Career Information

Engineers at work
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Do you like solving technical problems? Are you good at and math? You might consider . Engineers are problem solvers who use their expertise in science and math to do their jobs. They work in various . Let's take a look at several of them:

  • Aerospace Engineer: Designs aircraft and tests prototypes to make sure they function as designed
  • : Solves problems related to agriculture
  • : Designs prosthetic limbs and artificial organs, as well as the material used to manufacture them
  • Chemical Engineer: Solves problems that involve the production or use of chemicals
  • : Design, builds, and supervises construction projects and systems
  • Electrical and Electronics Engineer: Designs and tests electrical equipment and systems
  • : Solves problems in the environment 

Before you go any further, find out if a .

Quick Facts

  •  for several branches of engineering (U.S., 2016):

  • In 2016, 1.6 million people worked as engineers,  according to the . Most of them were electrical and electronics engineers (315,870), mechanical engineers (285,790), civil engineers (287,800),  and industrial engineers (281,950).
  • differs by branch. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts civil and petroleum engineers will experience employment growth that is faster than the average for all occupations through 2024 while employment of  will increase much faster than the average. Chemical, electrical and electronics, mining and geological, and mechanical engineers will have job growth that is as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment of industrial engineers will change little or not at all and materials engineers' job growth will be slower than the average for all occupations.

    A Day in the Life of an Engineer

    What is it like to be an engineer? We found some answers by looking at typical job duties listed in employment announcements on :

    • "Prepare roadway plans, detail drawings, project specifications, and cost estimate" (Civil Engineer)
    • "Provide civil engineering and design support for large earth structures including dams, landfills, mining projects, and power projects" (Civil Engineer)
    • "Design and execute engineering experiments, and statistical parameter control" (Mechanical Engineer)
    • "Prepare engineering calculations, diagrams and technical reports" (Electrical Engineer)
    • "Write technical and regulatory documents in compliance with quality management system" (Biomedical Engineer)
    • "Oversee and manage the setup, performance, and reporting of the laboratory testing. Ensure that projects are completed on schedule and within budgetary constraints" (Environmental Engineer)
    • Document and present analysis results to technical leads, management and/or customers" (Aerospace Engineer)
    • "Research, draft, and coordinate acquisition packages for materials being purchased or upgraded" (Materials Engineer)

    How to Become an Engineer

    To get an entry-level job, you will need a in engineering.

    Sometimes a college degree in physical science or  will suffice, especially in high-demand specialties. Some students specialize in a particular branch of engineering but then work in a related one.

    You will have to get a state-issued  if you want to offer your services directly to the public. Doing this will allow you to be called a Professional Engineer (PE). To become licensed your college degree must come from a program that is accredited by the (ABET). You also need four years of relevant work experience and must pass a state exam. Requirements vary by state.

    What Soft Skills Do You Need?

    In addition to your education and an for math and science, you also need specific , or personal qualities, to succeed in this occupation.

    •  and : These communication skills are essential for working on teams, which will be a significant part of your job.
    • : You will need to use logic when testing products and solving problems.
    • Reading Comprehension: You must have the ability to understand written documentation.
    • Active Learning: You must be able to incorporate new findings into your work.

    How Do Engineers Advance in Their ?

    After entry-level engineers gain experience and knowledge, they may work more independently, making decisions, developing designs, and . With further experience, they may become technical specialists or over a staff or team of engineers or . Eventually, they may become engineering managers or may move into other or sales jobs.

    What Will Employers Expect From You?

    To find out what qualities, in addition to education and technical skills, employers were looking for when hiring engineers, we again turned to . Here's what we found:

    • "Strong communication and are required"
    • "Ability to work and deliver on time work products"
    • "Goal oriented – able to and achieve them"
    • "Ability to take ownership of assigned tasks in a timely manner, and learn new principle ideas and concepts"
    • "Organized, self-motivated, and detail-oriented, with the ability to adapt quickly in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment"
    • "Ability to read and interpret product drawings"

    Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

    Your , , and  are some of the factors that will determine whether being a computer programmer is a good fit for you. This career is suitable for people who have the following traits:

    • Interests (): RIC (Realistic, Investigative, Conventional)
    • Personality Type (Myers Briggs  Personality Type Indicator []): , , ESTJ, ISTJ, ESTP (Tieger, Paul D., Barron, Barbara, and Tieger, Kelly. (2014) Do What You Are. NY: Hatchette Book Group.)
    • : Independence, Working Conditions, Achievement, Recognition


    Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  , 2016–17; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,   (visited November 9, 2017).