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Kickstart Your Engineering Career with Complete Information on Education, Job Prospects, and Salary

Jun 18, 2019 · 8 minutes to read

Engineers are the crucial link between science and technology discoveries and their commercial application. As a broad term, engineering includes many disciplines and job titles ranging from aerospace, civil, mechanical, electrical, nuclear to biomedical. If you excel in science and math and are passionate about analyzing and solving technical problems, an engineering career is THE right choice.

Different Types of Engineering Careers – Education and Certification Requirements

1. Aerospace Engineer

Aerospace engineers design, develop, research, and test aerospace products, prototypes, propulsion units, and control systems of missiles, aircraft, or spacecraft. They are employed in various industries that are involved in building or testing missiles, aircraft, systems for spacecraft or national defense

A bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or aeronautical engineering approved by ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) is a pre-requisite to becoming an aerospace engineer. The program can be completed in 4 to 5 years.

Post the degree, graduates need to obtain work experience apart from taking up two examinations in the state where they wish to practice. The first exam is the FE (Fundamentals of Engineering) exam that can be taken as soon as the bachelor’s degree is completed. Upon passing this exam, the engineer can use the title of EIT (Engineer in Training) or Engineer Intern (EI). The second exam is the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam that is taken after relevant work experience, which is the final step to becoming a licensed aerospace engineer.

2. Agricultural Engineer

Aspiring agricultural engineers need to obtain a bachelor’s degree in an agricultural engineering program accredited by ABET, which is a four-year program. Besides, the aspirant should pass both FE and PE exams to obtain a professional engineer license.

3. Automotive Engineer

Those who wish to pursue a career as an automotive engineer should complete a four-year accredited bachelor’s program, preferably in automotive engineering or mechanical engineering with automotive engineering as an elective. While the FE exam can be taken immediately after graduation, the PE exam needs to be taken after four years of work experience.

4. Biomedical Engineer

Biomedical engineers combine the principles of engineering and biological research to design and develop specialized systems and devices for use in the healthcare industry. The minimum qualification required is an ABET accredited bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering while some also pursue a Master’s program to obtain in-depth knowledge in the desired field. As with other engineering courses, the FE exam needs to be taken immediately after graduation while the PE exam can be taken after accruing four years of work experience to become a licensed biomedical engineer.

5. Chemical Engineer 

Chemical engineers apply the principles of biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering in various industries to design, test, research, and transform materials. While a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering is the minimum requirement, a master’s degree and Ph.D. enables professionals to take up advanced levels of work. Although licensing is encouraged to increase the chances of employment, it is not mandatory. In some states, a PE license is a must for teaching chemical engineering.

6. Civil Engineer

As with other disciplines, a bachelor’s program in civil engineering is required to pursue a career in the field. Licensing requirements and laws vary in different states and are regulated by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). A license is typically required, particularly if the civil engineer provides services to the public directly.

7. Computer Engineer

Computer engineers hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, or software engineering. Some schools also offer a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree in computer engineering. APE is not mandatory to work as a computer engineer but is encouraged to broaden job prospects.

8. Drafting and Design Engineer

Drafting engineers translate concepts by drawing the blueprints and preparing technical drawings for wide-ranging products and structures. Aspiring drafting and design engineers can either pursue a bachelor’s program in industrial technology or mechanical engineering and then acquire an associate degree in drafting and design, which is a two-year full-time course. Certification is issued by the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) for drafting and design engineers. Although not mandatory, certification is further proof of competence.

9. Electrical Engineer

The minimum qualification to become an electrical engineer is to obtain a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. A license is a must in this field, and the PE exam needs to be taken up after four years of work experience.

10. Environmental Engineer

Not many colleges offer specific bachelor’s program in environmental engineering. Students who wish to pursue a career in this field typically have a bachelor’s degree in a related field of civil, mechanical, or chemical engineering. There are many master level programs offered by different colleges in environmental science, renewable energy technology, and ecological studies. Licensing requirements vary in different states, but a PE is a must for practicing in the field.

