According to data from the American Society of Engineering Education, nearly 140,000 college students in the United States earned engineering degrees in 2011; the number of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral students that year represented year-over-year growth of 8%, 6%, and 5.6%, respectively. The appeal of engineering is easy to understand; the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists more than two dozen engineering occupations, most of which award median annual salaries in excess of $60,000, and the constant demand for skilled engineers ensures that the employment rate within this sector is always relatively high.
However, as with any career field, entry-level employees must work to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack ― and in order to do so, many obtain membership with professional organizations, enroll in open courses, peruse trade magazines and open-access journals and otherwise supplement their higher education using online resources. This article lists some of the best websites, publications and organizations that engineering students can explore once they have graduated from an accredited college, university or technical school.
Membership in an established professional organization can open many doors for a young professional. These groups often provide information about training and continuing education courses; sponsor seminars, conferences and other networking activities; and maintain region-specific employer contacts for those seeking work. There are many professional organizations geared toward professional engineers; some take an all-encompassing approach to the profession, while others focus on specific fields such as civil, electrical or mechanical engineering.
- National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) – First established in 1934, the NSPE extends across specific disciplines to assist engineers in all areas of the profession. The organization currently consists of 35,000 members, 96% of whom are either professional engineers or interns; annual dues will vary by both employment title and state of residence.
- American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) – Formed more than 120 years ago, this nonprofit organization emphasizes instructional leadership, technological competency and strong relationships between engineers and their clients. Members receive free copies of Prism, the organization’s monthly publication, and attend ASEE-sponsored conferences (nine nationwide events have already been planned for 2014).
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) – Billed as the largest worldwide organization for electrical engineering professionals, the IEEE was first established in 1884 and today boasts nearly 400,000 members in 160 countries. Members gain access to a handful of online publications and standards, and the IEEE hosts numerous conferences nationwide and throughout the world every year.
- American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) – Civil engineering is a field that deals with the design and construction of buildings, bridges, dams and other large structures that are utilized by many people. The ASCE focuses on disaster preparedness, on-the-job safety and other concerns that primarily impact those working in this sector; members also attend seminars throughout the country and get the opportunity to enroll in continuing ed courses.
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) – This non-profit organization was first established in 1880, and has since built a following of roughly 130,000 members in 158 countries. College students and working professionals are welcome to join the ASME; benefits include a subscription to the organization’s flagship online magazine, daily summaries of industry news and trends and access to ASME Volume, a compendium of graphs, tables and other data related to the field of mechanical engineering.
In recent years, several big-name colleges and universities have created online courses to satisfy the demand for on-the-job engineering skills. Unlike traditional, brick-and-mortar classes, open courseware classes are exclusively online, usually self-paced and virtually free-of-charge to anyone with an Internet connection. Here are some open courses specifically geared toward engineering professionals and students:
- Aerodynamics (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) – Aerodynamics is a field that focuses on the motion of air and the mechanics of different objects that are suspended mid-air or in-flight. This undergraduate course from Dr. David Darmofal, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, looks specifically at airplane vessels as they relate to air; topics of discussion include thin airfoil theory, viscous flows and vortex panel methods.
- Frontiers of Biomedical Engineering (Yale University) – Biomedical engineering explores the intersection between material design/development and improvements to human health. This introductory course, taught by author and Yale professor W. Mark Saltzman, uses case studies to discuss product testing, patent protection, FDA approval and other key steps of the biomedical engineering creation process.
- Introduction to Chemical Engineering (Stanford University) – Consisting of 20 different video clips that run approximately 45 minutes to one hour apiece, this 100-level course introduces the fundamentals of chemical engineering through modern devices and systems such as oil refineries and the production of corn syrup.
- Fracture of Materials (Case Western Reserve University) – This course uses a podcast platform; students download different audio clips and listen to the podcasts sequentially. The curriculum delves into different materials used in engineering such as metals, plastics and fibers, and the way these materials behave and react to various agents and chemical processes.
Open Access Journals
Historically, academic journals have only been accessible to students, college faculty members and paying subscribers. But in recent years, publishers have balked at tradition and begun to offer free, online access to journals. Here are some of the most popular open-access journals concentrated in the field of engineering:
- Journal of Engineering – This journal, from Hindawi Publishing, covers a wide array of engineering-related topics, but stays mainly focused on six specific disciplines: chemical, civil, computing, electrical, industrial and mechanical engineering. Although the archive only dates back to 2013, there are currently more than 120 articles available to view online.
- The Journal of Engineering – Not to be confused with the previously listed journal, this publication is produced by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET). Recent journal entries have explored ways to improve on existing technologies such as Bubble Wrap and automated parking lots.
- The Journal of Electrical and Computing Engineering – Another Hindawi title, the JECE primarily focuses on three areas: circuits and systems, communications and signal processing. Contributors are welcome to submit their work, and there is currently a 22% acceptance rate for new authors.
- The Open Environmental Engineering Journal – The field of environmental engineering emphasizes manmade means for improving sustainability and protecting natural resources. This journal is devoted to the discipline, with entries that discuss topics such as heavy metal pollution in bodies of water, methane produced during agricultural processes and the carbon footprint of the air travel industry.
- Materials ― An Open Access Materials Science Journal – Materials engineering focuses on the different natural and manmade components used to create structures and products. This journal features an archive of all published articles that dates back to 2008; Materials is also set to sponsor the First International e-Conference on Materials in May/June 2014.
Thanks to Kindles, tablets and other mobile devices, accessing and reading ebooks has never been easier, but for those who prefer hard copies, online retail sites like Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble have a wide selection of available titles. Here are some of the most renowned books in the field of engineering.
- The Soul of A New Machine – The technology industry was much different in the early 1980s, when the future of computers and software as major economic drivers was quite uncertain. Tracy Kidder won a Pulitzer Prize for this fascinating look at one company’s quest to build a functioning, lucrative microcomputer.
- The New Way Things Work – Suitable for both adults and children, this entertaining volume is packed with detailed illustrations by David Macauley. A revised edition was released in 1998 to cover burgeoning technology like Internet modems and vehicular airbags.
- The Psychology of Everyday Things – Whether we realize it or not, engineering principles can be observed in virtually every object on the planet. Don Norman’s speculative 1988 work examines the properties and “behavior” of VCRs, telephones and other engineering marvels that we use (and take for granted) everyday.
- Why Buildings Stand Up: The Strength of Architecture – This landmark 1980 work introduces the fundamentals of building technology using straightforward language geared toward readers with little to no knowledge of architecture. Why Buildings Stand Up was penned by the late Mario Salvadori, a professor who taught civil engineering and architecture courses at Columbia University for more than 30 years.
- Design For The Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change – Written and published by the late Victor Papanek more than 25 years ago, this insightful work explores ways that engineers can design and develop products without sacrificing natural resources, exploiting cheap laborers or driving down the economy.
Online Industry Magazines
Industry magazines feature articles, columns and classified advertisements that are geared toward specific professional niches. These publications produce content focused on various engineering disciplines, as well as trends and technologies impacting the entire sector.
- ENGINEERING Magazine – From 3D printing to advances in biomedical technology, this British magazine has showcased the latest and greatest engineering techniques since it first went to print nearly 150 years ago. A vast online archive of past articles is available to anyone who purchases a yearly subscription.
- Engineering & Technology (E&T) – This monthly publication emphasizes the intersection between engineering principles and the electronic/digital platforms that utilize them. All articles and editorials in issues published since 2008 are available online without a subscription.
- Electronic Engineering (EE) Times – In addition to monthly issues, this magazine hosts a network of engineering-related websites and sponsors. EELive!, an annual gathering of engineering professionals in the United States (the 2014 event will be held in San Jose, Calif.) is also available. The website hosts an extensive blog, with daily posts from the magazine’s regular contributors.
- Popular Mechanics – Although Popular Mechanics isn’t technically an industry magazine, each issue focuses on the latest inventions, trends and economic strength of various engineering disciplines. First published in 1902, the magazine today enjoys a worldwide circulation of more than 1.2 million readers.
Unlike open-access journals and trade magazines, blogs present material to readers using an informal and often humorous writing style. The following websites feature some of the most popular engineering-oriented blogs available to today’s Internet users.
- iMechanica – Sponsored by the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, this blog features a compendium of articles that have been written, edited and moderated by a team of volunteers known as iMechanicians. New posts appear on the site everyday, tackling a wide range of topics related to mechanical engineering.
- The Auto Prophet – Many of today’s engineers work to design vehicles that are attractive, fuel-efficient and dependable for the people who drive them. This blog (which first appeared in 2005) discusses the latest in automotive technology trends, as well as the innovators (like Tesla and Ford) who helped make the industry what it is today.
- Bulk-Blog – Jan Merks is one of the most prominent names in the field of geostatistics, a field that explores the various ways of categorizing spatiotemporal (aka, ‘space and time’) data. He uses this blog to discuss the latest innovations in geostatistics, as well as the fundamental principles used by engineers in this discipline.
- UrbanWorkbench – This blog is dedicated to civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering projects and innovations taking place in major cities across the globe. Sewer systems, public parks, pollution initiatives and sustainable technology are among the site’s many topics of discussion; the blog also features “Chickens and Goats,” a sub-blog devoted to urban agriculture and animal husbandry.
- Cooking for Engineers – How do engineering-minded folks prepare food in the kitchen? This blog addresses innovative methods for preparing a variety of dishes, as well as the chemistry and physics behind everything from frying an egg to making pizza crust. Most posts feature recipes for readers to attempt in their own kitchen.
Who to Follow on Twitter
With 500 million registered users, Twitter is one of the world’s largest social media outlets ― and virtually every established company and organization maintains at least one Twitter handle that is used to relay information to followers. These Twitter accounts are some of the most popular handles created by and for engineering professionals.
- ASCE Headquarters – With multiple tweets per day and roughly 18,000 followers, this official Twitter handle for the ACSE is a great source of information for engineers across a wide range of specific disciplines. The vast majority of posts are articles and photos from other websites, although the ACSE uses this platform to promote organization events and continuing education opportunities for engineers, as well.
- Audio Eng Society – As the only professional organization that specifically emphasizes audio technology, AES focuses on topics like software for deaf people, music production and radio technology. The account (with more than 25,000 followers) primarily focuses on conferences and other events for audio engineering professionals.
- The Engineer – This British Twitter handle tackles all areas of engineering, with particular emphasis on aerospace, automotive technology, chemical engineering, electronics and environmental stewardship. The account currently boasts approximately 25,000 followers.
- Eric A. Meyer – Voted the #1 “Developer to Follow on Twitter'” by Mashable, Mr. Meyer is one of the world’s most renowned software developers, and a specialist in areas like XHTML and CSS. His Twitter handle has more than 71,000 followers; in addition to several posts per day, he regularly interacts with and ‘retweets’ posts from his subscribers.