Practice engineering without specializing in a particular discipline.
What does a General Engineer do?
General Engineers are Engineers who know all the fundamentals of engineering — math, science, and design — but don’t focus on a single engineering discipline. They don’t specialize in civil, chemical, or mechanical engineering, but they know a little bit about a lot of things.
By way of comparison, Engineers are like ice cream: They come in many flavors. Mechanical Engineers, for instance, design mechanical equipment and machinery. Civil Engineers design bridges and roads. Software Engineers design computer software. And Aerospace Engineers design airplanes and spacecraft. When you’re a General Engineer, you’re the “vanilla” of engineering: You’re a base flavor to which other ingredients can be added to make a new custom concoction.
Because a General Engineer is a generalist instead of a specialist, your job varies widely depending on where you work, which could range from an engineering and design firm to an oil company to a government agency. Typically, however, you’re either an entry-level Engineer who will eventually go to graduate school to develop a specialty, or an Engineer who works on a multitude of different projects for a single company, focusing on engineering fundamentals. In the latter case, you could help design a power plant one day and a manufacturing plant the next. Because you’re not just an Electrical Engineer or just a Mechanical Engineer, you can more easily transition between many types of projects.
Ultimately, though, the “general” in “General Engineer” is more relevant to your job title than to your job description, as you have the same duties and responsibilities as any other type of Engineer: You develop plans, specifications, calculations, and cost estimates for the design of new products, processes, and projects. In other words, you solve problems.