How many different types of engineering degrees can you name? If you said three or four — civil, electrical, mechanical, and possibly chemical — you’re probably in good company. However, each of those broad divisions is made up of numerous smaller subdivisions, each of which represents a complete body of specialized knowledge in its own right — not to mention a vast range of employment choices for the engineering student.
Types of Mechanical Engineering Degrees
So, here’s the first in a series of posts about engineering degrees. This one concentrates on mechanical engineering, a field that extends back at least to the development of the wheel.
Vibration is sound, and sound is vibration… That is most likely why the broader field of mechanical engineering claims acoustical engineering as its own. The goals of this field include noise and vibration control, which is accomplished through the design of objects such as hearing protectors, noise buffers, and sound barriers; fidelity enhancement,
which is accomplished through the design of vessels such as announcement systems and concert halls; and the use of ultrasonic frequencies, which is accomplished through applications such as medicine, sonar, and nondestructive testing. Another major field of acoustical engineering is voice recognition and synthesis.
Acoustic engineers usually begin with undergraduate degrees in mechanical engineering before specializing in the discipline through graduate school. The Acoustical Society of America (ASU) is a global organization that began in the late 1920s at Bell Telephone Laboratories.
You want to be a rocket scientist, right? This area, which is concerned with the development of aircraft (aeronautical engineering) and spacecraft, is divided into two overlapping divisions (astronautical engineering). Because of the complexities involved, aerospace engineers typically work in interdisciplinary teams that include experts in aerodynamics, avionics, manufacturing, materials science, propulsion, and structural analysis.
There are various colleges where you can study aerospace engineering. According to peer review surveys, the Top 5 schools (among those where a Ph.D. is the highest degree given) are MIT, Georgia Tech, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Stanford, and Caltech.
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is a major resource for the discipline, serving as the United States’ representation to the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), which is situated in Paris.
You can drive my automobile, baby. This field focuses on the manufacturing, development, and construction of all sorts of road vehicles and is one of three branches of vehicle engineering (together with aerospace and marine engineering). Automotive electronics, fuel efficiency, quality management, and safety engineering are some of the specializations available.
Few universities and colleges in the United States offer bachelor’s degrees in automotive engineering; interested students commonly study mechanical engineering before concentrating their focus on graduate-level studies. SAE International, originally known as the Society of Automotive Engineers, is a valuable resource on the subject.
Ahoy, matey! This industry is concerned with the creation, design, operation, and repair of all sorts of watercraft. Oceanographic engineering, which deals with the physical and biological characteristics of the ocean, and offshore engineering, which deals with the design of buildings such as offshore wind farms and oil platforms, are both included.
Marine engineering programs are frequently found in schools with close proximity to bodies of water, such as the University of New Orleans (UNO), as well as government-run schools like the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA). The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers is an excellent resource for specialists in the area (SNAME).
Then there’s plain old mechanical engineering, which is a wide and diverse field with nothing plain about it. It is one of the oldest engineering fields, focusing on mechanical systems, including their design, analysis, manufacture, and maintenance. The field includes a variety of key fields like thermodynamics, materials science, structural analysis, and others.
Mechanical engineering is involved in everything from factories and industrial equipment to heating and cooling systems, artillery, and almost any form of machinery you can think of. Mechanical engineering degrees are available all over the world; in the United States, most programs are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET); for four-year degrees alone, 318 schools are currently listed.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in New York and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) in London are two professional organizations that serve the field. Both are multinational organizations with members all over the world.
Mecha-what? Tetsuro Mori, a Japanese engineer, created the word “mechatronics” in 1969 to characterize a hybrid approach to mechanics and electronics. This is a developing discipline centered on the design and production of intelligent systems designed to streamline operations, such as industrial robots, machine vision systems, and many of the “smart” devices that have revolutionized a wide range of sectors.
Mechatronic components will dominate the internet of things (IoT). Currently, there are few institutions and universities that offer degrees in mechatronic engineering, but interested students commonly complete mechanical engineering courses with a focus on robots and automation. Several schools also have mechatronic research labs. A decent source for a range of mechatronics links may be found here.
Most children presumably associate the term “engineer” with the person who operates a train. They’re not so far off in this field, which deals with the design, building, and operation of all forms of rail transportation networks.
Rail technology has a longer history than many other transportation engineering fields, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Freight rail, in particular, continues to drive economic development while alleviating traffic congestion, conserving energy, and lowering carbon emissions.
According to Progressive Railroading, an increasing number of colleges and institutions are offering electives in rail-related topics; Penn State Altoona, for example, provides a four-year undergraduate degree. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is a valuable resource for information on the state of the industry and its technologies.