Are engineers considered scientists? This question sparks quite a debate, and people have strong opinions on either side.
To get to the heart of the matter, let’s dive into the worlds of scientists and engineers and see what they’re all about.
Who is a scientist?
Picture a scientist, those curious minds asking the big questions we’ve all wondered about:
- Why is the sky blue?
- Why does the Moon have less gravity than Earth?
- What’s the deal with dreams?
To unravel these mysteries, scientists follow a process:
- Observe a problem
- Form a hypothesis
- Test the hypothesis
- Draw conclusions and refine the hypothesis
This is the scientific method, and it leads to new discoveries and a deeper understanding of the world around us.
Who is an engineer?
They’re the practical problem-solvers, the builders, and the innovators, making our lives more exciting and convenient. From airplanes and smartphones to cars and processed foods, engineers use scientific and mathematical principles to craft real-world solutions in creative, cost-effective ways.
Overlaps in engineering and scientific work in the 21st century
In the 21st century, the lines between engineers and scientists have blurred. They both dabble in each other’s work, and their roles can overlap depending on the industry and job. Sometimes, engineers and scientists might even be interchangeable.
Are engineers considered scientists?
Well, it really depends on what you’re up to during your workday. Picture this: if you’re researching the best ways to transfer power wirelessly, you might be more of a scientist. But if you’re designing wireless infrastructure using existing technology, then hey, you’re probably an engineer.
The thing is, both types of work share a lot of common ground, and they’re intertwined like a beautiful dance. Science demands a creative mind—you’ve got to cook up experimental designs and hypotheses, and sometimes, you’ll be explaining results without any direct observations to guide you.
Surprisingly, engineering needs a hearty dose of creativity too. That’s why I like to think of engineers as the Mozarts of their field.
Now, we all know scientists use the scientific method, but did you know engineers use it as well? They might not be pushing the boundaries of scientific laws, but they’re advancing their own engineering principles and theories. At the end of the day, they’re both working with the same set of tools.
Plus, engineers and scientists rely on each other, proving their interdependence. Just take a look at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)—advancements in physics hinged on engineers building the LHC, while discoveries by physicists opened up a world of possibilities for design engineers.
The bottom line? It’s not a huge leap for someone to bounce between engineering and scientific work.
Important Note: Engineers often “apply” information from textbooks and engineering research, which is just another form of research similar to scientific research.
The versatility of engineers
Let me tell you, the role of engineers today is anything but black and white. An engineering degree is like a Swiss army knife of versatility. I’d even compare the flexibility of engineers to today’s NBA players.
Back in the 1970s, if you towered over 6’8″, you’d be stuck playing forward or center, posting up with your back to the basket for easy shots. And if you dared to dribble too much or took long shots, you’d be warming the bench.
Fast forward to today, and those 6’8″ players can fill any position, commanding top dollar. They’re not only bringing the ball up the court but also living on the 3-point line. My point? Engineers have that same level of adaptability. You can work as a scientist, dive into marketing or sales, and do so much more. The sky’s the limit!
Do I think engineers are considered scientists?
When I think of a scientist, I imagine someone who’s all about uncovering the unknowns, while an engineer is more about working with what we already know.
No doubt, if you’re someone who digs deep to figure out how things work using the scientific method, you’re a scientist in my book. But engineering is a vast field, with some engineers dabbling in research and pushing the boundaries of technology – like those doing R&D. I’d say these folks are bona fide real-world scientists, just like the legendary Alexander Fleming, the guy who brought us penicillin!
And what about engineers who go on to get their PhDs in academia? They’re diving into research to make new discoveries, so I’d count them as scientists too.
Do I consider myself a scientist?
As an engineer by trade, I don’t see myself as a scientist. In fact, I’m not super keen on being labeled an engineer either, since everything is so intertwined nowadays.
Sure, I do some research here and there while solving problems, but I’m not out to discover anything groundbreaking. I’m not aiming to solve nuclear fusion; I’m just trying to fit existing puzzle pieces together to create something cool.
When I do research, I kinda-sorta use the scientific method. I don’t usually get too hung up on figuring out why a hypothesis fails, which some hardcore scientists might give me grief for. But for what I do, there’s no need for that level of deep diving.
In a nutshell, I’m more of an engineer than a scientist.
“Are engineers considered scientists?” wrap up
It all comes down to what you’re doing. Are you soaking up every last drop of knowledge about a topic? Or are you learning just enough to put that knowledge to practical use?
Here’s the kicker – you can actually do both engineering and scientific work. There’s no rule saying you can’t explore the unknown while also building awesome stuff.
The idea that a piece of paper defines what you can or can’t do is nuts. It’s all about your skills and interests, and how you choose to apply them.
So, what do you think? Are engineers considered scientists in your eyes? Do you think engineers lean on scientists more, or is it the other way around?
SUBSCRIBE TO ENGINEER CALCS NEWSLETTER
Author Bio: Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2019 to help people better understand the engineering and construction industry, and to discuss various science and engineering-related topics to make people think. He has been working in the engineering and tech industry in California for well over 15 years now and is a licensed professional electrical engineer, and also has various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Koosha has an extensive background in the design and specification of electrical systems with areas of expertise including power generation, transmission, distribution, instrumentation and controls, and water distribution and pumping as well as alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and storage).
Koosha is most interested in engineering innovations, the cosmos, sports, fitness, and our history and future.