Types of Engineering Degrees: Your Guide

Written by Coursera • Updated on

There are many different types of engineering degrees available today. Which one is right for you? Read on to find out more about them.

[Featured image] Two engineers look at blueprints together in front of a construction site.

If you're creative yet analytical, you might enjoy studying for an engineering degree. Engineers design all kinds of things that benefit users: bridges, buildings, cars, planes, rockets, satellites, computers, robots, medical devices, and more. Then, they build and test their designs.

"Engineering degree" is an umbrella term that covers several different types of degrees. Some standard degree programs in engineering include:

  • Electrical engineering

  • Chemical engineering

  • Civil engineering

  • Mechanical engineering

  • Engineering management

  • Geotechnical Engineering

You may also find more specific degrees within these larger fields of engineering. In this article, we'll outline some of these fields you might choose to explore through a degree and the different levels of engineering degree you might choose to pursue.

6 types of engineering degrees

While engineering is a broad field, it can be loosely divided into six subcategories. While not every school offers a degree in these types of engineering, they tend to be common.

1. Electrical engineering degree

If you enjoy math and physics, you may want to consider an electrical engineering degree. Electrical engineering (EE) involves designing, creating, testing, and installing electrical equipment. Electrical engineers work for manufacturing and telecommunication companies and sometimes for the federal government. Other types of EE degrees include:

  • Computer engineering

  • Electronics engineering

  • Robotics engineering


Master of Science in Electrical Engineering

University of Colorado Boulder

2. Chemical engineering

Chemical engineering deals with converting materials into products through chemical processes. Earning a degree in chemical engineering could lead to a career in medicine, energy, manufacturing, biotechnology, or environmental sustainability, among others. Niche degrees in chemical engineering include:

  • Environmental engineering

  • Agricultural engineering

  • Materials engineering

  • Biomedical engineering

3. Civil engineering

This degree program is a step toward becoming a civil engineer, where you'll design things that involve infrastructures like roads, bridges, and water systems and ensure they're safe for public use. You can work for governments, private companies, or non-profit companies in this position. Other fields of civil engineering you might study include: 

  • Structural engineering

  • Architectural engineering

  • Marine engineering

  • Transportation engineering

  • Construction engineering

4. Mechanical engineering

In a mechanical engineering degree program, you'll learn how to design and build machines–everything from generators and engines to elevators and air conditioners. It's a broad field with job opportunities across a variety of industries. More specialized types of mechanical engineering degrees include:

  • Aerospace engineering

  • Biomechanical engineering

  • Automotive engineering

  • Mechatronics engineering

5. Engineering management degree

If you're interested in pursuing a leadership role in the world of technology, it may be worth pursuing an engineering management degree. This multidisciplinary degree combines engineering science, business administration, and organizational management coursework. Related multidisciplinary degrees include:

  • Industrial engineering

  • Systems engineering


Master of Engineering in Engineering Management

University of Colorado Boulder

6. Geotechnical Engineering 

Geotechnical engineering is sometimes considered a branch of civil engineering that focuses on the mechanics and properties of soil, rocks, and groundwater (and their interaction with human-made structures and materials). Some subfields of geotechnical engineering include:

  • Petroleum engineering

  • Nuclear engineering

  • Mining engineering

  • Ceramics engineering

  • Geomatics engineering

  • Geological engineering

Why study engineering?

If you enjoy problem-solving and want to have a positive impact on the lives of others, a career in engineering can be rewarding. As an engineer, you'll get to think creatively to solve real-world problems and, in doing so, make the world a better place. Engineers typically enjoy high starting salaries and levels of job satisfaction, low unemployment rates, and the ability to specialize in various fascinating fields. 


Engineering degrees by level

It's possible to earn an engineering degree at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels, depending on your career goals. Let's take a closer look at why you might pursue each type:

  • Associate degree: Many engineering positions require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, but you could transition into a bachelor's program with your associate degree. An associate degree allows you to complete general education requirements and take some engineering courses to prepare for the next step in your education. 

  • Bachelor's degree: Most engineering positions require at least a bachelor's degree and passage of a licensing exam. Licensing requirements vary from state to state. Check to make sure the school you attend meets the requirements for your state. This is especially important if you attend a school in a state different then where you'll be licensed. 

  • Master's degree: If you're hoping to advance your career, a master’s degree can help. Many universities offer master’s degree programs online, so you can continue to work while earning a graduate degree. While a master's degree is not typically required to sit for an engineering licensure exam, earning one could enhance your resume and expertise.

Master of Engineering vs. Master of Science in Engineering

Depending on the college or university you’re interested in attending, you may have a choice between earning your Master of Engineering (MEng) or your Master of Science (MS) in Engineering. Both degrees emphasize advanced technical training in the field, but the difference largely depends on what you’d like to do after graduation. 

If you’re interested in pursuing your PhD or a career in engineering research, then a Master of Science in Engineering is likely the better option. However, if you are interested in an engineering career and want to develop your leadership and project management skills, then a Master of Engineering degree is likely the better option. 

An MS in Engineering will involve more research-based coursework, as well as a thesis and/or comprehensive exam, and will take around two years to complete. An MEng will involve more practical coursework, likely will not require you to complete a thesis, and generally will take less time to finish than an MS degree.

  • Doctoral degree: The field of engineering offers two types of doctoral degrees. If your career goal is to teach engineering, you may need a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in engineering to qualify for higher education positions. This degree typically takes about five years to complete. With a Doctor of Science in Engineering (EngScD), you can prepare for career advancement and leadership roles in engineering. This degree typically takes three years.

Get started

Earn your Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder on Coursera. Admission is performance-based, meaning there's no application required. Try a non-credit course today in a subject like optical engineering or power electronics. If you like the curriculum, you can upgrade and enroll in an engineering certificate or the full degree program.  

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Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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