FAQS About Engineering

What is engineering?

Engineers solve problems relating to societal needs and wants by using their knowledge, experience and judgment. They work in every possible industry and environment, and they work closely in teams and with other careers. Many people confuse engineering with degrees in math and science. Engineers do study math and science, but scientists discover the world around us through investigation, and engineers apply that information to create the things that never have been.

What kind of work do engineers perform?

Some engineers design consumer products or equipment, some plan how to ship thousands of packages around the country or the world, some try to make things more reliable or safe. Some engineers work outside, while others work in labs or offices. Some engineers solve problems with existing products or systems, and others create new products or systems. Most engineering jobs relate to working with others and require people skills. All relate to helping society with the things it needs or wants. There are as many different types of engineering jobs as species of insects, and that is saying something! Check out our Catalog of Engineering Disciplines to see what different engineers do.

Why should I be an engineer?

  • Make a Difference – Engineers do work that makes a difference, whether it is designing cochlear implants for children that are born with hearing difficulties, managing the construction of a new school or developing thin edible films that protect foods from bacteria and viruses.
  • Help the World – Engineers are developing Earth friendly products and processes all the time. They are involved in recycling, green energy generation, making our buildings and houses more energy efficiency, reducing pollution and preserving our wetlands, just to name a few.
  • Work on Cool Stuff – Engineers work on cool stuff before it even becomes cool stuff! Engineers are involved in everything from small electronic gadgets such as cell phones, music players and GPS navigators to big stuff such as new cars, roller coasters and the space shuttle.
  • Be Dynamic – Even though engineers may study a particular type of engineering in college, many go on to work in other disciplines and fields. Engineers don’t stay in one particular job for their entire career either – they will gain experience in many areas, fields and companies.
  • Options, Options, Options – As our world becomes more technological, engineers will continue to be in high demand. Engineers work in nearly every industry and environment. Engineering education and experience is an excellent preparation for careers in medicine or law, and many engineers work in business as entrepreneurs, too.

How do I prepare to be an engineer?

  • Academics – Engineering classes are built on a strong foundation of math and science, particularly calculus and physics. You will want to take as many math classes as possible and try to get to trigonometry, pre-calculus and calculus if you can before graduation. If your school doesn’t offer calculus, then take Introduction to College Math. Many students think that statistics will be the best choice, but since it isn’t calculus-based in high school, you are better off with the other math classes. In science, chemistry will be helpful, and taking physics will be particularly useful.
  • Programs – Many schools throughout North Carolina are beginning to offer engineering classes and programs. These programs may give you more exposure to engineering and help you decide if it is the right choice for you. They may also help you to become more technologically savvy and ease the transition to college. Plus, they can be lots of fun!
  • Extracurricular – Clubs, camps, competitions — get involved! These organizations and events provide valuable ways for you to exercise your problem-solving muscles, meet people with interests like yours and gain exposure to engineering!

How does engineering differ from other science, technology and math careers?

  • Engineering vs. Science and Math Degrees – With science and math degrees, you would use your knowledge gained to continue the discovery of the world around you — perhaps studying how a specific bacteria reproduces, investigating the health benefits of various foods or discovering the smallest particles that make up matter. Engineers would use this information to create products and processes, such as treating animal waste from farms so that it is non-toxic, processing and packaging foods so that they maintain more of their health benefits and developing a reactor that can harness energy to light our lives.
  • Engineering vs. Medicine – Health professionals help to investigate and solve individuals’ health problems. An engineering degree is a great foundation for a student who wants to work in the health industry — either as a biomedical engineer, a doctor or a therapist.
  • Engineering vs. Technology – Technology degrees are typically two-year programs which prepare students to operate or manipulate the technology that they have studied, whereas engineering degrees prepare students to develop or create new technologies, products and processes. For example, an electrical engineer might design the latest and greatest cell phone, while the engineering technologist would assist the engineer in putting those ideas into action using drafting, analysis and testing skills.
  • Engineering vs. Teaching – Engineers can be great teachers! If you think that you might want to be a teacher one day, consider being an engineer first. You can gain valuable experiences in industry, technology and research and bring a broader world view back to the classroom for your students! As well, engineers who pursue masters and doctoral studies can teach at the university or community college level.