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An engineer is a profession
A profession is a vocation founded upon specialized educational training, the purpose of which is to supply disinterested counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain....

al practitioner of engineering
Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...

, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 and ingenuity
Ingenuity refers to the process of applying ideas to solve problems or meet challenges. The process of figuring out how to cross a mountain stream using a fallen log, build an airplane from a sheet of paper, or start a new company in a foreign culture all involve the exercising of ingenuity...

 to develop solutions for technical problems. Engineers design materials, structures, machines and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, safety and cost. The word engineer is derived from the Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 roots ingeniare ("to contrive, devise") and ingenium ("cleverness").

Engineers are grounded in applied science
Applied science
Applied science is the application of scientific knowledge transferred into a physical environment. Examples include testing a theoretical model through the use of formal science or solving a practical problem through the use of natural science....

s, and their work in research and development
Research and development
The phrase research and development , according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, refers to "creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of...

 is distinct from the basic research
Basic Research
Basic Research is an herbal supplement and cosmetics manufacturer based in Salt Lake City, Utah that distributes products through a large number of subsidiaries. In addition, their products are sold domestically and internationally through a number of high-end retailers. Dennis Gay is the...

 focus of scientist
A scientist in a broad sense is one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge. In a more restricted sense, a scientist is an individual who uses the scientific method. The person may be an expert in one or more areas of science. This article focuses on the more restricted use of the word...

s. The work of engineers forms the link between scientific discoveries and their subsequent applications to human needs.


Engineers develop new technological solutions. During the engineering design process, the responsibilities of the engineer may include defining problems, conducting and narrowing research, analyzing criteria, finding and analyzing solutions, and making decisions. Much of an engineer's time is spent on researching, locating, applying, and transferring information. Indeed, research suggests engineers spend 56% of their time engaged in various different information behaviours, including 14% actively searching for information.

Engineers must weigh different design choices on their merits and choose the solution that best matches the requirements. Their crucial and unique task is to identify, understand, and interpret the constraints on a design in order to produce a successful result.


Engineers apply techniques of engineering analysis
Engineering analysis
Engineering analysis involves the application of scientific analytic principles and processes to reveal the properties and state of the system, device or mechanism under study...

 in testing, production, or maintenance. Analytical engineers may supervise production in factories and elsewhere, determine the causes of a process failure, and test output to maintain quality. They also estimate the time and cost required to complete projects
Time and motion study
A time and motion study is a business efficiency technique combining the Time Study work of Frederick Winslow Taylor with the Motion Study work of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth . It is a major part of scientific management...

. Supervisory engineers are responsible for major components or entire projects. Engineering analysis involves the application of scientific analytic principles and processes to reveal the properties and state of the system, device or mechanism under study. Engineering analysis proceeds by separating the engineering design into the mechanisms of operation or failure, analyzing or estimating each component of the operation or failure mechanism in isolation, and re-combining the components. They may analyse risk
Risk analysis (engineering)
Risk analysis is the science of risks and their probability and evaluation.Probabilistic risk assessment is one analysis strategy usually employed in science and engineering.-Risk analysis and the risk workshop:...


Many engineers use computers to produce and analyze designs, to simulate and test how a machine, structure, or system operates, to generate specifications for parts, to monitor the quality of products, and to control the efficiency of processes.


Most engineers specialize in one or more engineering disciplines. Numerous specialties are recognized by professional societies, and each of the major branches of engineering has numerous subdivisions. Civil engineering, for example, includes structural and transportation engineering, and materials engineering includes ceramic, metallurgical, and polymer engineering. Engineers also may specialize in one industry, such as motor vehicles, or in one type of technology, such as turbines or semiconductor materials.


Engineers have obligations to the public, their clients, employers and the profession. Many engineering societies have established codes of practice and codes of ethics to guide members and inform the public at large. Each engineering discipline and professional society maintains a code of ethics, which the members pledge to uphold. Depending on their specializations, engineers may also be governed by specific statute, whistleblowing, product liability laws, and often the principles of business ethics
Business ethics
Business ethics is a form of applied ethics or professional ethics that examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that arise in a business environment. It applies to all aspects of business conduct and is relevant to the conduct of individuals and entire organizations.Business...


