Humanitarian Engineering

Use your diverse skills in Engineering to help individuals and communities in need

UNSW Engineering students in Uganda

Want to use your skills in engineering to help build a better world for individuals and communities? A career as a Humanitarian Engineer could be perfect for you. So what is Humanitarian Engineering and what kind of work does studying Humanitarian Engineering in Australia lead to? 

What is Humanitarian Engineering?

Humanitarian Engineering is the application of engineering to improve living conditions for individuals and communities living in disadvantage. It meets the needs of communities and, in particular, focuses on appropriate and sustainable solutions devised in partnership with the communities. Humanitarian engineering covers a range of activities in Australia and overseas from community welfare and disaster relief, response and preparedness to long-term sustainable community development and social change.

Why study Humanitarian Engineering?

Within this minor, you’ll study a humanitarian activities like disaster response and preparedness and long-term sustainable community development in Australia and overseas.

Combine your engineering skills with a passion for humanitarian issues to address problems and look towards solutions in alignment with:

  • the UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • the Sendai Framework
  • international humanitarian relief efforts.

Why choose UNSW?

The Humanitarian Engineering minor has extensive partnerships across the globe and teachers who’ve been in the field, working in aid settings and hands-on in disadvantaged communities. Be a part of the new generation of global leaders solving the greatest challenges. Together with a diverse group of like-minded peers, you can engineer a sustainable world. We're ranked #1 in Australia for Engineering and Technology and 31st globally according to the QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2024. Our School of Engineering is the largest of its kind in Australia and we have strong connections with industry partners to set you up for success in your career.

What about careers?

In an increasingly globalised world, humanitarian issues are at the forefront of wider global challenges, including climate change. Employers are looking for people who understand the fundamentals of engineering, with an expanded perspective and passion for global issues. You’ll be able to work in the private sector and/or multilateral agencies World Bank, United Nations Development Program, Asian Development Bank, UNESCO, UN Habitat and RedR Australia.

These include:

  • Project or Programme Manager in multilateral agencies
  • Disaster or displaced persons response staff 
  • Private sector development specialist
  • Academic or researcher in Humanitarian Engineering
  • NGO specialist
  • Government staff working on bilateral aid projects with DFAT

What does a humanitarian engineer do?

Careers in humanitarian engineering are highly rewarding. Humanitarian engineers analyse and design infrastructure and appropriate technology to support the environment and improve the standard of living and welfare of communities in disadvantaged circumstances. Their work is undertaken through partnership and engagement with those in need to identify solutions that are wanted, appropriate and sustainable. This includes communities in low and middle-income countries, as well as marginalised or remote communities in Australia.

Humanitarian engineering in Australia covers a breadth of humanitarian activities – from disaster response and preparedness to long-term sustainable community development within Australia and overseas. It is a complementary skill to existing engineering practice and prepares you to work in challenging and diverse situations to help disadvantaged and disempowered communities and individuals.

Skills of a humanitarian engineer

Humanitarian engineers are able to apply engineering skills, knowledge and methods to solving humanitarian problems. As well as a solid background in mathematics, natural sciences and computing, humanitarian engineers need to be aware of and work within the relevant cultural, social and economic constraints of the client community, practice engineering in a professional and ethical manner, and be able to communicate appropriately and effectively with relevant stakeholders. Humanitarian skills such as critical thinking and problem solving are also important for the successful planning and implementation of humanitarian projects.

Humanitarian engineering jobs

Humanitarian engineering jobs in Australia allow you to apply your expertise in engineering for change. Humanitarian engineering opens many opportunities and future career pathways as employers are looking for people who understand the fundamentals of engineering, with an expanded perspective and passion for global issues. UNSW Engineering graduates have volunteered with organisations like Engineering World Health or have established their own humanitarian engineering companies, social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations, such as Kua.

Other UNSW graduates have found a career working for multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, engineering consulting, and project management companies. These organisations recognise that humanitarian engineers have an enhanced set of skills to apply to all engineering work including technology development, creativity, communication, partnership engagement, and teamwork.

Why become a humanitarian engineer?

Become a humanitarian engineer and truly make a difference in the world, applying sustainable and innovative technologies to solve problems, help the disadvantaged and improve the quality of life of communities in need, both in Australia and internationally. Become part of a new generation of global leaders who support empowerment and aim to engineer a sustainable world.

How can I study Humanitarian Engineering?