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In today’s world, an engi­neer­ing bachelor’s degree can take some­one very far — it’s one of the best invest­ments in a bach­e­lor’s degree. Engi­neers build the world and how peo­ple inter­act with it in ways that go beyond what many peo­ple tra­di­tion­al­ly con­sid­er as the type of thing engi­neers do. That is to say, there is a lot more to engi­neer­ing than build­ing struc­tures, although the build­ing of things is def­i­nite­ly a large part of engi­neer­ing as well.

So, what is engi­neer­ing? What does an engi­neer do in gen­er­al? What is the dif­fer­ence in engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy vs engi­neer­ing? The answers to these and oth­er ques­tions con­cern­ing engi­neer­ing as a career option have a lot to do with the type of engi­neer­ing degree an appli­cant will want to pur­sue. In all cas­es, an engi­neer­ing degree is cer­tain­ly worth the effort it takes to obtain one.

An engi­neer takes the the­o­ries and math­e­mat­ics of the hard sci­ences and finds ways to use them to ben­e­fit soci­ety. The engi­neer uses the tools offered by sci­ence to solve eco­nom­ic prob­lems or fig­ure out ways to trans­form the the­o­ret­i­cal into some­thing use­able, prac­ti­cal, or sell­able. Engi­neers work in every sec­tor and are just as impor­tant to com­mer­cial enter­pris­es as they are to pub­lic ones.

What Is an Engineering Bachelor’s Degree? What Are the Different Types of Engineering?

Engi­neer­ing is an incred­i­bly broad cat­e­go­ry with many bach­e­lor’s spe­cial­iza­tions, which can some­times lead to a lit­tle con­fu­sion regard­ing what exact­ly con­sti­tutes engi­neer­ing. The first thing appli­cants should under­stand is the dif­fer­ence between engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy vs engineering.

An engi­neer and an engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gist can have some over­lap, but they are two dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories and often have dif­fer­ent degree require­ments. One broad and very sim­plis­tic way to look at the two cat­e­gories is to con­sid­er an engi­neer as the brain and an engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gist as the brawn.

Engi­neers use math and sci­ence to ben­e­fit soci­ety by solv­ing prac­ti­cal prob­lems. Engi­neers cre­ate advanced designs and sys­tems; they for­ward the field with the­o­ries and fig­ure out solu­tions to com­pli­cat­ed prob­lems. Although this can seem like a broad def­i­n­i­tion of the duties of an engi­neer, it answers the ques­tion of what does an engi­neer do in gen­er­al. Engi­neer sci­en­tists also exist as part of this group.

Engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gists have the knowl­edge to design, build, and cre­ate prac­ti­cal solu­tions that bring the advanced designs of engi­neers to life. These peo­ple often man­age the top-lev­el aspects of projects and deal with the real-world prac­ti­cal­i­ties that come with cre­at­ing an engi­neer­ing project.

A third group also exists, which are the voca­tion­al or spe­cial­ized tech­ni­cians. This group typ­i­cal­ly con­sists of those who have only obtained a two-year engi­neer­ing degree. These peo­ple often work the ser­vice jobs nec­es­sary to install, trou­bleshoot, and repair systems.

Engi­neer­ing degrees usu­al­ly start at the tech­ni­cian lev­el, move through the engi­neer tech­nol­o­gist fields of stud, and end with a full engi­neer edu­ca­tion. For exam­ple, stu­dents may start out learn­ing about the var­i­ous sys­tems in place because of engi­neer­ing and how they work, depend­ing on the type of engi­neer­ing field the stu­dent chooses.

From there, a stu­dent can choose the path of the engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gist where he or she may learn the more prac­ti­cal aspects of engi­neer­ing and man­age­ment, such as sales, pro­duc­tion, man­u­fac­tur­ing, oper­a­tion, main­te­nance, etc. For those who want to obtain the engi­neer sta­tus, those stud­ies will become more about research, com­plex design, analy­sis, and theory.

