece in the Parthenon demonstrated that society at the time had the basic skills in civil infrastructure.
The Institution of Civil Engineers was of the earliest organizations to support the labor of civil engineers. Founded in London in 1818, the society defines the scope of civil engineering as "directing the great sources of power in nature for the use and convenience of [all people] as applied in the construction of roads, bridges, aqueducts, canals, river navigation and docks for internal intercourse and exchange, and in the construction of ports, harbours, moles, breakwaters and lighthouses, and in the art of navigation by artificial power for the purposes of commerce."
These professionals are very used to wiring the various electrical systems that power our world, from your home to the North American grid. Electrical engineers can be found across industries, including finance, renewable energy, and corporate banking.
The earliest signs of electrical engineering was seen in a manuscript of Thomas Browne's Pseudodoxia Epidemica in 1646. Following this, Francis Hauksbee, discovered the earliest remnants of the gas-discharge lamp in 1705, preceding the First Industrial Revolution. Inventions like the radio and electronics in the earliest 20th century propelled electrical engineering into the modern era. Today, semiconductor electronics are at the forefront of the industry, as new developments come underway every day.
At the intersection of biology and tech are the biomedical engineers. They are concerned with the care of humans today and in the future. When it comes to the intersection of healthcare and technology, biomedical engineers apply the principles of the life sciences, biomaterials, medical imaging, and cellular or tissue reconstruction.
The founding of biomedical engineering can be traced to the early 17th century, by Robert Hooke and colleagues. They were the first to explore the depths of engineering as it relates to the human health sciences. Academic biomedical engineering departments first sprung in the 1970s, housed in major public universities like University of California, Berkeley, University of Michigan, among others.
All the parts in many different machines started out on a mechanical engineer’s desk at some point in time. Mechanical engineers are the lead examiners, designers, and parts creators of the engines that operate in our world. Mechanical engineers research, design, develop and test mechanical and thermal devices including tools, engines, and machines.
While it is difficult to assign an official timestamp to the founding of mechanical engineering, the earliest signs of the industry as we know it began in 1847. The Institute of Mechanical Engineers started this year in England, forming as a professional society for leaders in the industry to connect and support one another. Today, evolving technologies like 3D printing are rapidly revolutionizing the industry. With more changes to evolve in the coming decade, expect to see an influx of mechanical engineers permeating new sectors of nanotechnology, structural analysis, and robotics.
A reliability engineer ensures that machines or equipment operates as it was intended to do, at maximum efficiency, and at minimal organizational spend. A reliability engineer assesses risk management, performing root cause analysis and understanding why equipment fails.
While historians disagree on the origination of reliability engineering, one event remains noteworthy. It is argued that the telegraph formed the basis of reliability as a field. Failure modes are critical to this invention, whether it is a case of faulty wires or loss of power. With the advent of technology in the early 20th century, with inventions popping up like the radio, air conditioning, and automobiles, understanding the breakdown of equipment became critical components of the industry as a whole. Today, we see reliability as crucial to the transformation of the maintenance industry.
Numerous universities offer quality and reliability engineering degrees. Some of the more notable programs include those listed below.
Some of the top reliability engineering programs found stateside include the following:
Behind the scenes and underserved by technology companies, maintenance engineers are at the forefront of keeping equipment running and operating. Maintenance engineers are considered part of the deskless workforce. While 80% of the global workforce does not sit at a desk, less than 1% of venture capital is funneled towards this population. A maintenance engineer installs, troubleshoots, and repairs equipment. Additionally, a maintenance engineer can adapt to the demands and needs of his or her organization. Sometimes, a maintenance engineer also holds the roles of maintenance planner and maintenance supervisor, obfuscating the binary of engineer and maintenance staffers. By implementing proactive maintenance strategies, such as utilizing a temperature sensor in refrigeration to assess failure modes, maintenance engineers ensure the smooth operation of heavy-duty industrial equipment.
Maintenance Engineering is a relatively new concept in the development of repair strategies and equipment. In the early 1940s, the main method of asset and equipment management is notice when something isn't working and then respond. Maintenance strategies developed as a practice in late 1940s following the Second World War, as the manufacturing industry was booming in the post-war era. During this time, planned Preventive maintenance and time-based maintenance emerged, as people were beginning to think about how we can have our machinery operating as effectively as it was intended. The Rio Grande Railway Company founded condition-based maintenance, as a way to address and prevent fuel leaks. Now, we're seeing emerging IoT technologies redefining and revolutionizing the future of condition-based maintenance.
Sustainable engineering is a set of engineering practices that focuses on using resources in ways that do not deplete, destroy, or otherwise harm the resources of the future. True sustainable engineering practices extend through all aspects of engineering in a connected, orderly fashion that reaches the company or business goals in question without compromising the principles of it.
