Engineering/Manufacturing Careers

Engineering students in lab with instructor

To engineer literally means to make things happen. In today’s world, engineers are mainly concerned with maintaining and improving living standards and quality of life in a society. Almost every aspect in our lives is influenced by engineers—the water we drink; the buildings we live in, learn in and work in; the products created in factories; the computers we search the internet on; medical services and technologies we rely on; the appliances and vehicles that make our lives more efficient and comfortable.

Engineering is about the design and production of useful products and services. Engineering know-how converts scientific knowledge into technology and then technology into successful innovation. Many seemingly simple aspects of our daily lives have been thoroughly designed or controlled by engineers.

Why should you consider a job in engineering/manufacturing?

Here are just a few reasons to consider a career in engineering. Engineers:

  • are in demand
  • work on interesting projects
  • earn good money
  • get to do cool stuff
  • work everywhere
  • get to travel
  • have a good work/life balance

Is Engineering the right career for you?

Are you a future engineer?

Take a look at your skills. Do you have the traits of an engineer? We don’t mean just being good at math, science and technology. Many of the best engineers need strong communication skills to share technological concepts with non-engineers. If you are…

  • a creative, independent thinker
  • a team player
  • a natural problem solver
  • curious and persistent
  • passionate about making a difference in the world
  • eager to make a positive effect on everyday life

… you may be a future engineer!

High school students who are thinking about majoring in engineering should take as many math courses, including calculus and trigonometry, and science courses as possible. 

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Types of Jobs

Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians

Job Description

  • Operate and maintain equipment used in developing, testing and producing new aircraft and spacecraft.
  • Use computer-based modeling and simulation tools and processes in their work.

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians typically do the following:

  • Meet with aerospace engineers to discuss details and implications of test procedures.
  • Build and maintain test facilities for aircraft systems.
  • Make and install parts and systems to be tested in test equipment.
  • Operate and calibrate computer systems so that they comply with test requirements.
  • Ensure that test procedures are performed smoothly and safely.
  • Record data from test parts and assemblies.
  • Install instruments in aircraft and spacecraft.
  • Monitor and ensure quality in producing systems that go into the aircraft. 

Job Requirements

  • An associate’s degree in engineering technology is preferred by employers.
  • Prospective technicians also may earn certificates or diplomas offered by vocational or technical schools.
  • Sometimes security clearances are necessary to work on projects related to national defense.
  • Have a basic understanding of computers and programs in order to model or simulate products.
  • Drafting and computer skills are valuable skills to have.

Skills or Interests You Should Have

  • Communication skills. You need to understand and follow instructions as well as communicate any problems.
  • Critical-thinking skills. You must be able to help evaluate system capabilities, identify problems, formulate the right question, and then find the right answer.
  • Detail oriented. You need to be able to make and keep precise measurements.
  • Interpersonal skills. Your ability to work well with others is essential because you will interact with people from other divisions, businesses and governments.
  • Math skills. You need to be competent at using the principles of mathematics for analysis, design and troubleshooting tasks.
  • Mechanical skills. You need to have good mechanical skills to help with the processes and directions required to move from design to production.

Quick Facts: Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians

2012 Median Pay

$61,530 per year

Entry-Level Education

Associate degree

Job Outlook, 2012-22

0% (Little or no growth)

 

Aerospace Engineers

Job Description

  • Design aircraft, spacecraft, satellites and missiles.
  • Test prototypes to make sure that they function according to design.

Aerospace engineers typically do the following:

  • Direct and coordinate the design, manufacture and testing of aircraft and aerospace products.
  • Evaluate proposals for projects to determine if they are technically and financially feasible.
  • Determine if proposed projects will result in safe aircraft and parts.
  • Evaluate designs to see that the products meet engineering principles, customer requirements and environmental challenges.
  • Ensure that projects meet quality standards.
  • Inspect malfunctioning or damaged products to identify sources of problems and possible solutions.

Job Requirements

  • Entry-level aerospace engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or another field of engineering or science related to aerospace systems.
  • Some aerospace engineers work on projects that are related to national defense and thus require security clearances.

