Within the sphere of science and technology, engineering is the study of design, buildings, and structures. At its core, engineers use science and mathematics to design and build structures – from buildings to bridges to dams – machines – from cars to the robots that build cars – and roads. Engineering and the built environment is the backbone of society as it helps communities to thrive by solving problems and making diverse systems work

What is Engineering?

Within the sphere of science and technology, engineering is the study of design, buildings, and structures. At its core, engineers use science and mathematics to design and build structures – from buildings to bridges to dams – machines – from cars to the robots that build cars – and roads. Engineering and the built environment is the backbone of society as it helps communities to thrive by solving problems and making diverse systems work.


The societal and business contributions of engineering can be seen in almost every aspect of civilization, including transportation, medicine and even entertainment. Communities can adapt to the changing world by means of creative engineering solutions.


The main sectors of the engineering profession include but are not limited to:

  1. Aeronautical engineering – this engineering discipline is concerned with the development of aircraft. Avionics engineering is similar, though it is focused on the electronics side of aerospace engineering.
  2. Agricultural engineering – this discipline focuses on agricultural production and processing. It combines mechanical, civil, chemical and electrical engineering with food science and agricultural principles according to technological standards.
  3. Civil Engineering – this discipline incorporates the design, construction, and maintenance of the built environment. In particular, it includes public works such as roads, bridges, canals, dams, airports, sewerage systems, pipelines, railways and the structural parts of buildings.
  4. Computer Engineering – this branch of engineering integrates several fields of computer science and electronic engineering to develop computer hardware and software.
  5. Chemical Engineering – this discipline uses the tenets of chemistry, physics, mathematics, biology and economics to use, produce, design, transport and transform energy and materials in an efficient way.
  6. Electrical Engineering – this discipline focuses on studying, designing and applying equipment, devices and systems that use electricity, electronics and electromagnetism.
  7. Electronic Engineering – this is a discipline within electrical engineering that uses nonlinear and active electrical components to design electronic circuits, devices, integrated circuits and their systems.
  8. Environmental Engineering – this professional engineering discipline incorporates broad scientific topics like chemistry, biology, ecology, geology, hydraulics, hydrology, microbiology, and mathematics to engineer solutions that protect and improve the health of living organisms and the quality of the environment.
  9. Industrial Engineering – this discipline focuses on optimising complex processes, systems, or organisations – such as in the manufacturing industry – by developing, improving and implementing integrated systems of people, money, knowledge, information, equipment, energy and materials.
  10. Mechanical Engineering – this branch of engineering fuses engineering physics and mathematics principles with materials science to design, analyse, manufacture, and maintain mechanical systems.
  11. Metallurgical Engineering – this field of engineering studies the physical and chemical behaviour of metallic elements, their inter-metallic compounds, and their mixtures (alloys).
  12. Mining Engineering – this focuses on extracting minerals from below, above or on the ground. It is associated with many other technical disciplines, including mineral processing, exploration, excavation, geology, metallurgy, geotechnical engineering and surveying.


Energy supply constraints, rising electricity costs and logistics expenses are giving rise to innovation in renewable energy sources and sustainable engineering. On-going success in the profession, therefore, rests with the ability of individuals to think outside the box and engage new solutions.


Below are a few titles that one can hold as a qualified engineer:

  • Civil Engineer – Designs, builds and maintains infrastructure projects such as buildings, roads and bridges
  • Construction Manager – Supervises various operations within a building project
  • Project Manager – Produces accurate and biddable plans of execution for construction or other engineering projects
  • Electrical Engineer – Develops and maintains electrical equipment
  • Quality Engineer – Provides statistical information for quality improvement to aid research and development
  • Process or Industrial Engineer – Develops industrial processes to make products
  • Software Engineer – Researches and designs new or modified software products.
What are the employment opportunities?
  • The field of engineering is continuously progressing and evolving, necessitating innovative and industry-leading skill sets. Information technology and automation remain high demand fields of engineering with civil, petroleum and IT being leaders in growth opportunities.


    Some of the more recent roles that a qualified engineer can look forward to being hired into include:

    • Data Science and Machine Learning
    • Automation and Robotics Engineering
    • Alternative Energy Sources Engineering
    • Project Engineering


    There are a wide range of industries in the public and private sector that offer opportunities for engineers with a diverse set of skills. Some of these include:

    • National and local government
    • State Owned Enterprises
    • Mining Organizations
    • Architectural Services
    • Consulting Services
    • Commercial and Industrial Developers
    • Healthcare
    • Computer Manufacturing
    • Telecommunications
    • Transportation
    • Oil and Gas Industries
    • Research and Development Science and Academia


    The typical career path of an engineer will resemble the below progression:

  • Junior Engineer
  • Senior Engineer
  • Principal Engineer
  • Director of Engineering
What skills and qualifications do I need?

To obtain admission in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, students must first obtain the National Senior Certificate that enables degree studies and also meet the required admission point score as specified by different universities. Likely or guaranteed acceptance to a university for engineering studies usually requires 80% or above pass in Mathematics and Physical Science.

Once qualified, enhancing and developing skills and knowledge in engineering is paramount to career progression and success. This skill set is not limited to technical ability alone but also necessitates that the engineer be fluent in the development of personal qualities as well. Continuous development and a lifetime of acquiring knowledge and skills enables the true value of a professional to be realised. Through membership with voluntary engineering associations or learned societies like SAICE, various affordable CPD opportunities are made available to the professional.

It is necessary for every young professional engineer to be an active member of an engineering association such as SAICE, in order to establish and grow influence in the industry and in professional development. Growing a network with like-minded individuals and colleagues in the industry enhances access to career opportunities and ensures that one is up to date with the latest best practices in the sector.

Formal University Degree Options:

  • Bachelor of Science (Engineering) (BSc Eng Honours)
  • Master of Science in a specialized Engineering field (MSc Eng)
  • PhD of Science in a specialized Engineering field (Phd Eng)

University of Technology Degree Options:

  • Bachelor of Engineering Technology (B.Eng Tech)
  • Bachelor of Engineering (B. Eng.)
  • Master of Engineering field (M. Eng)
  • Doctorate of Engineering field (D. Eng)


Who are the main Graduate Employers?
  • WSP
  • Worley
  • Zutari

This article was developed by SAICE – The South African Institution of Civil Engineering


The South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) is an industry body that aims to advance professional knowledge and improves the practice of civil engineering among members. Through industry leading knowledge and information, SAICE enables members to provide the community with environmentally sustainable solutions. Specialized educational platforms are accessed to members with skills which advance the technical, managerial and communication landscape. Several benefits are at the disposal of students and young graduates including ECSA membership reduction and the facilitation of professional registration on behalf of ECSA. This includes interviews and facilitation of the exam process. Other benefits include access to the bookshop, the EngAge Digital Digest, a bi-weekly newsletter, and a monthly magazine. Students also have the opportunity to network and learn from industry professionals through local and virtual events and webinars.

Link to the SAICE website:

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