Glossary of Engineering Disciplines

Glossary of Types of Engineering Services

Whether you are not quite sure what type of engineer you need for your project, a student looking into possible careers, or a media representative writing on an engineering topic, this glossary is sure to help. Engineers are classified into several disciplines or specialties, such as the following:

Civil Engineers design roads, bridges, ports, airports, railroads and other transportation systems. They also design water supply systems to purify drinking water and wastewater treatment systems to protect the environment. In addition, civil engineers may design dams, irrigation systems and other large public works projects.

Environmental Engineers are a subgroup of Civil Engineers who design systems and processes that protect the environment and reclaim habitats for nature. These processes may include high tech systems to remove and/or mitigate hazardous wastes from the air, groundwater or the land.

Structural Engineers design the framework for buildings, bridges and other large structures. By specifying specific uses of steel, concrete, wood and other materials in their designs, these engineers enable us to build structures capable of withstanding the weight of the building or bridge, its contents and the forces of wind, snow and earthquakes.

Geotechnical Engineers study subsurface conditions to determine the best foundation systems for buildings, bridges, roads and other structures. Their work is critical to any structure due to the various types of subsurface conditions found throughout the world. Different foundations systems are required if the conditions under the surface are rock, silt, or sand.

Mechanical Engineers design plumbing, heating, ventilation, elevator, fire protection and air conditioning systems for buildings, as well as manufacturing processes for industry.

Electrical Engineers design large power generating plants and power distribution systems, as well as building lighting and power distribution systems, mechanical controls and data/voice communications systems.

There are a variety of other engineering disciplines that are subgroups of the above such as manufacturing engineers, fire protection engineers, chemical engineers, aeronautical engineers, nuclear engineers, etc.