“For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by things large and small. I wanted to know what made my watch tick, my radio play, and my house stand. I wanted to know who invented the bottle cap and who designed the bridge. I guess from early on I wanted to be an engineer.” -- Henry Petroski, Ph.D., noted professor, author, and engineer
Dr. Petroski’s quote sums up what a lot of people see in their minds when they think about engineering. But engineering covers a lot more than that.
Engineers innovate, build, and solve problems. They apply their scientific knowledge to make the world a better place in a wide variety of ways, whether through life-saving machines, energy generation, physical structures, or computer code.
Let’s take a closer look at four key branches of engineering: Civil, mechanical, electrical, and computer. One of them might be the right major for you.
Civil engineering focuses on projects spanning both government and private enterprise. These engineers use their expertise to design and build everything from roads to bridges, airports to tunnels, and offices to observatories.
In addition to designing and building all of these things, engineers also operate and maintain them. For example, they support the systems that keep cities running, such as water supply and treatment.
If you want a mix of indoor and outdoor work, civil engineering might make a perfect match. These engineers often spend time in the field, directly overseeing projects and resolving challenges.
Civil engineers typically start their careers with a 4-year degree and then return for a graduate degree. Some schools, including IPFW, offer a combined five-year BSME/MSE program that equips graduates with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree so they’re ready to move directly into more demanding engineering roles.
Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines, applying machines and mechanics to perform useful work and either save or improve human effort. It covers designing, developing, analyzing, controlling and testing machines of all kinds. If you ever screamed on a roller coaster, you can thank mechanical engineers who designed the ride, watched over its construction, and made sure it kept working.
Engineers working in this area might focus on mechanics, manufacturing, energy systems such as thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and heat transfer, or computer-aided engineering.
Getting a 4-year degree gives you everything you need to start in this field. You can also focus on a specialty through a graduate degree, either by returning to school after gaining real-world experience or joining a 5-year BSME/MSE program.
Engineers in this field design, develop, test, and oversee the manufacture of all kinds of electrical equipment. This includes radar and navigation systems (like the GPS in your phone), broadcast and communications systems, and electrical generators. They might be involved with digital signal processing, control systems, and even integrated circuit manufacturing.
Your 4-year degree is the perfect starting point for your electrical engineering career, although continuing your education for a Master of Science in Engineering can put you above the competition, giving you the opportunity to qualify for more challenging positions.
Computer engineering deals with the design and application of computer systems ranging from
tiny embedded processors to massive database and network servers to virtual reality processing.
This discipline gives students a broad technical background that covers both computer hardware (equipment) and software (programs), because the two are inseparable. Designing a system to perform a particular function may require both hardware and software components. A computer engineer can apply both technologies as needed.
A 4-year computer engineering degree gives you a good start in the field, but motivated engineering students can also opt for IPFW’s dual-degree program which lets graduates earn Bachelor’s degrees in both electrical and computer engineering. There’s also a 5-year option leading to both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in computer engineering.
Is Engineering in Your Future?
With strong job prospects and subjects that appeal almost any technical curiosity, engineering degrees offer many possibilities for students interested in creating, researching, building, and problem-solving.
Take the next step toward a future in engineering today. Contact the Admissions office and schedule a visit focused on either civil and mechanical engineering or electrical and computer engineering.