Some graduates of engineering programs in North America may be recognized by the Iron Ring
Iron Ring
The Iron Ring is a ring worn by many engineers in Canada as a symbol and reminder of the obligations and ethics associated with the profession. Obtaining the ring is an optional endeavour, as it is not a prerequisite to becoming a Professional Engineer...

 or Engineer's Ring
Engineer's Ring
The Engineer's Ring is a ring worn by members of the Order of the Engineer, which is an association for engineers in the USA . The ring is a plain stainless steel band worn on the little finger of the working hand...

, a ring made of iron or stainless steel that is worn on the little finger of the dominant hand. This tradition began in 1925 in Canada with The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer
The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer
The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer is a ritual for students about to graduate from an engineering program at a university in Canada. Participation may also be permitted for Canadian professional engineers and registered engineers-in-training who received training elsewhere. The ritual is...

, where the ring serves as a symbol and reminder of the engineer's obligations for the engineering profession. In 1972, the practice was adopted by several colleges in the United States including members of the Order of the Engineer
Order of the Engineer
The Order of the Engineer is an association for graduate and professional engineers in the United States that emphasizes pride and responsibility in the engineering profession. It was inspired by the success of The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer, a similar Canadian ceremony, and is a common...



Most engineering programs involve a concentration of study in an engineering specialty, along with courses in both mathematics and the physical and life sciences. Many programs also include courses in general engineering. A design course, sometimes accompanied by a computer or laboratory class or both, is part of the curriculum of most programs. Often, general courses not directly related to engineering, such as those in the social sciences or humanities, also are required.

Graduate training is essential for engineering faculty positions and some research and development programs, but is not required for the majority of entry-level engineering jobs. Many experienced engineers obtain graduate degrees in engineering or business administration to learn new technology and broaden their education. Numerous high-level executives in government and industry began their careers as engineers.

Educational accreditation
Educational accreditation is a type of quality assurance process under which services and operations of educational institutions or programs are evaluated by an external body to determine if applicable standards are met...

 is the process by which engineering program are evaluated by an external body to determine if applicable standards are met. The Washington Accord
Washington Accord
The Washington Accord is an international accreditation agreement for professional engineering academic degrees, between the bodies responsible for accreditation in its signatory countries...

 serves as an international accreditation agreement for academic engineering degrees, recognizing the substantial equivalency in the standards set by many major national engineering bodies. In the United States, post-secondary degree programs in engineering are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology
Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology
ABET, Inc., formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, is a non-profit organization that accredits post-secondary education programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology...

. In much of Europe and the Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 professional accreditation is provided by Engineering Institutions
Engineering society
An engineering society is a professional organization for engineers of various disciplines. Some are umbrella type organizations which accept many different disciplines, while others are discipline-specific. Many award professional designations, such as European Engineer, Professional Engineer,...

, such as the Institution of Civil Engineers
Institution of Civil Engineers
Founded on 2 January 1818, the Institution of Civil Engineers is an independent professional association, based in central London, representing civil engineering. Like its early membership, the majority of its current members are British engineers, but it also has members in more than 150...

,the Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Institution of Mechanical Engineers
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers is the British engineering society based in central London, representing mechanical engineering. It is licensed by the Engineering Council UK to assess candidates for inclusion on ECUK's Register of professional Engineers...

 or the Institution of Engineering and Technology
Institution of Engineering and Technology
The Institution of Engineering and Technology is a British professional body for those working in engineering and technology in the United Kingdom and worldwide. It was formed in 2006 from two separate institutions: the Institution of Electrical Engineers , dating back to 1871, and the...

 from the United Kingdom.


In many countries, engineering tasks such as the design of bridges, electric power plants, and chemical plants, must be approved by a licensed engineer. Most commonly titled as Professional Engineer or Chartered Engineer, the status of professional licensing is often indicated with the use of post-nominal letters
Post-nominal letters
Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles or designatory letters, are letters placed after the name of a person to indicate that the individual holds a position, educational degree, accreditation, office, or honour. An individual may use several different sets of...

