Types of Engineering Degrees - Feature
5 Nov 2018

Which Type of Engineering Degree Should You Study?

From buildings to bridges and cars to washing machines, engineering infiltrates every aspect of our daily life. It is, without a doubt, the backbone of a society.

So if you’re keen on pursuing an Engineering Degree, we’re giving you the lowdown on some of the most popular fields of engineering to help you decide which suits you best. Let’s get started!

Types of Engineering Disciplines

#1. Civil engineering

Types of Engineering Degrees - 1 Civil engineering

What is it?

Considered to be one of the oldest branches in the field, civil engineering deals with the design, construction, operation and maintenance of all our built environments (i.e. human-made surroundings). This includes infrastructure such as roads, buildings and bridges, as well as utilities such as water and power supply facilities.

What are some of your career prospects?

With a Civil Engineering Degree, you can find opportunities in engineering consulting companies (working on engineering plans, drawings and designs), construction companies (supervising construction projects, such as transport and renewable energy plants) and property developers (managing property construction projects, including housing, offices and malls).

Some of your career options may include:

  • Consulting civil engineer: Work on engineering plans and designs
  • Construction civil engineer: Supervise construction projects
  • Site engineer: Act as the main technical advisor on construction sites
  • Structural engineer: Design structures to ensure buildings can withstand the stresses of environmental conditions and human use
  • Geotechnical engineer: Study the behaviour of soil and rocks to ensure the safety and stability of buildings and structures
  • Maintenance engineer: Upkeep and preserve the condition of structures such as roads, bridges, railways and buildings

Is civil engineering a good fit for you?

Civil engineers are practical, hands-on, enjoy problem-solving and work well with procedures and rules. They’re also great in physics and maths and have a fondness towards the environment. If this sounds like you, civil engineering might be a good match!

#2. Chemical engineering

Types of Engineering Degrees - 2 Chemical engineering

What is it?

Chemical engineering involves developing processes to convert raw materials into useful products (e.g. clothes, petrol, food). Chemical engineers often make this happen on a large, industrial scale, such as in manufacturing plants, oil refineries and pharmaceutical factories, through their knowledge of mathematics, physics and chemistry.

What are some of your career prospects?

As a chemical engineer, you are open to careers in a variety of industries, such as chemical and petrochemical (e.g. crude oil, plastics, polymers, fibres, rubber), food, energy and semiconductor industries.

Some of your job roles include:

  • Chemical process engineer: Develop and optimise large-scale processes required in various industries, including petrochemical (e.g. devising methods to control the flow of oil in oil wells) and semiconductor industry (e.g. monitoring the electroplating process of semiconductors)
  • Food chemical engineer: Improve the manufacturing process of food packaging and specifying quality standards
  • Plastics technologist: Applies scientific and engineering principles in the design, development and manufacturing of plastic products

Is chemical engineering a good fit for you?

If you have an aptitude for physics, chemistry and mathematics, like solving problems and have an eye for detail, chemical engineering might be right for you.

#3. Electrical and electronic engineering

Types of Engineering Degrees - 3 Electrical and electronic engineering

What is it?

The words “electrical” and “electronic” may sound the same but they aren’t the same thing.

Electrical engineering deals with designing, developing and testing electrical systems, machinery and equipment. Electronic engineering, on the other hand, deals with designing, fabricating and operating electronic circuits and devices.

An in-depth understanding of both is required given that most modern appliances use a combination of electrical and electronic circuitry. Take a washing machine, for instance. It has an electrical circuit that powers the machine when there is an electric current. When you press the buttons to set the water temperature and duration of the wash cycle, these are interpreted by the electronic circuit, which sends signals to the electrical circuit to operate the motor and heater for the set duration.

As you can see, both electrical and electronic circuits are crucial in many devices, which is why this field of engineering is often offered as a single course in most universities.

What are some of your career prospects?

As an electrical and electronics engineer, you can find career opportunities with various industries, such as power and utilities, telecommunications, manufacturing, transport and electronics industries.

