Engineering Jobs and Careers

Where will I work in my engineering career?

Your work environment throughout your career in engineering will vary depending upon your area of specialization. While engineers spend most of their time at an office, they frequently provide oversight on large-scale projects at construction sites, laboratories, manufacturing plants and refineries.

Civil engineers, electrical engineers and mechanical engineers often work together, and can be employed by architectural and engineering firms and energy companies. They collaborate with designers, architects, construction teams and government officials to oversee projects. Chemical engineers may work at any of the above sites, but may also be based in refineries, industrial plants or factories.

Environmental engineers often work with federal and local governments, as well as private industry, to design and implement projects to improve environmental and public health. Much of their work takes place in an office setting, but they may also make site visits to projects targeting hazardous waste and environmental disaster areas.

While some engineers are given the independence to telecommute, engineering is often a hands-on, highly collaborative field that requires engineers to be in the office or on-site at a project.

How long does it take to find a job in engineering?

While unemployment in the U.S. remains high at 8.1%, some areas of engineering continue to grow, creating new jobs for engineering majors.

Environmental engineering is expected to see the most growth over the next 8 years, growing 22% between 2012 and 2020, compared to the average occupational growth of 14%.

New federal water mandates require engineers to bring water treatment facilities into compliance, which will result in increased hiring by state and local governments. Likewise, civil engineering is expected to increase nearly 20% over the next 8 years as buildings, roads and bridges age, requiring engineers to oversee their repair.

Chemical and electrical engineering will see slower growth due to a decline in the manufacturing industry, resulting in longer wait times for jobs in engineering. Graduates with engineering certification or a computer hardware engineering degree may have a competitive edge other candidates.

Some argue that students graduating from online engineering programs may have a harder time finding engineering jobs. Although a bias against online programs may exist, many top engineering programs are offered online. Students graduating from quality programs, online or on-site, and with engineering certifications, will likely be hired sooner than their competitors.

How have engineering careers changed over the years?

Engineers once relied upon slide rules, T-squares and calculators to get their jobs done. Careers in engineering were transformed, however, when the use of computers altered the design process and evolved into the current best practices in engineering.

Prior to the 1980s, draftsmen were relied upon to draw and edit designs. With the development of Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) software, whole drafting departments at engineering firms were eliminated when it became clear that the computer program could draft and do calculations more quickly and efficiently than a team of draftsmen. Its ability to create virtual models allows engineers to troubleshoot and edit their designs before anything is physically built.

A student on the cusp of an engineering career will likely not learn any manual techniques for drafting and instead will work toward proficiency in CADD.

A drawback to this technology may be its expense. The greater the enhancements in technology, the more difficult it becomes for engineering schools to offer students the latest in industry standards. Online education may be useful for this reason as a model that can reach hundreds, or even thousands, of students via computer module.

What are the top employers for engineering jobs?

A number of large corporations lead the field in jumpstarting engineering careers. Civil engineers may focus their job search on The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Aecom Corporation, Black and Veatch and Aecom Technology Group, Inc. Chemical engineers may be recruited by Dow Chemical, Exxon Mobile Corporation, Procter & Gamble, Shell Oil and Dow Corning Corporation.

For someone seeking an engineering job in electrical or electronics engineering, Boeing Company, General Electric Aviation, General Electric Energy, Northrop Grumman and Bechtel Corporation are national leaders in hiring of engineers in the field.