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My high school really emphasized math and science, plus I’ve always enjoyed math and physics, so I knew I wanted to major in either engineering or architecture. I then realized I didn’t have the best artistic capabilities, so engineering was probably better for me. For a long time, I struggled to pick between civil and mechanical engineering (I finally decided on the latter). Besides, I’ve seen many friends switch between different branches of engineering, so I know it’s a tough choice to make. If you’re in the same boat, here are some pointers to make your choice a little bit easier.

According to TryEngineering.org, there are more than twenty-five recognized specialties in engineering, engineering technology, and computing. No wonder it’s a tough choice. Generally, the most common branches are chemical, civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering, but there are many other subdisciplines and interdisciplinary subjects derived from these four.

Chemical Engineering

As the name implies, chemical engineering is the application of chemistry in various practical fields. In this field, you will use chemical reactions to solve various problems in areas such as healthcare, construction, petrochemicals, and food processing. Chemical engineers create new products such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and cleaning products. During college, you will study chemistry (obviously), biology, thermodynamics, and biochemistry. Some chemical engineering subdisciplines are materials engineering, molecular engineering, and process engineering.

Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineers design mechanical systems, improve gadgets and machines, and create solutions for existing problems. Mechanical engineering students learn about machines, properties of materials, and energy systems. In college, you will study subjects that include mathematics, physics, thermodynamics, and heat transfer. This branch is very broad; subdisciplines such as aerospace engineering, biomedical engineering, thermal engineering, and manufacturing engineering derive from it. Mechanical engineers work in a wide array of industries: nanotechnology, aeronautics, heat transfer, and vehicle design.

Civil Engineering

Civil engineering, among other things, involves the design and construction of infrastructure, project management, and environmental issues surrounding construction. Civil engineers work in many different kinds of projects, from building skyscrapers and suspension bridges, to railways and roads, and even rebuilding infrastructure in case of a natural disaster. During college, you will learn about structural analysis and design, statics, environmental issues, and strength of materials. Civil engineering is a really broad major as well, and it comprises several subdisciplines such as environmental engineering, structural engineering, transport engineering, marine engineering, and geotechnical engineering.

Electrical Engineering

As you can probably guess from the name, electrical engineers study electricity. Electrical engineering involves the study of energy: where it comes from, how it works, and how to harness it to create new technologies to solve problems. With this knowledge, you’ll be ready to create your own electric systems. Electrical engineers work in many different industries: aerospace, manufacturing, electronic equipment, and communications systems, to name a few. In college, students take courses in areas such as physics, circuits, digital design, and microprocessors. Some subdisciplines between this branch are computer engineering, electronic engineering, optical engineering, and power engineering.

These branches are probably the most common, but definitely not the only ones out there. I’ve included a few other disciplines and expanded on others I mentioned previously:

Computer Engineering

Computer engineers study, analyze, and design computer systems, both software and hardware. This degree is a great option because most industries rely on information technology. In college, computer engineers study mathematics, physics, computer science, and programming languages. Many students pick a specialty; some examples are robotics and computer security.

Industrial Engineering

Industrial engineers create logistical and resource systems that improve the way organizations run. In order to do this, industrial engineers consider all the factors that go into production: machines, materials, energy, even people. During college, industrial engineering students learn about economics, management, and design manufacturing.

Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical engineers apply engineering principles to the medical sciences in order to solve health problems. In college, students learn about organic chemistry, biological sciences, and biomechanics. Major advances are happening in this area right now, and biomedical engineers get to work in many exciting projects.

Environmental Engineering

Environmental engineers apply engineering principles to improve and protect the environment. Some of the issues environmental engineers deal with are waste disposal, recycling, air and water pollution control, and sanitation.



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the author

Clarissa Gallardo is a sophomore at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Originally from Panama City, Panama (only place in the world where you can see the sun rise in the Pacific and set on the Atlantic!), she is majoring in Mechanical Engineering and minoring in Mathematics and Ballet. A member of the Honors Program and dancer at heart, you can find her studying at the library, scrolling through her Tumblr feed , dancing, or reading. Clarissa has a really bad case of wanderlust and is obsessed with white chocolate mochas, The Big Bang Theory, and Doctor Reid from Criminal Minds. You can follow her on Twitter and on Tumblr.

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  1. Taylor Bishop on February 27, 2018

    Thanks for helping me learn more about engineering. I actually didn’t know about biomedical engineering or that it uses medical sciences to solve health problems. You also mentioned that they get to work on a lot of exciting projects, and I’m kind of interested to learn what these projects are. It might be fun to see the variety that is possible.

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