By Daniel Travers
Engineering is a term which covers a wide range of often overlapping disciplines. For those looking to study within the field at a postgraduate level, many different paths are available, with each of these leading to equally as many different career options and opportunities.
Mechanical engineering revolves around the analysis, design and manufacturing of mechanical systems. Mechanical engineers find solutions concerning the development of a range of products, ranging from small components to large machinery and vehicles. Concepts such as mechanics, kinematics and thermodynamics are learnt and applied to a number of fields, including machinery, robotics and weapons and transport systems. A postgraduate degree in mechanical engineering can lead to employment in a number of areas, ranging from aeronautical or automotive engineering to petroleum, drilling or maintenance engineering.
Civil engineering concerns the design, construction and maintenance of physically and naturally built environments, ranging from roads and bridges to canals and dams. Sub-divisions include environmental engineering, coastal and hydraulic engineering and construction. Civil engineers can also be involved in the production, storage and distribution of electricity and gas, as well as in the construction of transport infrastructure. Potential employment opportunities include work as a consulting or contracted civil engineer, either designing and developing projects or overseeing and organising their construction. Alternative options include quantity or building surveying, or structural engineering.
This branch of engineering is focussed around the study and application of electricity, electronics and electromagnetism. An electrical engineer tends to design, build and maintain electrical control systems, machinery and equipment. Electrical engineering however can also concern power production, telecommunications and computing, as well as the production of electronic circuits and components. Alongside these, a postgraduate degree in electrical engineering can also lead to employment in fields such as broadcasting or manufacturing engineering.
Chemical engineering aims to design and develop processes which refine raw materials or chemicals into more useful and valuable forms and products. This can either revolve around the design, manufacture and operation of plants and machinery in industrial chemical processes or around the development of new or adapted substances for products ranging from foods to cosmetics to pharmaceutical ingredients. Chemical engineering is also engaged with pioneering new materials and techniques in areas such as nanotechnology and fuel resources. Potential employment areas linked to chemical engineering include energy or petroleum engineering, as well as product development.
Engineers in this field focus on how computer systems work, both by themselves and when integrated into a larger structure or process. This involves the consideration and design of both software and hardware aspects, ranging from circuit design to supercomputers. Along with these, computer engineering also involves fields such as software writing, operating system design and robotics, as well as the designing of embedded systems for devices ranging from mobile phones to x-ray machines to alarm systems. A postgraduate degree in computer engineering can lead to many sectors, including software engineering, information protection, wireless communication and mobile computing.
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