One of our very first blog posts last year was about the highest paying careers in South Africa. To date, it’s still one of our most popular posts and is an indication that our readers are hungry for info about careers. That’s why we have decided to dedicate one blog post every month to different industries and the job prospects and career paths within those industries.
The first of our Career Focus articles will explore the complex, exciting world of engineering. Engineering encompasses a range of different specialisations and career paths and engineers can be found in a number of different industries. This post will give a broad overview of engineering and it’s many sub-disciplines as well as info on the Career Wise bursaries available for engineering degrees.
Among the top fifteen highest paying jobs in South Africa that we highlighted in our second ever blog posts, an impressive seven of these were engineering related jobs. Engineering is a very broad discipline and encompasses many different sub-disciplines and areas of specialization, as you can see from the highest paying careers list. In a nutshell, engineering is the application of maths, science and empirical evidence to the design, construction and operation of machines, materials, systems and structures. Engineers work in a huge variety of industries, applying their knowledge of maths and science to solve problems and produce new, innovative products and services. And they are paid well for a reason – engineering is a very demanding discipline to study at university and being an engineer requires hard work combined with strong maths and science ability, and a knack for problem solving.
Very broadly, engineering can be divided into four main areas: chemical, mechanical, electrical and civil/structural. Within each of these areas there are numerous different functions and areas of specialisation. Let’s take a quick look at each area and highlight some of the different jobs you’ll find in each.
Chemical Engineering has a particular focus on chemistry and deals primarily with chemicals, materials, and energy. As a Chemical Engineer, you’ll develop economic ways of converting chemicals, raw materials and energy into useful forms and products. The majority of Chemical Engineering jobs fall into 1 of 2 categories: the design, manufacture and operation of plants and machinery; or the development of new or adapted substances and materials. Within each of these categories you’ll find more specialised engineers such as Process Engineers, Nuclear Engineers, Chemical Reaction Engineers, Petroleum Engineers and Project Engineers. There is also a range of different industries that employ Chemical Engineers from power generation to plastics and metals to food and beverage production.
One of the oldest and broadest disciplines of engineering, Mechanical Engineering involves the application of physics, maths and material science to the design and manufacture of mechanical systems. This means that Mechanical Engineers can be involved in the designing and manufacturing of anything from kitchen appliances to cars to satellites to medical equipment. With its roots in the industrial revolution, Mechanical Engineering has developed considerably and now encompasses a number of sub-disciplines such as robotics, thermodynamics and nanotechnology. So, if you like the sound of being an Aeronautical Engineer designing airplanes or a Robotics Engineer building complex robotic systems, this is the field for you.
As the name suggests, Electrical Engineering is the branch of engineering that focuses on electricity, electronics and electromagnetism. As an Electrical Engineer, you will design, develop and test the deployment of electrical systems and electronic devices. As with the other engineering disciplines, the advent of technology has broadened the scope and possibilities for electrical engineering and it now has a variety of exciting sub-disciplines. As well as being a traditional Electrical Engineer, you can also choose to be a Control Engineer building control systems for spaceships, or a Software Engineer developing code for cutting edge computer technology. Then there are other areas such as Power Engineering, Microelectronic Engineering and even Mechatronics, which is a combination of electrical and mechanical engineering.
The final major branch of our engineering tree is Civil Engineering, which deals with the design, construction and maintenance of physical and naturally built structures such as roads, bridges, dams, airports, pipelines and railways. Arguably the oldest engineering discipline, Civil Engineering is closely linked to architecture and the construction industry, which all combine to give us the physical infrastructure that surrounds us. There are numerous sub-disciplines within civil engineering which focus on different environments and aspects of physical infrastructure. As a Coastal or Marine Engineer you’ll design and build structures in coastal regions or even out in the ocean. As a Structural Engineer you’ll make sure our bridges and buildings are safe and a Transport Engineer you’ll focus on moving people and goods safely and efficiently. You could even end up as a Water Resource Engineer and help to fight off the next Day Zero.
Believe it or not, there are even more sub-disciplines of engineering that don’t fit nicely into the above categories. One of the most important is Mining Engineering, which is a very sought after skill in South Africa given the importance of mining to our economy. Mining Engineering applies science and technology to the extraction of minerals from the earth and is closely associated with other disciplines such as geology, metallurgy, and surveying.
Career Wise Engineering Bursaries
It wouldn’t be fair to tell you about the amazing opportunities within engineering without giving you some info on how you can fund your engineering qualification. Here is a list of the Career Wise bursaries for engineering degrees (i.e. check out our bursaries page for more detail).
Anglo Thermal Coal: Mechanical, Electrical and Mining Engineering
Johannesburg Water: Civil Engineering
South32: Mechanical, Electrical and Mining Engineering
Petra Diamonds: Mechanical, Electrical and Mining Engineering
Black Mountain: Mechanical, Electrical and Mining Engineering
Gibela Rail: Mechanical, Electrical and Industrial Engineering
De Beers: Mechanical, Electrical and Mining Engineering
PPC: Mechanical, Electrical and Mining Engineering
Nestle: Mechanical, Electrical Industrial and Chemical Engineering
As you can see, Engineering is a vast, interesting field that works at the forefront of technology to make our lives safer, more convenient and more exciting. This article has been a broad summary and we encourage you to do more research about the specific field you are interested in and hopefully discover your passion!