Material from:

The Institution of Engineers, Australia
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What different branches of engineering are there?

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There are many different branches of engineering. The main branches of engineering (chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical) are briefly described below along with some of the areas in which engineers from each discipline may be employed. It should be noted that engineers from all disciplines are employed in both research and teaching.

Read through the following information and highlight any areas you find interesting. then ask you careers counselors for more information on each specific area of interest.

Aerospace engineering is concerned with the design, construction and operation of aircraft, aerospace vehicles and propulsion systems. It requires the
• application of aerodynamics to determine vehicle shapes
• structural analysis for strength
• metallurgy for selection of airframe and engine materials
• knowledge of electrical, electronic and computer systems for control automatic control
• communication systems for operation

All of these activities have to be integrated into the final design. Aerospace engineers work for commercial airline companies, aerospace manufacturers, government defence departments and defence forces, civil aviation and in government research laboratories.

Agricultural engineering is concerned with problems associated with agriculture and the rural environment. These problems may be associated with variations in the climate, soils and land shape. Agricultural engineers also deal with farm machinery and farm buildings. Many are employed by government departments, while others work in private industry or on overseas agricultural aid programs.

Biomedical engineering is a multi-disciplinary activity in which the application of engineering methods and techniques can solve problems in medicine and the life sciences. A biomedical engineer working in a hospital, for example, is responsible for the safe and effective operation of monitoring, diagnostic and therapeutic medical equipment ranging from catheters to CAT scanners, pacemakers and kidney machines. Biomedical engineers design and assist the surgical team in fitting artificial joints and limbs. They design and deliver technology to improve the independence and quality of life of people with disabilities, for example, those who have difficulty walking, communicating or carrying out simple daily living tasks.

Chemical engineering is primarily concerned with the production of high-value materials from low-value natural resources, which may be solids, liquids or gases. Chemical engineers develop, design and supervise the manufacture and operation of large-scale plants for the extraction, production and recovery of useful products. The diverse materials required by modern society are produced by a great variety of processes and industries. The chemical engineer's work may involve the conversion of oil to petrol, chemicals and polymers or the processing of minerals to produce metals, cement and other materials. Chemical engineers also refine and convert forest and farm products to paper, board and food, and utilise materials such as air, water, salt and limestone to produce industrial, agricultural and fine chemicals. They are also involved in the use of bioorganisms to produce pharmaceutical products such as penicillin. Chemical engineers may work in research laboratories, chemical plants and petroleum refineries, as well as in companies involved in the production of such things as food, plastics, ceramics, pharmaceutical's, metals and glass. Many chemical engineers are also finding employment in environment protection and clean-up.

Civil engineers provide much of the physical infrastructure for our modern society. Much of the work of civil engineers involves the provision of essential services to support our modern style of living, while still protecting our environment. Civil engineers are responsible for public works that result in water supply systems, sewerage, drainage and irrigationprophead works, harbours, airports, roads and railways. They are also heavily involved in the environmental impact assessment of large-scale projects. Public health engineering is concerned with the collection and treatment of sewage and industrial wastes, pollution control, environmental protection and resource management. Civil, structural and public health engineers may work in either the private sector as consulting engineers, project managers or construction contractors or in a wide range of government departments.

Computer systems engineering is based upon electrical engineering and computer science. It is concerned with the analysis, design and development of computer systems, inclusive of computer hardware and software. Industries such as telecommunications and process control interface computers with communications channels, sensors, actuators and other devices. Electronic design makes broad use of computer aided simulation and design for modules and complex electronic systems. Computer systems engineers may work in the private sector with computer manufacturing and service companies, business consulting firms, the information systems division of companies and a wide range of government activities.

Electrical engineering is a term often used to include electronics, computer systems, telecommunications control and electrical power. Sometimes "electrical engineering" is used to mean just electric power engineering. Electrical power engineers are concerned with the systems and machines that generate, transmit, measure, control and use electrical energy which is so essential to our modern way of life. They are normally involved with heavy current commercial and industrial applications such as the provision of building services including adequate lighting systems for large sports arenas, office buildings, theatrical productions and roads. Electrical power engineers work for companies and government departments that are involved with providing and using electrical power.

