National Academies Press: OpenBook

Understanding the Educational and Career Pathways of Engineers (2018)

Chapter: Appendix B: Glossary of Engineering Fields

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Glossary of Engineering Fields." National Academy of Engineering. 2018. Understanding the Educational and Career Pathways of Engineers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25284.
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Appendix B

Glossary of Engineering Fields
1

Aerospace engineering encompasses the field of aerodynamics in the earth’s atmosphere and in space. Aerospace engineers concentrate on a number of areas related to vehicle design, such as the development of power units, vehicle structure, aerodynamics, guidance control, and the launching of missiles and satellites.

Agricultural engineering is concerned with the design of machines and systems used in producing food and fiber. Agricultural engineers are also called upon to develop new ideas and methods and to apply general engineering techniques to soil, water, and air resources, power and energy sources, plant and animal environment, and food handling, processing and storing.

Architectural engineering is closely related to architecture. Whereas architecture emphasizes the esthetics, design and function of the built environment viewed as a whole, architectural engineering is concerned with the soundness of the structure itself and its components, such as the mechanical and environmental systems.

Bioengineering and biomedical engineering merge the disciplines of engineering, biology, and medicine to create techniques and devices that are based on an understanding of living systems and serve the objective of improving the quality of human and animal life.

Chemical engineering combines the science of chemistry with the discipline of engineering. Chemical engineers design nearly all of the equipment and processes needed for various types of manufacturing plants. Chemical engineers are also involved in developing pollution control processes and equipment, and construction and operations of manufacturing facilities.

Civil engineering deals primarily with planning the design and construction of all the nation’s constructed facilities (buildings, bridges, canals, dams, airports, railroads, etc.). The civil engineer is also involved in the operation of transportation facilities and environmental protection facilities relating to water, air, and solid wastes.

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1 These terms and definitions are copied from Vanderbilt School of Engineering, http://engineering.vanderbilt.edu/ge/es140/Otherlinks/Summary.php.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Glossary of Engineering Fields." National Academy of Engineering. 2018. Understanding the Educational and Career Pathways of Engineers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25284.
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Computer engineering, computer information systems, computer science and information science all deal with digital equipment (computers). The spectrum covers the theory, design, and applications of computers (hardware) and information processing techniques (software). Design of hardware and systems is a predominant area of programs in computer engineering. Computer science programs emphasize theory of computation, probability, matrices, and similar subject matter. Computer information systems or information science programs, on the other hand, emphasize arrangement of input and output, rather than the mechanics of computing.

Electrical engineering and electronics engineering cover everything related to electricity. Electric power engineers concentrate on making electrical energy available and properly utilized. Electrical and electronics engineers are concerned with systems, circuits, and devices used in communication, computer and entertainment systems, health care instruments, and automated control systems. A great number of electrical and electronics engineers go directly into the design and production of computers.

Environmental engineering is a field that has emerged in response to the public’s demand for clean air and water and a concern over the damage being done to the earth and ecological systems by pollution. Environmental engineers design or operate facilities for environmental protection.

Industrial engineering has to do with the organization of materials, people, and equipment in the production process. Industrial engineers design systems and facilities with a view toward ensuring both quality and efficiency. A subdiscipline called operations research is concerned with decision making based on the management of organizational systems (Management of Technology).

Materials engineering, metallurgical engineering, ceramic engineering, materials science, and metallurgy have many things in common. They are concerned with the extraction, processing, refinement, combination, manufacture, and use of different natural substances. Engineers in metallurgy and metals deal with metals; those in materials may work with a broad scope of substances; and those in ceramics work with non-metallic minerals.

Mechanical engineering is concerned with the design, manufacture, and operation of a wide range of mechanical components, devices, and systems. Many mechanical engineers are involved in the design and production of machines to lighten the burden of human work while others practice in the areas of heating and air-conditioning, automotive, manufacturing, and refrigeration engineering.

Nuclear engineering is concerned with the development, design, maintenance, repair, and control of nuclear power plants and fuel processing facilities.

Petroleum engineering is concerned with exploration, drilling, and production of oil and gas. Petroleum engineers also are involved in developing and using increasingly sophisticated recovery methods to obtain economical supplies of oil and natural gas.

Plastics engineering and polymer science is concerned with the production of non-metallic synthetic polymers, with the goal of optimizing the process and achieving desired properties of the manufactured material. In general, the field of polymer science limits itself to determining properties of polymers and does not deal with their application.

Systems engineering is concerned with designing a number of components that work together in a given situation. A growing number of systems engineers are involved with the integration of various pieces of computer hardware to accomplish specified tasks.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Glossary of Engineering Fields." National Academy of Engineering. 2018. Understanding the Educational and Career Pathways of Engineers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25284.
×
Page 149
Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Glossary of Engineering Fields." National Academy of Engineering. 2018. Understanding the Educational and Career Pathways of Engineers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25284.
×
Page 150
Next: Appendix C: Examining Postsecondary and Post-College Pathways of Engineering Students Who Start at Four-Year Colleges and Universities »
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Engineering skills and knowledge are foundational to technological innovation and development that drive long-term economic growth and help solve societal challenges. Therefore, to ensure national competitiveness and quality of life it is important to understand and to continuously adapt and improve the educational and career pathways of engineers in the United States. To gather this understanding it is necessary to study the people with the engineering skills and knowledge as well as the evolving system of institutions, policies, markets, people, and other resources that together prepare, deploy, and replenish the nation’s engineering workforce.

This report explores the characteristics and career choices of engineering graduates, particularly those with a BS or MS degree, who constitute the vast majority of degreed engineers, as well as the characteristics of those with non-engineering degrees who are employed as engineers in the United States. It provides insight into their educational and career pathways and related decision making, the forces that influence their decisions, and the implications for major elements of engineering education-to-workforce pathways.

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