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Branches of Engineering

Updated on November 21, 2017
An Engineering machine called lathe machine. This machine is highly used in the field because of its multipurpose function.
An Engineering machine called lathe machine. This machine is highly used in the field because of its multipurpose function.

Introduction: What are the Engineering Branches?

Engineering is a big family that is made up of many children. The children that engineering has given birth to are more than a dozen when properly split. It is a faculty that is made up of many departments for core understanding of a particular or specific area. Engineering is made up of professional courses made for students. Some of the departments are also divided into sub-branches.

What is engineering? Engineering is a profession in which scientific knowledge and mathematics, gained through study, experiment and practice are applied with intuition or judgement to develop ways to use economically, the materials or forces of nature for the benefit of mankind. The word, engineering, was derived from the Latin word “Ingeniare”. What the word implies is “to design” or “to create”. It is a profession the world depends so much on.

In this piece, to be concentrated on is on the branches that are in engineering faculty. Because of the uniqueness of the departments in engineering, so many aspiring undergraduates have tried to gain admission in one of them but failed at the end of it. The truth is that engineering courses are made for students who are intelligent and can cope with subjects inside of it. Many forced themselves into engineering and later switched over to other departments outside engineering when they observed that they could not cope with the work involved in it.

The Branches/Departments of Engineering

There is a division of labour in Engineering. These divisions were made so as to maintain a certain degree of accuracy by engineers that specialize in each particular field. Hence, the lists of departments in engineering faculty are:

  • Civil engineering;
  • Mechanical engineering;
  • Metallurgical and materials engineering;
  • Chemical engineering;
  • Electrical engineering;
  • Electronics and computer engineering;
  • Industrial engineering; and
  • Agricultural engineering.

The picture is that of bulldozer used by civil engineers that specialize in construction of roads and other heavy duty engineering construction.
The picture is that of bulldozer used by civil engineers that specialize in construction of roads and other heavy duty engineering construction.

Civil Engineering

Civil engineering is the oldest branch of engineering. Civil engineering is the mother of all engineering courses that have existed on earth. The first that is called civil engineer is John Smeaton in 1761. The engineering profession, civil engineering, came into existence in the 18th century.

Civil engineering covers many areas of specializations. The engineering branch involves structural, water, transportation, construction, building, geotechnical, Geodetic, and urban planning engineering. Some institutions offer these sub-divisions of civil engineering as departments.

Civil engineering has helped in many constructional works all over the world. They work on so many sites to ensure completion of projects assigned to them. We see the works of civil engineers in pyramids of Egypt, bridges and aqueducts of Europe, roads, towers and other buildings.

There are no residential buildings that are erected all over the world without the participation and contribution of civil engineers. It is the duty of civil engineer to prescribe the quantity and quality of materials (strength of materials) needed to make such buildings become successful. Even from the structural set-up of such buildings, civil engineers must be there to see that everything is put in place.

Mechanical engineering

Mechanical engineering is the second oldest engineering profession after civil engineering. Some argue that there will be nothing like mechanical engineering without first considering civil engineering. In universities, this has been argued by students from these two departments on many occasions.

Mechanical engineering received formal recognition in 1847 with the foundation of Institution of Mechanical Engineer (IMechE), Birmingham. The Institute of Mechanical Engineers is very important and well-recognized organization all over the world. It is hard to visit any institution that practices engineering of this field without hearing the students discuss this organization. The organization has student membership with a head in each university that studies the profession.

Mechanical engineering covers engineering design, development, production, operation, selection, testing, installation, control and maintenance of machines. A good mechanical design engineer is respected because no machine will work properly if an error is encountered during the design process.

In the recent time, there is software that is sold all over the market that makes the mechanical design work more easy to the engineers. Any mechanical engineer that properly understands how to use this software to design machine and its parts is unlikely to encounter a problem during design. A notable example is the one called Solid Work software.

This machine is mainly used for wood work by material engineers.
This machine is mainly used for wood work by material engineers.

Metallurgical and Materials Engineering

In some institutions of higher learning, this is offered as separate courses while some combine them to offer as a single course. It is a double-honoured course. Due to the challenges that were arising in the society we live in today, the engineering branch was created to help in addressing some issues.

The modern metallurgical engineering came into existence from mining engineering. In the other words, a metallurgical engineer can be addressed as a mining engineer. The slight difference is that a metallurgical engineer specializes in mining and extraction of metals, while mining engineer covers both metallic aspect and other areas that have to do with mining of minerals. A metallurgical engineer combines two metals to form one of improved property known as an alloy.

The applications of Metallurgical engineering can be found in many areas. In aluminium fabrication companies, metal refining, welding, forging, steel manufacturing companies and so many other areas, metallurgical engineering is highly appreciated.

Material engineering concerns the thermodynamic properties relating to atomic structure in various phases in relation to the physical properties of the element. Materials engineering also involves the combination of some materials to discover the one which will be of more use to the society. This engineering department is related to chemical engineering as it studies the chemical properties of materials. So many material engineers are into research and discovery as related to material science. What are the job opportunities for material engineers? Material engineers can work in ceramics, glass, cement, plastic, and textile industries.