When choos­ing engi­neer­ing as a career option, it can help if the appli­cant has a firm idea of what exact­ly they want to do in the engi­neer­ing field. Many branch­es of engi­neer­ing exist, and each branch will have sub­cat­e­gories as well. The main engi­neer­ing branch­es include:

  • Chem­i­cal engineering
  • Civ­il engineering
  • Elec­tri­cal engineering
  • Mechan­i­cal engineering

Where these branch­es cross, there is also inter­dis­ci­pli­nary engi­neer­ing. The best engi­neer­ing degrees to get are those the appli­cant feels they have the most affin­i­ty with. The world needs engi­neers of all types and at all times, so appli­cants should not fear their degree is tied to a dead or dying discipline.

Com­plex com­put­er sys­tems are con­stant­ly under­go­ing new designs and new ways to main­tain them. Con­struc­tion always requires new tech­niques and ways to build things in dif­fer­ent cli­mates and in dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ments. So, when con­sid­er­ing the best engi­neer­ing degrees to get, appli­cants should always con­sid­er those they feel they will receive the most reward­ing expe­ri­ence from.

How Do I Find the Best Engineering Schools and Programs? What Kind of Accreditation Should an Engineering Program Have?

For those look­ing for the best engi­neer­ing under­grad­u­ate schools in the world, the search starts by look­ing at the accred­i­ta­tion sta­tus of a school or pro­gram. As with most facil­i­ties and pro­grams that offer under­grad­u­ate degrees, appli­cants must make sure that they stick to those schools and pro­grams that have cur­rent accred­i­ta­tion from the right accred­it­ing groups. For col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, a good place to start is with region­al accreditation.

Region­al accred­i­ta­tion means a school, col­lege, or uni­ver­si­ty has vol­un­tar­i­ly applied for their accred­i­ta­tion sta­tus from one of the sev­en region­al accred­it­ing agen­cies. These agen­cies form the Coun­cil of Region­al Accred­it­ing Com­mis­sions. They set edu­ca­tion­al stan­dards with the full approval of the US Dept. of Edu­ca­tion and Coun­cil for High­er Edu­ca­tion Accreditation.

Region­al accred­i­ta­tion is the most wide­ly known and pop­u­lar form of accred­i­ta­tion when it comes to insti­tutes of high­er learn­ing. In some cas­es, this accred­i­ta­tion sta­tus can make the dif­fer­ence between hav­ing the abil­i­ty to trans­fer cred­its between schools or not.

As the most well-known schools, col­leges, and uni­ver­si­ties have region­al accred­i­ta­tion, they are more prone to accept cred­its from oth­er region­al­ly accred­it­ed facil­i­ties. One caveat to region­al accred­i­ta­tion is that it typ­i­cal­ly applies to the insti­tu­tion as a whole — it is not spe­cif­ic to indi­vid­ual programs.

A school may meet or exceed all stan­dards, but that does not mean the indi­vid­ual tracks or pro­grams with­in the insti­tu­tion ful­ly meet the require­ments of their respec­tive indus­tries. This is an extreme­ly impor­tant con­sid­er­a­tion for those who choose the engi­neer­ing field. Because of this, appli­cants must also look for spe­cial­ized engi­neer­ing school accreditation.

Spe­cial­ized or pro­gram­mat­ic accred­i­ta­tion typ­i­cal­ly comes from accred­it­ing groups more direct­ly relat­ed to a spe­cif­ic indus­try or field. Some­times, the accred­it­ing body sets stan­dards that prac­ti­cal­ly the entire indus­try adheres to. For exam­ple, engi­neer­ing school accred­i­ta­tion in the Unit­ed States and even inter­na­tion­al­ly comes main­ly from the Accred­i­ta­tion Board for Engi­neer­ing and Tech­nol­o­gy, Inc. (ABET).

