What is engineering?

what_is_engineering?What is engineering?

Engineering is about improving the world around us through the practical use of maths and science. It is central to an exciting range of businesses and industries, including space, transport, healthcare, technology, media, construction, energy and many more.

Engineers aim to improve the design and efficiency of a huge range of products and processes – from the latest gadgets to  energy sources; engineers are behind almost everything we use today.


What does an engineer do?

Engineers work in offices, laboratories, film studios, in the great outdoors and underground. As an engineer you could be involved in designing wind farms or working as part of a team to improve artificial hip joints. Indeed, whatever your interests, there will be a connection with engineering. For instance, if sport is your thing, you could be designing and building the software used in post-match analysis, or helping sports professionals improve their performance by testing materials for lightweight equipment.

Engineers tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems – from dealing with cyber security and maintaining clean water and energy supplies to finding sustainable ways to grow food, build houses and travel. Engineers present solutions to immediate and long-term problems. As we struggle to deal with an ageing population, engineers are involved with designing equipment used in hospitals and inventing gadgets to make our lives easier – from robotic lawnmowers to emotional computers.

The work can involve hands-on practical work, problem-solving, creative thinking or technical expertise.


What jobs are there in engineering?

There are hundreds of job roles within the engineering sector. Some of the broad fields include:

Chemical and materials engineering – researching and developing food, substances, products, clothing, fuel and waste disposal systems.

Electronic and software engineering – designing and developing electronic components, devices, systems, equipment and software for a range of industries, including telecommunications, entertainment, transport and domestic appliances.

Civil and structural engineering – planning and designing structures, buildings, roads, rail and underground networks to ensure they are safe, efficient and fit for purpose.

Biomedical engineering – using engineering principles and technological advancements to improve healthcare; for example developing artificial limbs.

Energy engineering – working on power generation through a number of resources, including biofuels, renewable energy sources, oil and gas.

Aeronautical engineering – designing civil and military aircrafts,  satellites and space probes; enhancing our communications systems

Electrical engineering – building, maintaining and improving electrical components and control systems in order to ensure their reliability, efficiency and safety. Electrical engineers  work across a number of industries including manufacturing, construction, transport, power and building services.

Mechanical engineering – researching, designing and developing new products and innovations across a range of industries, including transport, manufacturing, power, health and sports. Mechanical engineers are involved in almost anything that has moveable parts. They often use computer aided design/modelling (CAD/CAM) in their work.

Education – inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.


Do we need more engineers in this country?

Yes! The 2013 EngineeringUK report, The State of Engineering, shows companies in the UK are projected to have 2.74 million job openings between 2010 and 2020, 1.86 million of which will need engineering skills. Engineering graduates are in demand, particularly in growth areas such as environmental solutions, security, medical engineering, high performance and green power.  We also need to double the number of engineering apprentices in order to provide us with enough skilled technicians to keep the economy going. Engineers are extremely employable, as the skills they possess – such as problem-solving, innovation, project management and team-work – can be transferred across many industries.


Five facts 

  1. The engineering sector is over three times the size of the retail sector.
  2. Engineering accounts for almost 25 per cent of the turnover of all UK enterprises.
  3. Government estimates that the renewable energy sector alone will generate 500,000 new jobs by 2020.
  4. Women currently represent only about 10 per cent of the engineering workforce. The industry is trying to tackle this issue through campaigns and schemes aimed at encouraging women to choose engineering as a career.
  5. Twice the number of engineering graduates is needed to meet the demand for future engineers, physics teachers and engineering lecturers.


Find out more

See where an engineering career can take you at Tomorrow’s Engineers.


See more from Focus on Engineering

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