The Bridge - Issue 1, 2020 - 36

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The OOH does not provide information about
acoustical engineering separately from mechanical
engineering. However, Glassdoor.com estimates
that acoustical engineers earn an annual salary
of $82,567.

Materials engineering

Credit: cherryandbees/Adobe Stock

6 Engineering Fields You Probably
Never Thought About
Nancy Ordman

When high school students consider career
options, those looking at engineering
degrees will have heard of hot fields like
computer engineering and the highestpaying field for new graduates: petroleum
engineering. They will also know the "big
four": civil, mechanical, electrical and
chemical engineering.
But what about biosystems engineering?
Molecular engineering? Nanoengineering?
These engineering specialties evolved from
the big four in response to new technologies
and new societal needs, offering today's
budding professionals interesting, in-demand
career opportunities.
Agricultural, biological and
biosystems engineering
Biosystems and biological engineering are the
21st century versions of agricultural engineering.
The American Society of Agricultural and Biological
Engineering (ASABE), the body that accredits college
programs in these areas, defines this broad discipline
THE BRIDGE

as "engineering that applies engineering principles
and the fundamental concepts of biology to
agricultural and biological systems and tools, ranging
in scale from molecular to ecosystem level."
Careers within this discipline range from designing
farm equipment, like tractors, tillers and harvesters,
and structures like silos, to designing and building
water control structures, to developing plant-based
medicines and packaging. The U.S. Department of
Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH)
projects demand growth of 5% between 2018 and
2028; median salary is $77,100.

Acoustical engineering
Acoustical engineering, a small specialty within the
larger field of mechanical engineering, deals with
sound and vibration, typically with analysis and
control of sound. Some schools offer bachelor's
degrees in acoustical engineering; more common are
master's degree programs in mechanical engineering
that specialize in acoustics.
Acoustical engineers tackle noise pollution, which is a
serious environmental problem. These engineers also
design audio equipment for the recording industry,
television and movies, among other specialties.

Materials engineers study the properties of existing
materials and develop new ones that meet specific
requirements for products from airplane wings to
computer chips. They also develop materials testing
protocols and analyze material failures. Specialty
materials engineering disciplines include ceramic,
composites, metallurgical and plastics engineering.
Demand for materials engineers should be steady
at about 5% growth between 2018 and 2028,
according to the OOH, due to expanding interest
in developing materials for products like medical
devices and aerospace composites. Median annual
salary in 2018 was $92,390.

Molecular engineering
Molecular engineering combines aspects of multiple
engineering and science fields, including chemical,
electrical, mechanical and materials engineers, and
chemistry and physics. Molecular engineers apply
engineering fundamentals to design molecules for
new products and applications, working at nanoscale
to solve problems. A molecular engineer could
specialize in developing new ways to diagnose
diseases or produce less-expensive solar cells.
Because the field is relatively new, few specific
academic programs exist to train practitioners.
As such, interested students or graduate engineers
could have the opportunity to help shape the field.
No information is yet available on demand or salaries.

Nanoengineering
Nanoengineering has applications across multiple
engineering fields. The Nanowerk website describes
this as an enabling technology, one that designs
devices at the scale of atoms and molecules. At this

sub-microscopic level of matter, quantum effects,
rather than Newtonian physics, can dominate
its behavior.
Current work in nanoengineering focuses on
development of new materials for applications
ranging from medical devices to automotive materials
to sports equipment. Carbon nanotubes, introduced
in 1991, have received much publicity in both
technical and popular science outlets. Jobs currently
available for nanoengineers include researching new
materials and developing manufacturing processes.
Although nanoengineering is a relatively new
discipline, undergraduate and graduate programs are
available, sometimes as standalone departments,
sometimes as specialties within mechanical, materials
or chemical engineering. The U.S. government's
National Nanotechnology Initiative is investing billions
of dollars in nanotechnology projects, which bodes
well for job opportunities.

Mining engineering
Mining engineers can choose from a range of
specialties, from ameliorating the effects of mining
operations to mineral discovery, feasibility studies,
mineral separation techniques and mining health and
safety. Some mining engineers work at mine sites;
others work for mining engineering services and for
government agencies.
The OOH reports that demand for mining engineers
is growing more slowly than other engineering
specialties (3% per year). The median annual salary
is $92,250.
MORE INFORMATION
In addition to the OOH, professional associations for
different engineering specialties, such as the Society
for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration and ASM
International (materials science and engineering)
offer more information. Universities that offer degree
programs in specific engineering disciplines are also
excellent resources.

HKN.ORG

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The Bridge - Issue 1, 2020

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