What Does an Engineer Do? (Roles and Responsibilities)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Engineers use specialised skills and knowledge to help build and maintain machines and structures that may help businesses operate more efficiently and aid in one's daily life. Their job duties can vary based on the specific field and responsibilities, like calculating measurements for bridges or combining elements for medicine. Understanding what an engineering role entails may be helpful when looking at jobs and narrowing your interests. In this article, we learn what does an enginer do, look at some responsibilities for each of the six branches of engineering and provide tips on how to become one.

What is an engineer?

An engineer is a science professional who uses math, technology and different branches of science to solve problems. They use skills like research and design to create opportunities for businesses, individuals and other institutions to improve processes and to ensure the safety and compliance of existing solutions. This includes infrastructure, machines, vehicles, chemicals, organisations and electricity.

Related: 23 of the Best STEM Jobs in Hong Kong

What does an engineer do?

Most engineers perform similar tasks across all of their fields. Here are some of the common duties they perform:

  • Research: engineers often research their specific project needs, industry standards and similar projects. Researching provides them with the information needed to create innovative solutions for client problems.

  • Design: many engineers spend part of their time working in an office to design plans, blueprints, location maps or organisational charts. The design phase is important because the engineer might make many revisions to ensure safety, accuracy and possibility of the plans they model.

  • Oversee production: engineers in certain roles may work with the project manager to oversee budgets, timelines and development progress of projects. They might provide regular checks to ensure the measurements are correct and ensure they have the correct amount and types of materials for a project.

  • Test: engineers might test objects and infrastructure to ensure they work as planned. Testing can identify if there are any unidentified variables or if certain tools like machines worked differently than expected.

  • Repair: some engineers focus their careers on repairing objects. They might receive reports of an issue, identify the problem, decide on a solution and either solve the problem or recommend a solution.

6 types of engineers

There are six primary types of engineers you may consider when pursuing this field. Since each work environment is different, the role may require distinct skills and training to be successful at the job. Here are a list of main engineering types and some information about each:

1. Mechanical

Mechanical engineers combine physics and mathematics to design, develop, build and test machines and other mechanical equipment. Some subdivisions include mechanics, thermodynamics and robotics. Mechanical engineers might create or design smaller parts of larger machines or focus on larger machines like automobiles and space shuttles. Some mechanical engineering duties might include:

  • Analysing problems to see how machines might solve issues

  • Designing mechanical systems and processes

  • Developing and testing mechanical equipment

  • Overseeing manufacturing

  • Investigating mechanical failures or issues

2. Chemical

Chemical engineers work with raw materials and convert them into other materials. They might design the processes needed to produce and transport certain materials. Materials might include food, drugs, fuel or other materials that other engineers might use. Some specific job duties of a chemical engineer might include:

  • Researching how they might improve manufacturing processes

  • Defining safety standards and procedures when handling certain chemicals

  • Creating processes to show how people might separate and store liquids and gasses using controlled practice

  • Ensuring compliance with environmental and legal guidelines

  • Testing expected results for different chemical processes

3. Civil

Civil engineers design, develop and test large construction projects. This includes bridges, airports, roads, tunnels and other major infrastructure elements. They might work in both office settings designing infrastructure components and systems and on-site overseeing construction and manufacturing. Some common duties of civil engineers include:

  • Analysing plans, maps and other documents to identify areas for improvement and recommend design projects

  • Creating and managing project budgets and timelines

  • Ensuring projects follow governmental standards and are environmentally safe

  • Requesting permits to complete projects

  • Overseeing land surveying and plotting to ensure measurements are accurate and plans don't require changes

  • Managing repairs and maintenance for infrastructures like roads, bridges and water systems.