Is ABET accred­i­ta­tion impor­tant? Does ABET accred­i­ta­tion mat­ter? ABET accred­i­ta­tion is incred­i­bly impor­tant. In large swathes of the engi­neer­ing field, ABET accred­i­ta­tion require­ments take cen­ter stage.

An engi­neer will almost cer­tain­ly need an ABET-accred­it­ed diplo­ma or an ABET-accred­it­ed online degree. This applies to engi­neers of prac­ti­cal­ly every type as well as to engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gists. Even the voca­tion­al or spe­cial­ized tech­ni­cians may need to show an ABET-accred­it­ed degree in some cases.

If the ques­tion is ABET accred­i­ta­tion impor­tant ever cross­es an applicant’s mind, they should know the answer is yes. Of course, it is pos­si­ble to get into the field and advance with­out an ABET-accred­it­ed engi­neer­ing degree, but appli­cants would do them­selves a heavy dis­ser­vice by not seek­ing an engi­neer­ing school or pro­gram that has not met ABET accred­i­ta­tion requirements.

Types of Engineering Bachelor’s Degrees

Because engi­neer­ing is such a broad field with a tremen­dous amount of spe­cial­iza­tions, there are also var­i­ous types of engi­neer­ing bachelor’s degrees. The best under­grad­u­ate engi­neer­ing schools will like­ly offer pro­grams that allow stu­dents to choose an engi­neer­ing path that works best for their goals. The two main types of engi­neer­ing bachelor’s degrees are the Bach­e­lor of Engi­neer­ing Tech­nol­o­gy and the Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence in Engi­neer­ing. Often, the two will come down to a case of Bach­e­lor of Engi­neer­ing vs Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence. Each of these degree types can come with a con­cen­tra­tion in a par­tic­u­lar field. The require­ments for an engi­neer­ing degree will also have vari­a­tions between these two degree types.

Bachelor of Engineering vs Bachelor of Science

The main dif­fer­ence between the two degree types comes down to cur­ricu­lum. The Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence has a more pro­nounced lean­ing towards the­o­ry while the Bach­e­lor of Engi­neer­ing will focus more on appli­ca­tion. A huge amount of crossover exists between the two types of degrees, so appli­cants should not wor­ry they might not receive a full and well-round­ed edu­ca­tion in either case.

Some exam­ples of what a stu­dent will learn in a Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence pro­gram include:

  • Advanced analy­sis of engi­neered solutions
  • Apply­ing engi­neer­ing the­o­ries to new engi­neer­ing chal­lenges and techniques
  • Larg­er scale design fun­da­men­tals, such as for infrastructure

Some exam­ples of what a stu­dent will learn in a Bach­e­lor of Engi­neer­ing Tech­nol­o­gy pro­gram include:

  • Man­u­fac­tur­ing and devel­op­ment tech­niques for com­mer­cial­ly viable engi­neer­ing designs
  • Research skills with a focus on new and emerg­ing technologies
  • Prac­ti­cal use of and dis­sem­i­na­tion of engi­neered designs for imme­di­ate projects

Basi­cal­ly, the two degree types mark the dif­fer­ence between engi­neers and engi­neer tech­nol­o­gists. The best under­grad­u­ate engi­neer­ing schools typ­i­cal have paths for both types of degrees and sim­i­lar require­ments for engi­neer­ing degree types.

Since the cur­ricu­lums have so much over­lap, stu­dents will have to put some extra thought into which direc­tion they want to go in. How­ev­er, require­ments for engi­neer­ing degree appli­cants are not just the main con­cern. When speak­ing of types of bachelor’s degrees in engi­neer­ing and col­lege class­es for engi­neer­ing, it is impor­tant to speak of the dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines or specializations.

