Engineering and construction are two of the largest employing industries in the U.S., with more than 7.5 million individuals working in either industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Engineers and construction professionals are essential to U.S. technological innovation, infrastructure, and manufacturing, each of which is vital to the socioeconomic needs of the country.
Both fields offer a range of educational and professional avenues for prospective students to consider. Engineering in particular continues to be one of the most popular career majors, surpassing business, computer science, and medicine On the other hand, construction continues to rebound after the economic recession and is positioned to create 1.3 million employment openings nationally between 2012 and 2022.
|Industry||2012 Employment||2022 Employment||Change||Percent Growth|
Online Degree Programs in Engineering and Construction
Because of their specialized nature, engineering and construction degree programs are closely aligned to a specific professional field, such as mechanical engineering or construction technology. For example, there are more than 30 concentrations within engineering, such as chemical, civil, electrical, and material engineering -- each with their own unique curriculum. Broadly, students can pursue career training through online programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Below is a short overview of the types of degree programs in engineering and construction.
The associate degree is typically a two-year program of study. In engineering, associate degree programs can be found in areas such as:
- Mechanical engineering technology
- Electronics engineering
- Engineering technology
Although curriculum varies, students in these programs receive a broad foundation of professional knowledge in each concentration. An associate degree in engineering can prepare graduates for positions as entry-level technicians, as well as set the groundwork for future studies at the bachelor's degree level. In construction, common associate degree programs include construction management and construction technology. Training in these areas prepares students to assume entry-level positions in the construction industry through the study of construction safety, building codes, surveying, mechanical systems, and more.
For the aspiring engineer, a bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement to earn a Professional Engineer license. Traditionally a four-to-five year program of study, online engineering bachelor's degrees are tied directly to an area of practice, such as:
- Mechanical engineering
- Civil engineering
- Industrial engineering
In construction, two common areas of study at the bachelor's level include construction management and construction engineering technology. Through an integrated and hands-on curriculum, students develop an understanding of the technical principles of construction, communication, and business that prepares them for management and administrative careers in the construction industry.
The master's in engineering or construction management are both designed to prepare graduates for leadership positions within the engineering and construction industries, respectively. For prospective students in construction management, master's degree programs are uniquely suited to individuals with a bachelor's degree in construction management, as well as professional experience in the field. Again, engineering programs are directly linked to a concentration, such as industrial or chemical engineering, and offer an advanced and highly specialized curriculum to enhance and develop the student's knowledge of their field of practice.
The highest academic degree available, the doctorate is aimed at students pursuing careers in academia (as faculty), in research, or as thought leaders within engineering or construction. Students can pursue degrees such as:
- Engineering Science with a Construction Management specialization
- Construction Management
- Biomedical engineering
- Civil engineering
- Aerospace engineering
Typically, doctorate programs require between four and six years of full-time study to complete.
Specializations in Engineering and Construction
Within the construction and engineering fields, students should align their educational pursuits to their career goals. Within engineering, the most popular areas of study include:
- Mechanical engineering
- Electrical and electronics engineering
- Civil engineering
- Chemical engineering
- Computer engineering.
For construction, the top concentration areas of study include:
- Construction trades
- Operations research
- Heavy equipment
- Building construction technology
- Building inspection and management
Between both industries, more than 152,000 individuals graduated with a construction or engineering degree in 2013, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Career Outlook for Engineering and Construction Graduates
For graduates of engineering or construction programs, career opportunities are diverse and growing. Engineering is widely considered one of the best occupational fields in the country, with multiple specializations projected to experience faster-than-average employment increases. Below is a list of the five engineering careers expected to experience the highest job growth rates nationally between 2012 and 2022, along with 2014 median annual salaries according to the BLS.
|Career||2012 Employment||2022 Employment||Job Growth||Average Salary||Educational Requirement|
|Biomedical engineers||19,400||24,600||26.6%||$91,760||Bachelor's degree|
|Petroleum engineers||38,500||48,400||25.5%||$147,520||Bachelor's degree|
|Civil engineers||272,900||326,600||19.7%||$87,130||Bachelor's degree|
|Environmental engineers||53,200||61,400||15.3%||$86,340||Bachelor's degree|
|Mining and geological engineers||7,900||8,900||12.0%||$100,970||Bachelor's degree|
On the other hand, construction rivals engineering as an industry experiencing an explosion of career potential. Within the skilled trades, construction professionals are some of the most in-demand in the country, with several positions projected to see job growth surpass 40 percent nationally between 2012 and 2022. Below is a list of the five fastest growing construction jobs based on employment data from the BLS.
|Career||2012 Employment||2014 Employment||Job Growth||Average Salary||Educational Requirement|
|Insulation workers, mechanical||28,900||42,400||46.7%||$50,160||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Helpers -- brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons, and tile and marble setters||24,400||34,900||43.0%||$31,450||Less than high school|
|Segmental pavers||1,800||2,400||38.1%||$34,750||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Helpers -- electricians||60,800||83,300||36.9%||$29,110||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Brickmasons and blockmasons||71,000||96,200||35.5%||$51,500||High school diploma or equivalent|
Congressional Research Service, The U.S. Science and Engineering Workforce: Recent, Current, and Projected Employment, Wages, and Unemployment, 2014, https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43061.pdf
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Data, http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_data_occupational_data.htm
ASEE, Engineering by the Numbers, https://www.asee.org/papers-and-publications/publications/11-47.pdf
National Center for Education Statistics, IPEDS, http://www.nces.gov