The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) defines engineering as "that profession in which knowledge of the mathematical and natural sciences gained by study, experience, and practice is applied with judgment to develop ways to utilize, economically, the materials and forces of nature for the benefit of mankind." An engineer's goal is to solve a problem or design a new product according to specifications to meet a predetermined set of needs or requirements. For example, electrical engineers working for a company that designs an electronic consumer product may perform tests on the electrical components of that product to ensure they meet safety standards and perform according to goals. They may also be asked to recommend new designs or materials for products under development. A civil engineer may be asked to design a new bridge, road, or overpass that will remain structurally sound for many years.
While the engineering industry consists of many types of engineers, in general, engineers will be concerned with one or more of the following five areas: research, development, application, management, and maintenance. The areas an engineer focuses on depends on the goals or needs of the engineer's employer. Engineers work for commercial businesses, governmental organizations, and academic and research institutions. Each of these types of organizations has its own mission for which the engineer must also be focused. For example, a city government may ask its civil engineers to test materials for a proposed design for a bridge or overpass that will be built.
Engineers' contributions to society and the economy are far-reaching. From Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids to the early cities in Greece, humankind has been engineering solutions to problems and to improve our daily lives for centuries. In fact, civilization's development is often measured according to these engineering accomplishments. The first cities of Mesopotamia in 3000