Engineering: Definition, And Types of Engineering

What is an Engineering?

Engineering is the use of scientific principles to design and build machines, structures, and other items, including bridges, tunnels, roads, vehicles, and buildings.

The discipline of engineering encompasses a broad range of more specialized fields of engineering, each with a more specific emphasis on particular areas of applied mathematics, applied science, and types of application.

The term engineering is derived from the Latin Ingenium, meaning “cleverness” and ingeniare, meaning “to contrive, devise”.

Engineering is the application of science and math to solve problems. Engineers figure out how things work and find practical uses for scientific discoveries. Scientists and inventors often get the credit for innovations that advance the human condition, but it is engineers who are instrumental in making those innovations available to the world.

In his book, “Disturbing the Universe” (Sloan Foundation, 1981), physicist Freeman Dyson wrote, “A good scientist is a person with original ideas. A good engineer is a person who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible. There are no prima donnas in engineering.”

The history of engineering is part and parcel of the history of human civilization. The Pyramids of Giza, Stonehenge, the Parthenon, and the Eiffel Tower stand today as monuments to our heritage of engineering.

Today’s engineers not only build huge structures, such as the International Space Station, but they are also building maps to the human genome and better, smaller computer chips.

Engineering is one of the cornerstones of STEM education, an interdisciplinary curriculum designed to motivate students to learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


The American Engineers’ Council for Professional Development (ECPD, the predecessor of ABET) has defined “engineering” as:

The creative application of scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design; or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation and safety to life and property.


40 Different Types of Engineering Degrees and What do they do?

Here’s a rundown of the main branches of engineering, to help you decide which one could be for you.

  • Mechanical engineering.
  • Aerospace/aeronautical engineering.
  • Chemical engineering.
  • Civil engineering.
  • Electrical/electronic engineering.
  • Engineering management.

Types of Mechanical Engineering Degrees

1. Mechanical Engineering Degree

A Mechanical Engineering Degree involves the design of mechanical systems. These systems assist industries such as manufacturing, aeronautics, nanotechnology, nuclear power production, heating, and cooling.

A primary focus is on thermodynamics, structural analysis, materials science, and kinematics. This is arguably the broadest of all engineering degrees available today and takes in a wide range of engineering disciplines.

The Mechanical Engineering Degree has a number of subsets that intermix with electronics and electrical engineering, such as Mechatronics.

Mechanical Engineering Degrees Are Available In:

Undergraduate: Certificate, Associates, Bachelors

Typically, mechanical engineering programs that are at the Certificate or Associates level are offered by Junior or Community Colleges.

There are several online programs available at the Bachelors’s level that combine Mechanical and Electronics into a degree called Mechatronics Engineering.

You may consider an online program from an accredited university currently accepting applicants:

Graduate: Masters, Doctorate

Most graduate programs for Mechanical Engineering are located on campus, but there are a few online offerings for a Masters in Mechanical Engineering or a related program. You may consider an online program from an accredited university currently accepting applicants:

2. Aerospace Engineering Degree

An Aerospace Engineering Degree involves the study of air and space travel. This might include military aircraft design and development, along with commercial airline design and satellite technology.

The terms Aerospace and Aeronautical are both often used interchangeably, yet there are key differences between the two.

Aeronautical Engineering relates to craft that remain in our atmosphere, while Aerospace Engineering refers to aircraft that venture outside our atmosphere.

Most programs in the United States have changed their names from Aeronautical to Aerospace over the past couple decades, but there are still some programs that go by the historical name.

Aeronautical Engineering Degrees Are Available In:

Undergraduate: Certificate, Associates, Bachelors

There are a few Aerospace programs online as most are on campus, but there are several online Aeronautics programs at the undergraduate level.

Graduate: Masters, Doctorate

There are a decent number of Online Masters in Engineering programs, all in different areas of engineering. Computer Engineering, Software Engineering, and Engineering Management seem to be the most popular online engineering programs.

3. Biomedical Engineering Degree

Biomedical engineering combines the study of medicine and biology. Biomedical Engineers apply their design skills to biological and medical sciences. They do this to assist in advancements in healthcare treatment technology.

They develop and maintain diagnostic devices. Devices that include EEGs, MRIs, and other imaging machines. Physicians use these machines to diagnosis their patients’ medical problems. This is a fast-moving industry and while challenging can be a rewarding career path to take.

Available in: Certificate, Bachelor’s, Masters, and Doctorate.

4. Biomechanical Engineering Degree

Biomechanical Engineering is the study of organisms and mechanics and how the two solve problems in combination. This is a growing industry and practical applications include environmental challenges such as waste control and keeping our waterways free from pollution.

It shares close ties with Biomedical Engineering and Agricultural Engineering, as you might expect. Most working in Biomechanics have a Biomechanical Engineering Degree at the Master’s level or above.

