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Engineering Disciplines

Science Reference Section
Science, Technology & Business Division
Library of Congress


Engineers follow a utilitarian philosophy to renovate old technology or create inventions through principles based on mathematics or science to benefit the human race and its condition of life.

"Engineers apply the theories and principles of science and mathematics to research and develop economical solutions to technical problems. Their work is the link between perceived social needs and commercial applications. Engineers design products, machinery to build those products, plants in which those products are made, and the system that ensure the quality of the products and the efficiency of the workforce and manufacturing process."

-- US Department of Labor summary on profession of labor

"The work of an engineer differs from that of a scientist’s, who would normally emphasize the discovery of physical laws rather than apply those phenomena to develop new products. Engineering is essentially a bridge between scientific discovery and product applications.”



             This reference guide was developed to provide understanding of the different occupations and skills required in the different engineering disciplines.

The American Society for Education of Engineers (ASEE) released statistics on the number of bachelor's degrees awarded in each of the engineering disciplines for the year 2010. Among the top ten popular disciplines were: mechanical engineering (19,241), civil engineering (12,154), electrical engineering (9,942), chemical engineering (6,487), biomedical engineering (4,066) and so on.

      The following web sources provide basic information on the kind of jobs that can be found, the main focuses of study and a brief introductory summary for each discipline.

A brief guide to engineering majors (Dedicated Engineers) PDF File

What do engineers do? (Michigan State University)

Summary of Engineering Disciplines (Vanderbilt University)
      Some study a specific major discipline for their academic satisfaction, but some major in an engineering discipline due to the financial stability it offers. The following source provides the salary of the various occupations within the STEM field.

Salaries of Scientists, Engineers and Technicians. Washington, Scientific Manpower Commission, c2007.
    Q149.U5S315a  2007
    See especially:
    Page 5 - starting salary by academic major.


Mechanical Engineering

      "Mechanical engineers research, develop, design, manufacture and test tools, engines, machines, and other mechanical devices. They work on power-producing machines such as electricity-producing generators, internal combustion engines, steam and gas turbines, and jet and rocket engines."

US Department of Labor definition of a mechanical engineer

      This field covers a wide array of subjects that include forces, materials, energy, fluids, and motion. Mechanical engineering is unique because its focus is more distributed than that of other disciplines.

     A mechanical engineering education is required for positions such as product engineer, systems engineer, sales engineer, design engineer, plant engineer, and many more. Common courses include engineering innovation, mechanical systems and thermal-fluids engineering.

Median entry level salary: $61,523

US News and World Report: Mechanical Engineering offers information on which colleges have an undergraduate program in mechanical engineering.

Print Sources:

Wickert, Jonathan A. An introduction to mechanical engineering. Stamford, CT, Cengage Learning, c2013. 425p.
    TJ145.W45 2013
    Includes bibliographic references.

Antonsson, Erik K., and Karl-Heinrich, Grote. Springer Handbook of Mechanical Engineers. New York, Springer, c2009. 1580p.
    J151.S795 2009
    Includes bibliographic references.

Principles and practice of engineering (PE): Mechanical, sample questions and solutions. Clemson, SC, National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, c2008. 197p.
    TJ159.P753 2009
    Includes bibliographic references.

For Updates:

Mechanical Engineering
    Covering topics ranging from design and systems to mechatronics, this American Society of Mechanical Engineers journal rigorously selects the professional and well-written articles for updates in today’s development of mechanical engineering.

Advances in Mechanical Engineering Research
    Through peer-review and professional edits, this journal publishes original research articles and review articles of technology in the mechanical engineering field.

Guide for Mechanical Engineering Majors
    The World Wide Learn site provides a guide for prospective mechanical engineers and current mechanical engineering majors. Ranging from the preparatory education for mechanical engineering degree to the jobs that potential mechanical engineers would have, the site offers a comprehensive summary of the major and the profession.


Civil Engineering

      Civil engineering is one of the oldest of the engineering fields. Civil engineering emphasizes mathematical knowledge in geometry, calculus and physical sciences. These engineers oversee the construction of transportation systems, roads, architecture, bridges, and other infrastructures underlying daily life. They are often supervisors on construction sites.

      According to the US Bureau of Labor, civil engineers typically “analyze survey reports, maps, and other data to plan projects; consider construction budgets, government regulations, potential environmental hazards; test building materials, such as concrete; provide cost estimates for materials, labor, and equipment...”

      The American Society of Civil Engineers defines civil engineering as "the profession in which a knowledge of the mathematical and physical sciences gained by study, experience and practice is applied with judgment to develop ways to utilize, economically, the materials and forces of nature for the progressive well-being of humanity in creating, improving, and protecting the environment, in providing facilities for community living, industry and transportation, and in providing structures for the use of humanity.” Serving the public is an important mission of the civil engineering community.

      Specialized areas include construction engineering, environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, transportation engineering, urban and community planning, and water resources engineering.

      The median level entry level salary for a civil engineer approximates around $55,250.

Aside from the foundational engineering courses in mathematics and science, undergraduate work includes introduction to dynamics, engineering risk, systems engineering, economics, and the basics of solid mechanics.

US News and World Report: Civil Engineering
This site gives examples of college institutions that offer civil engineering at the undergraduate level.

Print Sources:

Matteson, Donna. Civil engineering and architecture. Clifton Park, NY, Delmar Cengage Learning, c2012. 674 p.
TA148.C575 2012
Includes bibliographic references.

Labi, Samuel. Introduction to civil engineering systems: a system perspective to the development of civil engineering facilities. Hoboken, NJ, Wiley, c2014. 1032 p.
TA145.L38 2014
Includes bibliographic references.

Muir, David W. Civil engineering: a very short introduction. Oxford, England, Oxford University Press, c2012. 143p.
TA145.M85 2012
Includes bibliographic references.

Lindeburg, Michael R. Civil engineering reference manual for the PE exam. 14th ed. Belmont, CA, Professional Publications, c2014. 1 v.
TA159.L53 2014.
Includes bibliographic references.

Hansen, Karen L. Civil engineer’s handbook of professional practice. Hoboken, NJ, John Wiley & Sons, ASCE Press, c2011. 714 p.
TA151.H295 2011

World Wide Learn: Civil Engineering Profession

For updates:

Advances in civil engineering
    Known as a selective collector of researches, this journal makes its goal to cover every topic within civil engineering.


Chemical Engineering

      Due to its indirect, complementary role in the creation of products, chemical engineering is not as popular as that of other engineering disciplines.

According to the The US Bureau of Labor, chemical engineers “ ... design chemical plant equipment and devise processes for manufacturing chemicals and products such as gasoline, synthetic rubber, plastics, detergents, cement, paper, and pulp by applying principles and technology of chemistry, physics, and engineering.”

      “Chemical engineering is the field of applied science that employs physical, chemical, and biochemical rate processes for the betterment of humanity ... chemical engineers have applied their skills to fundamental problems in pharmaceuticals, medical devices and drug-delivery system, semiconductor manufacturing, and more.”

      Common courses in the undergraduate curriculum include: heat and mass transfer, reaction engineering, and chemical thermodynamics. Specialized areas include process control, petroleum engineering, biochemical engineering, pharmaceuticals, and food processing.

      There is no shortage of occupations available for chemical engineers. They find work in environmental protection, pharmaceutical development, health care, food, petroleum, electronics, and a multitude of other industries. Recent trends in globalization have allowed chemical companies to do business abroad, and employers seek to hire those with foreign language skills.

Median Entry Level Salary: $66,281

US News and World Report
This website gives examples of college institutions that offer chemical engineering at the undergraduate level.

Print Resources:

Denn, Morton M. Chemical engineering: an introduction. Cambridge, NY, Cambridge University Press, c2011. 265 p.
TP155.D359 2011
Includes bibliographic references.

Benvenuto, Mark A. Industrial chemistry for advanced students. Berlin, Boston, de Grutyer, c2015. 152 p.
TP155.B3964 2015
Includes bibliographic references.

Lindeburg, Michael R. Chemical engineering reference manual for the PE Exam. 7th ed. Belmont, CA, Professional Publications, c2013. 1 v.
TP155.L54 2013
Includes bibliographic references.

Theodore, Louis. Chemical engineering: the essential reference. New York, McGraw-Hill Education, c2014. 473 p.
TP155.T52 2014
Includes bibliographic references.

For updates:

AICHE Journal
    A publication from the official society of chemical engineering in the US; this journal extends over nine different subjects within chemical engineering including: biomolecular, process systems, separation, and more. By offering the most modern research and providing the perspective of the society, the journal encompasses many aspects of chemical engineering and its changes.

Advances in chemical engineering and science.
    The ACES is an international journal that provides updates on researches and reviews pertaining to the chemical engineering field. Some subjects are covered extensively such as biochemical engineering, bio-engineering materials, green chemistry, and many more.

Guide for chemical engineering majors:
    Each engineering degree has specialties within the major itself. This website goes to a profound level within the chemical engineering major to provide insight on job opportunities, the various specialties within the major, and the best preparatory education for prospective high school students.


Biomedical Engineering

    Technologies like artificial hips, MRI machines, and dialysis machines are the work of biomedical engineers.

    Biomedical engineering is at a critical point since the modern health care system revolves around highly developed technology. Engineers working in health care have focused on inventing tools for research & development, diagnosis, and cures. Throughout history, medicine has been a center of human culture and intuition.

   **** [who says?} The challenges in the medical profession often require the thought process of engineers, such as the “fundamental aspects of device and systems analysis, design, and practical application.” Common projects for biomedical engineers include developing simple measuring devices, building laboratories and clinics, and the general management of hospitals. As quoted in the Introduction of Biomedical Engineering by Academic Press, “The American healthcare system, therefore, encompasses many problems that represent challenges to certain members of the engineering profession called biomedical engineers.” ***************

    “Biomedical engineers apply electrical, mechanical, chemical, optical, and other engineering principles to understand, modify, or control biological systems”- Academic Press

    There is controversy surrounding the definition of biomedical engineering and bioengineering. Typically in literature and studies, bioengineering tends to be research-based in the field of genetics while biomedical engineering is defined as a more comprehensive study of technology of healthcare.

    Education in biomedical engineering has been popular at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels. Core classes are usually drawn from other engineering disciplines with a focus on life sciences such as biology. Aside from the common math and science classes, the biomedical engineering curriculum usually includes biotransport, biomechanics, and physiological systems.

    Biomedical engineering is notable for its vast range of possibilities. The curriculum is broad and is often left up to independent education institutions to decide what to teach. Some areas of specialty include classes in biological materials, classical mechanics, pharmaceutical sales, cellular engineering, systems physiology, and more.

    Upon graduating biomedical engineerings do three main types of work. Clinical engineering includes everyday human interaction. Biomedical designing focuses on entrepreneurial perspectives. Researches hypothetically apply engineering principles to the medical field. Common employers range from medical supply producers, to regulatory agencies, to pharmaceutical companies.

Median Level Career Earnings: $60,698

US News and World Report: Biomedical Engineering
This website gives examples of college institutions that offer biomedical engineering at the undergraduate level.

Print Sources:

Enderle, John, Susan Blanchard, and Joseph Bronzino. Introduction to biomedical engineering. 2nd ed. Amsterdam, Boston, Elsevier Academic Press, c2005. 1118 p.
R856.I47 2005
Includes bibliographic references.

Shukla, Anupam, and Ritu Tiwari. Biomedical engineering and information systems: technologies, tools, and applications. Hershey, PA, Medical Information Science Reference, c2011. 367 p.
R856.B495 2011
Includes bibliographic references.

Ritter, Arthur B. Biomedical engineering principles. Boca Raton, FL, CRC Press, c2011. 516 p.
R856.R58 2011
Includes bibliographic references.

Taktak, Azzam, Paul Ganney, Dave Long, and Paul White. Clinical engineering: a handbook for clinical and biomedical engineers. Amsterdam Waltham, MA, Elsevier Academic Press, c2014. 443 p.
R856.15.C563 2014
Includes bibliographic references.

Internet Source:

World Wide Learn
    The site provides the most recent trends in job occupations and education status of the professionals in biomedical engineering.

For Updates:

Annals of biomedical engineering
    This source is the official journal of the Biomedical Engineering Society. Encompassing original and review articles in bioengineering and biomedical engineering, this journal emphasizes the usage of mathematical and biological data to solve medical problems.

American journal of biomedical engineering
    This journal focuses on the discussions and forums on the newly presented technologies and topics within the field of biomedical engineering. Produced bimonthly, this journal expansively covers biomechanics, cell engineering, cardiovascular systems, and much more.


Electrical Engineering

    Electricity is required in any modern technology so electrical engineers often cooperate in teams with engineers of other disciplines. David Irwin, in Introduction to Electrical Engineering, states “electrical engineering involves the conception, design, development, and production of the electrical or electronic products and systems needed by our technological society” and “the field of electrical engineering involves the application of electricity to meet the needs of society.”

    The US Bureau of Labor's definition states that “ ... electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment such as electric motors, radar, and navigation systems.” Much of the work overlaps computer engineering.

    Graduates with an electrical engineering degree commonly find jobs in scientific development firms, electricity manufacturing companies, navigation control companies, architectural firms, and other areas that require the use of electricity.

    The discipline of electrical engineering stresses a deep knowledge of electricity and therefore physics. The usual undergraduate curriculum has courses on integrated circuits, robotics, power systems, communication systems, and computers. Ultimately, electrical engineering majors find areas of specialty in power engineering, electromagnetics, communications, computer engineering, electronics, and systems and controls. Electrical engineering at the college level may be referred to as Electronic or Communications engineering.

    With the high demand for electrical engineers in the ever-developing technological world, the salary of an electrical engineer is on the higher end of the spectrum at $64,138.

US News and World Report: Electrical/Electric/Communications Engineering
This site gives examples of college institutions that offer electrical engineering at the undergraduate level.

Print Sources

Irwin, David J. Introduction to electrical engineering. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall, c1995. 780 p.
TK145.I78 1995
Includes bibliographic references.

Hambley Allan R. Electrical engineering: principles and applications. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ, Pearson, c2014. 882 p.
TK.146.H22 2014

Rauf, Bobby F. Electrical engineering for non-electrical engineers. Lilburn, GA, Fairmont Press, CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, c2014. 492 p.
TK.146.P345 2014

Ashby, Darren. Electrical engineering 101: everything you should have learned in school- but probably didn’t. Boston, MA, Elsevier, c2012. 291 p.
TK146.A75 2012

For most engineers to work at engineering firms, employers favor seeing an official engineering license authorized by the state. Therefore the PE exam is popular for all disciplines and these books provide review for the exam in the electrical engineering field.

Principles and practice of engineering (PE): electrical and computer: sample, questions, and answers. Clemson, SC, National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, c2009. 85 p.
TA159.P669 2009

Camara, John A. Electrical and electronics reference manual for the electrical and computer PE exam. Belmont, CA, Professional publications, c2013. 1 v.
TK169.C35965 2013
Includes bibliographic references.

Internet Sources:

World Wide Learn: Guide to Electrical Engineering Major
As part of a bigger series of explanations of the majors in colleges, there is a comprehensive summary of the learnings expected to be for an electrical engineering student. In addition, the website explains the career outlook and specific areas of study for an electrical engineer.

Career Cornerstone: Electrical Engineer
The website explains in detail the mission of electrical engineers. By linking the site to statistics of employment, salaries, and interviews with electrical engineers currently in the workforce, it helps for the reader to gage their interests by utilizing the site.

For Updates:

Electrical and electronics engineering
The journal follows a mission of covering as many topics within electrical engineering as extensively as possible. A rigorous journal reviews by an editorial board with professionals across the world provides a quarterly report of the most recent developments.

Journal of electrical engineering and information science
Though produced by the Korean Institute of Electrical Engineering, the journals are composed in the English and update the knowledge of readers on the findings of most recent research within the field of electrical engineering.

Any of the further resources in electrical engineering can be found in the TK section of the Library of Congress.



    The five engineering disciplines above were chosen according to the number of degrees awarded for each major according to the 2010 statistics by the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE). But there are a variety of specialized engineering majors including that include industrial engineering, aerospace engineering, petroleum engineering, nuclear engineering, and computer science engineering. The following is a set of miscellaneous books and Webpages for those disciplines.

Industrial Engineering:

    Industrial engineering is a unique area of study because it does not directly create or invent any solutions to problems. The discipline focuses on the entrepreneurial and business aspect of engineering projects. Whether it is research and development or group projects, industrial engineers desire to create the most efficient plans for employee scheduling, factory schedules, and a multitude of other factors.

Industrial engineering: concepts, methodologies, tools, and applications. Hershey, PA, Engineering Science Reference, c2013. 3 v.
T56.I436 2012
Includes bibliographic references.

Ulrich, Karl T. Product design and development. 4th ed. Boston, MA, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, c2008. 368 p.
HD31.U47 2008

Denim, Paulo. Mechatronics and manufacturing engineering. Oxford- Philadelphia, Woodhead publishing, c2012. 345 p.
TJ163.12.M4285 2012

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Industrial Engineer

Aerospace Engineering:

    Aerospace engineering is directly related to any flying vehicle, including missiles, aircrafts, space-crafts, and systems for national defense. This discipline has two main fields: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering.

Senson, Ben. Aerospace engineering: from the ground up. Australia, Delmar Cengage Learning, c2011. 299 p.
TL546.S4 2011
Includes bibliographic references.

Alber, Irwin E. Aerospace engineering on the back of an envelope. Heidelberg, Springer, c2012. 326p.
Tl545.A53 2012
Includes bibliographic references.

Mouritz, Adrian P. Introduction to aerospace materials. Reston, VA, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, c2012. 621 p.
TL698.M68 2012
Includes bibliographic references.

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Aerospace Engineer

Nuclear Engineering:

     Whether for industrial or medical purposes, nuclear engineering is the discipline that utilizes the potential of nuclear energy and radiation. Engineers attempt to develop safe and innovative systems for using nuclear energy.

Cacuci, Dan G. Handbook of nuclear engineering. New York, Springer, c2010. 5 v.
TK9151.H36 2010
Includes bibliographic references.

Knief, Ronald A. Nuclear engineering: theory and technology of commercial nuclear power. 2nd ed. Lagrange park, American Nuclear Society, c2008. 770 p.
TK9145.K62 2008
Includes bibliographic references.

Shultis, Kenneth J. Fundamentals of nuclear science and engineering. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, FL, CRC Press, c2008. 591 p.
TK9145.S474 2008
Includes bibliographic references.

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Nuclear Engineer

Computer Science Engineering:

    Often referred to in a multitude of terms including computer hardware engineering, computer software engineering, and computer science, the computer science engineering discipline encompasses the development of the programming and the physical components of a computer system.

Reed, David. A balanced introduction to computer science. Boston, MA, Prentice Hall, c2011. 398 p.
QA76.R395 2011
Includes bibliographic references.

Brookshear, Glenn. Computer science: an overview. Upper Saddle River, NJ, Pearson Education, c2015. 628 p.
QA76.B743 2015
Includes bibliographic references.

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Computer Science Hardware Engineer

After the Major?

     A graduate with an engineering degree is not limited to working, designing, or calculating at an engineering firm. The rigorous curriculum and the development of communication and critical thinking skills are a foundation for work in other industries. Many biomedical engineers go to medical school. Others go on to law school, becoming patent lawyers or corporate lawyers for engineering companies. National Science Foundation statistics from 2010 show that 21 million college graduates were employed as scientists or engineers. Approximately 13 million were hired in business and management industries, 6 million in the R&D industry, and 9 million were employed in other categories. The bottom line is that that a degree in engineering provides a multitude of options in various areas of work.

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