What do an Engineer do? | All You Need To Know

Last Updated on June 6, 2023 by Eng Katepa

An engineer is an individual who combines knowledge of science, mathematics, and economics to solve technical problems that confront society. It is our practical knowledge that distinguishes engineers from scientists, for they too are masters of science and mathematics.

In construction, Engineers design, build, and maintain various complex systems and structures, from buildings to software. While there are many engineering professions, there is one consistent engineering mindset: to innovate. To do so, they must think in increasingly cross-disciplinary ways, finding combinations, patterns, and intersections between previously disparate conceptual realms.

Engineers are the architects of the world. While stereotypes paint a picture of engineering as an anti-social hard science that’s primarily conducted behind a computer, engineers are in fact the scientists and artists who created the Palm Islands in Dubai and the Millau Viaduct in France. An engineer’s creativity does not always need to be so grandiose—nano-engineers work down to a billionth of a meter in scale.

Those interested in engineering as a career can look forward to job security, lucrative salaries, and career satisfaction in designing structures, systems, and products to make life easier for humans and healthier for the planet.

What do an Engineer do?

Engineers combine rigorous scientific knowledge with elegant creativity to change society and address global problems, often in previously unthought-of ways. This article explores the expansive world of engineering, from microchips to aircraft, prosthetics to nuclear reactors, and cell phones to life-saving drugs.

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Engineers: Engineering Disciplines and Related Fields.

At this point in your engineering carrier, you may not have selected a major. Does your future lie in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, or other engineering fields? Once you have made your selection, you will have decided upon your engineering discipline. To help in this decision, we briefly describe the major engineering disciplines and some related fields.

Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace engineers are at the forefront of the future. Aerospace engineers design and model aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles to do what engineers do best: chart the unknown and put it to work with rigorous scientific modeling. They are changing the landscape of what is possible, whether that means putting a human on the moon, connecting different parts of the world with satellite communication and air travel, or exploring the far reaches of the solar system.

Aerospace engineers specialize in one of two types of engineering: aeronautical or astronautical. Aeronautical engineers design aircraft systems to create lighter and stronger planes. On the other hand, astronautical engineering focuses spacecraft and how devices such as satellites can maneuver inside and outside the Earth’s atmosphere. Both these specializations require in-depth knowledge of physics.

Aerospace engineers design vehicles that operate in the atmosphere and in space. It is a diverse and rapidly changing field that includes four major technology areas: Aerodynamics, structures and materials, flight and orbital mechanics and control, and propulsion.

Automotive Engineering

Automotive engineers design, test, and build land vehicles that operate in a wide variety of environments, which in turn requires an extraordinarily complex and multi-disciplinary approach. Fuel systems, thermodynamics, computer science, and industrial logistics all intersect in automotive engineering to build smarter, more efficient, and safer land transportation systems that, to the end user, feel effortless. What’s more, with the advent of autonomous vehicles, automotive engineers today benefit from an in-depth understanding of cybersecurity.

Automotive engineering work can be divided into three areas: design, research and development, and production. Notably, automotive engineers are tasked with designing the interior and exterior of new cars, testing vehicle prototypes for safety, and ensuring the consumer preferences are adhered to as well as meeting environmental and safety standards for future vehicles.

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Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical engineers apply an engineering skillset to the biological sphere. The design technology that interacts with the living body, whether this is designing and developing advanced prosthetics, artificial internal organs, complex diagnostic devices, or new drug treatments, biomedical engineers explore, enhance, and extend life beyond its original limits.

Biomedical engineers work in research and development or quality assurance, the multidisciplinary nature of this type of engineering provides specialization in areas such as biomaterials (naturally derived or laboratory-created materials), clinical engineering (medical technology for healthcare delivery), and rehabilitation engineering (development of devices that help people recover from or adapt to physical or cognitive injuries) among others.

Biomedical Engineers also combine traditional engineering fields (mechanical, electrical, chemical, industrial) with medicine and human physiology. They develop prosthetic devices (e.g., artificial limbs), artificial kidneys, pacemakers, and artificial hearts.

Chemical Engineering

Chemical engineers attack global problems at the chemical level. They apply engineering skills to the field of chemistry to help mitigate pollution, optimize waste management, refine fuel products, make energy systems more productive, revolutionize agricultural processes, and work hand-in-hand with manufacturing operations to consider the broader environment.

So how do these skills show up in consumer markets? Chemical engineers are involved in the production of electronics, food, clothing, and paper products. Chemical engineers involved with oxidation (using oxygen to make chemicals) or polymerization (making plastics and resins) are known as process engineers. Other areas of specialization include nanomaterials, the creation of very small substances, and biological engineering.