Engi­neer­ing cov­ers a wide array of spe­cial­ties, and not all schools will offer all types of col­lege class­es for engi­neer­ing. For exam­ple, a bachelor’s degree in engi­neer­ing at the most afford­able engi­neer­ing schools does not always include every engi­neer­ing dis­ci­pline for an appli­cant to choose from. In fact, appli­cants who have a firm idea of what type of engi­neer­ing dis­ci­pline they want to pur­sue should look for the most afford­able engi­neer­ing schools that have a his­to­ry of deal­ing with the par­tic­u­lar spe­cial­iza­tion they are look­ing for. Agri­cul­tur­al engi­neer­ing and audio engi­neer­ing are wild­ly dif­fer­ent things, even though they both fall under the engi­neer­ing umbrel­la. Appli­cants can earn a bachelor’s degree in engi­neer­ing in:

  • Aero­space engineering
  • Auto­mo­tive engineering
  • Civ­il engineering
  • Com­put­er engineering
  • Elec­tri­cal engineering
  • Mechan­i­cal engineering
  • Soft­ware engineering
  • Bio­med­ical engineering
  • engi­neer­ing management
  • sys­tems engineering
  • envi­ron­men­tal engineering
  • indus­tri­al engineering
  • health care engineering

Engi­neer­ing majors will need to study course­work like ther­mo­dy­nam­ics, mate­ri­als sci­ence, applied sci­ence, and com­put­er sci­ence, as well as soft skills like prob­lem solv­ing and project management.

The list goes on and on. Basi­cal­ly, if some­one can use math and sci­ence to build some­thing of any sort, be it a sound record­ing or a sky­scraper, there is a cat­e­go­ry of engi­neer­ing to go with it. In addi­tion, the engi­neer­ing bach­e­lor degree require­ments may vary wide­ly depend­ing on the type of spe­cial­ized engi­neer­ing degree an appli­cant chooses.

Can You Get an Engineering Degree Online?

If you won­der can you get an engi­neer­ing degree online, the answer is a def­i­nite yes. Obtain­ing a bach­e­lor’s in mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing online or procur­ing an online mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing bach­e­lor degree works the same way as obtain­ing an engi­neer­ing degree at a col­lege or uni­ver­si­ty. In fact, online degree pro­grams have many advan­tages for work­ing adults.

Appli­cants must choose an engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy degree online with a good rep­u­ta­tion, a cur­ricu­lum that fits their goals, and accred­i­ta­tion. The most afford­able online engi­neer­ing degrees are direct­ly com­pa­ra­ble to the most afford­able degree pro­grams at any col­lege or university.

How­ev­er, an engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy degree online, online mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing bach­e­lor degree or any oth­er type of engi­neer­ing degree online may have some lim­i­ta­tions. For exam­ple, some engi­neer­ing cur­ricu­lums require more hands-on edu­ca­tion than oth­ers, such as aero­space engi­neer­ing. The oppo­site is true of oth­er types of engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy degree online options, such as com­put­er engineering.

In addi­tion to tra­di­tion­al online degree options, accel­er­at­ed engi­neer­ing pro­grams also exist. Accel­er­at­ed engi­neer­ing degree pro­grams can typ­i­cal­ly help appli­cants com­press some of the bachelor’s cur­ricu­lum into as lit­tle as two years. Nev­er­the­less, those who seek an accel­er­at­ed engi­neer­ing degree online must make sure they are pre­pared to put in the extra effort that comes with such accel­er­at­ed engi­neer­ing programs.

What Types of Careers are There in Engineering?

Numer­ous types of engi­neer­ing careers exist. Non-tra­di­tion­al engi­neer­ing jobs and careers are out there as well. Stu­dents of engi­neer­ing can apply their knowl­edge of the inner work­ings of com­plex sys­tems to a num­ber of dif­fer­ent things, so there is always some­thing for those who want to know what to do with engi­neer­ing degree knowl­edge. Still, the tra­di­tion­al types of engi­neer­ing careers offer a lot of options on their own and even non-tra­di­tion­al engi­neer­ing jobs can show up as sub­cat­e­gories of the tra­di­tion­al ones.

