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Specialized Degree: STEM

What Kind of Engineer Do You Want to Be?

April 2022

There are numerous specialties huddled under the engineering umbrella as continuous growth, opportunity and salary rain down on this popular profession.

STEM degrees and occupations are growing exponentially due to the competitive world stage of technological advancement, and engineering is a top field within that acronym. However, deciding that you want to become an engineer is inevitably followed by the question, "What kind?" There are multiple disciplines that fall into this popular STEM occupation and choosing the right specialty is as important as choosing the right program.

While you can work as an engineer with a bachelor's degree, a graduate degree (including the STEM MBA and Professional Science Master's) will most likely be on your radar if you want to advance your career or take it in a different direction.

Just the engineering facts

In the 2018/2019 school year, there were a total of 55,922 master's degrees and 11,350 doctorate degrees conferred in various engineering concentrations.1 However, of those, a few specialties stood out in the topics of growth and salary. Biomedical engineers have the highest projected growth rate of 23.1% through 2024, with environmental engineers following with a 12.4% growth rate. Considering the current state of the world which is beleaguered by a pandemic and growing climate crisis, the growth rate in these fields should hardly be surprising.

Additionally, the daily front page talk of infrastructure legislation naturally leads the Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts to predict that civil engineering will grow to around 305,000 in 2024, closely followed by mechanical and industrial engineers, respectively.

The engineering field with the projected highest median wage is petroleum engineering at $129,990, with computer engineering following at $111,730, further confirming that the trends in engineering specialties seem to follow current event trends fairly closely.

Choosing an engineering discipline for grad school2

  • Aerospace engineer: primarily designs aircraft, spacecraft, satellites and missiles.
  • Agricultural engineer: finds and solves problems within the agricultural industry, including power sources, machine efficiency, the use of structures and facilities, pollution and environmental impacts, and the processing and storage of products.
  • Biomedical engineer: designs and produces equipment, devices, computer systems and software using both engineering and science principles.
  • Chemical engineer: solves problems involving the use of fuel, drugs, food and other products by applying principles of chemistry, biology, physics and math.
  • Civil engineer: at the core of infrastructure projects, builds, designs and supervises any and all structures in this area.
  • Computer hardware engineer: researches, designs, develops and tests anything that has to do with computer systems and their components.
  • Electrical engineer: designs, develops, tests and supervises the manufacturing of electrical equipment.
  • Electronics engineer (excluding computer): uses extensive knowledge of electronic theory and materials properties, researches, designs, develops and tests electronic components and systems for commercial, industrial, military or scientific industries.
  • Environmental engineer: develops solutions to environmental problems by employing the principles of engineering, soil science, biology and chemistry.
  • Health and safety engineer (excluding mining): protects people from illness and injury, and property from damage by developing procedures and utilizing knowledge in engineering, and health and safety issues.
  • Industrial engineer: works in the manufacturing of products and/or services, develops efficient systems that integrate workers, machines, information, and energy.
  • Marine engineer/naval architect: designs, builds and maintain ships, including aircraft carriers, submarines, sailboats, yachts and tankers.
  • Material engineer: designs, develops, processes and tests materials used in a wide range of products.
  • Mechanical engineer: designs, develops, builds and tests mechanical and thermal sensors and devices.
  • Mining and geological engineer: designs mines to safely and efficiently remove minerals for use in manufacturing and utilities.
  • Nuclear engineers: researches and develops the processes, instruments and systems used to safely derive benefits from nuclear energy and radiation.
  • Petroleum engineer: designs and develops methods for efficiently extracting oil and gas from deposits below the Earth's surface.

No matter which engineering discipline you choose to pursue, you will be working in a field that has expanding employment opportunities and healthy salary options, offering the job stability of say, a well-engineered bridge.

1 Degrees in engineering and engineering technologies conferred by postsecondary institutions, by level of degree and sex of student: Selected years, 1949–50 through 2018–19

2 Home: Occupational Outlook Handbook: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov)

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