Becoming an engineer is a rewarding job, as you’re contributing to improving processes, systems and equipment for the benefit of others.
Engineering roles are also a great mix between getting hands-on experience and fixing things, and learning the theory behind how stuff works. The engineering profession is huge, and there are plenty of career options to choose from, at all levels of experience.
What they do: Cartographers analyze, create and update maps. The role is closely linked to geography or real-time physical conditions, as well as facilitating safe and accurate travel. Therefore, cartographers are required to revise maps and ensure they are up to date for clients. The role might involve the creation of physical or digital maps, as well as traveling to the areas where the maps cover.
How to become: There are lots of ways to become a cartographer, but most organizations will require at least a bachelor’s degree in a subject such as civil engineering, geography or surveying. Graduate degrees are not mandated but will enable cartographers to explore a greater breadth of career opportunities in the field.
What they earn: $71,890 per year
19. Landscape architects
What they do: Landscape architects design outdoor spaces that can be either urban, such as bicycle lanes or plazas, or rural, such as parks and gardens. They’re responsible for the planning and management of landscape projects and for concepts and ideas, as well as making plans more measurable and scientifically sound.
How to become: Landscape architects will need a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture (such as a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, or BLA) or a related degree. The profession is accredited by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB), but if you don’t have an accredited degree, you can enroll in a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) to become qualified.
What they earn: $73,210 per year
18. Aerospace engineering technicians
What they do: An aerospace engineering technician is responsible for the smooth operation and in-depth technical knowledge of the systems and processes related to planes, satellites, spacecraft and other advanced technical equipment. More hands-on and detail-oriented than an aerospace engineer, this role requires a huge amount of aerospace technical know-how.
How to become: A degree in engineering is essential for aerospace engineering technicians, and education in other related areas such as avionics or electronics is also very useful. However, these can be attained through vocational courses or work experience. Licensure via The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is important for the role and essential for senior positions or ones in civil defense.
What they earn: $74,410 per year
What they do: Architects create and plan any manner of structures, from houses to skyscrapers and offices to bridges. The role is multifaceted and includes creating initial blueprints, developing detailed schematics, presenting ideas to clients, linking up with engineers and technicians, and overseeing elements of the construction process.
How to become: Architects need a bachelor’s degree in architecture, which is typically a five-year program. Though not compulsory, it’s advised that the degree is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). In all states, a three-year paid internship is required before passing the Architect Registration Examination.
What they earn: $82,840 per year
16. Agricultural engineers
What they do: Agricultural engineers are responsible for engineering requirements related to farming and agriculture, such as managing farming storage and facilities, maintaining and analyzing equipment, and taking a lead in managing environmental issues.
How to become: A degree in an engineering field is essential to get started as an agricultural engineer, although related degrees such as biology, chemistry or agriculture are also useful. Taking STEM subjects at school is also useful. Agricultural engineers will need practical experience such as internships, and preferably some time working in agriculture, in order to really excel at this complex role.
What they earn: $83,260 per year
15. Civil engineers
What they do: Civil engineers design and manage construction of public infrastructure projects, such as roads, bridges, dams or utility systems. The role requires a lot of skills and involves surveying locations, project management, working with contractors and regulatory bodies, and taking the lead in repairing damage or investigating civil engineering failures.
How to become: It might go without saying, but a degree in civil engineering is important to become a civil engineer, although related fields will also be accepted. ABET accreditation is highly valued, and although licensure is not required for many civil engineering roles, it will be required if the engineer provides services directly to public infrastructure.
What they earn: $89,940 per year
14. Mechanical engineers
What they do: Mechanical engineers research, design, build, test and maintain devices, such as engines, machines and thermal sensors. The role is as much about troubleshooting issues as it is about designing new products, and also requires prototyping projects and analyzing how they work under various situations.
How to become: A degree in mechanical engineering is important for this role, definitely a bachelor’s degree and preferably a master’s degree too. Degrees accredited by ABET are mandatory in order for mechanical engineers be licensed and to become a Professional Engineer, or PE. This can also be done later in your career as well.
What they earn: $96,310 per year
13. Industrial engineers
What they do: Industrial engineers work across many areas of organizations, troubleshooting efficiency issues and designing systems that can be implemented in industrial processes. The role can be likened to a systems engineer, covering elements of quality control, procurement, statistical analysis and investigation, and interacting with clients and other departments as needed.
How to become: Industrial engineers can take a wide variety of bachelor’s degrees to get started in this career, although dedicated industrial engineering degrees are available. Industrial engineers can be certified via The Society of Manufacturing Engineers, which offers an eight-year program of education and work experience.
What they earn: $96,350 per year
12. Environmental engineers
What they do: Environmental engineers develop, build, test and maintain processes and systems that are concerned with the wellbeing of the environment we live in. The areas environmental engineers are involved with might include waste management, pollution control or water provision solutions.
How to become: Degrees in environmental engineering or related subjects like civil or chemical engineering are essential in this field. Many companies that employ environmental engineers prefer candidates who have related work experience or, at the very least, a vested interest in environmental matters.
What they earn: $96,350 per year
11. Marine engineers
What they do: Marine engineers are responsible for the engineering, designing, building and running of various forms of sea-going machinery, such as ships, offshore rigs and their associated systems, like propulsion or power supply. As you might expect, the role requires time at sea managing this machinery, as well as time on land researching and designing it.
How to become: A bachelor’s degree in an engineering-related field is important to become a marine engineer. Marine engineers employed by the navy (sometimes called naval architects) will need to undergo military pre-screening and medicals before a job is offered.
