CareerBuilder Menu Search Search

Top 10 jobs in engineering

  • Email

Top 10 Jobs in Engineering

Engineering is one of the country's largest professions with more than 1.6 million jobs in the U.S. as of 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). With numerous specialties offering job opportunities, it's also one of the most lucrative fields with some of the highest starting salaries for college graduates.

A bachelor's degree is the minimum training required to be an engineer. Many who go into the profession earn graduate degrees and various certifications depending on their discipline. Every state requires engineers to be licensed as professional engineers (PE) if they offer their services directly to the public.

The requirements for a license are a bachelor's degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), at least four years on the job and completion of a two-part exam. Many engineering students take the first part while they are still in school or newly graduated. The second part is taken after work experience has accrued.

The BLS projects that employment overall in engineering will grow by 11 percent in the coming decade, although some branches of the profession will have much greater job growth.

Civil engineering: About one-fifth of all U.S. engineers are civil engineers responsible for major infrastructure projects that range from airports to sewer systems and all the roads, bridges and tunnels in between. Within civil engineering, there are several subgroups that include those who specialize in water resources, construction, transportation, and geotechnical engineering.

Mechanical engineers: Perhaps the most versatile engineering discipline, mechanical engineers design tools and machines used in manufacturing, agricultural production and by other engineers in the oil and gas industry. Many aerospace engineers also have mechanical training.

Engineering faculty: If an engineer wants to join the faculty of a college or go into research, a doctoral degree is required to teach at a 4-year program and supervise graduate students. There are more than 1,800 colleges that are accredited by ABET and many offer upper-level degrees.

Biomedical field: The biggest job growth in the profession, 72 percent, is expected for biomedical engineers, reflecting overall growth in the biomedical field. Biomed engineers combine their engineering knowledge with biology and medicine to develop devices and procedures used in the health field.

Government sector: Federal jobs, particularly for the U.S. Department of Defense, are a huge source of opportunities in engineering, and often require security clearance because of job-related access to sensitive government data. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the world's largest public engineering, design and construction agency in the world, with a mostly civilian workforce of about 35,000 employees. They work on both military and civilian public works projects.

Energy sources: Petroleum, nuclear and mining/geological engineers are well-established in the field. But with the heightened search for new energy resources, and the growth of green industry, engineers have a growing role in related fields. Environmental engineers, who are expected to have job growth of more than 30 percent, apply both biology and chemistry to their work in recycling, public health, pollution control and waste management.

Chemical engineers: This engineering group applies the principles of chemistry to develop a wide range of products from food and clothing to chemicals and electronics. They design the chemical processes used in manufacturing, test their methods and supervise production. Increasingly, they are playing a role in health care and biotechnology.

Industrial engineering: This discipline focuses on the most effective ways to use machines, materials and energy in production. They develop control systems to ensure product quality as well as the physical distribution of goods. Often, industrial engineers become supervisors because so much of their work reflects management of resources. Graduate degrees are common for engineers who want to climb the career ladder into management.

Electrical and electronic: Though distinct from each other, their roles are interrelated.   Electrical engineers focus on developing equipment that generates and supplies power while electronics engineers apply electricity to their designs of communications systems, signal processing, and control systems.

Smaller engineer groups:  Other categories of engineers have many fewer members – 2,700 agricultural engineers compared to nearly 280,000 civil engineers in the U.S. – but they serve other purposes to further scientific discoveries as well as commercial needs. Agricultural engineers, for instance, use their technology to improve agricultural equipment and structures, while marine engineers design and construct vessels that range from aircraft carriers to sailboats. Health and safety engineers measure potential hazards, such as damage by fires or toxic chemicals, and come up with ways to prevent those dangers.

Last Updated: 15/02/2011 - 4:43 PM

Article Reprints
Permission must be obtained from to reprint any of its articles. Please send a request to