Some of the more cur­rent­ly pop­u­lar types of engi­neer­ing careers can include:

  • Aero­space engi­neer­ing – Air and space travel
  • Chem­i­cal engi­neer­ing – Foods, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, etc.
  • Civ­il engi­neer­ing – Infra­struc­ture design
  • Elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing – Elec­tri­cal design and technology
  • Mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing – Machine design
  • Petro­le­um engi­neer­ing – Work­ing with oils and plastics

These engi­neer­ing career fields are only a tiny part of the indus­try. How­ev­er, these are some of the most pop­u­lar fields in mod­ern times.

Is mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing a good career? Is mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing a good idea for all engi­neer­ing stu­dents? As mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy jobs increase, the urge to go direct­ly for that par­tic­u­lar spe­cial­ty may grow, but these jobs are com­pa­ra­ble to the oth­er pop­u­lar engi­neer­ing spe­cial­ties as far as how good they are as a career choice.

Under­stand that each of these fields come with sev­er­al sub­cat­e­gories of engi­neer­ing. Appli­cants look­ing for the high­est paid engi­neer­ing field or the best engi­neer­ing degrees for jobs will like­ly find it in one of these career specialties.

Engi­neer­ing job require­ments will depend on the type of spe­cial­ty involved. Appli­cants may have to seek fur­ther train­ing, edu­ca­tion, and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to enter some fields or to meet engi­neer­ing job require­ments. This can be true even with engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy degree jobs that do not out­right state oth­er engi­neer­ing job require­ments may become necessary.

Nev­er­the­less, the ques­tion of what to do with engi­neer­ing degree cre­den­tials does not just start and end with the tra­di­tion­al engi­neer­ing fields. The high­est-paid engi­neer­ing field for one per­son may not offer anoth­er per­son enough to achieve their goals. For exam­ple, a lot of entre­pre­neur­ial oppor­tu­ni­ties exist for those who want to know what can you do with an engi­neer­ing degree besides engineering.

A pas­sion for engi­neer­ing can lead down a num­ber of paths, and a pas­sion for oth­er things can give some­one a rea­son to apply their engi­neer­ing exper­tise to a giv­en sub­ject. Engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy degree jobs are not the only thing avail­able to an engi­neer­ing technologist.

To make the most of your career oppor­tu­ni­ties, the Bureau of Labor Sta­tis­tics sug­gests get­ting a master’s degree, although intern­ships are a great way in the door as well. An online bach­e­lor degree can set the stage and cov­er pre­req­ui­sites for grad­u­ate study with high­er-lev­el engi­neer­ing cours­es. Some careers, like elec­tron­ics engi­neers, may also require licensure.

What Kind of Salary Comes with an Engineering Bachelor’s Degree?

Engi­neer­ing salary varies wide­ly and depends heav­i­ly on dif­fer­ent fac­tors. Some of the most obvi­ous fac­tors that deter­mine salary has to do with loca­tion, demand, and the engi­neer­ing spe­cial­ty in ques­tion. Expe­ri­ence also plays a large role in engi­neer­ing salary expectations.

The types of engi­neer­ing and salary also some­times go togeth­er. For this rea­son, look­ing at spe­cif­ic types of engi­neer­ing and salaries asso­ci­at­ed with those spe­cif­ic types of engi­neer­ing is impor­tant. Many peo­ple may want to start by know­ing the high­est pay­ing engi­neer­ing jobs or which engi­neer­ing has the high­est salary possibilities.

Indeed lists a gener­ic engi­neer salary aver­age of approx­i­mate­ly $86k. How­ev­er, engi­neers of the same expe­ri­ence can see up to and over $100k if they work for some key com­pa­nies. Accord­ing to PayScale, the aver­age mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing salary is around $70k

Aver­age elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy salary, accord­ing to the BLS, is approx­i­mate­ly $100k while the aver­age com­put­er engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy salary has medi­an salaries rang­ing from $93k to $114k depend­ing on the type of com­put­er engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy salary involved.