What they earn: $96,910 per year
10. Mining engineers
What they do: Sometimes called geological engineers, mining engineers design and maintain systems relating to safe mining, as well as efficient extraction of minerals and other elements. The role can encompass designing mines in general, the machinery used in them, as well as the systems and processes involved in mining. Plenty of travel and on-site experience are required in the job.
How to become: Degrees in any engineering-related field are useful to become a mining engineer, as well as degrees in the sciences, especially geoscience. Because of the complexities of the role, master’s degrees in geological engineering are preferred by employers.
What they earn: $97,490 per year
9. Biomedical engineers
What they do: Biomedical engineers have a wide and important remit. They’re involved with the design and maintenance of medical equipment, training clinicians on its use, and troubleshooting issues. Some biomedical engineers will design and test artificial organs as well as giving lectures and writing research on biomedical principles.
How to become: STEM subjects are essential to become a biomedical engineer, as is a bachelor’s degree in biology or an engineering-related field. Taking degrees accredited by ABET is advisable. Many biomedical engineers will have work experience in the medical or dental field, too.
What they earn: $99,550 per year
8. Materials engineers
What they do: Materials engineers develop, analyze and test the various materials used in industries like civil engineering, biomedical engineering, and so on. They’re experts in different materials like metal and plastics and discover how these are best used.
How to become: The best degrees for materials engineers to have are those in materials science or engineering in general. Because of the variable nature of the role, gaining internship experience in materials engineering is a popular way into the profession. Certification in material-specific disciplines, such as metallography, is desirable for some organizations.
What they earn: $100,140 per year
7. Health and safety engineers
What they do: Health and safety engineers are concerned with the development and analysis of procedures and systems to keep people, animals and assets safe. The role will be focused on specific areas of industrial design and require expertise in these areas to ensure machines, processes or external factors are safe and that risk is minimized.
How to become: Experience in health and safety fields or related areas like security or defense can be useful to become a health and safety engineer. Higher education in environmental health and safety or general engineering is mandatory, especially for senior roles.
What they earn: $100,660 per year
6. Electrical engineers
What they do: An electrical engineer is a highly skilled engineering role that is concerned with the design, testing and maintenance of electrical systems and equipment. they might work with simple domestic equipment like audio devices, or be responsible for the maintenance of complicated critical equipment like aircraft controls.
How to become: An electronics-related bachelor’s degree is essential, and a master’s degree in a related field is required for senior roles or ones with a wide remit. Employers value practical experience and on-the-job training, so internships and vocational qualifications are also a great way to get started.
What they earn: $104,610 per year
5. Chemical engineers
What they do: The role of a chemical engineer is to apply chemical and chemistry-related theory and knowledge in industries whose products are determined by chemical makeup, such as petroleum, cosmetics or plastics. Chemical engineers design and test chemicals, and analyze their behavior to advise other departments on products.
How to become: A bachelor’s degree — and ideally a master’s degree — are essential to becoming a chemical engineer, typically in the field of chemistry or chemical engineering, though another engineering-related discipline is also useful. Previous experience or higher education in science or chemistry is very useful.
What they earn: $106,260 per year
4. Nuclear engineers
What they do: A nuclear engineer designs processes and works on projects related to two key areas in the nuclear industry: the application of nuclear energy, and processes concerning nuclear waste. Nuclear engineers need to have in-depth knowledge of processes to be able to advise stakeholders regarding these areas, as well as troubleshooting issues when needed.
How to become: Becoming a nuclear engineer requires good grades in STEM subjects at school, including advanced mathematics. A master’s degree in nuclear energy, nuclear theory or physics is essential. Senior nuclear engineers, or ones that work with sensitive and high-risk equipment such as reactors, are required to be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), as well as needing to pass extensive vetting and screening processes.
What they earn: $122,480 per year
3. Aerospace engineers
What they do: An aerospace engineer designs, develops and tests aircraft such as jets, spacecraft, missiles and satellites. They will be involved in creating conceptual designs, ensuring safety and operational effectiveness, managing projects and testing prototypes. The role can also be involved in assessing damaged aircraft to investigate what happened.
How to become: A degree in engineering is an important step to becoming an aerospace engineer, and knowledge of STEM subjects will be important as well. Aerospace engineers need to take a degree that is accredited by an ABET-affiliated institution to become licensed.
What they earn: $126,880 per year
2. Petroleum engineers
What they do: Petroleum engineers design and project manage petroleum extraction processes, such as how to efficiently extract oil and gas, and convert it into usable hydrocarbons. The role requires knowledge of various forms of engineering such as civil, chemical, and health and safety, and will also require extensive travel.
How to become: Petroleum engineers will typically need a degree in any engineering discipline, but chemistry-related degrees are also useful. Engineers will need a good awareness of international regulations and governance, and have good stakeholder management in order to work onsite in the petroleum industry.
What they earn: $131,800 per year
1. Computer hardware engineers
What they do: A computer hardware engineer works with computer hardware such as processors, circuit boards and memory systems, developing more efficient ways of using them and troubleshooting issues as they come up. The work will closely involve the software engineer team as well.
How to become: Computer hardware engineers need to have a degree in a field of study such as computer engineering. Computer hardware engineers are expected to be familiar with computer programming or software engineering. Many organizations regard the role as being so critical for success that they require computer hardware engineers to have MBAs.
What they earn: $132,360 per year
Hopefully, by now, you have discovered some roles in engineering that resonate with you and learned about how you can get started in this exciting and rewarding career.
There are plenty of engineering job options, so take time to learn more about them in detail. Being an engineer can lead to plenty of development opportunities, a chance to work in exciting places and on fascinating projects, and you can earn a decent salary while doing it.
The next step is to put your engineering career plan into action and get started on studying or cross-training to make your engineering career dream a reality.
Which of these engineering careers excite you the most? Let us know in the comments section below.
Originally published on January 9, 2018.