Some of your career prospects include:

  • Electrical engineer: Design, develop and maintain electrical equipment and systems used in industries such as utilities, manufacturing and transportation
  • Electronics engineer: Design, develop and test components, devices and systems for electronics and electrical equipment
  • Telecommunications engineer: Design, build and test equipment related to the transmission of information across a channel (e.g. wire cables, optic fibres, satellites)
  • Computer engineer: Design computers and computer systems in terms of hardware such as microprocessors and circuit boards

Is electrical and electronic engineering a good fit for you?

Do you have a knack for physics and numbers, love fixing and sprucing up your electronic gadgets and have your finger on the latest news in the tech world? Electrical and electronic engineering might be your perfect match.

#4. Mechanical engineering

Types of Engineering Degrees - 4 Mechanical engineering

What is it?

Mechanical engineering deals with the design, construction and operation of machines, be it small moving components such as sensors and switches or extremely large machinery such as satellites and rockets.

What are some of your career prospects?

As many industries rely on some form of mechanical system, you can explore a myriad of industries, such as manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, construction and marine industries.

Some job roles you can explore include:

  • Mechanical engineer: Design, manufacture, operate and maintain mechanical components, equipment and machinery in various industries, such as manufacturing, semiconductor, mining and construction
  • Industrial machinery engineer: Plan and execute preventive maintenance of machinery and propose solutions to reduce machinery downtime
  • Robotics engineer: Design and develop robotic systems, automated material handling systems and automated guided vehicles

Is mechanical engineering a good fit for you?

If you’re someone who has a knack for physics and maths, love hands-on work and are passionate about finding physical solutions to real-world issues, perhaps mechanical engineering might be a good fit for you!

#5. Mechatronics engineering

Types of Engineering Degrees - 5 Mechatronics engineering

What is it?

Mechatronics engineering combines the core elements of mechanical and electronics engineering to create smart and efficient machines. Mechatronics can be applied to a wide range of highly-automated systems and products, from anti-lock brakes and autofocus cameras to surgical robots and artificial hearts.

What are some of your career prospects?

The expertise of a mechatronics engineer is required in a number of different fields, such as:

  • Construction: Design and construct novel machinery and building equipment to increase efficiency and safety in construction sites
  • Medicine: Research and develop mechatronic aids in fields such as neurosurgery, orthopaedics and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Automotive: Design and manufacture new automotive technology as well as test and improve safety mechanisms within vehicles (e.g. airbags, anti-lock brakes)
  • Computing: Design IT applications, machine control systems and other technology that enables communication between machines and people

Is mechatronics engineering a good fit for you?

If you enjoy staying abreast of new technology and are keen to use your creativity and technical knowledge of mechanics and electronics to improve the technology we have today, this branch of engineering might be perfect for you!

#6. Petroleum engineering

Types of Engineering Degrees - 6 Petroleum engineering

What is it?

Petroleum engineering is related to the exploration, extraction and production of oil and natural gas. The work of a petroleum engineer involves the various stages of oil production, beginning from exploration (e.g. predicting the petroleum output of dig sites) all the way to extraction (e.g. managing the technical aspects of drilling and extracting petroleum).

What are some of your career prospects?

Petroleum engineers generally work in oil and gas extraction companies, engineering consultancies and specialist drilling contractors.

They can be divided into the following specialised fields:

  • Petroleum geologist: Discover the presence of oil and gas below the earth’s surface for the purpose of extraction
  • Drilling engineer: Work to determine the safest and most efficient method to drill extract oil and gas wells, taking into account the cost and environmental impact
  • Production engineer: Monitor the oil and gas production at oil wells and figure out how to maximise oil yield (e.g. by designing and selecting the right process and equipment)
  • Reservoir engineer: Assess the development of an oil and gas reservoir, generate accurate estimates of oil reserves and recommend ways to maximise production

Is petroleum engineering a good fit for you?

If you’re interested in mathematics, science and geology and want to use your expertise to promote environmental sustainability and economic feasibility in the oil and gas industry, this might be the specialisation for you!

#7. Biomedical engineering

Types of Engineering Degrees - 7 Biomedical engineering

What is it?

Biomedical engineering is a cross-discipline that spans the fields of biology, medicine and engineering. Biomedical engineers are an asset to the medical industry as they develop state-of-the-art technology that helps diagnose and treat various diseases as well as instruments used in life-saving procedures.

What are some of your career prospects?