5. Automotive Engineering Degree

As the name implies, automotive engineering involves the design and production of vehicles. The automotive industry is hugely diverse and requires engineers to work in areas such as mechanical design, performance, manufacturing, electrical engineering and systems management.

Available in: Masters and Doctorate.

Types of Civil Engineering Degrees

1. Civil Engineering Degree

Civil Engineering involves the development of infrastructures such as buildings, railways, roads construction, bridges, and general construction project management. Civil Engineers also play an important role in rebuilding projects, such as in the event of a natural disaster.

Civil Engineers may work in the private or public sector at any level. This is a very broad engineering degree. Environmental Engineering, Structural Engineering and Marine Engineering are all specialties of Civil Engineering.

Available in: Certificate, Bachelor’s, Masters, and Doctorate.

2. Structural Engineering Degree

Structural engineering is a specific branch of civil engineering and specializes in the design of different structures, including houses, commercial buildings, art museums, stores, and more.

It is important for structural engineers to understand the construction of buildings and the effects of natural factors such as erosion, corrosion, wind, and water to ensure buildings and structures are safe for a very long period of time.

At some universities, structural engineering is a concentration offered within a civil engineering degree.

Available in: Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate.

3. Architectural Engineering Degree

Architectural EngineeringArchitectural engineers work in the construction, planning, and design phase of projects. In conjunction with other team members, the focus is on building structure and interior design. This includes Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, Electrical, Fire protection, Lighting, Plumbing, and other systems specific to the project. In some areas, natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes have special consideration.

Available in: Certificate, Bachelor’s, Masters, and Doctorate.

Types of Electrical Engineering Degrees

1. Electrical Engineering Degree

An Electrical Engineering Degree involves the study of energy. Energy is available in various forms such as electrical, hydro, and natural sources such as wind and solar energy. An Electrical Engineer develops technologies to assist with the practical application of such energies.

Electrical Engineers design components for electronic equipment, communications systems, power grids, automobiles, and more. Most employers require an Electrical Engineering Degree at some level to work as an Electrical Engineer, and other licensing or certification requirements may also be required depending on where you live.

Online Electrical Engineering Degrees Are Available In:

Undergraduate: Certificate, Associates, Bachelors

Availability of undergraduate online electrical engineering programs is limited, but many traditional universities have on-campus programs, especially at the Bachelors level.

Graduate: Masters, Doctorate

There are some options for Online Electrical Engineering Degrees, but some also consider the Masters in Computer Engineering.

2. Computer Engineering Degree

Computer Engineering DegreeAnother industry that continues to expand is of course the Information Technology (IT) industry. This involves both computer sciences and electrical engineering.

Successful graduates may find themselves in Telecommunications, Networking, Software Application Development, or Manufacturing, and additional industries are emerging, such as Application Development, Web Development, Network Security / Cybersecurity, and Cloud Computing, among others.

This type of degree has good future potential as most industries rely on information technology. Read more about the computer engineering degree.

Computer Engineering Degrees Are Available In:

Undergraduate: Certificate, Associates, Bachelors

The most common computer engineering degrees are at the Bachelors level.

Graduate: Masters, Doctorate

The top graduate degree in computer engineering is the Masters in Computer Engineering.

3. Electronics Engineering Degree

Technology and specifically, electronics, have changed the way most of the world lives every day. From the revolutionary computer to the latest mobile phone technology that fits in your pocket, we all use electronics every single day.

Electronics engineers are needed to design and build electronic equipment. Most electronics engineers work with circuits, switchboards, and other electronic configurations to design and build these devices.

Available in: Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Masters.

4. Mechatronics Engineering Degree

A blend of mechanical engineering and electronics engineering, Mechatronics, or Mechatronics Engineering, is an emerging area for hybrid engineers. Nearly all mechanical equipment in this day and age is operated with a mix of electronics and software, all based on computers and technology.

Mechatronics engineers help bridge that gap, and have intrinsic knowledge of electrical, electronics, and mechanical engineering. Some more experienced Mechatronics Engineers also have computer, hardware, and software engineering experience as well.

Available in: Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Masters.

5. Robotics Engineering Degree

A robotics engineering degree has a primary focus on automation and the use of machines to assist with repetitive tasks such as those found in manufacturing. Robotics engineers will typically design robotic technology and develop maintenance systems to help achieve optimal efficiency. this is an area with expected growth of up to 15% in the next five years.

Available in: Certificate, Master’s and Doctorate.

6. Microelectronic Engineering Degree

If you have an interest in electronics a Microelectronic Engineering degree might be of interest. Microelectronics is a subset of Electrical Engineering with a focus on the word ‘Micro’. Microelectronic Engineers specialize in the development and design of small electrical devices. Used in a wide range of industrial applications.

