Engineering is the study of science and mathematics and the application of the principles of these disciplines to technical problems. Engineers work on a wide variety of problems and their training varies according to the precise area of field in which they are working. However, most four-year engineering degrees begin with one or two years of core courses common to all students, after which they can specialize in the branch of engineering in which they wish to work.

Core Courses

Core courses are those common to degrees in all specialties of engineering and make up a basic understanding of the principles of engineering and related disciplines on which more specific courses can be built. Core courses usually include introductory engineering, as well as courses in related sciences such as physics, chemistry, and mathematics, as well as humanities and social science courses. The exact courses required will vary by school.


Most degrees in engineering are granted in electrical and electronics engineering, mechanical engineering, and civil engineering, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010 to 2011 Edition. Other engineering specialties include biomedical, chemical, marine, nuclear and petroleum engineers. Specialty courses are taken after the core courses during the second, third and fourth year of education. Further degree programs, such as masters or post-graduate degrees, can be taken to learn even more about a field of engineering. Employers may also offer additional on-the-job training for those hired in entry-level positions.

Civil Engineering

Civil engineers build and maintain structures necessary for a densely-populated civilization such as bridges, dams, highways, airports and power supplies. Courses in the civil engineering career path include mechanics, hydraulics, thermodynamics, electricity, introductory and advanced civil engineering, as well as mathematics courses such as statistics, calculus and algebra.

Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineering is the broadest of the engineering disciplines. It covers the research, design, manufacture, management and maintenance of engineering systems of all sizes. Mechanical engineering courses include those covering mechanics, thermodynamics and fluid sciences, energy, and design and systems management, as well as general mathematics and physics.

Electrical and Electronics Engineering

Engineers who work with electrical systems and electronics will research, design, improve and maintain computers, automatic controls, optical devices, microelectronics, and communication networks. Courses in electrical engineering may include computer graphics or software, communications, circuits, physics, or nano-electronics, among others.