Skills or Interests You Should Have

  • Analytical skills. You must be able to identify design elements that may not meet requirements and formulate alternatives to improve their performance.
  • Business skills. You need knowledge of standard business practices as well as commercial law.
  • Critical-thinking skills. You must be able to translate a set of issues into requirements and to figure out why a particular design does not work. You must be able to ask the right question, then find an acceptable answer.
  • Math skills. You should be able to use calculus, trigonometry and other advanced topics in math for analysis, design and troubleshooting in your work.
  • Writing skills. You should have the ability to write papers that explain your designs clearly and create documentation for future reference.

Quick Facts: Aerospace Engineers

2012 Median Pay

$103,720 per year

Entry-Level Education

Bachelor’s degree

Job Outlook, 2012-22

7% (growth slower than average)

 

Biomedical Engineers

Job Description

  • Analyze and design solutions for problems in biology and medicine, with the goal of improving the quality and effectiveness of patient care.

Biomedical engineers typically do the following:

  • Design systems and products, such as artificial internal organs, artificial devices that replace body parts, and machines for diagnosing medical problems.
  • Install, adjust, maintain, repair, or provide technical support for biomedical equipment.
  • Evaluate the safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of biomedical equipment.
  • Train clinicians and other personnel on the proper use of equipment.
  • Work with life scientists, chemists and medical scientists to research the engineering aspects of biological systems of humans and animals.
  • Work in manufacturing, universities, hospitals, research facilities of companies and educational and medical institutions, and government regulatory agencies.

Job Requirements

  • Either you need a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from an accredited program, or a bachelor’s degree in a different field of engineering and then you may need a graduate degree in biomedical engineering or get on-the-job training in biomedical engineering.
  • Skills in drafting or mechanical drawing and computer programming are useful.

 Skills or Interests You Should Have

  • Analytical skills. You must be able to analyze the needs of patients and customers to design appropriate solutions.
  • Communication skills. You must be able to express yourself clearly and seek others’ ideas and incorporate them into the problem-solving process.
  • Math skills. You should be able to use the principals of calculus and other advanced topics in mathematics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in your work.
  • Problem-solving skills. You must be able to deal with and solve problems in complex biological systems.

Quick Facts: Biomedical Engineers

2012 Median Pay

$86,960 per year

Entry-Level Education

Bachelor’s degree

Job Outlook, 2012-22

27% (Much faster than average growth)

 

Civil Engineering Technicians

Job Description

  • Help civil engineers plan and design the construction of highways, bridges, utilities and other major infrastructure projects. They also help with commercial, residential and land development.
  • Civil engineering technicians work under the direction of licensed civil engineers.

Civil engineering technicians typically do the following:

  • Read and review project blueprints to determine dimensions of structures.
  • Confer with supervisors about preparing plans and evaluating field conditions.
  • Inspect project sites and evaluate contractors’ work in order to detect problems with a design.
  • Test construction materials—especially concrete—and soil samples in laboratories.
  • Help to ensure that projects conform to design specifications and applicable codes.
  • Develop plans and estimate costs for installing systems and operating facilities.
  • Prepare reports and document project activities and data.

Job Requirements

  • Associate degree in engineering technology is preferred by employers.
  • Although an associate degree is preferred by most employers, prospective civil engineering technicians may enter the occupation after gaining work experience in a related occupation, particularly as a drafter. A worker who begins as a drafter for an engineering firm may advance to a civil engineering technician position as his or her knowledge of design improves.
  • Prospective technicians also may earn certificates or diplomas offered by vocational or technical schools that may help with advancement.

Skills or Interests You Should Have

  • Critical-thinking skills. You must help engineers identify problems to avoid wasting time, effort, and funds.
  • Decision-making skills. You must be able to quickly see which types of information are most important and which plan of action will help keep the project on schedule.
  • Math skills. You need to use math for analysis, design and troubleshooting in your work.
  • Observational skills. You will need to go to jobsites and assess a project for the engineer. Therefore, you must know what to look for and how best to report back to the engineer who is overseeing the project.
  • Problem-solving skills. You must be able to understand and work with all the related systems involved in building a project.
  • Reading skills. Because civil engineering technicians carry out plans and designs for projects that civil engineers have approved, you must be able to understand all the reports describing these designs.
  • Writing skills. You must be able to relay your findings in writing. The reports must be well organized and clearly written.

