- 1: The branch of science and technology concerned with the development and modification of engines (in various senses), machines, structures, or other complicated systems and processes using specialized knowledge or skills, typically for public or commercial use; the profession of an engineer. Freq. with distinguishing word(s) chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, military
Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes.
The American Engineers' Council for Professional Development (ECPD, the predecessor of ABET) has defined "engineering" as:
the creative application of scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design; or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation and safety to life and property.
One who practices engineering is called an engineer, and those licensed to do so may have more formal designations such as Professional Engineer, Chartered Engineer, Incorporated Engineer, Ingenieur or European Engineer. The broad discipline of engineering encompasses a range of more specialized sub disciplines, each with a more specific emphasis on certain fields of application and particular areas of technology.
Engineering, much like other science, is a broad discipline which is often broken down into several sub-disciplines. These disciplines concern themselves with differing areas of engineering work. Although initially an engineer will usually be trained in a specific discipline, throughout an engineer's career the engineer may become multi-disciplined, having worked in several of the outlined areas. Engineering is often characterized as having four main branches:
- Chemical engineering – The exploitation of both engineering and chemical principles in order to carry out large scale chemical process.
- Civil engineering – The design and construction of public and private works, such as infrastructure (airports, roads, railways, water supply and treatment etc.), bridges, dams, and buildings.
- Electrical engineering – a very broad area that may encompass the design and study of various electrical and electronic systems, such as electrical circuits, generators, motors, electromagnetic/electromechanical devices, electronic devices, electronic circuits, optical fibers, optoelectronic devices, computer systems, telecommunications, instrumentation, controls, and electronics.
- Mechanical engineering – The design of physical or mechanical systems, such as power and energy systems, aerospace/aircraft products, weapon systems, transportation products engines, compressors, powertrains, kinematic chains, vacuum technology, and vibration isolation equipment.
Beyond these four, sources vary on other main branches. Historically, naval engineering and mining engineering were major branches. Modern fields sometimes included as major branches include aerospace, systems,architectural, biomedical, industrial, materials science and nuclear engineering.
New specialties sometimes combine with the traditional fields and form new branches. A new or emerging area of application will commonly be defined temporarily as a permutation or subset of existing disciplines; there is often gray area as to when a given sub-field becomes large and/or prominent enough to warrant classification as a new "branch." One key indicator of such emergence is when major universities start establishing departments and programs in the new field.