What is Engineering? Definition and examples

Engineering is all about using scientific principles to create structures and machines. Examples include bridges, pharmaceuticals, vehicles, airplanes, factory machines, buildings, roads, robots, and tunnels.

It is the application of mathematics and science to solve problems. Engineering professionals, i.e., engineers, figure out how things function. They look at scientific discoveries and find ways to get them onto the market.

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Inventors, especially scientists, tend to get the credit for new inventions that improve your quality of life. However, we must not forget that those who are instrumental in finding practical uses for them are engineers.

The University of Bath in England has the following definition of the term:

“Engineering is a discipline dedicated to problem solving. Our built environment and infrastructure, the devices we use to communicate, the processes that manufacture our medicines, have all been designed, assembled or managed by an engineer.”

Engineering is a wide field

There are many different types of engineers. The term may have a variety of meanings, depending on who uses it, where, and in which circumstances.

While some design and build roads, others are involved in food processing, creating robots, making industrial chemicals, or are trying to overcome manufacturing challenges.

Let’s look at five different types of engineers:

Mechanical engineers

Mechanical engineers design and create mechanical systems. They study systems and objects in motion. This field touches many aspects of our everyday life.

Mechanical engineers are key personnel in various industries, including aerospace, biotech, automotive, energy conversion, and manufacturing.

According to Columbia University in the City of New York:

“The role of a mechanical engineer is to take a product from an idea to the marketplace. To accomplish this, the mechanical engineer must be able to determine the forces and thermal environment that a product, its parts, or its subsystems will encounter; design them for functionality, aesthetics, and durability; and determine the best manufacturing approach that will ensure operation without failure.”

Electrical engineers

These professionals focus on technology that uses electricity as its power source. They work on electrical devices, systems, and components. One might be working on something tiny, such as a microchip, while another may be building a massive power station.

Regarding products we use today, austintec.com says the following:

“Electrical engineers can be credited with feats such as inventing the radio, television, induction motor, and more. None of these iconic items would be available without electrical engineers.”

“One of the most famous electrical engineers is Thomas Edison, who is credited with inventing the electric light bulb.”

Industrial engineers

These engineering professionals, as the name suggests, work in industry. More specifically, they focus on boosting efficiency, lowering costs, improving product quality (or service quality), and health and safety in the workplace.

They also implement strategies to make a company or its factory environmentally friendly. Compliance is also the focus of industrial engineers. Compliance refers to adhering to  or complying with (obeying) a set of rules and regulations.

According to IISE (Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers):

“Industrial and systems engineering is concerned with the design, improvement and installation of integrated systems of people, materials, information, equipment and energy.”

“It draws upon specialized knowledge and skill in the mathematical, physical, and social sciences together with the principles and methods of engineering analysis and design, to specify, predict, and evaluate the results to be obtained from such systems.”

Chemical engineers

Chemical engineers work in creating industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, as well as food processing. They design the systems, processes, and equipment for refining raw materials and processing chemicals to make products that consumers, businesses, and other entities use.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has the following job description of a chemical engineer:

“Chemical engineers apply the principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and math to solve problems that involve the use of fuel, drugs, food, and many other products.”

Civil engineers

Civil engineering has been around for thousands of years. Professionals design, build, and maintain the infrastructure items of a country, region, or town.

They build, for example, railways, hospitals, water supply systems, bridges, tunnels, buildings, dams, and sea defenses. Much of what we see around us outdoors has something to do with civil engineering.

Regarding items in the world around us, the Institution of Engineers in the United Kingdom says the following:

“Civil engineering is everything you see that’s been built around us. It’s about roads and railways, schools, offices, hospitals, water and power supply and much more. The kinds of things we take for granted but would find life very hard to live without.”

“Civil engineers design, create and connect up the world around us. They help make our villages, towns and cities work for the people that live there.”

Career prospects

There are over forty different types of engineering degree courses at universities. Did you know that there are forensic engineers? Experts expect the whole sector, which is huge, to see significant growth over at least the next couple of decades.

If you are wondering what to study, bear in mind that engineering today is a top career. It will continue to be so for a very long time.

The notion that this type of career is for men is a myth. There are hundreds of thousands of women globally either studying or working as engineers. In fact, women are representing an ever-growing percentage of all engineers in the advanced economies and many of the emerging ones.

If you like math and science, and enjoy solving problems, you should seriously consider becoming an engineer.