Quick Facts: Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians

2012 Median Pay

$61,530 per year

Entry-Level Education

Associate degree

Job Outlook, 2012-22

0% (Little or no growth)

 

Civil Engineers

Job Description

  • Design, construct, supervise, operate and maintain large construction projects and systems, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.

Civil engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze survey reports, maps and other data to plan projects.
  • Consider construction costs, government regulations, potential environmental hazards and other factors in planning stages and risk analysis.
  • Compile and submit permit applications to local, state and federal agencies verifying that projects comply with various regulations.
  • Perform or oversee soil testing to determine the adequacy and strength of foundations.
  • Test building materials, such as concrete, asphalt or steel, for use in particular projects.
  • Provide cost estimates for materials, equipment or labor to determine a project’s economic feasibility.
  • Use design software to plan and design transportation systems, hydraulic systems and structures in line with industry and government standards.
  • Perform or oversee surveying operations to establish reference points, grades and elevations to guide construction.
  • Present their findings to the public on topics such as bid proposals, environmental impact statements or property descriptions.
  • Manage the repair, maintenance and replacement of public and private infrastructure.

Job Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree is required. Civil engineers typically need a graduate degree and licensure for promotion to senior positions.
  •  Civil engineers must usually be licensed in the locations where they provide services publicly.

Skills or Interests You Should Have

  • Decision-making skills. You will need to balance multiple and frequently conflicting objectives, such as determining the feasibility of plans with regard to financial costs and safety concerns.
  • Leadership skills. You must be able to lead a team of surveyors, construction managers, civil engineering technicians and others to implement a project plan.
  • Math skills. You need to be competent in the principals of calculus, trigonometry and other advanced topics in mathematics for analysis, design and troubleshooting work.
  • Organizational skills. You must be able to monitor and evaluate the work at the job site as a project progresses to assure compliance with design documents.
  • Problem-solving skills. You should have an ability to evaluate and resolve complex problems because this job requires you work at the highest level of planning, design, construction and operation of multi-faceted projects or research with many variables.
  • Writing skills. You must be able to communicate with other professionals, and be able to write reports clearly so that people without an engineering background can follow.

Quick Facts: Civil Engineers

2012 Median Pay               $79,340 per year
Entry-Level Education        Bachelor’s degree
Job Outlook, 2012-22         20% (Faster than average)

 

Drafters

Job Description

  • Drafters (many times refer to as CADD operators/designers) use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings and plans.
  • Workers specialize in architectural, civil, electrical or mechanical drafting and use technical drawings to help design everything from microchips to skyscrapers.

Drafters typically do the following:

  • Design plans using computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software.
  • Work from rough sketches and specifications created by engineers and architects.
  • Help design products with engineering and manufacturing techniques.
  • Add details to architectural plans from their knowledge of building techniques.
  • Prepare multiple versions of designs for review by engineers and architects.
  • Specify dimensions, materials, and procedures for new products.
  • Work under the supervision of engineers or architects.

Job Requirements

  • Drafters typically need specialized training, which can be accomplished through a technical program that leads to a certificate or an associate degree in drafting.
  • Employers generally prefer applicants who have completed a two-year associate degree from a technical institute or community college.

Skills or Interests You Should Have

  • Critical-thinking skills. You need to help the architects and engineers you work for by spotting problems with plans and designs.
  • Detail oriented. You must pay close attention to details so that the plans you are helping to build are technically accurate to the outlined specifications.
  • Interpersonal skills. You work closely with architects, engineers and other designers to make sure that final plans are accurate. This requires the ability to take advice and constructive criticism, as well as to offer it.
  • Math skills. You work with technical drawings that may require solving mathematical calculations involving angles, weights and costs.
  • Technical skills. You must be able to use computer software, such as CADD, and work with database tools, such as BIM (building information modeling).
  • Time-management skills. You often work under strict deadlines, so you must work efficiently in order to produce the required output according to set schedules.
Electrical Engineering Technicians

Job Description

  • Help engineers design and develop computers, communications equipment, medical monitoring devices, navigational equipment, and other electrical and electronic equipment.
  • Work in product evaluation and testing, using measuring and diagnostic devices to adjust, test, and repair equipment.

