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Interested in working with laser systems or laser technology? If you are, a career in engineering may be for you. There has never been a better time to explore engineering, a critical part of the push to expand education in STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and math. Engineering fields offer you the chance to solve meaningful problems in a creative, challenging environment. Plus, compensation for senior engineers can be very high! True, you won't be working with laser technology or laser systems in every engineering role, but each one offers opportunities that are just as exciting. Let's take a look at some of the most popular engineering fields and majors.
Civil engineering is concerned with the built environment, helping to ensure that municipal power grids, transportation systems, and other major assets work effectively with the needs of the community. A civil engineer evaluates things like traffic flow, material stresses, and safety needs to develop major construction projects and related systems. These can include things like bridges, highways, skyscrapers, and many more. Because of the nature of the work, a civil engineer will usually work for an architectural engineering firm or directly for a larger city. Advanced math, physics, and even psychology courses can be useful. The median salary is near $80,000 annually.
A computer engineer is a specialist who combines knowledge about electrical engineering and computer hardware to develop next-generation components. Computer engineers have a key role in all of the major technology developments in computing, working at the smallest levels to make components faster and more efficient. A computer engineer will often be skilled in computer-assisted design and other software tools for designing and developing circuits and machinery. They might work in the private sector or directly with national research organizations. Computer engineers can enjoy very high starting salaries and have a median pay of more than $100,000 per year.
While many computer engineers have electrical engineering backgrounds, an electrical engineer's skills can apply to many different fields outside of computing. They are responsible for applying the fundamentals of electromagnetism and circuity to design a large number of electronic devices. In addition to computers, an electrical engineer might work on other complex systems like motors, radar equipment, and generators. As a result, electrical engineers are found in a wide range of different private and public businesses. Specialization can lead to a higher salary for the engineer, who can aspire to a median salary of about $90,000 per year after a few years of experience.
Environmental engineers lead major conservation and reclamation projects as part of the public sector. They can also be found in industries with very high environmental impact, helping to mitigate the damage human activities can do to the environment. These engineers specialize in biology, chemistry, and environmental science and will take laboratory-focused courses in these areas rather than electrical or computer engineering. Environmental engineers have been in high demand in recent years thanks to increased interest in recycling and pollution management. They have a median salary of about $80,000, usually complemented by health and other benefits.
Industrial engineers evaluate the challenges involved in the manufacturing environment. They design new equipment and procedures to accelerate manufacturing, reduce costs, and improve safety. They are often called quality control engineers. They usually work on-site at a manufacturing plant and may be responsible for several plants, and senior industrial engineers usually lead a team at each site. In addition to deep knowledge of materials science, electrical engineering, and math, they may also be skilled at developing specialized software tools. They command a median salary of about $78,000, with much higher pay possible in management roles.
A mechanical engineer focuses on designing, building, and testing a broad range of different machines. There are many specializations for a mechanical engineer, including product design, manufacturing, and energy. Mechanical engineers must have a firm grounding in math, physics, and materials science as well as the principles that pertain to their specialization, like petroleum engineering or ergonomic design. They are employed in both the public and private sectors, with the oil and gas industry typically offering the highest salaries. While a salary of $80,000 is considered the median, their pay can be much higher in risky or demanding work environments.
Software engineers design, develop, test, and sometimes support software. Projects can range from sophisticated, industry-specific tools to the latest mobile games. In addition to being good with math, logic, and the basics of computer science, a software engineer must master a wide range of computer programming languages and software development skills. Software engineers are employed in small startups and global enterprises worldwide. As they gain experience, they typically become skilled in project management and manage development teams. Although the median salary is about $93,000 in the U.S., some software developers make millions annually.