Types of Engineers & Their Job Descriptions


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the overall demand for engineers in the United States will increase by 11 percent from 2008 through 2018. To become any type of engineer, a minimum of a bachelor's degree is necessary. Though the degree requirements are largely the same, each engineering specialty deals with a different type of engineering design. Each also has its own anticipated rate of growth and average compensation level.


  • Biomedical engineers develop new technologies and improve upon existing devices and techniques used in the field of medicine to diagnose and treat diseases and conditions. Engineers in this field may work on producing new methods of performing x-rays or other medical imaging tests or design joint replacements. Private companies, government agencies and non-profit research institutions may all employ engineers in the specialty. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates a 72 percent increase in the demand for engineers in the specialty, making it the predicted fastest growing field from 2008 through 2018. The median salary for biomedical engineers is $77,400, as of May 2008, explains BLS.


  • Electrical engineers design and improve systems for producing electricity and distributing it to consumers, such as families, companies and institutions. Engineers in this field also develop the systems that power items that rely on electricity, such as electrical systems for vehicles or components of motors. Utility companies and manufacturers primarily employ engineers in the specialty. The BLS estimates only a 2 percent growth in the field from 2008 through 2018, due to increased international outsourcing for services in the field. The median salary for electrical engineers is $82,160, as of May 2008, reports BLS.


  • With approximately 278,400 professionals working in the field as of 2008, civil engineering is the largest specialty for engineers in the United States. Civil engineers design and improve systems and other objects used by the public, such as bridges, roads and sewer systems. Government agencies typically employ civil engineers; most of the projects created by civil engineers rely on the funding of government at the federal, state or local levels. The BLS reports a predicted 24 percent growth rate in the demand for civil engineers from 2008 through 2018. The median salary for engineers in the field is $74,600, as of May 2008.


  • Petroleum engineers typically work for oil and natural gas companies, devising and improving upon technologies used to drill for fossil fuels, and process and transport the fuels once obtained. Each time a company wants to drill in a new area, petroleum engineers survey the scene and create computer models that predict how many wells are needed and in what places to remove the fuels most efficiently, explains Energy 4 Me. The BLS estimates an 18 percent increase in the demand for petroleum engineers from 2008 through 2018. Petroleum engineers receive median salaries of $108,020, as of May 2008, making them the highest-paid engineering specialty in the United States.


  • Environmental engineers endeavor to create and improve upon systems that reduce the harmful impact of man and industry upon the environment. Most engineers in the field sub-specialize in a particular area, such as air-pollution control, hazardous-waste management, or radiation protection. Industry groups, non-profit organizations, private companies and government agencies may all employ environmental engineers. An increased interest in environmental protection should lead to a 31 percent growth in the demand for engineers in the field from 2008 through 2018, according to BLS; the field is the second-fastest growing after biomedical engineering. The median salary earned by environmental engineers is $74,020, as of May 2008, reports BLS.

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