; PE or P.Eng is common in North America, European Engineer (Eur Ing
European Engineer
European Engineer is an international professional qualification for engineers used in over 30 European countries. The title is granted after successful application to a national member of the European Federation of National Engineering Associations which includes representation from many...

) in Europe, while CEng and IEng is used in the United Kingdom and CEng in much of the Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...


In the United States, licensure is generally attainable through combination of education
Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts...

, pre-examination (Fundamentals of Engineering exam
Fundamentals of Engineering exam
The Fundamentals of Engineering exam, also referred to as the Engineer in Training exam, and formerly in some states as the Engineering Intern exam, is the first of two examinations that engineers must pass in order to be licensed as a Professional Engineer in the United States...

), examination (Professional Engineering Exam), and engineering experience (typically in the area of 5+ years). Each state tests and licenses Professional Engineer
Professional Engineer
Regulation of the engineering profession is established by various jurisdictions of the world to protect the safety, well-being and other interests of the general public, and to define the licensure process through which an engineer becomes authorized to provide professional services to the...

s. Currently most states do not license by specific engineering discipline, but rather provide generalized licensure, and trust engineers to use professional judgement regarding their individual competencies; this is the favoured approach of the professional societies. Despite this, however, at least one of the examinations required by most states is actually focused on a particular discipline; candidates for licensure typically choose the category of examination which comes closest to their respective expertise.

In Canada, the profession in each province is governed by its own engineering association. For instance, in the Province of British Columbia an engineering graduate with four or more years of post graduate experience in an engineering-related field and passing exams in ethics and law will need to be registered by the Association for Professional Engineers and Geoscientists (APEGBC) in order to become a Professional Engineer and be granted the professional designation of P.Eng allowing one to practice engineering.

In Continental Europe
Continental Europe
Continental Europe, also referred to as mainland Europe or simply the Continent, is the continent of Europe, explicitly excluding European islands....

, Latin America
Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

, Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 and elsewhere the title is limited by law to people with an engineering degree and the use of the title by others is illegal. In Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, the title is limited to people who both hold an engineering degree and have passed a professional qualification examination (Esame di Stato). In Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

, professional engineer titles and accredited engineering degrees are regulated and certified by the Ordem dos Engenheiros
Ordem dos Engenheiros
The Ordem dos Engenheiros is the regulatory and licensing body for the engineer profession in Portugal. It is headquartered in Lisbon, and has several regional branches in other Portuguese cities....

. In the Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

, the title "engineer" (Ing.) is given to people with a (masters) degree in chemistry, technology or economics for historical and traditional reasons. In Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, the academic title of "Diploma Engineer" is awarded after completion of the five-year engineering study course and the title of "Certified Engineer" is awarded after completion of the four-year course of engineering studies at a Technological Educational Institute (TEI).


The perception of engineering varies across countries and continents. In the United States, continental western Europe, eastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Latin American and Canada engineering and engineers are held in very high esteem. The perception and definition of engineering in some English speaking countries is confused. The contemporary British public perceive engineers as skilled or semi skilled maintenance workers but this is a recent development. British school children in the 1950s were brought up with stirring tales of 'the Victorian Engineers', chief amongst whom were the Brunels
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, FRS , was a British civil engineer who built bridges and dockyards including the construction of the first major British railway, the Great Western Railway; a series of steamships, including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship; and numerous important bridges...

, the Stephensons
George Stephenson
George Stephenson was an English civil engineer and mechanical engineer who built the first public railway line in the world to use steam locomotives...

