Types of engineering degrees

Sheffield University Engineering student

With so many different types of engineering, it can be a complex decision choosing which one to study at university. You can choose from a range of common engineering degrees, or you could focus on a specialist area.

Whether you want to be a robotics engineer, structural engineer or nuclear engineer, explore the different fields of engineering below to help you decide what course will be best for your future. Discover our International Foundation Year in Science and Engineering here.

Common types of engineering

There are four common engineering disciplines that can lead to an array of different engineering careers:

Electrical and electronic engineering

With electricals and electronics used in nearly every aspect of our lives, this is a crucial type of engineering which focuses on small circuits and electrical power supplies. You will follow the electrical equipment through processes such as: designing, developing and testing.

Civil engineering

As a civil engineer, you will oversee construction of roads, bridges, buildings and utility and transport networks such as rail and water. You will be able to follow a variety of different career paths or degrees that lead to fulfilling engineering careers.

Chemical engineering

A combination of different subjects such as experimental and life sciences, chemical engineering focuses on the development of new materials and is crucial for numerous engineering fields. Producing new useful materials and substances is essential to humanity's future prosperity.

Mechanical engineering

Concentrating on manufacturing, design and maintenance of mechanical systems, you will be developing mechanical solutions that cater to the needs of society. Mechanical engineering is a broad area that can lead to a range of specialisms.

Specialist types of engineering

Within these four common types of engineering sits a variety of specialisms. These specialist degrees that focus on specific aspects of engineering, are ideal for those who have a strong idea of the engineering field they want to pursue.

Aerospace engineering

This specialism will see you focus on the design, development, construction and production of aircraft. You could also progress into astronautical engineering. These branches of engineering require many skills from different areas, including mechanical, electrical and computer engineering.

Agricultural engineering

Covering all aspects of agriculture you will develop, design and research biofuels, food processing methods, animal environments and farming machinery. You could also seek out and develop renewable and more sustainable farming technologies and energy resources.

Biomedical engineering

Meeting the needs and demands of healthcare businesses, you will develop and design solutions to improve the standard of care for patients. This includes advanced medical equipment such as MRIs and artificial internal organs, helping to solve clinical problems.

Computer engineering

Design and develop computer systems and other devices through a combination of electronic engineering and computer sciences. Computer engineering is ideal for those with an interest in how computers operate and you will be improving both software programs and hardware.

Environmental engineering

Using principles of both science and engineering, you will focus on advancing on fundamental and construction engineering, seeking ways to improve the quality of air, water and soil. You will research and develop ways to protect the environment and improve waste management and air pollution systems.

Architectural engineering

Combining science, technology and a variety of engineering systems such as structural, electrical and mechanical, architectural engineers design buildings to enhance the standard of living. You will design and manage projects using an array of skills.

Automobile engineering

An exciting and rewarding career, you will use technical expertise and creative skills to design and develop various types of vehicles. Automobile engineers specialise in the development of motorcycles, cars, buses and trucks to name a few - responsibilities include design, manufacture and distribution.

Robotics engineering

Using electrical, electronic and mechanical engineering skills, robotic engineers assist in the development, design and production of the operation of robots and automated systems. They are also typically responsible for repairing and maintaining robotic machinery.

Mining engineering

As a mining engineer you will typically design underground mines and open-pits. You will use your knowledge of extracting and processing minerals to supervise the construction of mine shafts and tunnels, as well as develop methods for transporting the minerals.

Marine engineering

As a marine engineer you will be responsible for the design and production of boats, ships and underwater craft. You will also test and repair sea vessels and structures, as well as work closely with engineers and other professionals such as naval architects.

Nuclear engineering

As a nuclear engineer you will deal with the application of nuclear energy. You could specialise in just one field of nuclear engineering, working within a specific setting such as nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons and radioactive-waste disposal facilities.

Structural engineering

A specialism of civil engineering, structural engineering focuses on designing structures such as buildings and bridges. As a structural engineer you would work closely with architects, consulting and advising about safety factors.

What type of engineer should I be?

Depending on your desired career path and career goals, and what areas interest and excite you the most, it can be challenging to narrow down the right engineering course for you.

Think about what you are passionate about, what type of engineering peaks your interest and if it is something you would enjoy doing, potentially for the rest of your life.

You should also consider the problem-solving element that features in most engineering careers - think about what engineering-related solution gets you excited and if it is something you are generally interested in.

If you are not sure which field is best for you, you could start with a common type of engineering and then study further education in a more specific field. There’s also the option of studying a general engineering course which typically allow you to choose a more specific area of engineering in your second year.

Once you have narrowed down your options, find out how to apply and what entry requirements you need to meet to start your engineering journey today.

Our International Foundation Year in Science and Engineering is perfect for those looking to move onto an undergraduate engineering degree, or if you want to study a masters degree in engineering, explore our Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering.

Industry giants that partner with Sheffield

If you decide to study an engineering discipline at the University of Sheffield, not only will you benefit from a state of the art engineering facility (Diamond Building), but you will also have the opportunity to experience engineering with global industry leaders that have strong partnerships with the University.

These partners include engineering giants such as:

  • Boeing
  • Siemens
  • Rolls-Royce
  • Mclaren.

What type of engineer do you want to be?


What are the 5 major categories of engineering? 

  1. Mechanical engineering - develop and produce mechanical systems such as ships, household appliances and vehicles.
  2. Electrical engineering - focus on electrical equipment and electronics. They design, test and maintain devices that produce or use electricity such as microchips and computers.
  3. Civil engineering - constructing, designing and maintaining physical structures used by the public, such as bridges, roads, airports and water supply systems.
  4. Industrial engineering - combines engineering with general business practices. They work to reduce costs, increase efficiency and improve quality. Industrial engineers often work in services healthcare and entertainment industries. 
  5. Chemical engineering - design and manufacture products and materials using scientific principles. They often work with pharmaceuticals, food and microorganisms.

Which type of engineering degree is best?

There is no one best type of engineering degree as they all have different advantages. Firstly the degree which offers your desired discipline should be considered the best, but you can also choose one based on the knowledge and support it will offer. The International Foundation Year in Science and Engineering at The University of Sheffield International College will give you all the knowledge you need to progress to your engineering degree of choice.

What branch of engineering should I choose?

Your choice of branch depends on your area of interest. If you are someone that wants to work in pharmaceuticals then the chemical engineering branch would be for you. 

Every branch of engineering has its specified industries so when choosing the branch for you this should be taken into consideration.