What Engineering Degree Should I Do? Make A Choice Now.

engineering degree should i do

So you decided to become an engineer and want to commit to a life of innovation in which you get to improve the quality of life for many people. And you might also have a good or initial idea of what type of engineering your want to do and the course you want to study. As an engineer, I want to share my knowledge with you, help you refine your course, and make good career choices that can set you on the path to success.

To choose the best engineering course, you must start with your passion. You should pick between the big 5 engineering majors: Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, Chemical and Software Engineering, based on your interests and then see if you want to niche down to a more specific engineering area. Finally, you should consider some external factors such as career demand, competition and the innovation in that field that is happening in your city before you make a final choice.

Although the above is a very general answer, this is a proven way of making a good career choice. For those who want more specific details, below is a complete guide to help you learn more about engineering and how to choose the best course for you.

5 Things I wish I have known before doing my engineering degree? How do you choose your major?

This is a way of finding the best engineering course for you. I will encourage you to grab a pen and paper and complete the exercises at the end of every step. It will make sense in the end.

1- What are engineers?

As a civil engineer who has worked in the industry for many years, I can confidently say that I know a great deal about what it means to be a civil engineer. Yet before I started this degree, I did not know much about this industry, but I had enough to decide. The first thing that helped me was understanding what engineers are and what they do.

To define engineers: We are a group of people who advance human civilization in technology, quality of life and health. Without us, nothing is possible.

I would encourage you to read what What Engineers Do? Simple Definition to understand what is the mission of an engineer.

Exercise: Write 3 things about what you think engineers do base on the area of engineering that you think you want to go to. If you are interested in construction, you should write down engineers who built bridges. You do not have to be very specific at this point. You can start with a few things you know; we will refine that idea in the next steps.

2- What is your passion?

You must have something you like about engineering and some passion pushing you toward engineering, right? If you are not sure, you can still discover this now. For starters, if you enjoyed studying math, physics, science and chemistry at school, these are some good initial signs that engineering is for you. However, if you feel you are not good at them, there is still some hope for you.

Albert Einstien was not good at school in math or physics, but he is considered one of the greatest minds in physics. He was passionate about space, time and gravity, so his passion enabled his success because he was willing to learn and fail. So do not let past experiences get in the way of what is right for you. Things might take you a while to grasp, but that does not mean you can not be an engineer.

So start with what you like: if you love computers and programming, software engineering is for you, but if you love machines and engines, mechanical engineering is for you. To get inspired more, read: Top 5 Reasons To Be An Engineer. Actual Engineer Opinion.

Exercise: Write down 3 things that you want to do. If you want to build plans, write that, or if you want to design an application to help people travel, write it down. You can be more specific in what you want to do and write it down.

3- What engineering degree to choose?

Now we need to get more specific about what engineering degree to choose. This is why you are here and why you need to make a decision now.

What are the engineering degrees you should consider?

In engineering, there is what is known as the big 5; these are the main majors of engineering, and everything else branches out of those main fields. These also used to be known as the big 4, but because software engineering keeps growing, it has become one of the major fields:

1- Civil Engineering:

Civil Engineers design, build and maintain physical structures such as bridges, buildings, airports, railways and sewerage systems. To learn more, read: 15 Civil Engineering Career Options. Insights, Salary & More.


  • Structural engineering
  • Construction management
  • Geotechnical engineering
  • Environmental engineering
  • Transportation engineering
  • Water resources engineering
  • Materials engineering

2- Mechanical Engineering:

Mechanical engineers design and build systems and physical machines that do specific tasks, such as car engines. This is one of the oldest branches of engineering, and it’s a branch that keeps on evolving.


  • Aeronautics Engineering
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Acoustics Engineering
  • Biomechanics Engineering
  • Manufacturing Engineering
  • Robotics Engineering
  • Hydraulics Engineering

3- Electrical Engineering:

A field of engineering designed to build systems and devices that use electricity, electronics or electromagnetism, such as power grids, telecommunication systems or microchips.


  • Power engineering
  • Control engineering
  • Electronic engineering
  • Microelectronics
  • Signal processing
  • Telecommunications engineering
  • Instrumentation engineering
  • Computer engineering

4- Chemical Engineering:

Chemical engineering deals with designing and maintaining chemical plans and converting raw materials into usable products. There are many fields in chemical engineerings, such as manufacturing and petroleum engineering.


  • Biochemical engineering
  • Biomedical engineering
  • Biotechnology
  • Chemical process modelling
  • Chemical reaction engineering.

5- Software Engineering:

Software engineering and Information technology is a branch of electrical engineering that has grown on a massive scale in the 21st century. Software engineers deal with the design of software and data analysis. Engineers in this field can be data analysts, system engineers or programmers.


  • Data Scientist
  • Cybersecurity Engineer
  • Machine Learning Engineer
  • Developer/Programmer
  • Cloud Engineer

Should you go niche in your engineering degree?

While the above are the main fields in engineering, there are branches of the main engineering fields. For example, electrical engineering is the main engineering field, but mechatronics and robotics are branches of that field. This comes down to two main things: is there a demand for that branch, and what the future looks like for this field?

