An undergraduate degree in engineering provides students with vocational specialization, career preparation and a likely positive salary outlook.

This specialization of skills is most reflective in the degree options available in undergraduate engineering departments. Large universities typically offer 10 to 20 different programs for students, each with its own unique curriculum, requirements and faculty. There are dozens of different programs across the country – covering everything from Environmental & Ecological Engineering to Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering to Petroleum Engineering. Here’s a breakdown of some of the more popular options that prospective engineering students should know:

Aerospace Engineering
A branch of mechanical engineering, aerospace covers the design and creation of air and spacecrafts, satellites and missiles – essentially, anything under the umbrella of aviation. Aerospace engineers are often employed by the government (NASA; DOD) as well as large publicly traded and small private corporations. It is considered one of the more lucrative fields in engineering.

Biomedical Engineering
Biomedical engineering, sometimes simply called bioengineering, covers the intricacies of living organisms, and the mechanisms by which we study them, through a combination of engineering, medicine and biology. Biomedical engineers are responsible for designing software to run medical equipment and work to create prosthetics and other artificial benefits that humans rely on when sick.

Chemical & Bimolecular Engineering
This field is the backdrop for work involving chemical, fuel, drug and food production. Chemical engineers design systems and equipment that allow for chemicals, gases and liquids to be safely produced and transferred during the process of manufacturing.

Civil & Environmental Engineering
Civil engineers are responsible for the design of infrastructure in our everyday lives – roads, bridges, buildings and airports, to name a few. Environmental engineers can also design infrastructure, but with a more specific focus on environmental issues, including wind turbines, recycling/waste disposal plants and water treatment plants.

Electrical & Computer Engineering
Students in this field design and implement any electrical and/or computer systems – software, lighting, navigation and communication systems. Electrical and computer engineering is involved in just about every aspect of our daily lives – creating an in-demand, relatively stable career path.

Industrial & Systems Engineering
Industrial engineering, sometimes called operations research, entails the design and improvement upon the systems that create and deliver all sorts of products. Industrial engineers work to maximize efficiency between human labor, technology and energy. They play a key role in making sure that all facets of a system work congruently to increase profits and output.

Materials Science & Engineering
These engineers are responsible for the smallest details and materials that make up products and structures. They develop new, more efficient materials and evaluate how existing plastic, carbon fiber, ceramics and metals are used. Next time you swing a golf club or tennis racket, you can thank materials engineers for developing and testing the tiniest materials that allow these items to function properly.

Mechanical Engineering
One of the broader disciplines of engineering, mechanical engineering is part of just about any mechanical problem you can think of. These engineers design infrastructure for buildings, air conditioning units, medical devices, tractor parts – and everything in between!

Nuclear Engineering
Nuclear engineers are responsible for the design and research behind systems, structures and materials that are radiological. They design and operate nuclear power plants, consult on the design of nuclear weapons and create medical equipment that utilizes radiology for cancer treatment. Nuclear & radiological engineering comprise one of the more specialized and profitable fields of engineering.

About the author
Marc Zawel

As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.

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