The 8 Main Types of Engineering Industries (with Roles)

Updated 12 September 2023

Engineers design and create solutions and systems that help us live better. Engineers work within nearly every facet of our lives and influence the way we live, work, travel and communicate. Learning about the types of engineering industries can help you discover which engineering career path you want to follow. In this article, we discuss the eight main sectors of engineering and the responsibilities of each field.

Related: 10 Types of Engineering Jobs (with Average Salaries and Tips)

8 types of engineering industries

Engineering describes the task of designing innovative solutions that propel society forward. Therefore, engineers can work in many different industries to produce important solutions that help each industry create efficient changes. Within these sectors, there are many sub-categories of engineers that focus on specific areas within the field. Below we take a look at the eight main types of engineering industries, with roles and responsibilities:

1. Biomedical engineering

Biomedical engineering develops life-saving and life-enhancing technologies that we use today in the medical field. It involves the design of equipment and technology that boost health, test and diagnose or help with surgeries and procedures. In the past, these technologies have included hearing aids and implants, electrocardiographs, kidney dialysis, stethoscopes, X-rays and hip replacement devices.

Using microcomputers, lasers and other equipment, biomedical engineers develop advancements in healthcare technology to better diagnose and treat patients. They rely on their problem-solving, analytical and communication skills to apply various engineering concepts to their designs. Biomedical engineers may have the following responsibilities:

  • Design, test and implement new medical procedures, such as tissue engineering

  • Design, develop and repair medical products, equipment and devices

  • Train staff to use equipment safely and troubleshoot technical issues

  • Undertake relevant research on the equipment in the medical field

Related: How to Become a Biomedical Engineer: Your Step-by-Step Guide

2. Mechanical engineering

Mechanical engineering develops and produces many modern technologies that make our lives more efficient and comfortable. Mechanical engineering involves studying movements, equipment and machinery to design components that involve mechanised motion. Mechanical engineering is integral to many facets of society because many industries use technologies and machinery with moving parts, such as transportation, communication, energy and environmental and space exploration. Thus, this field offers various opportunities to work on essential technologies that power the modern world.

Designing and developing systems with moving parts first requires mechanical engineers to test and research their designs. They then oversee the manufacturing process of their designs and work on maintenance and repair of mechanical systems. Mechanical engineers have the following responsibilities:

  • Assess the need for mechanical systems and create solutions that address them

  • Use engineering principles of force, motion, energy and temperature to design mechanical components

  • Research and test designs to ensure that they are efficient, safe and cost-effective

  • Use computer-aided engineering, design and manufacturing software to build the mechanical systems

3. Chemical engineering

This field of engineering designs the processes that turn materials into domestic and industrial products. It applies chemistry, physics, biology and fluid dynamics theories to identify and solve specific industry problems. Chemical engineers discover solutions within laboratories to produce food, medications, fuels and chemicals and then develop plans to implement them on a mass scale. Chemical engineers have been responsible for making safe drinking water, processing oil and gas, power generation, and producing plastic, antibiotics, vaccines and medications.

Chemical engineers conduct research to develop improved processes and then plan and design them for mass production by using their understanding of industrial and manufacturing processes. Chemical engineers have the following responsibilities:

  • Work closely with process chemists and control engineers to ensure the process plant is operating efficiently

  • Design plants and equipment so that they can be readily altered to suit the product range

  • Optimise production by analysing processes and performing studies

  • Ensure that safety issues related to the process, the environment and the product are considered at all stages

Related: 12 Chemical Engineering Careers (with Salaries and Duties)

4. Electrical engineering

Electrical engineering focuses on designing, manufacturing and implementing electrical systems for buildings, transport, construction and infrastructure. It's responsible for connecting our homes and businesses with electricity and creating a power network that runs through our cities. In addition, creating light bulbs, induction motors, radios, televisions and all other electrical machines requires electrical engineering.

