Frequently Asked Questions About Engineering

What is engineering?
According to the Merriam Webster's collegiate dictionary, engineering is defined as the application of science and mathematics by which the properties of matter and the sources of energy in nature are made useful to people.

Engineering comprises men and women who work in aerospace, biomedical, chemicals, construction, computers, energy, manufacturing, and many other fields that require people to create products, facilities, and structures.

What is a professional engineer?
Professional engineers have fulfilled the rigorous education, examination, and experience requirements, which, under state licensure laws, permit them to offer engineering services to the public. Although engineering licensure laws vary from state to state, in general, to become a PE an individual must be a graduate of an engineering program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, gain four years of experience as an intern, and then pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. PEs take legal responsibility for their engineering designs, being bound by a code of ethics to protect public health and safety.

What do engineers do?
Engineers take abstract ideas and apply science and mathematics to build products to meet the needs of mankind.

How many engineers are there?
It is estimated that there are more than two million practicing engineers in the U.S.

What is the difference between science and engineering?
Science is knowledge based on observed facts and tested truths arranged in an orderly system that can be validated and communicated to other people. Engineering is the creative application of scientific principles used to plan, build, direct, guide, manage, or work on systems to maintain and improve our daily lives.

How many types of engineering specialties are there?
Aerospace, Agricultural, Biomedical, Chemical, Civil (General and Structural), Computer, Control Systems, Electrical and Electronics, Environmental, Fire Protection, Geotechnical, Industrial, Manufacturing, Mechanical, Mining, Nuclear, Petroleum, Sanitary, and Traffic.

What recent major breakthroughs are attributed to engineers in improving the quality of our everyday lives?
From the mass production of the automobile to space travel, from the telephone to the Internet, and from bioengineered foods to clean water, engineers have applied their expertise to improve the quality of our lives. Visit Great Engineering Achievements.

Has there been an increase or decrease in student enrollment in engineering programs at colleges and universities across the country?
While the number of engineering degrees awarded remained level, and even declined, throughout much of the 1990's, data from the American Society for Engineering Education show bachelor's degrees have increased as much as 20% from 1999 while both master's and doctoral degrees have seen increases over the past several years. However, data also shows that these increases may begin to slow as enrollments in all degree levels have declined for the second consecutive year. Information from ASEE also shows a decline in the number of enrollments of women in engineering programs, and enrollments for minorities remain low and unchanged. For more information on engineering enrollment and degree trends, visit ASEE.

What are some of the top U.S. undergraduate engineering schools?
All engineering programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology have met demanding standards and produce excellent engineers. The best school for a particular person is impossible to define on a ranking list.

Who was the world's first engineer?
As with other learned professions, today's engineer is defined by formal education and training. Even before the days of formal education, most cultures pursued such things as navigation, the medicinal and healing arts, and the building of structures. Many of those structures showed the ingenuity that is characteristic of engineering. Perhaps Imhotep, the builder of the Step Pyramid in Egypt in 2250 B.C., was the first engineer.

Who are some famous people who have earned engineering degrees?


  • Arthur Charles Nielsen, creator of the Nielsen television ratings system
  • Bill S. Nye, television host
  • Sammy Kaye, bandleader
  • Tom Scholz, musician with the rock band "Boston"

Sports Figures

  • Jair Lynch, 1992 and 1996 Olympic gymnast
  • Roger T. Staubach, football player for the Dallas Cowboys
  • Debi Thomas, 1988 Olympic figure skater

Leading Corporate Executives

  • Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive officer of
  • Louis V. Gerstner Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of IBM
  • Roberto C. Goizueta, former chairman and chief executive officer of Coca-Cola
  • Charles O. (Chad) Holliday Jr., P.E., chairman and chief executive officer of DuPont
  • Jack E. Little, former president and chief executive officer of Shell Oil Company
  • John F. "Jack" Welch Jr., P.E., chairman and chief executive officer of General Electric Company
  • William S. Harley, co-founder of Harley-Davidson Motor Company


  • Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 mission
  • Neil Armstrong, commander Apollo 11 mission, commander Gemini 8 mission
  • Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, STS-89 mission specialist
  • Alan Bean, Apollo 12 mission

Presidents, Leaders, and Former Administration Officials

  • Edward E. Kaufman, former U.S. Senator
  • Andrew Card, White House chief of staff for president George W. Bush
  • Herbert Hoover, 31st president of the United States
  • General Douglas MacArthur, U.S. Army
  • Joe L. Barton, P.E., Congressman from Texas
  • Jim Geringer, former governor of Wyoming
  • Bill Ratliff, P.E., former lieutenant governor of Texas
  • John E. Sununu, former White House chief of staff for president George Bush, former governor of New Hampshire