As we move away from bulky electronic devices such as the first mobile phones and desktop computers. We develop smaller more convenient electronic devices. As a result the demand for microelectronic engineers is high. Microelectronic engineers also assist in the technical writing aspect of a project. As well as perform tests to verify product conformance.

Available in: Master’s and Doctorate.

Types of Chemical Engineering Degrees

1. Chemical Engineering Degree

chemical engineeringAs the name implies, Chemical Engineering is the practical application of chemistry. This type of engineering degree involves technology that utilizes chemical reactions to solve problems.

A chemical engineer creates new products, including Cosmetics, foods, pharmaceuticals, beverages, and cleaners from raw chemicals. this is a very broad engineering degree and allows for a number of different forms of employment. It is also one of the most challenging degrees available.

Available in: Certificate, Bachelor’s, Masters and Doctorate.

2. Environmental Engineering Degree

One of the most popular kinds of engineering degree. Environmental Engineering involves the study of science and engineering to improve our environment. This includes the air we breathe, food we consume, and water.

Environmental Engineers also study the environmental impact humans have on the planet, including pollution as a result of development and manufacturing processes. Environmental Engineering is considered a subset of Civil Engineering.

Available in: Certificate, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate.

3. Materials Science Engineering Degree

A Materials Science engineering degree is a study of materials and why they behave a specific way or react to things in a certain way. This includes plastics, ceramics and polymers.

Everything around us is made up of materials, as we evolve there is an increasing demand for materials that are stronger, more environmentally friendly and lighter.

Employment opportunities include research positions along with industry placements. Materials Science Engineering is a very hands-on, practical degree and graduates are in high demand.

Available in: Certificate, Masters and Doctorate.

4. Agricultural Engineering Degree

An Agricultural engineering degree involves learning how to apply engineering to the agricultural industry to assist with area of farming including soil conservation and salinity, ground preparation, irrigation, farm machinery design and production and helping develop more effective harvest techniques.

Employment generally involves working in a consulting capacity or employed in a related industry such as machinery design and production.

Available in: Certificate, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate.

5. Paper Engineering Degree

Paper Engineering is a specialization of chemical engineering and involves understanding the processes involved (chemical and mechanical) of paper production. This type of degree involves both research-based work and practical assessment which is typically lab work. Students learn the principles behind molecular science, wood pulping and fluid mechanics to name just a few.

Available in: Certificate, Master’s and Doctorate.

6. Sustainability Design Degree

Sustainable engineering takes into account the three major areas of sustainability: environmental impact, social and economic considerations. This includes not only the initial construction process but the complete life cycle of the product being developed. Graduates may complete further post-graduate study or work in industries such as: Industrial wastewater management, emission control and hazardous waste management.

Types of Engineering Management Degrees

1. Engineering Management Degree

An Engineering Management Degree combines engineering with business management training to arm the successful graduate with the ability to manage engineering projects or manage a team of engineers.

A degree in engineering management limits the shortfall of engineers with limited business and management skills or managers with limited engineering knowledge. This type of degree is expected to rise in popularity over time.

Available in: Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate.

2. MBA in Engineering Degree

Generally speaking, the MBA has become a staple among successful businessmen and businesswomen, and the engineering field is no exception. The MBA in Engineering is specifically tailored for engineers that already hold a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

The program is ideal for FE’s or PE’s that wish to get into management, or VP/C-level positions in a company. Typically the MBA in Engineering has more benefit to those working in the private engineering sector.

3. Industrial Engineering Degree

Industrial engineers work for manufacturing companies, or as consultants to the manufacturing industry. The role of an Industrial engineer is to increase productivity and reduce waste and spending.

Many new start-ups will hire an Industrial engineer to help make their business more efficient. Industrial engineers are also hired to test employee productivity and in house processes. Which will improve the efficiency of the company.

Available in: Certificate, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate.

4. Systems Engineering Degree

Systems engineering is a multi-disciplined engineering degree. While it has evolved over time as systems have evolved with technology and greater efficiency it’s primary focus is on developing and improving upon existing systems. Systems engineers develop systems for workplace efficiency, risk management, measuring and refinement.

Available in: Certificate, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate.

5. Manufacturing Engineering Degree

A Manufacturing Engineering degree focuses on manufacturing processes and machinery and quality control systems. Manufacturing makes up over 20% of America’s GDP and over 15% of our employment. As a result, it’s important we refine our manufacturing processes for increased efficiency.

This is a very broad discipline and can overlap other types of engineering studies including robotics and systems engineering. Students will study diverse areas of engineering such as: Material science, manufacturing technology, and automation (robotics) along with fluid mechanics and hydraulics.

Available in: Certificate, Master’s and Doctorate.

Types of Geotechnical Engineering Degrees

1. Petroleum Engineering Degree

A petroleum engineer handles the extraction of oil and gas from beneath the earth. They are also involved in developing new extraction methods and technologies including new methods that are more efficient and less damaging to the environment.

