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The Different Disciplines of Engineering

engineering disciplines

As broad as the term “building things” but not nearly as simple, engineering is the “E” in the learning and teaching style promoted by the U.S. Department of Education known as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Engineering focuses on the creation, construction, and functionality of machines and structures. As you can imagine, there are nearly countless professional opportunities within the engineering disciplines, and many subsets and intersections make for even more employment variety. When you think about all of the things that must be made (car engines, textiles, buildings, roads, and the list could go on and on and on), it’s not hard to understand why this is a popular profession, and coincidentally, one of the most popular online master’s degree programs pursued by graduate-level students and working professionals today. There are four recognizable main disciplines within the larger engineering branch, and subsets within each of those disciplines. Read on to discover the different types of engineering possible, and to find an online master’s program to meet your needs.

Civil Engineering

Made up of the design and construction of shelter and structures needed for society to function and operate smoothly, civil engineering is commonly thought to be the oldest of the disciplines. When civilization began to thrive in ancient Egypt and there was the need for a collective infrastructure, civil engineering became necessary to create the community. Some of the main subsets within civil engineering include environmental engineering, construction engineering, and structural engineering, and some of the more specialized subsets include earthquake engineering, fire protection engineering, and geotechnical engineering.

Chemical Engineering

A relatively newer discipline, chemical engineering mainly focuses on the processes of industrialization of chemicals, with subsets such as petroleum engineering, plastics engineering, and materials engineering. Chemical engineers start in the laboratory with the invention of materials, production of said materials, and continue on with the transport and improvement of the product.

Electrical Engineering

Around for centuries but experiencing a surge of renewed energy due to the current possibilities, electrical engineering is concerned with the development and function of products that require electricity. Computer systems, robotics, electronics–all of these are possible because of electrical engineering. Subsets include software engineering, computer engineering, and big data engineering

Mechanical Engineering

An extremely broad and diverse discipline, mechanical engineering really began to prosper during the Industrial Revolution. Providing a focus on the design and production of machinery and manufacturing components, with an appreciation of thermal dynamics as they relate to wear and tear, mechanical engineering is the discipline that makes things run, literally. Subsets like aerospace engineering, nuclear engineering, and automotive engineering comprise mechanical engineering.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the disciplines of engineering, let’s consider the prospect of obtaining a master’s degree. The online master’s of mechanical engineering, along with the other three disciplines, is one of the most desirable degrees achievable via an online program. The impressive list of institutions that offer their mechanical engineering graduate program online includes Ivy League schools, newer polytechnic universities, and everything in between. To peruse the possibilities, start with our list of the 50 Best Online Master of Mechanical Engineering Degree Programs.

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Michael Templeton
Managing Editor

Kacey Reynolds Schedler
Contributing Editor