Chemical Engineers also process raw materials ( petroleum, coal, ores, trees) into refined products (gasoline, heating oil, plastics, pharmaceuticals, paper). Biochemical engineering is a growing subdiscipline of chemical engineering. Biochemical engineers combine biological processes with traditional chemical engineering to produce food and pharmaceutical and treat wastes.

Civil Engineering

Civil engineering is generally considered the oldest engineering discipline in the works trace back to the Egyptian pyramids and before.

Civil engineers design, build and maintain the physical infrastructure that connects our society. Roads, dams, buildings, airports, bridges, tunnels, water, and waste systems—civil engineers build and connect a jigsaw puzzle of moving parts so that they can come together in safe, efficient, and productive ways. Nested underneath civil engineering are three further specializations:

  • Environmental engineering: Environmental engineers explore how humans interact with their environment, and vice versa, often in areas such as waste disposal, recycling, pollution, and public health.
  • Power systems engineering: Power systems engineers deal with the transport of electrical power, with applications in the smart grid, electric vehicles, and renewable energy sources.
  • Water systems engineering: Water systems engineers focus on fluid mechanics in waste and water storage and transit, finding applications in dams, levees, potable water, and hydraulic energy.

To ensure that renewable energy projects are permitted and implemented effectively, Civil engineers prepare permits for solar and wind turbine construction. This includes evaluating the land for increased construction traffic, as well as wind speed and seismic activity.

Computer Science and Engineering

Computer engineers design and develop the technical components of computers, such as microprocessors, sensors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers. As computer engineering continues to grow as a field, four sub-specializations have developed within it:

  • Computer science: This sector focuses on the algorithms and infrastructures necessary to store, synthesize, and represent information in meaningful and transmutable ways.
  • Data science: Data science takes an engineering mindset to the complications that arise from processing massive quantities of data in scientifically rigorous ways—and translates the zeroes and ones into applicable, real-world insights.
  • Cybersecurity: Cybersecurity engineers defend and repair networked systems from both outside attacks and internal corruption, using conceptual extrapolation to prepare for and prevent threats.
  • Software engineering: Software engineers design and develop software that allows end-users to interact with the underlying complexity of network systems in seamless, elegant ways, from apps to research engines and even tools that allow people and machines to communicate with one another.

Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineers design and develop all forms of electrical equipment, such as radar systems, GPS, and electric motors, as well as new forms of power generation and transfer. They work in tandem with federal or private entities to streamline today’s systems and build tomorrow’s.

Electrical and computer engineering (ECE) is an emerging subspecialty that explores the interaction of machines with computers, with applications in robotics, autonomous vehicles, power systems, lasers, medical equipment, and electromagnetics.

Another subspecialty, nanoengineering, focuses on applications in computer science and biomedical engineering that operate at one billionth of a meter—another impossibility made possible by the engineering mindset.

Modern life is largely characterized by electronic equipment. Daily, we rely on many electronic devices- television, telephones, computers, calculators, and so on. In the future, the number and variety of these devices can only increase. The fact that electrical engineering is the largest engineering discipline-comprising over 25% of all engineers- underscores the importance of electrical engineering in modern society.

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Engineering Management

Engineering management is the link between the engineering world and the world of business. Engineering managers act as translators between the two worlds by interfacing with both sides and streamlining the processes and organizational structures of engineering teams and departments. Whether managing projects, products, or people, engineering managers apply the engineering mindset—i.e., developing processes that allow each element of a structure to work, in tandem—for optimal efficiency.

Because of their innate knowledge of the overall vision of a product or project development and design, shows that architectural and engineering managers (who are combined in the same occupational category) spend the majority of their time coordinating and overseeing production teams. While engineering managers work across several industries, the top employers in 2019 were manufacturing and architectural, engineering, and related services.

Industrial Engineering

Industrial engineers design and maintain industrial and manufacturing processes. This can include the interconnected and optimized storage and distribution of various resources such as time, labor, machines, materials, information, and energy, which increasingly travel across geopolitical borders. Whether streamlining supply chain logistics, developing job evaluation tools, or calibrating manufacturing processes, industrial engineers interact with computer networks, robotics, and organizational structures in the pursuit of efficient, safe, and rapid productivity.

Industrial engineers are famous for designing and operating assembly lines that optimally combine machinery and people, however, they can also optimize train or plane schedules, hospital operations, and banks. or overnight package delivery services. Industry engineers who specialize in human factors design products (e.g hand tools, airplane cockpits) with the human user in mind.

Materials Engineering

Materials engineers work at the atomic level—developing, processing, and testing raw materials such as ceramics, plastics, composites, and metals. Materials engineers can mold these elements to certain technical specifications, or apply an innovative approach and discover or design or reproduce new materials that, like aluminum, one day become the essential building blocks of the future.

