What makes an engineer?
Engineers, according to UNESCO, work towards the “understanding, design, development, invention, innovation and use of materials, machines, structures, systems and processes for specific purposes”.
They create things - whether those are structures like bridges or a tiny medical implant - that help make people’s lives easier. Whatever an engineer’s interest - boats, the environment, medicine or farming - there will likely be an opportunity in the relevant industry.
Engineering also presents good earning potential in all fields. The Global Engineering Report 2016 revealed that in 2015, the median hourly wage for all engineers in the US was $39.89, 70 percent higher than the median wage for all earners.
1 Geotechnical engineer
According to whatisgeotech.org, geotechnical engineering is “the science that explains mechanics of soil and rock and its applications to the development of humankind”. A form of civil engineering, it includes the analysis, design and construction of foundations, slopes, retaining structures, embankments, roadways, tunnels, levees, wharves, landfills and other systems that are made of or are supported by soil or rock.
Everything around us - from houses to bridges - is supported by rock and soil, which means that geotechnical engineers are vital to the fields of architecture and construction. Geotechnical engineers rely on geologists’ analyses of the earth to calculate how a structure could be supported.
Geotechnical engineering is indispensable to the workings of the world so it could be a field worth considering for those who might enjoy this level of responsibility. They ensure that buildings don’t collapse and that bridges can support the weight of vehicles - in other words, keeping people alive while going about their days.
2 Biomedical engineer
Successful biomedical engineers will want to help people by designing medical products or systems, such as joint replacements or surgical equipment. Many biomedical engineers originally wanted to be doctors but found that their own careers would allow them to help people and still explore their interest in the technical side of engineering.
As with the majority of engineering jobs, biomedical engineers will design, create and test new devices and equipment. But these creations could help save people’s lives, rather than making them easier.
Biomedical engineers have an extremely rewarding job, knowing that their work is helping people overcome medical difficulties.
Dr Bruce Wheeler, emeritus professor at the University of Florida and former president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, has called biomedical engineering “one of the most exciting, yet challenging and competitive fields,” which speaks to the ambition and competence of successful biomedical engineers.
3 Packaging engineer
Products can’t just be sold by themselves - there has to be something protecting them and, in some cases, keeping them fresh until they are consumed.
Engineers can work out new and effective ways of keeping these products safe. Engineers in this field work in research and development, manufacturing, marketing, graphic design and the regulatory aspects of packaging.
Working out new ways of packaging for things like moisturisers and deodorants - which have small components allowing for the product’s release - can be complicated and engineers in this area have to have knowledge of materials and industrial design.
Since packaging must look attractive to buyers, engineers in this field need to be creative. There will be new challenges faced every day since the industry advances constantly and rules for packaging change. This means that packaging engineers need to come up with new ideas and solutions to get things onto the shelves.
This field involves a mix of engineering, art design and marketing, which gives people involved in it the chance to explore their imagination and then taper it down using their technical knowledge.
4 Mining engineer
With the world having relied on fossil fuels for so long, mining engineers have always been hugely important. And although the energy industry is moving towards renewable options, traditional power methods are still required and will continue to be for a long time.
This means that there are exciting opportunities for engineers who want to design open pit and underground mines, supervise the construction of mine shafts and tunnels under the ground and calculate the best way of transporting the mined minerals to processing plants and refineries. Keeping miners safe is a huge part of this role.
According the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, growth in the mining engineering field is expected to grow at six percent from 2014 to 2024. The Bureau has also said that job prospects for engineers entering this field are “favorable” because many of people currently employed in this sector “will be reaching retirement age by 2024”. The Global Engineering Report 2016 revealed that between 2015 and 2016, there was just a 1.9 percent unemployment rate in the field of mining engineering.
Careers in mining engineering can result in the opportunity to travel abroad to where mines are located - in countries like South Africa, China and Australia.
