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Engineering Degree: Engineering Careers, Online Engineering Degree, Colleges, Schools, Engineer Distance Education

An engineering degree offers an intensive course of study for entry-level positions as an engineer, but additional options are available for specialized studies at both the bachelor's and master's degree levels. Skilled engineers are in high demand across a variety of industries including chemical plants, environmental companies, nuclear power plants, and working within the civil and industrial sphere. From developing designs to solving problems, engineers work on a variety of industrial, technical and development projects.

What is Engineering?

Engineers are responsible for researching and developing solutions to many technical problems, and commonly work in a specialized industry. The most common branches of engineering include aerospace, biomedical, chemical, civil, industrial, environmental, and nuclear engineering. Additional branches include:

  • Agricultural

  • Computer Hardware

  • Electrical

  • Materials

  • Mining

  • Petroleum

Prospective engineers can obtain training and education from an engineering college, engineering school, or even completing an engineering degree online.

What an Engineer Does

After completing basic training obtained for an engineering degree, an engineer may be responsible for:

  • Designing and executing projects involving construction

  • Implementing new strategies for design and development

  • Analyzing the impact of various products and materials used for a given project

  • Improving performance of machines and industrial goods

  • Testing and analysis of manufactured products

  • Quality control

  • Supervising teams of engineers

  • Determining the cause of problems and executing solutions

  • Using computers to produce and analyze designs

  • Creating new design processes and systems

Engineering schools prepare students with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in their career. However, much of the training they need for long-term success in their career takes place on the job or through an internship.

Skills Needed for a Successful Engineering Career

A successful engineering career requires ongoing growth and training within the position, and an engineer who specializes in a particular field will enjoy the most benefits in their job. The most common skills needed include:

  • Strong mathematical, science, and technical background
  • Ability to think in terms of systems on both a small and large scale
  • Strong computer skills
  • Ability to learn and use new software with ease
  • Understanding principles of quality and basic industrial practices
  • Working knowledge of cost and safety factors involved with production of materials
  • Direct and indirect application of science and mathematics principles
  • Being detail-oriented and creative

An engineering college prepares students with all of these skills and options for obtaining an internship during their course of study.

Types of Engineering Careers Available with an Engineering Degree

An engineering degree serves as the foundation for a long-term engineering career. The most common types of engineering careers and positions can be found in:

  • Aerospace engineering: aeronautical training
  • Agricultural engineering: biological scientists or food scientists
  • Biomedical engineering: medical scientists, chemists, and material scientists
  • Civil engineering: the installation and development of construction and roads
  • Computer hardware engineering: research, design, and d development of computer equipment
  • Electronics engineering: working with industrial robot control systems and GPS units
  • Mining and Geological engineering: working on underground operations or developing new mining equipment
  • Nuclear engineers: researching and developing equipment for nuclear fuel, radiation, and nuclear plant operation

Types of Engineering Schools

Engineering schools are divided into various specializations depending on the industry. Most engineering schools focus on electrical, mechanical, and industrial engineering while others offer extended programs to include fields such as aerospace, geological, chemical, and biochemical engineering degrees. An associate or bachelor's engineering degree offers students a chance to begin an entry-level position immediately after graduation. However, an engineering college that offers a master's degree or internship program can offer more career options with an intensive engineering degree program. Engineering colleges that offer advanced education are an attractive opportunity for graduates interested in excelling in their field or industry.

Types of Engineering Degrees Available

A number of engineering degrees are available through engineering schools. However, specializing in a particular field can help students gain practical experience and help further their career. Core engineering degrees commonly found at engineering colleges include:

In addition to these key degree areas, there are also a number of specializations available. These can be a part of an engineering distance education program, or taken onsite at an engineering school for hands-on application and training. Engineering career specializations include:

Engineering Degree Requirements, Training, and Options with an Engineering Distance Education

A bachelor's degree obtained from an engineering school is the first step in beginning an engineering career. Almost all entry-level positions require a bachelor's degree and some form of internship where the student has gained experience through hands-on training. Some specializations for engineers are flexible; for example, it is not uncommon to find an aerospace engineer who went to engineering school for mechanical engineering.

It is important for all engineering school students to specialize in a particular field, and the concentration is then a part of the curriculum. Graduate training is the basic requirement for those interested in research and teaching positions. Engineering schools and colleges are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Most engineering school programs offer a balanced course of study that includes both theoretical application and industrial practices.

An engineering distance education is a valuable opportunity for students who may not be able to attend an on-site engineering school or university. Earning an engineering degree online offers a flexible schedule for students who may already be working, or need to complete their studies from a remote location. In most cases, the typical four-year curriculum is available, but many engineering distance education programs also offer concentrated 2-year programs and advanced studies. Completing an engineering degree online is a valuable way to complete an engineering education.

Engineering distance education programs often specialize in:

  • Computer Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Engineering Management
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Manufacturing Engineering
  • Systems Engineering
  • Gas Engineering

All 50 states require engineers to obtain licensure, and this is possible through two state-administered examinations. The initial Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is generally taken upon graduation from engineering school, while the Principles of Engineering (PE) exam is taken after completing an internship or gaining relevant work experience. Training is often completed on the job, and many graduates work under close supervision of experienced engineers during the initial stages of their engineering career. After gaining the necessary experience, they may be assigned more difficult projects to develop and work on independently.

Employment Prospects for an Engineering Career

Job prospects and opportunities for those interested in pursuing an engineering career are expected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations through 2014. Engineers who specialize in computer and software, electrical engineering, civil engineering, and nuclear engineering have the highest chances of success within the industry. The market for technology-focused firms is especially favorable because of the global increases in competitive technology and manufacturing. Many engineers choose to work in long-term research and development projects, and may even branch out on their own to work as a contractor.

Earnings for various engineering career specializations vary significantly by industry, education, and skill level. The following averages for starting salaries in 2004 for each field are as follows:

  • Aerospace engineer: $50,993

  • Agricultural: $46,172

  • Bioengineering: $48,503

  • Chemical: $53,813

  • Computer: $43,679

  • Materials: $50,982

  • Nuclear: $51,182

Specialization and experience play a significant role in the final salary for any given position. Related occupations include:

  • Architects

  • Natural science managers

  • Sales engineers

  • Biological scientists

  •  Atmosphere scientists

  • Geoscientists

  • Environmental scientists

  • Physicists


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