As a biomedical engineer, you can explore employment opportunities at hospitals, medical equipment manufacturers and research institutions.

Some of your areas of specialisation could include:

  • Surgical instruments and medical devices: Design and develop devices to diagnose and treat diseases (e.g. pacemakers, dialysis machines)
  • Medical imaging: Design and develop devices that allow healthcare professionals to see inside the human body
  • Tissue engineering: Creating artificial tissues and organs to replace failing body functions
  • Biomaterials engineering: Creating material that integrates with biological systems such as organs and tissues for medical or diagnostic purposes (e.g. contact lens, bone cement, heart valves)

Is biomedical engineering a good fit for you?

If you’re interested to apply your technical knowledge to solve biological and medical problems and you’re passionate about making a difference in the healthcare industry, you might want to specialise in this field.

#8. Aerospace engineering

Types of Engineering Degrees - 8 Aerospace engineering

What is it?

Aerospace engineering is the branch of engineering specialising in designing and building machines that fly (e.g. aircrafts, spacecrafts, satellites).

This specialisation is further divided into aeronautical engineering — the design and development of machines that fly within the Earth’s atmosphere (e.g. aeroplanes, jets, helicopters) and astronautical engineering, that deals with the technology of spacecraft that fly outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

What are some of your career prospects?

As an aerospace engineer, you may choose to work in the following areas:

  • Aircraft and spacecraft design: Design the physical configuration of aircrafts to ensure that they can withstand the forces encountered during flight
  • Aerodynamics: Conduct research to evaluate the adaptability of materials used to design and manufacture aircraft, automobiles, missiles and spacecraft to ensure they’re able to move through the air more efficiently
  • Avionics: Design the various electronic systems used in an aircraft or spacecraft, such as communication and navigation systems, collision avoidance systems, weather systems and black boxes found in the cockpit
  • Propulsion: Design propulsion systems such as propellant systems, engines, pumps, pressurisation tanks and control systems used in aircraft or spacecraft

Is aerospace engineering a good fit for you?

If you’re great at maths, interested in aviation, aerospace systems and technology and are enthusiastic to use your problem-solving skills to improve the aerospace industry, aerospace engineering is exactly what you need.

#9. Environmental engineering

Types of Engineering Degrees - 9 Environmental engineering

What is it?

Environmental engineering is the branch of engineering that develops technology specifically aimed at protecting the environment by minimising waste and pollution. It involves finding solutions to a number of environmental issues, such as hazardous waste management, air pollution control, industrial hygiene and environmental sustainability.

What are some of your career prospects?

As an environmental engineer, your key task is to design and implement solutions to control or reduce the negative impacts of human activity on the environment.

Some areas you can explore include:

  • Waste management: Conduct waste management, waste disposal and recycling initiatives at places such as mines and construction sites
  • Air pollution: Develop solutions to restore the air quality in areas that have been contaminated (e.g. ventilation systems, regenerative incinerators)
  • Water pollution: Design sustainable solutions for industrial wastewater treatment

Is environmental engineering a good fit for you?

Are you passionate about creating solutions geared towards environmental protection and sustainability? Your dream career could be as an environmental engineer!

How can you be an engineer?

Your pathway to a career in engineering starts with a pre-university qualification (e.g. A-Level, STPM, or Foundation in Science or Engineering) after SPM or O-Level. Once you’ve completed these, you will need to obtain a Degree in Engineering, which typically takes 4 years to complete.

However, most universities will require you to choose a type of engineering discipline from the get-go such as civil engineering, mechanical engineering or electrical and electronic engineering for you to pursue during your degree. For example, if you choose civil engineering as a specialisation, you would need to pursue a Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) in Civil Engineering.

After completing your degree, you will then need to rack up 3 years of relevant work experience, undergo professional development training and pass the Professional Assessment Examination regulated by the Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM) before qualifying as a professional engineer.

Pro Tip: Check out our Engineering Course Guide for a bigger picture of what engineering is about.

So there you have it! As you can see, pursuing a Degree in Engineering means a sea of career options are available to you. When deciding which type of engineering you should pursue, take into consideration your capabilities, strengths and most importantly, your area of interest. Good luck!

Curious to know how well an engineering job will pay in the future? Check it out here!

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