60 Types of Engineering Majors: Which is Best for You?

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What’s Covered:

 

Engineering is a highly prestigious—and challenging—major. Graduates often find lucrative jobs right out of the gate. Considering the return on investment (ROI) that many engineering majors achieve, it’s no wonder so many people pursue rigorous engineering programs.

 

When it comes to engineering, there are many options. Which one is the best fit for you? Here are factors to consider.

 

How to Pick an Engineering Major

 

Your Own Interests and Skills

 

While there’s a lot of overlap in the skills required for different engineering specialties, many people gravitate toward one niche over another. For example, you might love natural sciences or have a knack for robotics. Or, perhaps you’re passionate about buildings and architecture. Various specialties and interests tend to correlate to different types of engineering degrees.

 

Difficulty

 

It should come as no surprise that all engineering programs are rigorous, no matter which one you choose. Still, some tend to be a little more difficult than others, although it’s important to bear in mind that difficulty varies by school, specific program, and a student’s personal strengths. For example, electrical engineering is widely known as one of the most challenging categories, while environmental engineering may be more accessible for some students. 

 

Course Requirements

 

Going hand-in-hand with difficulty are course requirements. There are some courses that will be required for all engineering majors, such as physics and advanced mathematics. But other courses depend on the major itself. For example, a biochemistry engineering major will need to take courses like biology.

 

Job prospects and ROI

 

ROI is an important consideration when choosing your engineering specialty. This indicates payoff — how well your investment in your education has paid off in terms of your career earnings. Most engineering jobs have a high earning potential, but some have higher ones than others. Petroleum engineering, for example, had a median annual salary of $137,330 in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), one of the highest-paying engineering specialties.

 

Projected growth, indicating the anticipated need for professionals in the industry in the future, is an important consideration, too. The BLS offers statistics about the growth of particular professions over a ten-year period.

 

Types of Engineering Majors and Specialties

 

These broad categories include a number of unique specialties, as described and listed below. Keep in mind that you can pursue each engineering specialty from many different majors. Petroleum engineers hold degrees in mechanical, civil, or chemical engineering. Marine engineers hold degrees in mechanical or electrical engineering. Not every engineering specialty will have a corresponding major, but you will be able to pursue these specialties with a broader major.

 

Note: this list is not comprehensive—there are hundreds of engineering specialties. Many specialties intersect multiple categories.

 

Chemical

 

Chemical engineering focuses on using natural sciences to improve processes and fix problems. Chemical engineers might be involved in the production of goods, such as medications and foods, or honing procedures to improve safety. Subspecialties that fall into this category include:

 

  1. Biochemical engineering
  2. Biomedical engineering
  3. Biomolecular engineering
  4. Cellular engineering
  5. Chemical engineering
  6. Environmental engineering
  7. Food engineering
  8. Genetic engineering
  9. Materials science
  10. Paper science
  11. Petroleum engineering
  12. Plastics engineering
  13. Textile engineering
  14. Tissue engineering

 

Civil

 

Civil engineering concerns structures. Professionals in this field work on development of buildings and other important structures like railways, bridges, and more, ensuring they are safe and designed to follow through on their purpose. Specialties include:

 

  1. Architectural engineering
  2. Civil engineering
  3. Construction engineering
  4. Ecological engineering
  5. Geotechnical engineering
  6. Mining engineering
  7. Structural engineering
  8. Transportation engineering
  9. Structural engineering

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Electrical

 

Energy is a critical resource—and so are electrical engineers. These professionals study the manifestations and forms of energy to determine how to leverage it and design technologies to best utilize it and make people’s lives easier. Specialties include:

 

  1. Computer engineering
  2. Data engineering
  3. Electrical engineering
  4. Electronics engineering
  5. Hardware engineering
  6. Mechatronics engineering
  7. Microelectronic engineering
  8. Network engineering
  9. Optical engineering
  10. Power systems engineering
  11. Robotics engineering
  12. Software engineering
  13. Telecommunications engineering

 

Industrial

 

Often (but not always) working in manufacturing settings, industrial engineers search for ways to improve efficiency and reduce waste. This category intersects with business principles to optimize organizations to improve quality, reduce costs, and overall improve the companies. Specialties include:

 

  1. Apparel engineering
  2. Component engineering
  3. Fire protection engineering
  4. Financial engineering
  5. Industrial engineering
  6. Management science
  7. Operations research
  8. Safety engineering
  9. Supply chain engineering
  10. Systems engineering

 

Mechanical

 

As you might imagine from the name, mechanical engineering involves the development and optimization of mechanical systems, including thermal sensing devices. This broad field is one of the most popular in engineering—although there’s a lot of competition! Subspecialties include:

 

  1. Aeronautical engineering
  2. Aerospace engineering
  3. Agricultural engineering
  4. Astronautical engineering
  5. Automotive engineering
  6. Energy engineering
  7. Manufacturing engineering
  8. Marine engineering
  9. Mechanical engineering
  10. Power plant engineering
  11. Renewable energy engineering
  12. Sound engineering
  13. Sports engineering
  14. Thermal engineering

 

Best Colleges for Engineering

 

Where should you earn your engineering degree? There are many great schools for all of these specialties. The top 10 are:

 

School Name

Location

Acceptance Rate

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Cambridge, Massachusetts

7%

California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

Pasadena, California

7%

Stanford University

Stanford, California

4%

Princeton University

Princeton, New Jersey

5%

Harvard University

Cambridge, Massachusetts

5%

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, California

15%

Columbia University

New York City, New York

6%

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

17%

Duke University

Durham, North Carolina

9%

University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

8%

 

Check out more colleges with strong engineering programs

 

If you’re interested in pursuing engineering in college, recognize that you’re facing steep competition. To find out your odds of getting into top engineering schools, use CollegeVine’s free chancing engine. This tool will estimate your chances of admission to hundreds of schools across the country. You can also search by factors like specific engineering majors, cost, location, and more, using our free school search tool.

 


Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.

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