Electrical engineering technicians typically do the following:

  • Put together electrical and electronic systems and prototypes.
  • Build, calibrate, and repair electrical instruments or testing equipment.
  • Visit construction sites to observe conditions affecting design.
  • Identify solutions to technical design problems that arise during construction of electrical systems.
  • Inspect designs for quality control, report findings, and make recommendations.
  • Draw diagrams and write specifications to clarify design details of experimental electronics units.

Job Requirements

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians typically need an associate degree.

Skills or Interests You Should Have

  • Logical-thinking skills. You must be able to isolate and then identify problems for the engineering staff to work on. You need good reasoning skills to identify and fix problems.
  • Math skills. You should be able to use math for analysis, design and troubleshooting in their work.
  • Mechanical skills. You must be able to use handtools and soldering irons on small circuitry and electronic parts to create detailed electronic components by hand.
  • Observational skills. You are responsible for evaluating the project onsite and reporting problems to the engineer.
  • Problem-solving skills. You create what engineers have designed and often test the designs to make sure that they work. You help to resolve any problems that come up in carrying out the engineers’ designs.
  • Writing skills. You must write reports on onsite construction, the results of testing, or problems you find when carrying out designs. Your writing must be clear and well organized so that the engineers you work with can understand the reports.

Quick Facts: Electrical Engineering Technicians

2012 Median Pay

$57,850 per year

Entry-Level Education

Associate’s degree

Job Outlook, 2012-22

0% (Little or no change)

Electrical Engineers

Job Duties

  • Design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, or power generation equipment. Electrical engineers also design the electrical systems of automobiles and aircraft.
  • Design and develop electronic equipment, such as broadcast and communications systems, from portable music players to global positioning systems (GPS). Many also work in areas closely related to computer hardware.

Electrical engineers typically do the following:

  • Design new ways to use electrical power to develop or improve products.
  • Do detailed calculations to develop manufacturing, construction, and installation standards and specifications.
  • Direct manufacturing, installing, and testing of electrical equipment to ensure that products meet specifications and codes.
  • Investigate complaints from customers or the public, evaluate problems, and recommend solutions.
  • Work with project managers on production efforts to ensure that projects are completed satisfactorily, on time, and within budget.

Job Requirements

  • A bachelor’s degree is required. Employers also value practical experience, so participation in cooperative engineering programs, in which students earn academic credit for structured work experience, is valuable as well.
  • Having a Professional Engineer (PE) license may improve an engineer’s chances of finding employment.

Skills or Interests You Should Have

  • Concentration. You will design and develop complex electrical systems and electronic components and products. You must be able to keep track of multiple design elements and technical characteristics when performing these tasks.
  • Initiative. You must be able to apply your academic knowledge to new tasks in every project you undertake. In addition, you must engage in continuing education to keep up with changes in technology.
  • Interpersonal skills. You must be able to work with others during the manufacturing process to ensure that their plans are implemented correctly.
  • Math skills. You must be able to use the principles of calculus and other advanced topics in math in order to analyze, design, and troubleshoot equipment.
  • Communication skills. You must be able to explain your designs and reasoning clearly and to relay instructions during product development and production. You also may need to explain complex issues to customers who have little or no technical expertise.

Quick Facts: Electrical Engineers

2012 Median Pay

$89,630 per year

Entry-Level Education

Bachelor’s degree

Job Outlook, 2012-22

4% (Slower than average)

Environmental Engineer

Job Description

  • Use the principles of engineering, soil science, biology and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems.
  • Be involved in efforts to improve recycling, waste disposal, public health, and water and air pollution control.
  • Address global issues, such as unsafe drinking water, climate change, and environmental sustainability.

