8 Engineering Specializations (With Salaries and Duties)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 26, 2022

Published August 17, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Engineering is a popular career path, with various applications in many industries. As technology and customer needs evolve, new areas of engineering are emerging. Understanding the different engineering specializations can help you decide which one suits you best. In this article, we discuss what engineering is, highlight the skills you need as an engineer, and explore eight engineering specializations you can consider.

What are engineering specializations?

Engineering specializations are concentrations that engineers may focus on throughout school and in their careers. Engineers often use science and math to design and build structures, equipment, and other products to solve human problems. They also translate scientific knowledge into practical applications to make life easier. However, it's common for engineers to pick a specialization, depending on their talents and interests. For example, one engineer may choose to focus on industrial engineering while another may want to build their career in mechanical engineering.

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  • How To Write an Engineering Resume

  • 20 Types of Engineering Careers

Foundational skills for engineers

Here are some skills you may consider developing to successfully work as an engineer:

  • Problem-solving skills: Problem-solving skills refer to identifying a problem and designing a suitable solution. The core of an engineer's responsibilities is developing products to solve societal problems.

  • Communication skills: Engineers often use active listening skills to understand the needs of their clients. Since engineers sometimes supervise a team of staff, it can also be beneficial to have excellent communication skills to direct operations and convey instructions effectively.

  • Innovation and creativity: Engineers often encounter complex problems which require innovation and creativity to solve. They also apply innovation to make products aesthetically pleasing and comfortable for users.

  • Attention to detail: Engineers often deal with delicate systems that can malfunction because of minor errors. They require attention to detail to detect issues when they arise and ensure their equipment functions properly.

  • Teamwork skills: Engineers rarely work alone on projects and usually collaborate with other engineers and professionals. They require teamwork skills to collaborate effectively and develop better ideas.

Related: How to Become a Certified Quality Engineer (With Steps)

Ten engineering specializations you can consider

Here are some engineering specializations you can consider building your career in:

1. Industrial engineering

Industrial engineering is a field that involves the design and optimization of industrial processes. These engineers develop efficient processes or equipment that can deliver results with less cost and waste. They also ensure their designs abide by safety regulations. When handling projects, industrial engineers design the schedule and coordinate its implementation. Businesses often consult industrial engineers to identify production problems and design solutions. Industrial engineers also monitor the products of their systems to ensure they meet quality standards, as well as train production staff.

If you want to work in the field, it's important to have a good understanding of physics and math. As an industrial engineer, you can work with manufacturing companies, engineering consultancies, research institutes, or logistic companies. The average salary for professionals in this specialization is $71,708 per year.

2. Chemical engineering

Chemical engineers develop, test, and research chemical products. They evaluate the tools and production processes for manufacturing chemical products and design certain products to address specific industrial, environmental, or technological needs. Chemical engineers also specialize in converting raw materials to finished products. Their field is broad and has various applications, including creating many of the products we use daily, like plastic, fertilizers, dye, and polymers. Chemical engineers also perform other duties like developing safety regulations for harmful chemicals and ensuring quality control. They prepare project cost estimates and improve on the efficiency of equipment and production systems.

To be a chemical engineer, an understanding of chemistry, mathematics, and physics is crucial. It can also be helpful to have strong analytical and critical-thinking skills. A job in this field means you can work in a manufacturing company, research institute, or healthcare company. Most entry-level jobs for this specialization require a degree in chemical engineering. If you work as a chemical engineer, you can expect to make an average of $62,981 per year.

3. Electrical engineering

Electrical engineers report making an average of $73,085 per year. These professionals design, create, and test tools to produce and distribute electricity. They design a wide range of products, including transformers, generators, electric engines, and electrical appliances. In addition, they produce electrical systems for industries, residences, and vehicles. Electrical engineers often use computer-assisted design to create suitable solutions for clients. An electrical engineer's duties also include designing installation guidelines, managing installation personnel, and ensuring products meet safety and quality standards. Clients also employ electrical engineers to diagnose design flaws and develop solutions.

