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What Does an Engineer Do?

September 25, 2020
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Maybe you’re on the fence about becoming a licensed engineer. Maybe you’re just looking for some career inspiration. Or perhaps you’re wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into now that you’ve acquired your engineering degree. Engineering provides candidates with a plethora of job possibilities and an opportunity to touch people’s lives in more ways than you may have previously imagined. So, what does an engineer do on a daily basis?

If you performed a simple Google search to discover what an engineer actually does, you’ll come up with a vague and easy-to-regurgitate response like this one: “Engineers apply the principles of science and mathematics to develop economical solutions to technical problems.” While that may be true, it does not even begin to scratch the surface of what engineers do, and we couldn’t possibly sum up every amazing engineering feat in one definition.

First of all, what an engineer does depends on what kind of engineer the person is. The main branches of engineering (mechanical, civil, chemical, and electrical) are further broken down into sub-branches and sub-categories, leaving you with literally thousands of possibilities. Here are a few common examples.

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1. Electrical engineering
Electrical engineers can find jobs in a wide range of engineering industries, such as aerospace, automotive, and consumer electronics. For example, electrical engineers design the interfaces that transfer electricity from an engine to an aircraft.

2. Mechanical engineering
Mechanical engineers, on the other hand, perform tasks like designing infrastructure, manufacturing personal hygiene products, or developing railways.

3. Chemical engineering
Chemical engineers carry out their careers inventing pharmaceuticals, running food processing operations, or even creating new electronic and advanced materials and polymers for future technologies.

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4. Civil engineering
Civil engineers tend to acquire jobs designing, building, and supervising both public and private construction projects, such as airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and water supply systems. There’s also a new rising branch in the engineering world referred to as geotechnical engineering, in which engineers deal with the science of soils and rocks. So these kinds of engineers are busy analyzing and designing foundations, slopes, roadways, and anything else that’s made of soil and rock.

Now you’re probably wondering, “But what do engineers do that will get me excited about a career in engineering?” Here are some interesting examples of how our daily lives are touched by the hands of an engineer.

The shoes on your feet have actually been designed with the help of engineers. Companies like Nike have recruited teams of shoe engineers (yes, shoe engineers) to design shoes that meet certain biomechanical requirements, while still maintaining comfort and protection.

Amusement park lovers will be interested to know that engineers have their hands full when it comes to theme parks, too. Developing rollercoasters, thrill rides, and controlling other aspects of the park itself, like lighting and crowd flow, are all left to engineers. The next time you go to a water park, you can thank a civil engineer for the slippery part of the water slide you’re gliding down. And, on a side note, the first Ferris Wheel, created in 1893 and containing 140-foot steel beams and a 45-foot axle, was also created by an engineer (George W. Ferris).

We’ve certainly all indulged in some good movies in our lifetime. Well, have you ever seen Jurassic Park, Star Wars, or Avatar? Computer engineers play a monumental role in the development of special effects for films like these.

If you’re a space enthusiast, take a moment and think about NASA’s manned Mars mission, scheduled to take place within the next decade. Aerospace engineers are working feverishly to develop the software, spacecraft, robotics systems, food, medical supplies, and other life-sustaining technology to support this mission. These engineers are at the forefront of making it possible for humans to survive on other planets.

Drones, cars, cellphones, computers, aircraft, robots—any device or gadget you can possibly think of—has been imagined, designed, created, or overseen by an engineer. We can’t possibly list every amazing thing engineers do, but if you have the desire and drive to do something amazing yourself, engineering certainly gives you plenty of room to find your niche.

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