Petroleum Engineering is one of the highest-paid engineering positions available. Petroleum engineers play a significant role in locating reservoirs beneath the earth’s surface for gas and oil companies.

Available in: Masters and Doctorate.

2. Geological Engineering Degree

Geological engineers combine engineering and research skills for mining and construction projects. Construction firms hire Geological engineers. They assess ground conditions and other natural hazards (earthquakes, etc.) before starting construction.

With declining natural resources available, Geological engineers are in high demand. Geological Engineers work in the private sector or governmental agencies.

Available in: Masters and Doctorate.

3. Nuclear Engineering Degree

Nuclear engineers are at the core of development for the ever-growing use of nuclear power. The medical field has become the largest beneficiary of many new developments. Nuclear engineers work for consulting firms, power plants, and government agencies.

As expected, the demand for nuclear engineers in nuclear power plants is high. The design, implementation, and maintenance of the plant is one aspect of their duties. Many Nuclear Engineers also move into supervision and management.

Available in: Masters and Doctorate.

4. Marine Engineering Degree

A Marine engineer applies knowledge to the development of ocean technologies. Technologies include fixed and floating structures, such as pontoons and jetties, propulsion and power generation for boats, ships, and other marine transportation, and developing new forms of energy that are reliant on our oceans including wind farms.

Available in: Certificate, Masters, and Doctorate.

5. Engineering Physics

An engineering physics degree combines engineering with physics and allows students to study the areas where these two areas intersect. It is also a precursor to graduate studies in either physics or engineering.

Most graduates will work in research or another field of engineerings such as mechanical engineering or nuclear engineering. The demand for this type of graduate is particularly high.

Available in: Certificate, Masters and Doctorate.

6. Photonics Engineering Degree

Photons are a specific type of light. Photonics engineering concerns itself with the exploration of light. this includes generation of light, processing of light signals, amplification of light and modulation.

Industries that utilize this kind of technology include Telecommunications (optical signal processing and communication), Medical, Manufacturing, Aviation and computing to name just a few.

Over the course of the next decade opportunities for qualified Photonics Engineers is expected to increase significantly.

Available in: Master’s and Doctorate.

7. Nanotechnology Engineering

Nano essentially refers to a billionth e.g. one nanometer is 1 billionth of a meter or between 2 and 20 atoms in length. Nanotechnology is the study of extremely small elements such as molecules and single atoms and the production of extremely small devices.

Nanotechnology is expected to be as important to us as the industrial revolution over time as it has the potential to help solve some of the world’s major problems including health and environmental concerns.

Nanotechnology is a very specialized discipline that can be applied to a very broad range of industries and fields.

Available in: Certificate, Master’s and Doctorate.

8. Mining Engineering Degree

A mining Engineering degree involves studying the extraction of mined resources from the earth in a safe, economical, and environmentally responsible manner. Engineers are involved in the mining industry in areas such as machinery production and design, mine design, mine construction.

Mining Engineers may work closely with Geologists to discover the most effective extraction techniques and can be employed on-site or work remotely.

Available in: Master’s and Doctorate.

9. Ceramics Engineering Degree

As the name implies. Ceramics engineers develop products from ceramics (ceramics being non metal, nonorganic materials that are generally produced by heating and cooling). Ceramics are often more suitable than metals in many cases due to their heat and cool resistance and can often be found in industries such as: medical, mining and electronics.

Available in: Master’s and Doctorate.

10. Metallurgical Engineering Degree

A Metallurgical Engineering Degree involves the study of engineering principles to extract and in many cases purify metals and other minerals from ore. Metallurgical Engineers develop and design processing techniques and machinery and have to take into account the environmental impact of mineral processing.

Available in: Master’s and Doctorate.

11. Geomatics Engineering Degree

A Geomatics Engineering degree involves the study of precise measurement for mapping the earth’s environment using advanced equipment and techniques.

Geomatics Engineers play an important role in planning future infrastructure and often work with large amounts of data to form digital replications of terrain and develop 3D maps. This also includes the study of GPS technology. There is a shortage of qualified Geomatics professionals and as a result they are in great demand.

Available in: Master’s and Doctorate.

12. Project Management Degree

Many engineers that wish to continue advancing in their corporation choose to pursue a project management degree. Some engineers can become a project manager without a project management degree, but a project management degree helps you learn PM principles to ensure all engineering branches work together for the completion of typically large projects.

Many engineers work with project managers, but civil engineers, architectural engineers, and electrical engineers work with a project manager for nearly every road/highway or building/construction project. Having the PM experience can give you a more comprehensive vantage point from all engineering angles.

Available in: Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate.

The list above represents the many different types of Engineering Degrees available. Some degrees will overlap to some extent while some degrees are very specialized, and as a result, so is the education.