A Brief Synopsis of the Engineering Disciplines

A Brief Synopsis of the Engineering Disciplines Engineering Disciplines in Brief

Here is a list of some of engineering’s most well-known fields. This is not even close to a full list. In fact, most schools will only offer majors in traditional subjects. But within these fields, you will probably do research or take classes that involve more than one of them. You might also notice that there is a lot of overlap between different fields.

By choosing a specific discipline, you are not “pigeonholed” into a certain job description or role. Employers from all kinds of fields look for and hire engineers based on how well they can solve problems and think critically. If you choose one field of engineering, that doesn’t mean you have to stay in that field for the rest of your life.



A Brief Synopsis of the Engineering Disciplines




The links below will take you to departments and programs in the Vanderbilt School of Engineering or to Vanderbilt programs that are part of the traditional engineering disciplines (for instance, the major elements of aerospace engineering exist in the mechanical engineering department at Vanderbilt).


Aerospace engineering is the whole field of aerodynamics, both on Earth and in space. Aerospace engineers work on a variety of things related to the design of vehicles, such as the development of power units, vehicle structure, aerodynamics, guidance control, and the launch of missiles and satellites.

Agricultural engineering is the study of how to make machines and systems that help grow food and fiber. Agricultural engineers are also asked to come up with new ideas and methods and to apply general engineering techniques to soil, water, and air resources, power and energy sources, plant and animal environments, and food handling, processing, and storage.

Architecture and architectural engineering go hand in hand. Architecture focuses on the look, design, and function of the built environment as a whole, while architectural engineering looks at the structure and its parts, like the mechanical and environmental systems, to make sure they are safe.

Bio engineering and biomedical engineering combine the fields of engineering, biology, and medicine to make techniques and devices that are based on an understanding of living systems and aim to improve the quality of life for people and animals.




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Chemical engineering is a field that combines chemistry with engineering. Chemical engineers design almost all of the equipment and processes that are needed in different types of manufacturing plants, such as pharmaceutical plants and materials plants, but not just those. Chemical engineers are also involved in making processes and tools to stop pollution, modeling, simulating, and making specialty materials, as well as building and running factories.

Civil engineering is mostly about planning the design and building of all the buildings and structures in a country (buildings, bridges, canals, dams, airports, railroads, etc.). The civil engineer is also in charge of running transportation and environmental protection systems for water, air, and solid waste.

All four of these fields deal with digital equipment: computer engineering, computer information systems, computer science, and information science (computers). The spectrum includes the theory, design, and uses of computers and information processing techniques (hardware) (software). Most of the programs in computer engineering are about making hardware and systems. The theory of computation, probability, matrices, and other similar topics are emphasized in computer science programs. Computer information systems and programs in information science, on the other hand, focus more on how inputs and outputs are set up than on how computers work.




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Electrical engineering and electronics engineering are the fields that study everything that has to do with electricity. Electric power engineers work to make sure that electricity is available and used in the right way. Electrical and electronics engineers work with the systems, circuits, and devices that are used in communication, computer and entertainment systems, medical instruments, and automated control systems. Many electrical and electronics engineers work directly on designing and making computers.

Environmental engineering is a field that came about because people wanted clean air and water and were worried about how pollution was hurting the earth and its ecosystems. Environmental engineers plan or run facilities that protect the environment.

Industrial engineering is the study of how materials, people, and tools are put together during the production process. Industrial engineers plan systems and buildings to make sure that they are both good and efficient. Operations research is a branch of science that looks at making decisions based on how organizational systems are run (Engineering Management).






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A lot of things are the same between materials engineering, metallurgical engineering, ceramic engineering, materials science, and metallurgy. They are interested in the gathering, processing, refining, mixing, making, and using of natural substances. In metallurgy and metals, engineers work with metals. In materials, engineers can work with a wide range of materials, and in ceramics, engineers work with minerals that aren’t metal.

Mechanical engineering is the study of how to design, make, and use a wide range of mechanical parts, systems, and devices. Many mechanical engineers design and build machines to make people’s jobs easier. Others work in fields like heating and air conditioning, automotive, manufacturing, and refrigeration engineering.





Nuclear engineering is the study of how to build, design, maintain, fix, and run nuclear power plants and facilities that process nuclear fuel.

Petroleum engineering is the study of finding, drilling for, and making oil and gas. Petroleum engineers also come up with and use more and more advanced ways to recover oil and natural gas so that they can be used at a low cost.






Plastics engineering and polymer science deal with making synthetic polymers that aren’t made of metal. The goal is to optimize the process and get the properties that are wanted from the made material. In general, polymer science doesn’t deal with how polymers can be used. Instead, it just looks at their properties.



A Brief Synopsis of the Engineering Disciplines



Systems engineering is the study of how to make different parts work together in a certain situation. More and more systems engineers are in charge of putting together different pieces of computer hardware to do specific jobs.


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