Saturday, January 2, 2010

Engineering Discipline Overview

There are a lot of different types of engineers. Here’s a brief overview of some of the main types.

Electrical Engineering- Never trust a sparky. Because they deal with fairly ephemeral concepts, tend to be a bit aloof. Seem to make more mistakes than other disciplines. It seems to me like their work involves a lot of engineering masturbation (‘no, that should be 460 volts, not 480’ [despite being the same thing in reality, just game to take voltage drop into consideration when they could easily do the calculation themselves]). One sub-type of EE is Instrumentation Engineering. IE’s that at can debug automation systems quickly get lots of work and lots of travel opportunities. It’s a good thing to be, at least if you’re younger and you like to travel.

Computer Science - Sometimes lumped into math departments, mostly in engineering schools nowadays. Surprisingly, have one of the highest washout rates of anyone. Candice says it can be traced back to their first class where some can’t get the idea of substitution, much less pointers, etc. Dropping enrolment due to “get-rich-quick” schemers realizing they won’t be the next .com billionaires, which leaves the core of competent individuals. Good for the discipline.

Chemical Engineering- “The engineers that engineers make fun of.” Very, very difficult curricula (including organic chemistry) leaves only very, very technically competent graduates. Supriya Jindal is a ChemE. While I won’t make any claims about their practicality or project management skills, all ChemE’s I’ve ever known have been among the brightest engineers. Have, more than any other discipline, the best understanding of the pure science.

Civil Engineering- Some Civils are trustworthy. In school, Civil was generally considered to be the “easiest” engineering degree ('one step away from b-school'), but that’s absolutely not the case with Structural Engineers. Structural tend to be very good, although tend to baby their designs along. Environmental engineering became big, so I’m told, back in the 80’s, but almost all Environmentals I know seem to do nothing but fill out paperwork for the government. I know at least one Environmental Engineer I respect, though.

Mechanical Engineering – Defies categorization. Very broad. MechE’s have bits and pieces of all the coursework of EE’s, Civils, and ChemE’s. Lots of project managers are MechE’s due to ability to understand other disciplines. Lots and lots of subdisciplines (Industrial, Nuclear, etc.).

Dual-discipline engineers- Probably the ones I most admire. They’ve always been incredibly rare and they’re only getting rarer, with higher required courseloads (120+ hourse for a B.S. in Engineering, of which more than 80 is required) and (overly?) strict accreditation standards. With so many projects extremely dependant on discipline interfaces, the engineering profession could really use a few more good cross-discipline engineers, meanwhile it looks like engineering schools and state boards seem to be doing everything they can to kill them off. I work for a great firm that was founded by a dual Civil/ME P.E. who later also got his P.E. in EE.

1 comment:

Ryan Waldron said...

Although Academically they may be grouped, I would not group structural and certainly not environmental engineers with Civil Engineers. As far as licensing goes, they are separated from general Civil (As I wish Hydraulics was also).