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Engineer Career

Career Description

Engineers apply the principles of science and mathematics to develop economical solutions to technical problems. Their work is the link between scientific discoveries and the commercial applications that meet societal and consumer needs.

Common Work Tasks

  • Specify the functional requirements of industrial robots
  • Design and test the robot’s components; integrate the components to produce the final design; and evaluate the design’s overall effectiveness, cost, reliability, and safety
  • Supervise production in factories
  • Determine the causes of component failure
  • Test manufactured products to maintain quality
  • Estimate the time and cost to complete projects
  • Use computers extensively to produce and analyze designs; to simulate and test how a machine, structure, or system operates; to generate specifications for parts; and to monitor product quality and control process efficiency
  • Introduce entirely new principles to the design process

Other Job Titles

Engineers are also known by other titles, including:

  • Engineering Manager
  • Engineering Technician
  • Aerospace Engineer
  • Biomedical Engineer
  • Civil Engineer

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
A bachelor’s degree in engineering is required for almost all entry-level engineering jobs. College graduates with a degree in a natural science or mathematics occasionally may qualify for some engineering jobs, especially in specialties in high demand. Most engineering degrees are granted in electrical, electronics, mechanical, or civil engineering. However, engineers trained in one branch may work in related branches. For example, many aerospace engineers have training in mechanical engineering. This flexibility allows employers to meet staffing needs in new technologies and specialties in which engineers may be in short supply. It also allows engineers to shift to fields with better employment prospects or to those that more closely match their interests.

Licensure and Certification
All 50 States and the District of Columbia require licensure for engineers who offer their services directly to the public. Engineers who are licensed are called professional engineers (PE). This licensure generally requires a degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, 4 years of relevant work experience, and successful completion of a State examination. Recent graduates can start the licensing process by taking the examination in two stages. The initial Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination can be taken upon graduation. Engineers who pass this examination commonly are called engineers in training (EIT) or engineer interns (EI). After acquiring suitable work experience, EITs can take the second examination, the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Several States have imposed mandatory continuing education requirements for re-licensure. Most States recognize licensure from other States, provided that the manner in which the initial license was obtained meets or exceeds their own licensure requirements. Many civil, electrical, mechanical, and chemical engineers are licensed PEs. Independent of licensure, various certification programs are offered by professional organizations to demonstrate competency in specific fields of engineering.

Engineers should be creative, inquisitive, analytical, and detail oriented. They should be able to work as part of a team and to communicate well, both orally and in writing. Communication abilities are becoming increasingly important as engineers frequently interact with specialists in a wide range of fields outside engineering.


The median annual salary for an Engineer is $85,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $126,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $48,000. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of engineers are:

  • Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services - $79,110
  • Federal Executive Branch - $101,540
  • Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing - $88,550
  • Employment Services - $74,410
  • Scientific Research and Development Services - $94,710

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  11%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 160,000
  • Employment 2006 : 1,512,000
  • Employment 2016:  1,671,000
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