Often, people go very niche in their engineering degree. And when they graduate, they realise that most jobs require a more broad knowledge in one of the main engineering branches instead of the small niche branches. So unless you understand the market very well and know the demand and the future of the industry, you should not go niche in your engineering degree and only stick to the big 5 fields and then branch later in your career or within your degree (Do few subjects in that niche area) or in further studies (Master and PhD).

Exercise: Write down 3 of the main engineering fields that you want to do and 2 branches of the main fields that you think are cool and you want to do. Even if you do not know the branch’s exact name, write it down and search the internet to find the exact name. Finally, you should find out the universities that offer those engineering degrees in your area. If you did not find a university that offers the course you wanted, then you can eliminate that option as it does not have a demand in your city.

4- Is there a demand for that career?

Efficient smart factory with workers, robots and assembly line, industry

Now that you have an idea and options of what engineering course you want to do, we need to get more critical of the demand for that degree. The best thing is to always consider the demand for that career in your city first and then consider the options of moving to a different city to pursue your passion.

For example, if you live in Australia, it makes sense not to do nuclear engineering as there are no nuclear facilities or government programs; however, if you live in France, nuclear engineering makes sense. So maybe instead of niching down to nuclear, you can do chemical engineering as it gives you more options in terms of career options.

Another example is if you live in Europe, especially in old cities such as Rome or Amsterdam, civil engineering degrees will not make a lot of sense as most buildings are heritage buildings that are quite old. You will find less demand for that career. However, niching down from civil engineering to remedial engineering, where you work on preserving those old buildings, makes a lot of sense.

While the above examples are very specific, this is the process you should go through to eliminate the careers that do not have demand in your city. You can use the internet, call local engineering companies in your city or ask for a consultation at the university you want to study at to get the information you want.

Exercise: Now you have made it to the process of elimination, you will eliminate every career or degree that does not have a demand in your city. By the end you. Should eliminate it to only 3 or 2 degrees (whether from the big 5 or a niched engineering course).

5- Is there a future for that career?

Space debris floating in the orbit of planet Earth. Old satellites, rockets of support, and pieces of metal are a threat because they can collide with the new satellites. 3D illustration

This is where you test if there is a future for that career or just a boom happening in that industry for now in your city. This is where you ask yourself if the degree you will pick has the potential of putting you out of a job in the next few years. Essentially, you need to pick a degree with options and a future in your city.

For example, if you live in a city that is not much involved in the auto industry, and only a handful of companies are in that space in your city, then doing industrial engineering or even mechanical engineering might be risky as there are not many options in that area. You can safely assume that things will not change shortly.

Another example is if you live in San Francisco or anywhere in California and want to do software engineering, this is a very good option as there are a lot of tech startup companies that give you many options. Also, you can safely assume that it is not going anywhere anytime soon, so you have a good future in this field.

Exercise: Based on the information you have, for now, you can eliminate those 3 or 2 options to the best engineering degree you can do based on the future of that career in your city.

However, if you are still stuck with two options, then the following might help influence your decision.

2 Things you should avoid when deciding to do an engineering degree?

1- Avoid degrees that do not have many companies in your city

If your degree does not have many companies that do it, it might be a red flag that there is no future for that degree in your city. You should think of picking a different degree or consider moving to a different city if you are very passionate about this field.

2- Avoid doing what everyone is doing that you do not have passion in

It can be a bad choice to do a degree based on someone else’s opinion, but you do not feel that you have a passion for it. You need to do your own research and make a choice based on your passion.

What about engineering salary? Should you consider it before doing an engineering degree?

You should definitely consider salary when you are choosing your engineering degree, but it should not be the main motive of why you want to do engineering.

If you want to do engineering because of the salary, read: Which is more important: High salary or job satisfaction?

On average, an engineering degree pays well. However, it takes a while until you make a decent salary. See below the average engineering salary you can expect in the US at different stages in your engineering career.

(Zero Experience)
Entry level
(1-2 Years)
(3-7 Years)
Professional Engineer
Civil and Environmental Engineering$38,000$65,000$95,000$130,000
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science$42,000$75,000$99,000$148,000
Mechanical Engineering$39,000$71,000$100,000$130,000
Chemical Engineering$34,000$67,000$97,000$135,000
Software Engineering$55,000$82,000$105,000$155,000
Aerospace Engineering$52,000$75,000$88,000$140,000
Biomedical Engineering$37,000$83,000$88,000$110,000
Mechatronics Engineering$45,000$72,000$82,000$129,000
Nuclear Engineering$57,000$80,000$120,000$148,000
Material Science Engineering$33,000$63,000$80,000$149,000
Industrial Engineering$36,000$72,000$120,000$140,000
Petroleum Engineering$52,000$78,000$95,000$137,000
In US Dollar

More helpful resources for you

The following are more helpful resources to learn more about engineering to make a choice and find the best engineering degree for you:

Joseph Maloyan

Hi, this is Joseph, and I love writing about engineering and technology. Here I share my knowledge and experience on what it means to be an engineer. My goal is to make engineering relatable, understandable and fun!

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