When presented with a project outcome, engineers apply themselves to creating the designs and mechanisms to achieve those goals.
Engineers make exploring places such as space and the deepest trenches of the oceans possible, but they also work in the microscopic fields of nanoengineering. Engineers plan, and they get things done. They create machinery to get those things done more efficiently. They build, fix and maintain.
Though there are dozens of subspecialties, engineering falls into five main disciplines: Civil, mechanical, industrial, chemical and electrical.
According to projections by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, civil engineers are expected to have the largest employment increase among the various disciplines in coming years. Civil engineers design and supervise large construction and industrial projects such as roads, buildings, bridges and systems for water supply and sewage. Local, state and federal government agencies employ approximately one-third of the civil engineering workforce, though they also are needed in construction, architectural and engineering firms. The annual mean wage in 2010 for civil engineers was $84,140.
The highest-paid engineers are petroleum engineers, whose starting salaries are about $96,200, according to a 2013 national survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. After these engineers earn their bachelor's degrees, they learn the majority of their trade in the field, designing and building equipment to extract oil and gas in the most profitable and safe ways.
Due to a generational shift as existing engineers retire and with global growth in the industry, petroleum engineers' job prospects are expected to be highly favorable.
In general, engineers are in high demand. On the NACE survey, the overall average starting salary for engineering graduates rose 2.3 percent to $62,062, the highest of any category. Employment of engineers varies by specialty, however, it is affected by forces such as foreign outsourcing, government spending cutbacks and trends toward hiring on contract, making engineers more vulnerable to business cycles and layoffs.
For example, aerospace and electronics engineers, with annual mean wages ranging from $94,000 to $104,000, have been hurt by cuts in government defense and research spending. Both are projected to have slow to no growth over the next few years.
Alternatively, biomedical engineering is expected to have the fastest growth within engineering. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is forecasting a 62 percent growth in the field from 2010 to 2020. The median salary for these engineers was $81,540 in 2010, but the NACE survey showed a 10 percent increase in the starting salaries of bioengineers ($54,900).
These engineers apply their technical knowledge to medicine, working with devices such as artificial organs and biomedical equipment. They are employed by medical manufacturing companies, scientific research groups and universities.