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What Are the Four Main Types of Engineering?

Careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) have become increasingly popular over the years across all demographics. Engineering is a combination of science and technology and focuses on designing and building machines and structures. Keep reading below to learn more about each type of engineering to see what’s the best choice for you!

Main types of engineering

Engineering is divided into four major branches, including civil, electrical, mechanical, and industrial. However, there are multiple subcategories that fit under each of these types. We included the most popular subcategories for each of the major engineering branches, but there are many more. Be sure to do your research to find the type of engineering that might best suit you.

Chemical engineering

Chemical engineers put their STEM skills to the test by applying scientific principles and math to their everyday work. They test a variety of products such as food, drugs, fuel, and of course, chemicals. The job growth rate for chemical engineering shows that this is an excellent field for the future.  

  • Average annual salary: $105,550
  • Job growth rate: 14%
  • Similar fields: bioengineering, biomedical engineering, nuclear engineers 

Civil engineering 

Civil engineers spend their time between the office and the field at construction sites since they supervise and design infrastructure like roads, bridges, and buildings. This profession does require a bachelor’s degree, but there will always be a need for a civil engineer in our society. 

  • Average annual salary: $88,050
  • Job growth rate: 7%
  • Similar fields: Environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, construction engineering, structural engineering, transportation engineering

Electrical engineering

Like its namesake, electrical engineering pertains to the development and testing of electrical equipment such as GPS, phones, and music devices. This form of engineering also involves the electrical components of automobiles and aircrafts. 

  • Average annual salary: $101,780
  • Job growth rate: 3%
  • Similar fields: Aerospace engineering, computer hardware engineering, sales engineering

See also: Top electrical engineering scholarships

Mechanical engineering

Mechanical engineering is somewhat similar to electrical engineering, but it involves designing, building, and testing mechanical and thermal systems and objects. It’s one of the broadest forms of engineering, and ranges from developing batteries to designing internal combustion engines. 

  • Average annual salary: $95,300
  • Job growth rate: 2%
  • Similar fields: Manufacturing engineering, materials engineering, nuclear engineering, petroleum engineering

Industrial engineering

This type of engineering focuses on evaluating the efficiency of production processes, which can include worker conditions, delivery services, and production management. The largest portion of industrial engineers usually work in the transportation equipment manufacturing industry. 

  • Average annual salary: $95,300
  • Job growth rate: 10%
  • Similar fields: health and safety engineering

Further reading: Engineering major overview

Which of the four types of engineering should you choose?

There are several factors that can contribute to deciding what type of engineer you’d like to be such as money, job security, and more. However, a career should be chosen based on the passion you have for it, and if you’d be happy going into work every day. Earning any degree can be challenging, but engineering is known to be especially rigorous because of the focus on STEM classes. 

Also see: How to pick a major

Additional resources

Pursuing a degree can be an expensive endeavor, so check out these Scholarships360 resources to learn more about STEM and ways to make it affordable.

Frequently asked questions about different types of engineering

What is the most popular engineering major?

At present, the most popular engineering major is mechanical engineering, but has only a 2% projected growth rate for the next decade. 

Which engineering field is best for the future?

Of course it is the field you enjoy working in! Aside from that, chemical engineering continues to grow, with a 14% increase in job growth over the next decade. 

Do you have to be good in math and science to major in engineering?

Math and science classes are an important part of undergraduate engineering majors. Students are required to take classes (sometimes multiple levels of) in biology, calculus, chemistry, linear algebra, physics, and statistics. Therefore, having strong math and science skills to build upon is a definite plus when majoring in engineering. 

Which type of engineering major pays the most?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, petroleum engineers with an undergraduate degree earn a median salary of $130,850 per year. Petroleum engineers primarily work on designing plans or overseeing the actual process of extracting oil and gas from below the Earth’s surface.  

Also see: What are the fastest growing careers?