Electronic engineering, on the other hand, deals with devices that use small amounts of electrical energy for various purposes and with systems capable of capturing, storing, analysing and transmitting information. Transmission of information forms the basis of communications, 'information technology' and computers, and includes the fascinating field of microelectronics, encompassing silicon chip technology. Electronic engineers work for companies and government departments that design, construct and test electronic devices (including computers) or that are involved with their installation.

Environmental engineering is a rapidly evolving field of engineering that is concerned with assessing and minimising the adverse environmental effects of engineering projects and services. Environmental engineers carry out environmental impact studies, plan and design equipment and processes for the treatment and safe disposal of waste substances, monitor and investigate the quality of air, water and soil, and direct the conservation and wise use of natural resources. They may work with government departments or in the private sector with resource processing companies as consulting engineers.

Materials engineering deals with the manufacture, structure, properties and uses of metals and non-metallic substances such as polymers, ceramics and composites. Since engineering converts raw materials into useful products, metallurgical and materials engineers may work in diverse areas, particularly those where chemical, electrical, manufacturing and mining engineers find employment. Strong These include large foundries, steelworks, aluminium plants and companies involved with alloy research.

Mechanical engineering and manufacturing engineering cover the design and manufacture of a great variety of products such as domestic appliances, industrial machinery, ships, aircraft, engines, pumps, compressors and turbines. These are often combined into systems such as the heating, ventilating and airconditioning of buildings. As a result, mechanical engineers are employed throughout the engineering industry. They may work in chemical processing, power generation, the automotive industry, manufacturing, building services, the aeronautical industry, defence technology, food processing and public utilities.

Metallurgical or mineral engineering involves the extraction of metals from ores and their subsequent processing to marketable products. 'This might involve physical or chemical separation and hydro- or pyro- metallurgical processes. Such engineers work at mining sites, in downstream processing plants and in research and development facilities. Obtaining the maximum value from our mineral resources in an environmentally acceptable way is a task of the metallurgical or mineral engineer. Metallurgical engineering also deals with the structure and properties of metals and the production and application of metals to manufactured products such as casting, steelmaking and corrosion prevention. This type of metallurgical engineering may be considered as a specialised area of materials engineering.

Mining engineering is concerned with the extent, nature and grade of an ore body or mineral deposit and the evaluation of a suitable extraction system. These raw materials include metallic and non-metallic ores and fuels such as coal, uranium. Mining engineers design the method of mining, taking into consideration the optimal use of equipment, human and financial resources. They make use of computerised techniques in the development and operation of mines, and have particular awareness of the well being of people and the environment in the vicinity of the mines. Mining engineers work on mining sites, in head offices of mining companies.

Resource engineering is concerned with the development and efficient use of natural resources and the management of environment in rural areas. It includes the development, conservation and control of water resources, soil conservation and recovery of degraded land, catchment and land management, assignment and control of water pollution from agricultural and mining industries. Particular roles of resource engineers include estimation of water yields from catchments, flood analysis, design and construction of drainage and irrigation systems sympathetic to the environment. Resource engineers are employed by government management agencies and local government bodies, consulting engineers, the mining and forest industries and civil engineering construction companies.

Software engineering is a relatively new discipline and is an outgrowth of computer systems engineering and computer science. It involves the application of a systematic, disciplined and quantifiable approach to the development, operation and maintenance of software. It draws on the experience of other fields of engineering to build quality and reliability into increasingly large and complex software systems used to operate and control many aspects of our daily lives. Software engineers are increasingly being sought by both private and government sector employers involved with the development and ongoing implementation of major software tasks.

Structural engineering is concerned with the strength and stability of structures. Structural engineers deal with the analysis, design, construction and maintenance of such things as dams, bridges, large buildings, factories and hospitals. The major construction material used in these fields are rolled steel sections and reinforced concrete. Aluminium, metal alloys and plastics are also playing an increasingly important role. The study of structural engineering is often combined with civil engineering, but specialisation occurs in the choice of subjects and after graduation.

Telecommunications engineering (or communications engineering) focuses on communications networks, such as those used by automatic teller machines. Telecommunication engineers design systems using telephones, satellites, computers and optical fibres for communication with people and equipment across the room or across the world.

There are other branches of engineering besides those given above, such as building engineering, natural resource engineering and naval architecture which is concerned with the design and construction of ships.

robotSome new branches are combinations of some of those given above such as mechatronics, a combination of mechanical engineering and electronic engineering, and computronics, a combination of computing engineering and electronic engineering.