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Picking an Engineering Discipline

Updated on July 15, 2012

What is Engineering?

Engineering, in its purest form, is defined as the application of scientific knowledge and theory to the design, building, and use of engines, machines, and structures. Engineers stand among the most infamous and influential people in the modern world, due to their great knowledge of science, their mathematical skills, and the business skills that are a necessity to become successfully as an engineer. (No, engineers don’t all live in their parents basement and play WoW and Halo constantly like in The Big Bang Theory)

Engineering is divided into several major disciplines (and dozens of smaller, more concentrated ones) which help an individual engineer focus in on what he or she finds most interesting or is most closely fitting to their pursuits in the industry. These are most commonly: Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Civil Engineering.

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Mechanical engineering is widely considered to be one of the broadest of the engineering disciplines, overlapping with Chemical, Electrical, and Civil engineering very often. For the most part, Mechanical Engineers focus on the design of mechanical systems such as an engine or robotics. For more information about mechanical engineering, follow this link: 

Example careers for a Mechanical Engineer: Automotive Engineer, Robotics, and even careers in nanotechnology (self explanatory I hope).

           Aerospace Engineering – Also commonly referred to as Aeronautical or Astronautical engineering, aerospace engineering is very closely related to mechanical engineering, but with a focus on thermodynamics and the design and construction of air and space craft. For more information about Aerospace Engineering, follow this link:

Chemical Engineering is a branch of engineering that focuses on the production of new materials or the improvement of old ones using scientific knowledge of chemistry. For more information, follow this link:

Electrical Engineering is the division of engineering that is probably most broad, second only to mechanical engineering. Electrical engineers design and build computer chips, networks, and electrical components for EVERYTHING. The curriculum followed to become an electrical engineer is also very similar to that of a Software engineer; so many times electrical engineers will be placed in software engineering jobs because of their qualifications.

Civil and Architectural Engineers design the buildings and structures of tomorrow. While Civil engineering is sometimes considered to be the “easiest” of the engineering disciplines, it is truly not. To learn more about Civil Engineering, follow this link:


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    • Jbern117 profile image

      Jbern117 6 years ago from Dunmore, PA

      Thanks Phil! I actually shadowed an electrical engineer at Lockheed last summer whose previous jobs ranged from working as a nuclear engineer to designing the software for a virtual golf course. There's definitely some job opportunities you wouldn't think of with a degree in engineering, at least from what I have heard.

    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      I have a bachelors degree in engineering and work in software, giving credence to your point.