Environmental engineers typically do the following:

  • Prepare, review, and update environmental investigation reports.
  • Design projects leading to environmental protection, such as water reclamation facilities, air pollution control systems, and operations that convert waste to energy.
  • Obtain, update, and maintain plans, permits, and standard operating procedures.
  • Provide technical support for environmental remediation projects and for legal actions.
  • Analyze scientific data and do quality-control checks.
  • Monitor the progress of environmental improvement programs.
  • Inspect industrial and municipal facilities and programs to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.
  • Advise corporations and government agencies about procedures for cleaning up contaminated sites.

Job Requirements

Environmental engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering or a related field, such as civil, chemical or general engineering. Employers also value practical experience. Therefore, cooperative engineering programs, in which college credit is awarded for structured job experience, are valuable as well. Getting a license improves the chances for employment.

Skills or Interests You Should Have

  • Imagination. You sometimes have to design systems that will be part of larger ones. They must be able to foresee how the proposed designs will interact with other components of the larger system, including the workers, machinery, and equipment, as well as the environment.
  • Interpersonal skills. You must be able to work with others toward a common goal. They usually work with engineers and scientists who design other systems and with the technicians and mechanics who put the designs into practice.
  • Problem-solving skills. When designing facilities and processes, you must strive to solve several issues at once, from workers’ safety to environmental protection. They must be able to identify and anticipate problems in order to prevent losses for your employers, safeguard workers’ health, and mitigate environmental damage.
  • Reading skills. You often work with business people, lawyers and other professionals outside your field. You frequently are required to read and understand documents with topics outside your scope of training.
  • Writing skills. You must be able to write clearly so that others without their specific training can understand your plans, proposals, specifications, findings and other documents.

Quick Facts: Environmental Engineers

2012 Median Pay

$80,890 per year

Entry-Level Education

Bachelor’s degree

Job Outlook, 2012-22

15% (Faster than average)

Environmental Engineering Technician

Job Description

  • Environmental engineering technicians carry out the plans that environmental engineers develop.

Environmental engineering technicians typically do the following:

  • Set up, test, operate and modify equipment used to prevent or clean up environmental pollution.
  • Maintain project records and computer program files.
  • Conduct pollution surveys, for which they collect and analyze samples such as air and ground water.
  • Perform indoor and outdoor work on environmental quality.
  • Work to mitigate sources of environmental pollution.
  • Review technical documents to ensure their completeness and conformance to requirements.
  • Review work plans to schedule activities.
  • Arrange for the disposal of lead, asbestos, and other hazardous materials.

Job Requirements

  • Typically have an associate degree in environmental engineering technology or a related field.

Skills or Interests You Should Have

  • Critical-thinking skills. You must be able to think critically and logically.
  • Observational skills. You need to properly evaluate situations onsite and recognize problems so that the environmental engineers are informed as quickly as possible.
  • Reading skills. You must be able to read and understand legal and technical documents to ensure that regulatory requirements are being met.

Quick Facts: Environmental Engineering Technicians

2012 Median Pay

$45,350 per year

Entry-Level Education

Associate degree

Job Outlook, 2012-22

18% (Faster than average)

Mechanical Engineering Technicians

Job Description

  • Help mechanical engineers design, develop, test and manufacture mechanical devices, including tools, engines and machines.
  • Make sketches and rough layouts, record and analyze data, make calculations and estimates and report their findings.

Mechanical engineering technicians typically do the following:

  • Evaluate design drawings for new or changed tools by measuring dimensions on the drawings and comparing them with the original specifications.
  • Prepare layouts and drawings of parts to be made and of the process for putting them together.
  • Discuss changes with coworkers—for example, in the design of the part, in the way it will be made and put together and in the techniques and process they will use.
  • Review instructions and blueprints for the project to ensure the test specifications and procedures are followed and objectives are met.
  • Plan, produce and assemble new or changed mechanical parts for products, such as industrial machinery or equipment.
  • Set up and conduct tests of complete units and of parts as they would actually be used, as a way to investigate proposals for improving equipment performance.
  • Record test procedures and results, numerical and graphical data, and recommendations for changes in products or test methods.
  • Compare test results to design specifications and test objectives.