Electrical engineers use computer-assisted programs to design and develop electrical systems, including motors, power generators, communication systems and electrical components used in equipment and vehicles. They may oversee the installation, manufacturing, repair and maintenance of electrical systems, too. Electrical engineers have the following responsibilities:

  • Carry out feasibility studies for new technical innovations

  • Create plans using computer-assisted engineering and design software

  • Estimate material, construction and labour costs, and project time-scales

  • Test installations and systems, and analyse data

  • Make sure projects meet electrical and construction safety regulations

5. Civil engineering

Civil engineering is one of the most common types of engineering industries. Civil engineers build structures and infrastructure that we use every day, such as roads, buildings, bridges, airports, dams and tunnels. Civil engineers work alongside architects, local governments and construction firms to plan, design and manage the construction of this infrastructure. Additionally, they manage the budget and schedule of each infrastructure project, ensure it complies with health and safety regulations, and improve the sustainability of projects.

Civil engineers use maths, science and engineering principles to create robust infrastructure and structures that can handle the stresses they're put under. They use computer-aided software to assist with creating designs that are suitable, strong and meet any other requirements. Civil engineers have the following responsibilities:

  • Develop detailed civil structure drawings using computer-aided design (CAD) software

  • Survey site locations and surrounding areas ahead of construction to determine the project's feasibility, which includes sampling soil and rocks at different depths

  • Inspect project sites to monitor progress and manage site operations

  • Estimate equipment and labour costs for project feasibility and make budget suggestions throughout the project

  • Ensure compliance is met with relevant rules, guidelines and environmental regulations throughout the project

Related: 7 Civil Engineering Careers (Plus Duties and Salary)

6. Aerospace engineering

Aerospace engineering develops aircraft and propulsion systems, focusing on technology, and the practice and theory of flight to build aircraft that performs effectively in varying conditions. It's responsible for the major advancements in aviation that support our fast-moving and global society today. Aerospace engineering also has a role in the internal structure of aircraft, such as communication systems and fuel monitors.

Responsible for designing, testing and manufacturing aircraft, aerospace engineers ensure that each vessel meets quality standards and safety regulations. They're responsible for the maintenance of aircraft, too, which includes inspecting for damage or malfunctioning components and identifying potential problems and solutions. Aerospace engineers have the following responsibilities:

  • Receive design requests and draft designs based on client requirements

  • Work collaboratively with electrical engineers and designers to verify the efficiency and functionality of designs

  • Research and report on new technology advancements

  • Provide troubleshooting assistance and maintenance of aircraft


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7. Environmental engineering

Environmental engineering focuses on protecting the environment from the harmful effects of pollutants and contaminants in the air, water and soil. This engineering industry alters traditional processes and techniques to make them more sustainable. It plays a critical role in public health and climate change as it provides opportunities for creating new systems and technologies that improve the environment and positively impact health.

Environmental engineers reduce the harm to our environment by studying the project's design, construction and operations, and then making changes to minimise any adverse environmental effects. Environmental engineers have the following responsibilities:

  • Gather data from a range of sources through site assessments, environmental monitoring and third-party reports

  • Survey the site and evaluate the environmental impact of the project or operation

  • Present findings and recommend processes on containment, remediation, recycling and waste disposal to mitigate environmental issues

  • Create plans to protect the environment by removing pollutants from water, air and soil

  • Develop site-specific protocols to improve environmental impacts, such as spill containment plans

8. Software engineering

Software engineering creates high-quality software and information systems using computer programming languages and coding. It focuses on designing and modifying complex software systems to support the society we live in. Software engineering is one of the most prominent types of engineering industries, as we use software in nearly every part of our lives, such as air travel, transport, business operations, communications, banking, finance, medicine, entertainment, resources and infrastructure.

To enhance a company's use of technology, software engineers use their knowledge of programming and information technologies to develop a system relevant to the company. Software engineers have the following responsibilities:

  • Analyse client software requirements and develop a solution to meet their needs

  • Write, test and refine code to build necessary software aligned with the client's requirements

  • Research, design and write new software programs and computer operating systems

  • Work closely with other staff, such as project managers, graphic artists, UX designers and other developers to collaborate on software projects

  • Support clients and colleagues on the maintenance and performance of software systems and rewrite or modify current operating systems that need alteration

Related: How to Write a Manufacturing Engineer Resume (with Example)

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