What is the Difference in Engineering Degrees and Which Are the Best

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An image of engineering students for our FAQ on What is the Difference in Engineering Degrees

Engineering is one of the most popular majors in college. It offers one of the best returns on investment after graduation. But there are many different types of engineering degrees, and choosing one means you must explore your interests and goals.

The first step in choosing an engineering major is to know the difference in engineering degrees. You can major in engineering or get a technical engineering degree. But what is an engineering technology degree?

This article looks at engineering technology vs engineering degree programs. Here we explain the difference between engineering and engineering technology. We also discuss the many different types of engineering programs to help you decide which one is a good fit.

Read on to learn more about the difference between engineering technology and engineering degrees.

What Is the Difference Between Engineering and Engineering Technology

To understand the difference between an engineering technology degree vs engineering degree, you should first know how they are alike. Both types of degrees prepare students for careers in engineering. They are also both accredited with ABET designation.

Is engineering a technical degree? Yes. It is. But engineering programs emphasize theory and design, while ET degree programs focus on practical application.

The main difference between the degrees is in the curriculum. The programs focus on different concepts and ideas. These differences can lead to different careers. Here’s a look at some of the key difference between an engineering and engineering technology degree program.

Engineering Academics

Engineering and engineering technology differ in career options and study. While there is overlap, the programs vary. You take different classes in an engineering program than you do in an ET program.

In engineering programs, you spend time learning theories. You also learn how to develop new methods to use in solving problems.

Career Options for Engineering Majors

  • Engineers
  • Innovators
  • Research, development, and design


  • Calculus-based physics
  • Linear algebra
  • Statistics

Emphasis of Study

  • Emphasis on developing new methods
  • Solve complex theoretical challenges

Engineering Tech Academics

The principles you study in an ET program are different than an engineering management or civil engineering degree program. Your degree does cover some of the courses taught in engineering, but the emphasis is on practical application. Sure, you study engineering theories, but you also look at ways to solve problems. An ET degree is a versatile major.

Career Options for ET Majors

  • Engineers
  • Implementers
  • Testing, manufacturing, and construction


  • Calculus-based physics
  • Linear algebra
  • Statistics

Emphasis of Study

  • Emphasis on applying current practices
  • Solve specific technical problems

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5 Popular Types of Engineering

There are many different engineering disciplines. To choose the right one depends on your career goals and interests. Future electrical engineers choose to major in electrical engineering. An aspiring civil engineer can get a degree in civil engineering or structural engineering. Even a mechanical engineering degree will open doors into many different fields.

Here are five of the most popular majors for aspiring engineers.

Civil Engineering

Civil engineers work in many industries. You find them in transportation, space, and urban planning. Some of the most famous civil engineering projects include the Eiffel Tower and Panama Canal. But to work on these projects, you’ll need a degree in the field.

Your degree will focus on construction, design, and maintenance. You will also take specialty classes that prepare you for work in contemporary fields such as eco-friendly design.

Civil engineering subfields

  • Architectural engineering
  • Construction engineering
  • Transport engineering

Chemical Engineering

One of the most popular types of engineering is chemical engineering. In this program, you study chemical processes. You learn how to apply chemicals to engineering management. You spend much of your time in the lab conducting experiments. You also apply your biology, chemistry, and physics background to your engineering studies.

Chemical engineering subfields

  • Agricultural engineering
  • Biomedical engineering
  • Food engineering
  • Materials science engineering

Electrical Engineering

Electrical and electronics engineering is one of the newest branches of engineering. These engineers design and test devices that produce electricity. In this program, you study many different types of engineering products that use electricity.

Electrical engineering subfields

  • Electronics engineering
  • Information technology engineering
  • Network engineering

Electrical engineers work in many different industries and for different types of organizations. You find them in manufacturing, sales, and other fields.

Industrial Engineering

Industrial engineers combine business practices with engineering management principles. Your degree program teaches you how to reduce costs and increase efficiency. You also learn how to manage and oversee teams of people, since it takes a village to accomplish your goals.

Industrial engineering subfields

  • Manufacturing engineering
  • Safety engineering
  • Systems engineering

Mechanical Engineering

While earning a mechanical engineering degree, you can expect to study mechanical systems. Today’s mechanical engineers rely on the same core components engineers have relied on for thousands of years. These include wheels, springs, and screws. In this program, you can expect to apply math and physics to the development and production of mechanics.

Mechanical engineering subfields

  • Aerospace engineering
  • Robotics engineering
  • Systems engineering

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Other Engineering Majors

From aeronautical engineering to geotechnical engineering, there are many different engineering majors. You’ve seen some of the most popular choices, but here’s a look at other majors to consider.

Computer Engineering

Most of us drive cars with little knowledge of how they operate. Some of us give little thought to what’s going on inside our computer as we carry out our day-to-day tasks. But a computer engineer thinks about how these things are powered.

Computer engineers use computer science, math, and physics to develop or design computer hardware and software. Computer engineering majors learn about processing power and how to code. You also learn how to come up with creative solutions to future technological challenges.

Computer engineering jobs include:

  • Software analyst
  • Software engineer

Environmental Engineering

If you’re interested in environmental protection and sustainability, an environmental engineering degree might suit you. Today’s environmental engineers look for ways to combat climate change and improve the world we live in.

While not a math-heavy major, you do have to take math and science courses. But your degree focuses more on the environment and the processes that impact it. You will learn about air pollution and climate change. You will also study environmental law and politics.