Job Requirements

  • Most employers prefer to hire candidates with associate degrees or other mechanical engineering technology training beyond high school. Prospective engineering technicians should take as many science and math courses as possible while in high school.

Skills or Interests You Should Have

  • Communication skills. You must be able to clearly understand and follow instructions or know when to ask your supervisor to explain.
  • Creativity. You will help mechanical engineers bring their plans and designs to life. This often requires helping the engineer to overcome problems that might not have been anticipated.
  • Detail oriented. You must be able to make precise measurements and keep accurate records for mechanical engineers.
  • Interpersonal skills. You must be able to take instructions and offer advice when it is needed.
  • Math skills. You will use mathematics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
  • Mechanical skills. You must apply theory and instructions from engineers by making new components for industrial machinery or equipment. You may need to be able to operate machinery such as drill presses, grinders and engine lathes.

Quick Facts: Mechanical Engineering Technicians

2012 Median Pay

$51,980 per year

Entry-Level Education

Associate degree

Job Outlook, 2012-22

5% (Slower than average)

Mechanical Engineers

Job Description

  • Mechanical engineers research, design, develop, build and test mechanical and thermal devices, including tools, engines and machines.

Mechanical engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze problems to see how mechanical and thermal devices might help solve the problem.
  • Design or redesign mechanical and thermal devices using analysis and computer-aided design.
  • Develop and test prototypes of devices they design.
  • Analyze the test results and change the design as needed.
  • Oversee the manufacturing process for the device.

Job Requirements

  • Requires a bachelor’s degree. A graduate degree is typically needed to conduct research. Mechanical engineers who sell services publicly must be licensed in all states and the District of Columbia.

Skills or Interests You Should Have

  • Creativity. You must be able to design and build complex pieces of equipment and machinery. A creative mind is essential for this kind of work.
  • Math skills. You will use the principles of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in math for analysis, design and troubleshooting in their work.
  • Mechanical skills. You should be able to apply basic engineering concepts and mechanical processes to the design of new devices.
  • Problem-solving skills. You must take scientific discoveries and seek to make them into products that would be useful to people, companies and governments. Experience gained through laboratory courses at university or a cooperative education program in college helps you develop skills that are useful in solving real-world problems.

Quick Facts: Mechanical Engineers


2012 Median Pay

$80,580 per year

Entry-Level Education

Bachelor’s degree

Job Outlook, 2012-22

5% (Slower than average)

Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Job Description

  • Assist surveyors, cartographers and photogrammetrists to collect data and make maps of the earth’s surface.
  • Surveying technicians visit sites to take measurements of the land.
  • Mapping technicians use geographic data to create maps

Surveying technicians typically do the following:

  • Visit sites to record survey measurements and other descriptive data.
  • Operate surveying instruments, such as electronic distance-measuring equipment, to collect data on a location.
  • Set out stakes and marks to conduct the survey, and then retrieve them.
  • Search for previous survey points, such as old stone markers.
  • Enter the data from surveying instruments into computers, either in the field or in an office.

Job Requirements

  • Usually need only a high school diploma. However, mapping technicians often need formal education after high school to study advances in technology such as geographic information systems (GIS).

Skills or Interests You Should Have

  • Concentration. You will need to operate specialized equipment. You must be precise and accurate in their work.
  • Decision-making skills. As assistants to surveyors and cartographers, you must be able to exercise some independent judgment in the field because you may be working away from team members and need to meet tight deadlines.
  • Physical stamina. You will usually work outdoors, often in rugged terrain. Physical fitness is necessary to carry equipment and to stand most of the day.
  • Problem-solving skills. You must be able to identify and fix problems with your equipment. Also, because party chiefs rely on you, you must note potential problems with the day’s work plan.

Quick Facts: Surveying and Mapping Technicians

2012 Median Pay

$39,670 per year

Entry-Level Education

High school diploma or equivalent

Job Outlook, 2012-22

14% (As fast as average)