The primary types of engineering are chemical, civil, electrical, industrial, and mechanical.
Chemical engineering deals with the design, construction, and operation of plants and machinery for making such products as acids, dyes, drugs, plastics, and synthetic rubber by adapting the chemical reactions discovered by the laboratory chemist to large-scale production. The chemical engineer must be familiar with both chemistry and mechanical engineering.
Civil engineering includes the planning, designing, construction, and maintenance of structures and altering geography to suit human needs. Some of the numerous subdivisions are transportation (e.g., railroad facilities and highways); hydraulics (e.g., river control, irrigation, swamp draining, water supply, and sewage disposal); and structures (e.g., buildings, bridges, and tunnels).
Electrical engineering encompasses all aspects of electricity from power engineering, the development of the devices for the generation and transmission of electrical power, to electronics. Electronics is a branch of electrical engineering that deals with devices that use electricity for control of processes. Subspecialties of electronics include computer engineering, microwave engineering, communications, and digital signal processing. It is the engineering specialty that has grown the most in recent decades.
Industrial engineering, or management engineering, is concerned with efficient production. The industrial engineer designs methods, not machinery. Jobs include plant layout, analysis and planning of workers' jobs, economical handling of raw materials, their flow through the production process, and the efficient control of the inventory of finished products.
Mechanical engineering is concerned with the design, construction, and operation of power plants, engines, and machines. It deals mostly with things that move. One common way of dividing mechanical engineering is into heat utilization and machine design. The generation, distribution, and use of heat is applied in boilers, heat engines, air conditioning, and refrigeration. Machine design is concerned with hardware, including that making use of heat processes.
Aeronautical engineering is applied in the designing of aircraft and missiles and in directing the technical phases of their manufacture and operation. Mineral engineering includes mining, metallurgical, and petroleum engineering, which are concerned with extracting minerals from the ground and converting them to pure forms. Other important branches of engineering are agricultural engineering, engineering physics, geological engineering, naval architecture and marine engineering, and nuclear engineering.
Another way of dividing engineering is by function. Among the top functional divisions are design, operation, management, development, and construction; development engineering is concerned with converting an idea into a practical product.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.