Environmental engineering jobs include:

  • Environmental health and safety director
  • Green building engineer
  • Water project manager

Mechatronics Engineering

There are few standalone mechatronics programs. Most schools offer an engineering degree coupled with a concentration in mechatronics engineering. But this could change in the future, as the field emerges.

With a mechatronics major, expect to study from different engineering disciplines. This major blends different types of engineering, including:

  • Computer engineering
  • Electrical engineering
  • Mechanical engineering

Nuclear Engineering

As a nuclear engineering major, your focus is on the peaceful use of the atom to provide energy. You learn how to make products that use radioactive materials. You also learn how to use the atom to process heat.

Your classes focus on many different engineering principles and techniques. Course topics include:

  • Dynamics
  • Electrical fundamentals
  • Nuclear and radiation physics

Graduates pursue work as nuclear engineers.

Software Engineering

This is a specialized subfield of computer science and engineering. Its focus is computer systems design, manufacturing, and software publication.

In this major, you learn how to apply engineering practices to analyze, design, and develop computer software. The major attracts students who have excellent math and computer science skills. It also attracts critical thinkers who are analytical and intuitive.

Software engineering jobs include:

  • Project manager
  • Software development engineer
  • Video game designer

Should You Choose a Technical Engineer Degree?

If you aren’t sure engineering is the right major for you, there are questions you can ask yourself about your goals, skills, and interests. Below are some questions to consider before you enroll in an engineering program.

Am I prepared to study hard?

You won’t want to major in astronautical engineering or computer engineering if you’re looking to breeze through college. To earn an engineering degree, plan on studying hard. There is no easy engineering major. But there are certain engineering degrees that demand less time than others.

But if you are up to the challenge, your hard work can reward you with good pay and an interesting career.

Do I enjoy math and science?

You don’t have to love math and science to do well in an engineering program, but it helps if you enjoy what you’re learning. For most undergraduate engineering programs, you will take many math and science courses. You will study subjects such as:

  • Calculus
  • Chemistry
  • Linear algebra
  • Physics
  • Statistics

Do I want a graduate degree?

Engineering jobs want candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree. For advanced positions in management, you will need a master’s degree. Whether you major in computer systems, software engineering, or aerospace engineering, think about your future. Do you want an advanced degree or will your four-year program be enough?

What is the Easiest Engineering Major?

No matter which engineering major you choose, you can plan on studying hard. Classes have homework assignments and projects that take time and effort. They cover advanced math and physics topics. But some majors are more math-heavy. They demand more study time.

In general, math and science classes require more time. Majors that have the most science and math classes as part of the curriculum will demand more study time.

Read on to find out which engineering majors require less time than others. The hours spent on each major was collected by a research study that ranked the hardest majors out there.

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3 Hard Engineering Majors

Top three hardest engineering majors with study time spent by college students on each major.

Chemical Engineering

In this major, students spend close to 20 additional hours/week studying outside of class.

Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering (Astronautical Engineering)

Students spend about 19 hours/week studying for this major.

Biomedical Engineering

Plan on spending close to 19 hours/week outside of class studying for this major.

3 Easy Engineering Majors

Top three easiest engineering majors with study time spent by college students on each major.

Civil Engineering

Students spend over 17 hours/week studying for this major.

Computer Engineering and Technology

Those with strong computer skills will find this major easier than others. Students enrolled in this major spend about 16.5 hours/week studying outside of class.

Industrial Engineering

As an industrial engineering major, study time outside of class is 15.68 hours/week.

Other engineering majors that demand less time studying than others include environmental engineering and agricultural engineering.

Engineering Jobs Salary

Now that you know what’s the difference in engineering degrees, you should consider how much money you can make in your future career. Pay varies by the types of engineering jobs you choose. For example, those working in chemical engineering see a different starting salary than those in biomedical engineering. Take a look at the earnings you can make with different engineering degrees.

  • Aeronautical engineering: $122,270/year
  • Agricultural engineering: $82,640/year
  • Biomedical engineering: $97,410/year
  • Chemical engineering: $105,550/year
  • Civil engineering: $88,050/year
  • Electrical engineering: $101,780/year
  • Industrial engineering: $95,300/year
  • Mechanical engineering: $95,300/year
  • Nuclear engineering: $120,380/year
  • Petroleum engineering: $130,850/year

Engineering managers regularly make the top 20 highest paid jobs. Managers in this field have advanced engineering degrees or five to ten years of experience beyond a bachelor’s degree. You can work as a manager in different types of engineering. You find managers in:

  • Architectural engineering
  • Geotechnical engineering
  • Materials science
  • Structural engineering

Engineering Job Outlook

Did you use an electronic device today? Drive on the road to get to work or school? If so, you can thank an engineer.

Since we all use products and services designed or created by engineers, job security for this occupation is good. The job outlook for engineers is favorable and growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shares information about job growth for engineers. But like wages, job outlook varies by field and occupation.

Read on to find out which field of engineering will offer the best job prospects after graduation.

  • Aerospace engineers: 8% job growth
  • Biomedical engineers: 6% job growth
  • Chemical engineers: 9% job growth
  • Civil engineers: 8% job growth
  • Environmental engineers: 4% job growth
  • Materials engineers: 8% job growth
  • Mechanical engineers: 7% job growth
  • Petroleum engineers: 8% job growth
  • Sales engineers: 8% job growth

What is engineering technology degree job outlook versus engineering over the next decade? Not much. In fact, students with an ET degree face a similar job outlook, as they will compete for the same jobs. Overall, job growth looks strong no matter which types of engineering degrees you choose.

By BDP Staff

Related Resources:

This concludes our article on what’s the difference between engineering and engineering technology.

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris