Updated: Feb 22
You like working hands-on, figuring out how systems or machines operate, and solving problems. Math and science are your favorite school subjects (or at least your strengths). You’re already interested in engineering. The question now is: what type of engineering should you study?
The options are plentiful. While your career is not limited to your area of study, a lot of engineers do end up working in a field that directly relates to their major. We’ll go over some common engineering concentrations and list some of the classes/careers/companies associated with them. We hope you find one (or more) that you resonate with!
Do you want to “boldly go where no one has gone before?” Have you always wanted to see a Blue Angels show? Does space fascinate you? Are you great at math and physics?
Classes: Thermodynamics, Space Systems Design, Vibration and Elasticity
Careers: Aerospace engineers design, develop, and maintain aircraft and spacecraft. They often work in laboratories conducting research or in factories overseeing production.
Companies: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, U.S. Military
Are you a tech-y person with a passion for medicine? Do you think that robotics can improve human bodies? Is “Grey’s Anatomy” your favorite show?
Classes: Computational Biology, Medical Imaging, Bionanotechnology
Careers: Biomedical engineers create and test artificial organs, pharmaceutical drugs, surgical robots, and more — all crossovers of tech and medicine.
Companies: Medtronic, Johnson and Johnson, Merck
Do you want to solve real problems — health, safety, oil spills? Was doing experiments in chemistry class the highlight of your day in high school? (Although, to be fair, chemical engineering does not equal chemistry!)
Classes: Reactor Design, Organic Chemistry, Drug Development
Careers: Chemical engineers use math and science to solve problems relating to chemicals, pharmaceutical drugs, food, and other substances. They ensure the safety of the products we use and help to make them better!
Companies: Honeywell, Merck, Dow Chemicals
Do you care a lot about the way your community is structured? Do you like seeing your designs come to life on a large scale? Did you play a lot of Minecraft as a kid? Is public service important to you?
Classes: Structural Dynamics, Fluid Mechanics, Geotechnical Engineering
Careers: Civil engineers create and maintain the public infrastructure of our cities, from our bridges to our buildings to our sewage systems.
Companies: United States Army Corps of Engineers, Comcast, Northrop Grumman
Have you built your own Raspberry Pi? Do you enjoy programming but prefer playing around with the actual hardware of a computer? Are you a “tinkerer”?
Classes: Microprocessors, Systems Programming, Probability Theory in Electrical Engineering
Careers: Although this isn’t a perfect delineation, computer engineers generally tackle the “hardware” side of computers — whether that’s with AI, games, or anything else.
Companies: Google, Lenovo, Amazon
Do circuits excite you? Were you on your school’s robotics team? Do you like the idea of engineering but aren’t sure of what exact field you want to enter yet?
Classes: Solid-State Devices, Control Systems, Integrated Nano-technology
Careers: Electrical engineers design and develop electrical systems and equipment. If this sounds broad, it is! They could be working in transportation, IT, telecommunications… the list goes on.
Companies: Boeing, IBM, General Electric
Do you consider yourself a tactile learner? Does woodshop sound like a class you’d want to take? Is Solidworks only the coolest program ever?!
Classes: Materials Science, Principles of Design, Calculus-based Physics
Careers: Mechanical engineers are the masters of the machine. They design and manufacture everything from gas turbines to refrigerators to car engines and more.
Companies: NASA, Microsoft, GE Aviation
Did one of those majors speak to you? If not, there are so many other avenues of engineering to consider, such as:
Undeclared engineering (explore when you get to college)
The choices are (almost) endless!
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Robert Powers (M.A. Johns Hopkins) is the college consultant at College Torch. He is an expert in colleges and the college admissions process. Parents are able to join his private Facebook group for Parents of College-Bound Students.