11. Geological Engineer

An ABET-accredited bachelor’s program in geological engineering is the first step to becoming a geological engineer. The FE exam and qualifying work experience are necessary to take up the PE exam for licensure.

12. Marine Engineer

Marine engineers design, construct, and maintain structures and vehicles that are operated in water. A bachelor’s degree accredited by ABET in marine engineering is the first step. Students at state maritime academies obtain a U.S. Merchant Mariner’s license issued by the U.S. Coast Guard by writing an exam after the bachelor’s degree. The PE exam can be taken later in the career for job advancement.

13. Mechanical Engineer

A bachelor’s degree program in mechanical engineering prepares a student for a career in the field. Those who wish to specialize in specific aspects such as automotive, aerospace, environmental engineering take up a Master’s program after the bachelor’s. Licensing is a must for practicing, and is through FE and PE exams, apart from the mandatory work experience. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers issues a certification that provides proof of competency.

14. Petroleum Engineer

A four-year accredited bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering is necessary to enter into the field. The Society of Petroleum Engineers provides certification for petroleum engineers, although this is optional. To get this certification, engineers have to become members of the society apart from taking 16 hours of education annually to maintain certification. State licensing may be optional if you work under a licensed engineer, but PE is required in the later stages of your career.

15. Software Engineer

Aspirants need to complete a bachelor’s program in software engineering, computer science, or computer engineering apart from obtaining licensure through PE after relevant work experience. Certifications are offered by software firms, product vendors, and professional computing societies, including the Institute for Certification of Computer Professionals (ICCP).

Engineering Careers – Roles, Job Opportunities and Estimated Salary 

Engineering roles

The roles of professional engineers vary based on the industry, level of education, experience, and expertise. Some of the job titles in the field include:

  • Project Engineer
  • Engineering Supervisor
  • Assistant Engineer
  • Chief Engineer
  • Advanced Engineer
  • Product designer
  • Site engineer
  • Cloud engineer
  • Research engineer
  • Production engineer

From design, research, production to construction, engineers handle wide-ranging roles and responsibilities. While they exercise the utmost caution, they are exposed to the risk of lawsuits from the neglection of your professional liability. Engineer professional liability insurance offers optimal protection against financial losses in the event of a lawsuit due to your professional wrongdoing. Therefore, professional liability insurance is a must for any types of engineering role.

Engineering job opportunities

With increasing investment in infrastructure, information technology, and industries, job prospects for engineers look bright. Demand in specific fields is slated to grow by 11 percent in the coming decade. The other “in-demand” engineering jobs are in the areas of automation, robotics, machine learning, petroleum, civil, mechanical, electrical, and alternative energy or renewable energy engineering.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for engineers are expected to increase by 4.0 percent between 2014 and 2024, which means an additional 65,000 new jobs in this time frame. Job opportunities in some branches of engineering are expected to grow at a higher rate, including biomedical engineers, with a growth rate of 23.1 percent, environmental engineers at 12.4 percent, and civil engineers at 8.4 percent. Engineering field projects are expected to witness employment growth of as much as 140,000 new jobs over the next ten years.

How much do engineers earn?

Engineers have one of the highest starting salaries on an average in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of engineers is $91,010. As per figures provided by the United States Department of Labor (National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates), most branches of engineering have an average entry-level salary between $60,000 and $74000 with computer and software engineers enjoying the highest salary. The top ten percent of wages range between $140,000 and $172000.  According to Indeed, a job portal, the average salary for engineers in the U.S. is $86,820 per year.

The hourly rate for computer engineers is $27.84, which is the median, while the top 10 percent earn $44.58 per hour. Environmental engineers earn $59,566 per year on an average with the hourly rate being $25.91. The average pay is $65,439 for mechanical engineers, while electrical engineers earn $68,511 with an hourly rate of $27.95.

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