What is an engineer? All I think of is someone that builds stuff.


A lot of my friends are majoring in electrical, industrial, or mechanical engineering, but I honestly have no idea what a professional engineer actually does.

In: Other


Engineering is a very broad term, essentially it means applied science.

So engineers take very specific scientific principles and apply them to life. Ie designing bridges by using physics and materials science. Or like oil production by using geology, chemistry, and physics.

An engineer designs and plans things, not builds them. Theye will do all the math and science to design a bridge that can handle super intense traffic in the worst conditions, but they aren’t the one laying the concrete.

An engineer is a problem solver. Electrical, structural, or mechanical it’s all about the same. The engineer is going to try and design something that fixes the problem.

I am a mechanical engineer. Retired. I designed assembly line jigs and fixtures(explosive items). I designed and built computer networks. Developed computer models to calculate reliability of missiles and bombs. I designed tests for reliability testing of hardware and electronics.
My whole career was based on my Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering. (ODU)
I was hired because of my success in college. I progressed because of the other engineers I worked with on the variety of projects assigned. Sharing and Learning was a career long process.

Originally, decades and even centuries ago, engineers were specialists in the transformation and usage of materials. If you stop to think about, from buildings or fortification constructions, to chemical or naval engineering, mechanical, electrical, etc, what all branches of engineering do is to study, define and/or monitor the tasks of getting and transforming materials into forms considered better for civilization. Minerals, wood and chemicals are transformed into ships, bridges, appliances, metal bars and plates, or more refined chemical products like gasoline and medicines. Some more modern forms of engineering like forest or biochemical engineering also do that, advancing into the area of organic materials. All these kinds of engineering required good knowledge and interest in physics, chemistry and mathematics to model and understand the natural processes Observe that in most languages with cognate words for engineer (Spanish, Portuguese, maybe Italian and French too) these words are not associated with “engines”, but with “ingenious”. I don’t know the English word origin, may be it was the same and was somewhat changed.

This changed recently with “software engineer”. It seems to be associated now with the use of mathematical and logical skills, a must-be in the previous activities, too.

Sorry for English errors, it’s not my native language, as you may have guessed.

An engineer is who signs off on a project. So if anything ever goes wrong. Bridge collapses, etc. They go right to who’s name is on the stamp.
It’s a position that stands between pure profit and duty to the people. You value the public more than your employer. Gotta make sure it’s safe and up to standards… Whatever it is…
Sometimes contractors and others will try to deviate from the engineers plans in order to cut costs but the engineer still takes the blame.

Engineers apply science to do useful things. When you start nit picking the line between science and engineering can become blurry, but generally scientists seek to increase knowledge for the sake of knowledge whereas engineers take knowledge and use it to do things. For most branches of the hard sciences, there is a corresponding branch of engineering. Electrical engineers understand electromagnetics to design power systems, motors, computers, etc. mechanical engineers understand materials science, classical physics, fluids, etc to design pretty much everything. A very clean example of the line is a chemist versus a chemical engineer. (Very generally) A chemist works in a small lab trying to figure out how to synthesize some new molecule or how to do it better; a chemical engineer designs a system to take that process and scale it up to industrial production quantities.

The jobs of engineers vary greatly too. Engineers oversee the entire process of a product’s lifecycle from conceptual design to disposal. Some engineers design the thing, some oversee manufacturing, some oversee operation of complex machinery/systems, some do research and development. Pretty much everything man made thing you have ever seen or touched was designed by an engineer and manufactured under the supervision of an engineer.

my father was an engineer for ship-building.

he didnt physically built ships, as in, he wasnt welding the thing together. he constructed/designed ships on paper (back then) and later on his computer with CAD programs.

the shipyard then used these design to actually build the ship.