Electrical engineers use a fair amount of physics and mathematics in their work. A bachelor's degree can get you an entry-level job as an electrical engineer, but many electrical engineers earn a master's degree to show their commitment to the field and to increase their knowledge of certain electrical engineering principles.

Related: 5 Steps To Become an Electrical Engineer

4. Biomedical engineering

As a biomedical engineer, you may expect to make an average of $76,110 per year. Biomedical engineers apply the principles of engineering to biology and healthcare. They often work with medical professionals to design equipment, like incubators, scanners, and health monitors, that assists with healthcare. These engineers also produce artificial limbs and organs for people with disabilities. After designing medical equipment, they create installation and usage guidelines and ensure their products are effective and safe for users.

Research is a large part of a biomedical engineer's duties, as their findings contribute to academic works and production efforts. As a biomedical engineer, with knowledge of biology, physics, mathematics and healthcare, you can work for pharmaceutical companies, manufacturing industries, research institutes, and hospitals.

5. Computer engineering

Computer engineers are responsible for designing, assessing, and manufacturing computer hardware and software components. Sometimes, hardware engineering and software engineering are considered different specializations and are different programs in a university. Computer engineers create antiviruses, operating systems, motherboards, processors, and network systems. They also optimize computer systems to become more effective so they're able to satisfy customers' needs. Additionally, computer engineers design computer systems specifically for businesses or organizations and monitor their performance.

To become a computer engineer, build your knowledge of electrical engineering, math, and computer science. As a computer engineer, you can work for computer stores, technology companies, and telecommunication firms. Computer engineers report earning an average of $72,860 per year.

Related: How To Become a Software Engineer

6. Petroleum engineering

Making an average of $123,611 per year, petroleum engineers are responsible for designing and implementing processes and equipment to extract petroleum and process it for use. They collaborate with other workers like geoscientists to test for petroleum reserves. These engineering professionals also evaluate the best methods to extract oil while considering safety and efficiency standards. Petroleum engineering comprises various specialization areas like drilling, subsurface, and reservoir engineers. They also supervise machine installation, ensuring workers follow all safety regulations.

To become a petroleum engineer, consider increasing your understanding of physics, chemistry, geology, and mathematics. In this specialization, you can work at onshore sites, offshore sites, and manufacturing industries.

Related: How to Become a Petroleum Engineer (With Steps and Tips)

7. Aeronautical engineering

Aeronautical engineers, earning an average of $67,860 per year, design, produce, and evaluate the performance of airborne machinery. Aeronautical engineers are responsible for producing and optimizing airplanes, satellites, missiles, rockets, and air defence systems.

To become an aeronautical engineer, earn your aeronautical engineering degree or a degree in a field that gives you an understanding of aircraft. Pursue courses in aerodynamics, physics, mathematics, and computer science. In this role, you can work for government agencies, airline companies, and research institutes.

Related: What Are the Most In-Demand Careers?

8. Civil engineering

Civil engineers are responsible for designing and supervising the construction of various structures. These include roads, railways, tunnels, sewage systems, dams, and bridges. They design and manufacture infrastructure to aid human activities. Physics, geology, mathematics, and hydrology are important topics to know more about so you can complete your duties effectively. When civil engineers have a project, they often investigate proposed sites and perform feasibility studies. After that, the civil engineer designs construction plans and oversees their implementation. As supervisors, civil engineers ensure workers abide by safety regulations.

As a civil engineer, you can work for various organizations, including construction companies, transportation corporations, government agencies, and mining enterprises. In addition, you can seek specialization in a specific type of infrastructure like roads or water systems. While you may only need a bachelor's degree to start your career as a civil engineer, many employers look for candidates with master's degrees in the field. Civil engineers report making an average of $72,425 per year.

Related: How To Become a Civil Engineer (With Steps and Skills)

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background, and location.

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