Drink manufacturing companies that package their products in breakable bottles cannot do without the help of material engineers. It is these engineers that give instruction on how to produce the bottles to the taste of the companies.

When you talk of plastic products, material engineers are the people that pilot the affair. It is their duty to know the chemicals to mix, the proportion to mix, and at what temperature to conduct each stage. Material engineers know the kind of plastic chemicals to use to produce any product that serves a particular need.

Plastic bottles, a product of metallurgical and materials engineering.
Plastic bottles, a product of metallurgical and materials engineering. | Source

Chemical Engineering

From the word “chemical” a layperson will know that this is a branch of engineering that deals in chemicals. Chemical engineering was brought out from mechanical engineering because of the need for chemical processors. This engineering department ensures serious safety during operation as chemicals are dangerous to human health. The need for chemical engineering emerged as a result of the industrial revolution which led to high demand of bulk chemicals in both quantity and quality.

Chemical engineering is a branch of engineering does not cover many areas it was expected to properly, and that led to the further division of the department into other aspects of engineering. Chemical engineering is broken down to petroleum, bioprocessing and products, petrochemical, polymer and textile, catalysis and reactions, nuclear, and ceramics engineering.

Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineering is another branch of engineering that is studied in almost all the engineering institutions in the world. Nobody living on this planet will say that he or she does not know the importance of electricity in the world of today. The development being achieved by many nations today is because of the availability of electrical power supply.

Electrical engineering deals with large electrical systems, which include those found in motors, generators, transformers, conductors, electrical wiring and power transmission system (Ugochukwu 2012). The first institute of electrical engineering is the American Institute of Electrical Engineering (AIEE) founded in 1884 (Burghadt 1991).

Electronics and Computer Engineering

Electronics and computer engineering is the double-honoured course. It is two in one department. In some universities, this branch of engineering is offered separately for a more deep understanding of what each of them is all about. That is to say that some universities study electronics engineering as a separate branch and computer engineering as a separate course also.

Electronics engineering came into existence in the early 20th century. This aspect of engineering was initiated because of advancement in the technological improvement of telegram industry which resulted in the invention of the telegraph, the radio, and later television. In the recent time, more discoveries have been made in electronics than those years when it was initially invented. In offices, houses, industries, and places of worship, we make use of electronic devices, and these are products of electronic engineering. Electronic engineers are continuously making the world a better place for all through their discoveries and inventions on daily basis. In the recent time, there are many forms of televisions called plasma and LCDs, and these came into existence because of the efforts made by electronic engineers.

Computer engineering is another branch of engineering that is speedily changing the face of the earth. The roles of computers in the modern world cannot in any way be overstressed. Computer engineering deals on software operating system as well as in computer hardware. They perform integral functions in our society. Many mobile phones that are recently produced have software integrated into them which solve a problem more easily to the users. The software is made possible due to the effort put by computer engineers.

Industrial engineering

There are many industries that cannot function without the assistance of industrial engineers. These are engineers that perform specific functions in many industries located all over the globe. What is industrial engineering? Industrial engineering is the branch of engineering that deals with the design, improvement and installation of integrated systems of people, machines and materials for optimal and efficient results.

The reason why industrial engineering was created is due to the need for technically qualified people, who were needed to plan, organize and control men and materials so as to optimize the manufacturing process. This branch of engineering specializes in production, manufacturing, operations research, and human factor ergonomics. An industrial engineer that works in production sector is expected to examine the reliability of the manufactured products, scheduling, and materials handling.


Engineering is a vital area of study that is handled with all seriousness and carefulness. The area of study is very wide and interesting. It is a professional course and that is why any who is addressed as an engineer has lots of respect. An engineer is a problem solver in any society. Discussed in this topic are branches/departments in engineering faculty. The grouping of these branches may differ depending on the author but all convey almost the same information.

•Burghardt, M. D (1991), Introduction to Engineering Profession, New York, Harper Collins Publishers Inc.
•Metz, L. D and Klein, R. E (1973), Man and the Technological Society, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs.
•Ugochukwu Okonkwo (2012), The Engineer Professionalism in Society, SCOA Heritage Systems Publication, P. 106.

Agricultural engineering

Food is the basic material needed by man to sustain life, and human activities. Without food, man will die irrespective of the level of spirituality any man thinks he has attained. The need to sustain and promote agricultural practice gave rise to what is called agricultural engineering. This department of engineering is beneficial to both rich and poor countries of the world.

What is agricultural engineering? Agricultural engineering is the branch of engineering that deals in the production, processing, preservation, manufacturing, and distribution of agricultural products. It is because of the function performed by agricultural engineers the lead to varieties of crops that we see and enjoy today. They study soil systems and other things related to agriculture to know which will give a better yield. Agricultural engineering specializes in power and machinery, bio-research, food processing, electrical power and processing machinery, wood product processing, soil and water, and structural and environmental engineering.

Other Engineering Branches

Though some engineering branches have been discussed, but, there are others. Other engineering branches are:

Software Engineering

Operational Engineering

Environmental Engineering

Aeronautics and Astronautics

Climate and Space Sciences & Engineering

Nuclear Engineering

© 2015 Okwuagbala Uzochukwu Mike P


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