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Different types of engineers

Updated on November 12, 2014

The four main types of engineering are mechanical, civil, chemical and electrical. They have numerous sub-branches. Engineering also has several specialization branches like nano-engineering and mechatronics, etc.

1. Mechanical engineers: Mechanical engineering is about building mechanical things. It consists of sub-branches like:

  • Acoustical/audio engineers: It deals with a study of sounds so as to manufacture better studios, hearing aids, auditoriums, loudspeakers, etc. Most audio engineers work in the music industry. This branch keeps on changing constantly and the basic, programming and technical knowledge gained at school may become redundant after 5 to 6 years at work.
  • Aerospace engineers: It is about envisioning, making, testing, and managing commercial and military aircraft and spacecraft. Currently, this branch requires a prerequisite qualification of computer programming. Specializations in this branch include propulsion, aerodynamics and control.
  • Automotive engineers: They build automobiles. The branch involves designing, research and development, and production. Design can be innovative or traditional, and RnD involves testing, functionality, and safety
  • Thermal engineers: This branch of engineering is concerned with designing, improvement and regulation of thermal energy control systems, including expertise at handling emergency situations. Some jobs include cooling of a nuclear reactor core, maintenance of rooms with controlled temperature, etc.
  • Manufacturing engineers: It involves creation of products right from collection of raw materials to packaging of finished goods. Manufacturing engineers handle cost-effective creation and improvement of assembly lines, enhancing output and improving manufacturing efficiency. As the manufacturing sector is slowly getting automated, manufacturing engineers currently handle redesigning of technology and quality control.
  • Vehicle engineers: Its numerous sub branches include aerospace, automotive and marine engineering.

2. Civil engineers: They are the ones who build infrastructure, from homes and skyscrapers to roads and dams. Civil engineering consists of sub-branches like:

  • Geomatics engineers: The field includes jobs like disaster management; mapping underground construction and soils; laying robust foundations for buildings, rail tracks, and roads; excavation; survey of land; and recording geological data.
  • Environmental engineers: Work involves water and hazardous chemicals management, pollution control, waste management and global warming problems, etc., essential for a cleaner environment.
  • River engineers: They make artificial and natural changes to water bodies, such as changing the path of rivers. River engineers also handle maintenance of redirected water bodies.
  • Transportation engineers: It deals with improvement, safety, and efficiency of transport options like railways, roads, airlines, underground conveyance and marine services; city planning; monitoring of traffic schedule; and building ports, docks and terminals.
  • Structural engineers: They work in conjunction with architects to construct the ‘skeleton’ of different structures and test their sturdiness. The field involves studying the materials’ strength, their stress bearing capacities, effects of earthquake and other natural disasters, and geography. For e.g. ocean engineers, a sub-specialization, are concerned with designing, constructing and testing coastal structures.

3. Chemical Engineers: It is a mixture of different engineering fields like mechanical, civil, environmental, and electrical and an understanding of chemistry, chemicals, pharma products, etc. It consists of numerous sub-branches. The major ones are listed below:

  • Petroleum engineers: This high paying job involves exploration, drilling, extraction, and processing/refinement of natural gas and crude oil; storage, packaging and transport of the resources; and administrative work like distribution, etc.
  • Materials engineers: Work involves collecting data and assessing the deterioration, strength, and usefulness of different raw materials and finished products; testing, monitoring and enhancing their quality; and programming skills. Ceramic engineering is a specialization that involves work with non-metallic substances like bricks, fiber optics, glass, heat-resistant tiles and materials, and silicon-based items.

4. Electrical engineers: Their job involves design and improvement of electrical products. Electrical engineering consists of sub-branches like:

  • Power engineers: They convert different energy sources into electricity. They do not have to find the sources of energy. They have to work in shifts, but the field is a high-paying one.
  • Electronic engineers: This filed is becoming increasingly different from the core electrical branch. Work includes handling a wide range of products and fields such as analog and digital data transactions, data management, integrated circuits, networking, chips, robotics, audio and visual equipment like radio and TV, manufacturing and designing industrial and consumer chipboards, industrial control systems, designing household appliances, telecommunications and creation of schematics for high-tech research tools.
  • Computer engineers: They are the most sought-after engineers and are categorized as software and hardware engineers. The latter make the physical components of computers while the former write codes in varied programming languages to be used to run the hardware. Updating and debugging are regarded as major job requirements for software engineers.
  • Optical engineers: It is a recent branch of engineering and can involve construction of large telescopes, creating and improving disc players, and laser experimentation. Students can major in security systems, consumer electronics, display systems, and astronomy equipment, etc.

5. Specialized fields: The sub-branches include:

  • Biological engineers:Field of study includes bioengineering, biological engineering, biochemical engineering, and biomedical engineering. Biological engineers deal with biological matter. Work involves creation of cancer-fighting nanoparticles and designing and building prosthetics as well as mechanical implants such as cochlear implants, bionic eyes, dialysis machines, and pacemakers.
  • Agricultural engineers: It is concerned with plant and animal biology; fertilizer uses; agricultural machinery; management of waste, livestock, and soil; and research, manufacture, packaging, and distribution.
  • Energy engineers: Unlike power engineering, this field deals with just renewable sources of energy. Work involves research, innovation, and enhancing the current machines.
  • Mechatronics engineers: It is a new field that combines electronic and mechanical engineering. Work involvesa complex integration of electronic components into mechanical units. Some examples of mechatronics engineering are smart air conditioners and washing machines, motion detecting traffic lights, etc.
  • Industrial engineers: Work involves management of operations and systems.
  • Nano-engineers: A nanometer is 1 billionth of a meter. Nano-engineers work with varied technologies at a nano scale. Artificial manipulation of DNA is an ideal example.
  • Photonic engineers: It is a sub-branch of optical engineering and is concerned with detecting, manipulating, monitoring, and processing, etc. of light. It can be applied in varied fields such as laser eye surgery, telecommunications, semiconductors, light sensors, LED displays, information transmissions, laser equipment, and robotics.
  • Nuclear engineers: Job involves research, safe removal and containment of radioactive waste, and other activities at nuclear power plants, defense facilities and labs.
  • Railway systems engineers: It deals with designing, constructing, and maintenance of railway engines and carriages, as well as lighting, inspection and power transmission.


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