In detail, Materials engineers are concerned with obtaining the materials required by modern society. Materials engineers may be further classified as:

  • Geological engineers, study rocks, soil, and geological formations to find valuable ores and petroleum reserves.
  • Mining engineers have extra ores such as coal, iron, and tin.
  • Petroleum engineers, find, produce, and transport oil and natural gas.
  • Plastics engineers, who produce plastic products.
  • Ceramic engineers, who produce ceramic (i.e, nonmetallic materials mineral) products.
  • Metallurgical engineers, produce metal products from ores or create metal alloys with superior properties.
  • Materials science engineers, study the fundamental science behind the properties (ie, strength, corrosion resistance, conductivity) of materials.

Engineers in Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineering is the development of machines. Such a broad mandate has led to the development of more than 30 technical divisions according to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), making mechanical engineering one of the broadest genres of engineering. Often incorporating thermodynamics and materials science, mechanical engineers design and develop products as diverse as inkjet printer nozzles, elevators, factory equipment, and thermal sensors. Mechanical engineers interact with nearly every other facet of engineering.

Mechanical engineers make engines, vehicles (automobiles, trains, planes), machines tools (lathes, mills), heat industrial process equipment, power plants, consumer items (typewriters, pens), and systems for heating, refrigeration, air conditioning, and ventilation. Mechanical engineers must know structures, heat transfer, fluid mechanics, materials, and thermodynamics, among many other things.

Engineers in Nuclear Engineering

Nuclear engineers harness, study, and manage the power of the atom, primarily through nuclear power and radiation. Not limited to developing reactor cores, radiation shields, and power plant instrumentation, nuclear engineering also applies to medical diagnosis and treatment. Acutely trained in the tremendous power and complexity of an invisible-to-the-eye world, nuclear engineers find ways to prevent or correct nuclear power plant emergencies, safely dispose of nuclear waste, and locate and irradiate a tumor in the human body.

They design systems that employ nuclear energy, such as nuclear power plants, nuclear ships (i.e, submarine and aircraft carriers), and nuclear spacecraft.

Some nuclear engineers are involved with nuclear medicine; others are working on the design of fusion reactors that potentially will generate limitless energy with minimal minimal environmental damage.

Engineers: Robotics Engineering

Robotics engineers create robotic devices and the applications that run them. While manufacturing is still the primary employer in this area, robotics has moved out of the factory floor and into various industries, such as agriculture, aerospace, automotive, biomechanical, and power systems management—with new applications in new arenas being tested every day. Robotics engineers must not only learn to collaborate with many different fields of research but also learn to anticipate and envision how robotics may play a role in society.

Due to the controversial nature of robotics technology, members of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), a professional society for robotics engineers, hold its members to a code of ethics and professional conduct. The code is intended for: “Anyone who uses AI technology in an impactful way and is particularly intended to act as a standard of ethical and professional conduct for all AAAI members”, providing protection for the organization’s members and the people their designs serve.

Engineers: Safety Engineering

Safety engineering prevents accidents and reduces opportunities for human error in engineered environments, which means that this type of engineering applies to almost every discipline. Safety engineers ensure that buildings are structurally sound, that advanced factory systems are designed with safety at the forefront, and that workers have best-in-class clothing and equipment that protects them in specialized and hazardous environments. Whether with medical equipment, airplanes, power plants, or handheld devices, safety engineers are making sure that the priority is protecting the humans interacting with engineered technology.

While the potential for harm is universal, the three examples of safety engineers: are fire prevention and protection engineers; product safety or product compliance engineers; and systems safety engineers.

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Engineers: System Engineering

Closely related to engineering management, systems engineering focuses on issues surrounding the design and implementation of complex systems. Systems engineers look at the big picture and take into account the entire life cycle and the surrounding ecology of a specific system, including operations, performance, test, manufacture, cost, schedule, training, support, and disposal. Applicable to nearly any discipline, systems engineers consider both the business and technical needs of stakeholders to optimize design processes.

Nearly all industries have a systems engineer or equivalent person who’s in charge of seeing the overall project perspective and liaising with leadership and regulatory professionals. The International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) describes systems engineers as “responsible for the system concept, architecture, and design. They analyze and manage complexity and risk. They decide how to measure whether the deployed system actually works as intended.” These include groups that serve the needs of people, build products, create services, and provide information.

Agricultural engineering

Agricultural engineers help farmers efficiently produce foods and fiber. Modern agricultural engineers apply knowledge of mechanics, hydrology, computers, electronics, chemistry, and biology to solve agricultural problems. Agricultural engineers may specialize in food and biochemical engineering; water and environmental quality; machine and energy systems; and food, feed, and fiber processing.

We hope this article helped you learn about What do an Engineer do? | All You Need To Know. You may also want to learn about What is Civil Engineering? | History and FunctionsBuilding construction | Types of Building ConstructionMaterial Processing | Definition, and Examples, and Construction Terminologies You Should Know.

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