5 Agricultural engineer
Engineers with an interest in farming and food production could find themselves working in agricultural engineering. According to the UK’s Institution of Agricultural Engineers, these engineers are “at the heart of farming”.
This is because farmers “need the support of a sophisticated engineering industry to produce the machines and equipment they need to guarantee the crops and livestock they grow reach” the highest quality.
These engineers work on the development, creation, testing and maintenance of agricultural machinery and equipment, as well as that used in the horticultural and forestry industries.
Agricultural engineers assess the environmental impact of current production methods and work out if they might be able to lower this by designing better equipment. They work on designing vehicles to move on uneven ground in different weather conditions.
They also use tools like GPS and computer modelling in order to advise farmers and big business on the best use of land available.
6 Environmental engineer
Engineers with a passion for the environment could consider a career that involves improving recycling, waste disposal and pollution control.
Their duties include designing systems for cleaning public water supplies and calculating how to reduce the impact of climate change. They can work on projects that help in terms of environmental protection, such as systems that convert waste to energy.
Environmental engineers also work on developing renewable energy methods, which will involve collaboration with other engineering specialists, including those in the mechanical and agricultural fields.
Because of how governments are focusing on reducing the environmental impact of many activities, the field of environmental engineering has been forecast by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to grow at a rate of 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is far faster than the average. This means there are real opportunities for engineers.
7 Marine engineer
For any engineer who loves boats and water, marine engineering is a perfect fit. According to the UK’s National Careers Service, they “design, build, test and repair boats, ships, underwater craft, offshore platforms and drilling equipment”.
Depending on the industry and company the engineer works for, diving work may be required. This makes it a great option for anyone who enjoys diving and being in the water.
Ship and boat building, maintenance of vessels and ensuring that the engines and instruments on board work safely are common duties of marine engineers. There are travel opportunities for marine engineers as they might be required to visit offshore drilling sites and the regions in which ships are being built.
Marine engineers need to have physical endurance and stamina since they could be working in the engine rooms of ships, which can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to the Global Engineering Report 2016, marine engineering had an unemployment rate of 1.8 percent between 2015 and 2016. This shows that there are plenty of opportunities available for newly qualified marine engineers.
8 Petroleum engineer
Among the best engineering career options for travel is in the petroleum industry. Largely based in the Middle East and North America, the petroleum sector attracts engineers from around the world.
These engineers analyse new petroleum reservoirs to calculate whether it can be profitably exploited. If they establish that it can, they will work on drilling and extraction plans to pump out the stores beneath the earth’s surface in the safest and most cost-effective way possible.
Petroleum engineering is also a very financially rewarding career, with all levels of seniority being paid well. The Global Engineering Report 2016 revealed that in the US, these engineers earn the highest median hourly wage, at $71.92 - the highest of all engineering and architecture occupations.
Forbes found that job growth in petroleum engineering increased by 30 percent from 2010 to 2014 in the US and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the field will grow by 10 percent from 2014 to 2024.
9 Forensic engineer
When something goes wrong and a piece of machinery, structure or material fails and causes an injury or property damage, it is up to forensic engineers to investigate and establish the reason for it.
They are typically called on to investigate why a product did not work as expected in order to improve future performance or to act as expert witnesses in product liability and criminal cases.
Forensic engineers tend to specialize in specific areas, such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering or civil engineering.
Often, the role involves translating complicated engineering terminology into language understood by lay people. This would take place during a court case, for example.
10 Mechatronics engineer
Engineers working in mechatronics have to be experts in many different fields, from the mechanical and electrical to computer engineering. They use their knowledge to create complex machines. The University of New South Wales, Australia, calls these “smart machines that are aware of their surroundings and can make decisions”.
With this technology being explored more than ever before, it means that there will be an increasing number of opportunities in this industry in the coming years.
Mechatronic engineers work on the design, testing and manufacture of smart machines in areas like robotics, medical and assistive technology, human-machine interaction, manufacturing and unmanned aerial and ground vehicles.
What is driving your engineering career?