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Which Type of Engineering Should You Study?

Which Type of Engineering Should You Study? main image


Engineering is an extensive subject, and with so many types of engineering to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow down which one is for you. To help you to decide, you should try and identify what you’re passionate about. What gets you excited, and what do you spend your free time on? All types of engineering include some form of problem-solving (and generally focus on making life easier), but what engineering-related solution gives you the biggest buzz? If you choose a subject you’re naturally interested in, you’ll find it easier to stay motivated during your course and stay involved with the subject whilst pursuing an engineering career.

Here’s a rundown of the various branches of engineering, to help you decide which one could be for you.

Aerospace/aeronautical engineering 

Aerospace engineering

This branch of engineering deals with the research, design, development, construction, testing, science and technology of aircraft. You could also study astronautical engineering, focusing on spacecraft and the deep conditions of space. 

This type of engineering is for you if:

  • You’re fascinated by the history and methodology behind flying machines, from the earliest conceptual sketches to the advancement of modern jets.
  • You have a keen interest in the mechanics of flight travel.
  • You’re intrigued by computer simulations and in seeing how aircraft machinery performs under extreme conditions.

Aeronautical engineering specializations

If you study aeronautical engineering, you could specialize in aerodynamics, aeroelasticity, composites analysis, avionics, propulsion and structures and materials. Find out more here.

Discover our most recent ranking of the best universities for aeronautical engineering here.

Chemical engineering 

Chemical engineering

This type of engineering concerns the use of chemical and biological processes to produce useful materials or substances. It’s a multidisciplinary subject, combining natural and experimental sciences (such as chemistry and physics), along with life sciences (such as biology, microbiology and biochemistry), plus mathematics and economics.

This type of engineering is for you if:

  • You have an analytical mindset.
  • You’re also considering studying chemistry or another natural/life science.
  • You’re interested in the chemical processes behind producing everyday items.

Chemical engineering specializations

If you choose to study chemical engineering, you may like to specialize in chemical reaction engineering, plant design, process engineering, process design or transport phenomena. You can read more about these here.

Discover our most recent ranking of the best universities for chemical engineering here.

Civil engineering 

Civil engineering

Civil engineering is the professional practice of designing and developing infrastructure projects. This can be on a huge scale, such as the development of nationwide transport systems or water supply networks, or on a smaller scale, such as the development of single roads or buildings.

This type of engineering is for you if:

  • You’re interested in designing and building things.
  • You’re interested in mechanics, hydraulics, geotechnics (using knowledge of the Earth’s crust to solve construction problems), materials science and statistical analysis.
  • You’d like to develop your design skills, particularly in computer-aided design.

Civil engineering specializations

Common specializations of civil engineering include structural engineering, architectural engineering, transportation engineering, geotechnical engineering, environmental engineering and hydraulic engineering. You can read more about these here.

Discover our most recent ranking of the best universities for civil engineering here.

Computer engineering 

Computer engineering

Computer engineering concerns the design and prototyping of computing hardware and software. This subject merges electrical engineering with computer science, and you may prefer to study computer engineering alongside one of these similar subjects.

This type of engineering is for you if:

  • You’re interested in an engineering career related to computers – for example as a software developer or computer engineer.
  • You’re interested in mathematics, science and computers, and want to learn more about how computers operate at a physical level.
  • You want to produce new products and systems based on the technological advances of computer scientists.

Computer engineering specializations

You may find that computer engineering specializations overlap with those offered in computer science degrees, for example with subjects such as computer graphics and network security. However, specialized subjects generally unique to computer engineering include microprocessor/microcontroller systems, computer architecture and VHDL (hardware description language) design.

Discover our most recent ranking of the best universities for computer science & information systems here.

Electrical/electronic engineering 

Electrical engineering

Electrical and electronics engineering both focus on applications of electrical power. The two fields differ in that electrical engineers chiefly focus on the large-scale production and supply of electrical power, while electronics engineers focus on much smaller electronic circuits, such as those used in computers.

This type of engineering is for you if:

  • You’re interested in how electrical devices and systems work.
  • You want to help power the next phase of technological developments.
  • You naturally want to understand how any electrical system is set up and have ideas for how it could be improved.

Electrical engineering specializations

You could specialize in the following areas of electrical and electronics engineering: power generation and supply, communications and media, computer systems and robotic systems. You can learn more about these here.

Discover our most recent ranking of the best universities for electrical engineering here.

Mechanical engineering 

Mechanical engineering

One of the oldest and broadest types of engineering, mechanical engineering is concerned with the design, manufacturing and maintenance of mechanical systems. You’ll study statics and dynamics, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, stress analysis, mechanical design and technical drawing.

This type of engineering is for you if…

  • You like fiddling with mechanical devices (you could also consider aeronautical engineering).
  • You’re interested in coming up with new and innovative designs in fields such as sustainable energy and artificial intelligence.
  • You’re interested in working as part of an interdisciplinary team to develop and improve mechanical technologies.

Mechanical engineering specializations

This is a very broad subject, which overlaps with lots of other types of engineering. However, the most common specializations of mechanical engineering include manufacturing, transportation systems, combustion, nanotechnology and robotics. Mechatronics engineering may also be of interest; this combines mechanical and electronic engineering with areas such as computer and control engineering. Read more here.

Discover our most recent ranking of the best universities for mechanical engineering here.

Engineering management 

Engineering management

Another interdisciplinary field, engineering management has grown in recent years, with universities responding to industry demand for management-focused engineers by developing dedicated engineering management programs. These courses combine industrial engineering skills and business expertise, often developed jointly by the engineering and business faculties. You could also study one of the above branches of engineering with management.

This type of engineering is for you if:

  • You’re interested in understanding how engineering is applied within different types of business, and the challenges involved in both technical and organizational terms.
  • You want to quickly take on a managerial role, while also applying your technical knowledge.
  • You want to oversee the development, manufacture, marketing and distribution of products.

Engineering management specializations

This is another broad area, but types of engineering management that you may like to specialize in include: engineering mathematics, management science, operations management, decision engineering, business statistics and engineering statistics. You can read more here.


This article was published in February 2016 and most recently updated in November 2019.

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Sabrina Collier's profile image
Written by Sabrina Collier
The former Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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hey... I want to opt aeronautical engineering as my career.... So can you please help me to find best collage or universities for B-tech.

Hi Pranay, here's a link to our latest subject ranking for aeronautical engineering.

I was wondering about which engineer I wanted to be so I think this helped me very much and I'll study aeronautical engineer!

Hi... actually I wanted to know which branch shld be preferred to go in research field...plz help

Hi i have bachelor's degree , CERAMIC ENGINEERING, and look for an university to study my MD.

Mechanical engineering is not the oldest discipline! Mechanical engineering branched off from Civil engineering. Civil is by far the oldest.

Hi David, my mistake! I've now corrected the text. Thanks for pointing this out.

Hi, I am confused which course should i opt in engineering i visit several sites. read multiple articles then i found

HI I'm looking for masters in Avionics.Can any one let me know on area of studies to concentrate upon in grad level along with universities?

I am ibdp student of applied science to be. Still got confused about applied science.
So, is there any chance for me to further degree in engineering?

I am under graduate on computer science education, i am about to round up the study and I want proceed more by study electrical/programming in abroad ,please can you help to do some necessary document in order to study in your country and work there

computer engineer/computer science

I'am a second year elecetrical engineering student here in Papua New Guinea University of Technology and Iam very interested in securing a scholarship to study aboard.Can you help me out to find a scholarship?

Hello, please take a look at our list of scholarships for engineering students. :)