4. Electrical

Electrical engineers work with equipment in homes, businesses and other locations to ensure safe and steady electrical operations. During their education, they may learn information about currents, energy, standards and safety that they can then apply in their careers. Their jobs might involve research, design, development, testing and repair for electrical equipment. Some common duties of an electrical engineer include:

  • Determining how they can use electrical powers for business, home or industrial solutions

  • Calculating specifications and details to ensure safe installation

  • Writing safety procedures and standards

  • Repairing damaged electrical equipment

  • Inspecting electrical equipment to ensure it's up to code

  • Working with project managers to assess timelines and budgets for projects

5. Management

Management engineering uses engineering principles and designs and applies them to processes and workplaces. They often focus on improving processes, reducing spend and increasing efficiency at a company. Some duties of a management engineer include:

  • Designing workflows for an organisation

  • Advising on scheduling and resourcing

  • Advising on organisational structure

  • Planning physical workplace layouts based on their needs

  • Collecting data through custom questionnaires

  • Providing cost-benefit analyses.

Related: 15 Project Management Skills Every Manager Should Have

6. Geotechnical

Geotechnical engineering is the branch of engineering that uses earth materials for design, building and testing. This includes soil, rocks, water and other natural resources to solve engineering problems. Using concepts like rock mechanics and soil mechanics, engineers might use geotechnical principles for mining, the military, petroleum and offshore digging. Some duties of a geotechnical engineer might include:

  • Providing recommendations for construction projects based on land analysis

  • Researching and analysing geological trends and data

  • Organising and presenting construction site analyses

  • Obtaining compliance permits and ensuring existing project sites are compliant

How to become an engineer

Starting a career as an engineer can vary based on location and type of engineering. In most scenarios, you can follow these steps to become an engineer in Hong Kong:

1. Complete your secondary education

Strive for good marks in language, sciences and mathematics. At this stage, it helps to educate yourself on some of the current events around science and technology. While completing your studies, consider what branch of engineering you want to explore.

2. Earn a degree from accredited programmes

Next, it's important to complete tertiary education with an HKIE (The Hong Kong Institute of Engineers) recognised accreditation programme. These can be at certain schools that offer bachelor's degree programmes in engineering or computer science. During this education, you learn the basic engineering knowledge and communication skills that can help as you start your career. Consider joining clubs and societies at your institute that can help further your knowledge and build your network.

3. Start scheme A training through an accredited employer

Considered a training period, you can work as a basic engineer in your field through an accredited employer. The HKIE accredits these programmes that can last around two years. The employer assesses trainees attending this programme to ensure it's preparing them with skills and knowledge to work in the field sufficiently.

4. Gain experience

The next few years are where you'll gain more advanced professional training. You may still require the supervision of engineering staff as you start in this role, but will gain more practical experience and knowledge. Like scheme A, this is typically at least two years.

5. Take the assessment

Prior to becoming a fully certified engineer in Hong Kong, you take an accreditation test that verifies your knowledge in your area. This includes a written test and an interview. Some areas they might ask you about include planning, design, technology, manufacturing maintenance and safety.

6. Continue education

The HKIE offers several continuing professional development programs in these areas:

  • Occupational safety and health

  • Environment, IT, quality and other technical matters

  • General and professional matters

HKIE partners with industry leaders to provide courses that can help you learn the latest in the industry. Depending on your accreditation, you might need to renew it every few years.

Related: How To Create an Individual Development Plan (With Template)

7. Prepare a CV

Once you're a certified professional, you can prepare your CV and explore job opportunities in the engineering industry. Include your educational history, professional history and training and skills you developed during your accreditation. Preparing a well-written CV, which highlights what you've learned, may help when pursuing the role.

Related: 6 Universal Skills for Writing Your CV

Average salary of an engineer

The average salary for engineers in Hong Kong is $344,145 per year and can vary depending on the field, a candidate's experience and the location. For example, a management engineer may have a lower salary than a civil engineer, depending on the demands of the job and the hours required. When considering a role in this field, it's helpful to review the salary description of the company to see if it's the right fit for you.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article is affiliated with Indeed.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing.

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