When it comes to the high­est pay­ing engi­neer­ing jobs and which engi­neer­ing has high­est salary poten­tial cur­rent­ly, the petro­le­um engi­neer comes with an aver­age salary of $156k. Under­stand these num­bers aren’t always a good indi­ca­tor of what an appli­cant can make in their par­tic­u­lar loca­tion with their par­tic­u­lar specialty.

Elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy salary can rise if the appli­cant seeks a career where that type of engi­neer­ing is in high demand. This also all applies when com­par­ing things like engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy salary vs engi­neer­ing salary. Engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy degree salary is com­pa­ra­ble to engi­neer­ing salary in gen­er­al and comes with all the same variables.

Professional Organizations in Engineering

Engi­neer­ing is a broad field full of spe­cial­ists, experts, and peo­ple who play a role in plan­ning whole soci­eties. It makes sense there is a pletho­ra of pro­fes­sion­al engi­neer­ing orga­ni­za­tions out there. Pro­fes­sion­al orga­ni­za­tions for engi­neers exist at the local, state, nation­al, and inter­na­tion­al levels.

Join­ing a pro­fes­sion­al orga­ni­za­tion comes with tremen­dous ben­e­fits such as access to jobs, con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties, access to mate­ri­als and infor­ma­tion not found else­where, and var­i­ous oth­er things. Maybe most impor­tant­ly, pro­fes­sion­al orga­ni­za­tions offer net­work­ing opportunities.

As these groups tend to con­sist of those in the field who move things for­ward, it is always a good idea to join an orga­ni­za­tion, par­tic­i­pate, and meet mem­bers. As there are so many of these pro­fes­sion­al orga­ni­za­tions for engi­neers, appli­cants should nar­row their choic­es down by seek­ing groups that con­sist of those who prac­tice the same spe­cial­ty or sub­spe­cial­ty of engineering.

In addi­tion, engi­neer­ing orga­ni­za­tions also exist for peo­ple of par­tic­u­lar des­ig­na­tions. For exam­ple, there is the Soci­ety of Women Engi­neers, the Nation­al Soci­ety of Black Engi­neers, and oth­er such groups. Many schools also have engi­neer­ing groups, so stu­dents do not have to wait until they grad­u­ate to join an asso­ci­a­tion. Stu­dents can start build­ing con­nec­tions, net­work­ing, and expand­ing their under­stand­ing of their cho­sen field while they are still learning.

ABET itself, con­sists of var­i­ous orga­ni­za­tions which are pro­fes­sion­al engi­neer­ing soci­eties and groups in their own right. Many places offer lists of engi­neer­ing groups.

The Future of Engineering

Engi­neer­ing is one of those fields that will exist for­ev­er. For appli­cants look­ing towards the future or those who want to know which engi­neer­ing branch is best for future endeav­ors, or the best engi­neer­ing jobs for the future, all they have to do is look at the world around them.

Elec­tron­ics, AI, robot­ics, and com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy are all cre­at­ing inter­dis­ci­pli­nary engi­neer­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties. Pri­vate, com­mer­cial enter­pris­es are active­ly mak­ing efforts to do more in the realm in space. Com­pa­nies are try­ing to fig­ure out how things like self-dri­ving car tech­nol­o­gy can work with cur­rent infra­struc­ture even as gov­ern­ments are try­ing to fig­ure out how to get the infra­struc­ture in line with cur­rent technology.

For an appli­cant look­ing for which engi­neer­ing branch is best for future growth, there is no one answer. The best engi­neer­ing jobs for the future will encom­pass prac­ti­cal­ly every type of engi­neer­ing discipline.

Relat­ed Rank­ings:
25 Best Bach­e­lor’s in Engi­neer­ing Degree Pro­grams
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