What are the 4 main branches of engineering?

In this brief guide we are going to answer the question ‘’What are the 4 main branches of engineering?’’ We will explain the main branches, and their subcategories, as well as the functions performed by each engineer.

What are the 4 main branches of engineering?

The 4 main branches of engineering are:

  • Mechanical engineering
  • Civil engineering
  • Environmental engineering
  • Electronic engineeron

Engineering is a broad term that covers a wide range of applications and industries. By combining mathematics, science and technology, engineers produce creative solutions to real-world problems. As a result, there are many different types of engineering degrees at universities.

In the past, engineering could be divided into four main branches: mechanical, chemical, civil and electrical, with subdivisions of each discipline.

Today, however, the number of available engineering degrees has increased exponentially. We can now speak of six main branches of engineering: mechanical, chemical, civil, electrical, management and geotechnical and literally hundreds of different subcategories within each branch.

What is engineering?

It is the skill of applying scientific knowledge to the invention in improving the utilisation of industrial techniques in all their dimensions.

According to the concept of the term, it is a career or profession in which knowledge of the natural and mathematical sciences acquired through study, practice and experience is employed in a correct and judicious manner so that materials and the power of nature can be used effectively for the benefit of society.

This science is related in some way to the areas of research, design, production, development, construction, administration, sales, commerce, operation, among others.

The person who has received professional training in this discipline is known as an engineer; however, other people, such as technicians, inspectors or planners, apply scientific techniques and this subject to solve technical and real problems.

By studying this career, the person is trained to develop technological solutions, build structures, residential, industrial and service structures.

An engineer possesses the necessary knowledge to respond assertively and in depth to economic, social and industrial demands, to provide solutions and to face the difficulties that may arise in the development of a project.

This professional must keep in mind some variables that may arise to successfully achieve a project, such as, for example, technical, physical, cost and investment limitations, the quality and durability of materials.

It is here where this professional must make use of his mathematical, physical, material and spatial knowledge, as well as his experience in the area in question.

4 main branches of engineering

1.  Mechanical engineering

This is one of the oldest and most important branches of engineering, dedicated to the study and design of machines: from robots and hydraulic or cooling systems, to land vehicles, sea vehicles or spacecraft.

Mechanical engineering draws on the principles of physics to compose complex tools, allowing for new dynamics of construction, power generation, displacement, and gigantic etcetera. In general, when we think abstractly about engineering, we tend to think of mechanical engineering.

Biomechanical Engineering

Application of knowledge, skills and principles of Mechanical Engineering to the conception, design, development, analysis and operation of biomechanical systems, including artificial organs and prostheses; bioinstrumentation and measurement systems; biomaterials; bioprocess engineering; cellular mechanics; design and control of biological systems and physiological systems.

Aerospace Engineering

Aeronautical engineering refers to craft that remain in our atmosphere, while aerospace engineering refers to aircraft that venture outside our atmosphere.

Automotive Engineering

As the name suggests, automotive engineering involves the design and production of vehicles. The automotive industry is very diverse and requires engineers to work in areas such as mechanical design, performance, manufacturing, electrical engineering and systems management.

2.  Civil engineering

This also covers many fields, from the environment, to transport, construction of works, or topography, among others. What these professionals do is to develop a project and manage it so that everything is carried out correctly. 

This branch can be understood as engineering dedicated to making the world passable for human beings, as it uses formal tools such as calculus, sciences such as physics and the practical study of the real environment, to design and build facilities and constructions, such as ports, bridges, dams, dykes, dams, etc.

It is in close contact with urban planning and architecture and is one of the most fundamental branches of engineering worldwide.

This is a very broad engineering degree. Environmental engineering, structural engineering and marine engineering are all civil engineering specialisations.

Structural engineering

Structural engineering is a specific branch of civil engineering and specialises in the design of different structures, including houses, commercial buildings, art museums, shops and more.

Architectural Engineering

Architectural engineers work in the construction, planning and design phases of projects. Together with other professionals, the focus is on building structure and interior design.

3.  Environmental engineering

Many consider environmental engineering to be a sub-branch of civil engineering, but in recent times, in the face of the need to think about an ecologically sustainable world, this form of engineering has taken on clear importance.

Using knowledge of chemistry, physics, biology, geology, economics and the technological tools of the day, its task is to propose a model of sustainable development that allows for the fair use of the earth’s resources, so as to make it economically profitable, but not ruin the ecosystem in the process.

Seen in this light, it is engineering that designs the world of future generations.

Main specialities:

Ecological engineering, the design, monitoring and construction of ecosystems.

Fire protection engineering, the application of engineering to protect people and environments from fire and smoke

Sanitary engineering, the application of engineering methods to improve the sanitation of human communities

4.  Electronic engineering

Focusing on electronics, electromagnetism and circuit theory, this is perhaps one of the branches of engineering that has had the greatest impact on the world since its emergence, and which has transformed the other branches and even other areas of knowledge most dramatically and radically.

Its applied knowledge led to the development of microprocessors, microcontrollers, integrated circuits and other pieces of technology vital to the world of telecommunications, computing and the electronic instruments we use every day.

Electrical Engineering

A degree in electrical engineering involves the study of energy. Energy is available in various forms, such as electrical, hydroelectric and other natural sources, such as wind and solar power.

Computer Engineering

Computer or communications engineering professionals may work in Telecommunications, Networking, Software Application Development or Manufacturing, and additional industries are emerging, such as Application Development, Web Development, Network Security / Cybersecurity and Cloud Computing, among others.

Mechatronics Engineering

Mechatronics engineering, a combination of mechanical engineering and electronic engineering, is an emerging area for hybrid engineers. Almost all mechanical equipment today is operated with a combination of electronics and software, all based on computers and technology.

Microelectronics Engineering

If you have an interest in electronics, a major in Microelectronics Engineering may be of interest to you. Microelectronics is a subset of electrical engineering with a focus on the word “Micro”. Microelectronics engineers specialise in the development and design of small electronic devices. Used in a wide range of industrial applications.

Why is engineering important?

Engineering is undoubtedly one of the broadest practices in the world, and although we may not know it, or may not notice it on a daily basis, we use it (directly or indirectly) almost every day of our lives. When you ask yourself what is the importance of engineering, take a moment and think, first of all, of history.

Think of the steam engine, think of the industrial revolution, think of NASA, think of the rockets that carried the first men to set foot on the moon, think of satellites, think of all that, because when you think of all those great advances, you are thinking, precisely, of the importance of engineering.

Engineering is important, on a large scale, because it is the way in which the sciences we know can be applied to improve or obtain a benefit, either for ourselves or collectively. Many, if not all, of the most important advances that have been witnessed in the last sixty years at least, have been thanks to engineering.

Engineering is so broad in this sense that there is basically one type of engineer for all cases. Electrical, Mechatronics, Electronics, Mechanical, Computer Systems, Software Development, Civil, Chemical, Industrial, Petrochemical, Environmental and so on. This means that there are people, and engineers trained and ready to improve the world with their advances or inventions.

The importance of engineering does not stop at the great breakthroughs that have happened in history, but at the breakthroughs that are yet to happen, the breakthroughs that are about to improve the world again.

Engineering is one of the few practices, if not the only one, that benefits almost all sciences. From having made advances in biology, chemistry, medicine and so on, engineering is important because it represents a positive change because represents making things that seemed difficult easier.


Rankine, W. J. M. (1867). A manual of civil engineering. Charles Griffin.