The principles of sustainable engineering include:
-oriented towards the future, not just the short term.-concerned about the impact of things, both positive and negative-separates needs from wants and focuses on the needs-and allocates resources in a fair and just way both in the short and long term.
Let’s look at a hypothetical example of two companies. The first company focuses on quick, easy and cheap methods in their factory in small-town America. They only repair and maintain their equipment when it is falling apart. This leads to pollution slowly seeping from their facilities and it finally ends up contaminating the water table.
On the other hand, a different company took notice of what the first company did. Instead of disregarding that lesson and the lessons of years ago, they took deliberate steps towards sustainability These included proactive maintenance planning, quality waste and building management, and other practices that enabled that facility to stay open for generations.
That’s why sustainable engineering matters.
The first thing that companies can do is simply be aware of what it is and why it matters. Once that’s understood, it’s easier to get people to change the behaviors that are inadvertently damaging the company in the short and long run.
The next step is to audit current practices and figure out what makes sense for you and your situation.
Finally, companies that have the best sustainable engineering practices look towards the future and think “how can we make it better?” Sustainable engineering isn’t just about the here and now. It’s about preserving our world for the future.
The start of all of these paths is a solid foundation and education, both at the high school and college levels. When individuals are willing to put in the work, time, dedication, and tenacity to learn, they are likely to launch a career in engineering.
In practice, this depends heavily on the individual. After the initial schooling, the next step in all of the different types of engineering is an entry-level position. As time goes on, they level up through the different areas until they find the fit that is best for them. Some of the places you find high-level engineers include think tanks, offices, and on a shop floor maintaining heavy equipment.
A clear background in chemistry, biology, physics, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus and calculus is critical to laying a foundation in engineering. Additionally, talent acquisition experts recommend a bachelor's degree; however, the overly perforated market of college graduates, alongside extensive amounts of student debt, make the case for a college degree seem less appealing to the average observer. In fact, more American workers are valuing the advantages of a trade school education to enter the more technical and hands-on sides of engineering. Aircraft mechanics can earn upwards of over $100K annually, without the financial stresses following a four-year university education. Salaries of blue-collar workers, such as plumbers, are often 70% more than average income starting points.
However, if you do decide to pursue a university degree, it is recommended to take a heavy college course load of engineering, mathematics, general physics, and a wide range of breadth courses.
After graduating from a trade or university program, engineers usually go through the accreditation process to demonstrate mastery of the material. The Fundamentals of Engineering Exam is the industry standard examination most engineers take upon completion of studies. Topics tested in the exam include chemical engineering, environmental engineering, civil engineering, industrial and systems engineering, mechanical engineering, and other disciplines. The exam is 110 questions long and covers a span of 6 hours. Pass rates for the examination range from 59% to 90%, depending on the area of specialty.
In conclusion, engineering permeates almost every aspect of the modern-day world. It’s exciting to consider what the evolution of engineering will look like in 2025, as data predicts that over 75 billion IoT devices will be connected to the cloud.
While today the 7 different pathways of engineering include Aerospace Engineers, Civil Engineers, Electrical Engineers, Biomedical Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, Reliability Engineers, and Maintenance Engineers, the future could look strikingly different. As more systems involve automation and systems in predictive maintenance reduce downtime, we're going to see more job opportunities that involve less mechanized tasks and more critical thinking, strategy assessment, and problem-solving capabilities that are beyond the capabilities of artificial intelligence. While many might fear the changes ahead, one thing remains certain: there is an overwhelming need for heroes in maintenance to be at the forefront of the ways our machines are sustained over time. Just as maintenance heroes keep the small details of our world operating, Victorian literary heroes warned of the foreboding nature of technology. In the poignant ending of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the creator realizes the impact of his scientific creation on society, as he is left in isolation and an environment in chaos. As the protagonist proclaims in the final chapter:
"When younger..I believed myself destined for some great enterprise. My feelings are profound, but I possessed a coolness of judgment that fitted me for illustrious achievements....When I reflected on the work I had completed, no less a one than the creation of a sensitive and rational animal, I could not rank myself with the herd of common projectors. But this thought, which supported me in the commencement of my career, now serves only to plunge me lower in the dust" (Shelley).
Mary Shelley, among other Victorian authors, warned of the human desire of ambition, amid a 19th-century landscape of the Industrial Revolution, as machines and factories emerged throughout Europe and the United Kingdom.
Many today echo a similar fear evoked by Shelley's text, with rising concerns towards automation, as we face a digital industrial revolution of technology. But fear not - as machines propel into the future, we too, must embrace the complexities of the digital age. Engineering will always be an industry that requires humans behind the scenes, keeping our infrastructures, roads, and electricity running and operating into the future.