, Telford
Thomas Telford
Thomas Telford FRS, FRSE was a Scottish civil engineer, architect and stonemason, and a noted road, bridge and canal builder.-Early career:...

 and their contemporaries but now British people often incorrectly use the term 'Engineer' to describe Plumbers and Mechanics. British Gas refer to their gas repair mechanics as registered "professional engineers". In Canada, a 2002 study by the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers revealed that engineers are the third most respected professionals behind doctors and pharmacists. In the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

, Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, engineering is one of the most sought after undergraduate courses, inviting thousands of applicants to show their ability in highly competitive entrance examinations. In Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, the educational system
Education in Egypt
Egypt has the largest overall education system in the Middle East and North Africa and it has grown rapidly since the early 1990s. In recent years the Government of Egypt has accorded even greater priority in improving the education system...

 makes engineering the second-most-respected profession in the country (after medicine); engineering colleges at Egyptian universities
Egyptian universities
Universities in Egypt are generally either state-funded or privately funded. Education in Egypt is free by law, however there are very small fees paid for enrollment. Public institutions, with few exceptions are generally overcrowded with a student body of several thousands...

 require extremely high marks on the General Certificate of Secondary Education ( al-Thānawiyyah al-`Āmmah)—on the order of 97 or 98%—and are thus considered (with colleges of medicine, natural science, and pharmacy) to be among the "pinnacle colleges" ( kullīyāt al-qimmah).

The definition of what engineering is varies across countries. In the UK "engineering" is defined as an industry sector consisting of employers and employees loosely termed as "engineers" who range from semi skilled trades to chartered engineers. In the US and Canada, engineering is defined as a regulated profession whose practice and practitioners are licensed and governed by law. In some English speaking countries engineering has been seen as a somewhat dry, uninteresting field in popular culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

 and has also been thought to be the domain of nerd
Nerd is a derogatory slang term for an intelligent but socially awkward and obsessive person who spends time on unpopular or obscure pursuits, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities. Nerds are considered to be awkward, shy, and unattractive...

s. For example, the cartoon character Dilbert
Dilbert is an American comic strip written and drawn by Scott Adams. First published on April 16, 1989, Dilbert is known for its satirical office humor about a white-collar, micromanaged office featuring the engineer Dilbert as the title character...

 is an engineer. In science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

, engineers are often portrayed as highly knowledgeable and respectable individuals who understand the overwhelming future technologies often portrayed in the genre. Several Star Trek
Star Trek
Star Trek is an American science fiction entertainment franchise created by Gene Roddenberry. The core of Star Trek is its six television series: The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise...

characters are engineers. One difficulty in increasing public awareness of the profession is that average people, in the typical run of ordinary life, do not ever have any personal dealings with engineers, even though they benefit from their work every day. By contrast, it is common to visit a doctor at least once a year, the accountant at tax time, the pharmacist for drugs, and, occasionally, even a lawyer.

In companies and other organizations in some English-speaking countries (UK) there is a tendency to undervalue people with advanced technological and scientific skills compared to celebrities, fashion practitioners, entertainers and managers
Management in all business and organizational activities is the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively...

. In his book The Mythical Man-Month
The Mythical Man-Month
The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering is a book on software engineering and project management by Fred Brooks, whose central theme is that "adding manpower to a late software project makes it later"...

, Fred Brooks Jr says that managers think of senior people as "too valuable" for technical tasks, and that management jobs carry higher prestige. He tells how some laboratories, such as Bell Labs, abolish all job titles to overcome this problem: a professional employee is a "member of the technical staff." IBM maintain a dual ladder of advancement; the corresponding managerial and engineering / scientific rungs are equivalent. Brooks recommends that structures need to be changed; the boss must give a great deal of attention to keeping his managers and his technical people as interchangeable as their talents allow.

See also

  • Engineer's degree
    Engineer's degree
    An engineer's degree is an advanced academic degree in engineering that is conferred in Europe, some countries of Latin America, and a few institutions in the United States....

  • Greatest Engineering Achievements
    Greatest Engineering Achievements
    In 2003, the National Academy of Engineering in the United States published A Century of Innovation: Twenty Engineering Achievements that Transformed our Lives...

  • Engineers Without Borders
    Engineers Without Borders
    Engineers Without Borders – International is an international association of some national EWB/ISF groups, whose mission is to facilitate collaboration, exchange of information, and assistance among its member groups that have applied to become part of the association...

  • Washington Accord
    Washington Accord
    The Washington Accord is an international accreditation agreement for professional engineering academic degrees, between the bodies responsible for accreditation in its signatory countries...

  • List of engineers
  • List of engineering branches
  • List of fictional scientists and engineers