Home - What is Engineering?
- What do engineers do?
- What societal problems might I help solve?
- What is the difference between a scientist and an engineer?
- What talents, abilities or background does it take to become an engineer?
- How hard is the curriculum?
- What is the difference between an engineering degree and an engineering technology degree?
- Summary of Engineering Fields
“Engineers are innovators, builders and problem solvers. They use scientific knowledge in a wide variety of ways. They design and build machines and energy generation systems that help free society from drudgery. They develop life-saving tools and techniques, methods of reducing environmental pollution, and new ways to solve other societal problems. Engineers are vital to the well-being of any advanced society.” (1)
“Traditional aspects of the engineering field include design, development, testing, production, construction, systems engineering, marketing and sales, research, teaching and administration, and supervision.
Unique skills and problem-solving techniques make the engineer a useful member of the teams that work to solve technically based problems relating to social and political issues.
While most engineers work for large industries or governmental units, it is possible, after a period of study and experience, to establish a business of one’s own.” (2)
More than any other degree, chief executive officers of the top 500 corporations in the U.S. (Standards and Poor 500) list themselves as having an undergraduate degree in engineering. (Ref 3) Engineers are problem solvers and thus engineering undergraduate degrees provide excellent stepping stones to high-level career opportunities in wide-ranging disciplines.
From local to global scales society is becoming increasingly complex. “Engineers find solutions to many challenges that are facing society–often in cooperation with people from other professions (e.g. law, medicine, business, politics and social work). Together, they help improve environmental quality, restore and develop urban areas, refine health-care systems, provide better transportation, increase food production, optimize energy supply and consumption, and strengthen product quality, safety and reliability.” (4) They are also engaged in designing and adapting modern information systems that improve our quality of life while protecting community values and supporting important ethical responsibilities. The engineer’s challenge is to solve problems that matter in ethically, politically, socially and technologically acceptable ways.
“There are two professional groups within the broad area of physical science and technology. There are the scientists, such as physicists,
mathematicians, chemists, astronomers, and meteorologists; and then there are the engineers. Scientists and engineers work as a team to
develop most technological advances, but the detailed activities of these two groups differ. The scientist seeks new knowledge and
discovers new technical principles. The engineer puts this knowledge and these principles to practical use.” (Ref 1)
“Young men and women from varied backgrounds and with many different skills can be successful engineers. However, to become an engineer, you must have an unusually strong interest and outstanding ability in mathematics and science, be able to study efficiently for long hours, and understand what you read. You should be curious about how and why things work.” (Ref 5) You must also have an interest in developing awareness of and accommodating the economic, legal, ethical, and social implications of your design and development work.
Many of the best entering students at the University of Maine enroll in the College of Engineering. Over three quarters of entering first-year students typically rank in the top twenty percent of their high school graduating class and the average SAT score is typically well over 1200.
The college actively encourages enrollment of women and people of color. These groups have been underrepresented traditionally in engineering programs nationwide. The college has a very active Society of Women Engineers that engages both women students and faculty in a range of social and
scholastic support activities throughout the year. The University of Maine has an active Office of Multicultural Programs and the LANA (African/Latino/Asian/Native American) Center offering a
range of support services that engineering students of color are encouraged to explore.
All engineering graduates gain the satisfaction of knowing they have successfully completed a rigorous
curriculum and met challenges that few of their non-engineering peers have faced. They can expect well paying jobs and interesting, satisfying, and challenging careers.
“We are confident that all students admitted to the College of Engineering have the academic background necessary to do well in their engineering studies. How well? That depends, as much as anything, on the particular student’s desire to do well; his or her maturity in terms of managing time and responsibilities; and his or her ability to develop mature problem-solving skills.” “Clearly, aptitude counts, but hard work is an essential ingredient for success.” (Ref 6)
Keep in mind that your grades in a college engineering curriculum are not likely to be as high as they were in high school. An average of B (3.0) is very acceptable and an average of 3.3 will put you on the Dean’s List. Also keep in mind that an engineering student graduating with a C average is likely to have more job opportunities, higher pay and greater flexibility in pursuing alternative challenging career paths than a student graduating without engineering credentials. Just getting through the curriculum is a major testimonial to the abilities and persistence of the student. Engineering students are also highly sought after by graduate programs ranging from business, law, science and engineering to medicine.
Engineering degrees are the more traditional path to a professional engineering career and are the form of degree most typically offered within engineering colleges across the nation and most recognizable by other engineering professionals across the globe. These programs typically require more math, science and core engineering theory than is required in the engineering technology programs. In the event that you may want to pursue graduate studies or research in the future, these programs give you the greatest versatility in choosing among opportunities.
“Engineering technology education focuses primarily on the applied aspects of sciences and engineering aimed at preparing graduates for practice in that portion of the technological spectrum closest to product improvement, industrial processes, and engineering operational functions.” (Ref 7) For those who may have struggled a bit with math and science courses in high school but are still interested in a rewarding applied career in engineering such degrees are excellent options. Other students are simply far more interested in applied production and construction than in design, development and analysis. Many of your instructors in engineering technology programs may have lesser academic credentials but typically will have increased practical engineering working experience.
Don’t take our word for it! Most of the words above were gleaned purposefully from other engineering academic sources from across the nation. Is engineering for you? If you are not yet convinced, continue to explore these engineering links at other universities and sources of college and career information.
- Spencer Stuart, 2004 CEO Study: A Statistical Snapshot, General Analysis > Educational BackgroundThis study has similar results to 2001 study ranking engineering as the most cited degree of chief executive officers; Del Jones, Offbeat Majors Help CEOs think outside the box, July 24, 2001, USA Today, p.1B
- Technology Accreditation Commission (TAC), Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)