An engineering degree can lead to a great salary and a highly stable and rewarding career in a variety of industry fields
The engineering field is often erroneously labeled as a one-track career. The conventional wisdom is that engineering attracts professionals with no social skills who wind up shooting missiles into space or creating new software applications by day and playing video games at night.
That illustration is a myth, although there are certainly engineers who excel in missile technology and software development, and who play Minecraft until the wee hours of the morning.
The reality is the engineering field is loaded with smart and engaging professionals who excel in a variety of occupations and with a range of interests.
One common denominator that does define the engineering field is that it is always at the top of the list of high-paying occupations. Engineers can take many paths to get to their dream engineering job, which will likely pay a handsome salary, with great benefits, that allow career professionals to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle as they ply their trade in one of the most lucrative fields in the employment marketplace.
In fact, the most recent “Top 25” list of highest-paying career occupations by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes five occupations that use professional engineers.
What engineering jobs pay the most? Let’s have a look:
Occupations that include engineers usually fall into the so-called “STEM” category (science, technology, engineering and math). All routinely call for a master’s degree or at least a bachelor's degree in an engineering field, with a high load of occupations-specific coursework.
Also, if you provide any direct service to the general public, you might also need to be certified via a licensing test to qualify for work.
With those hurdles out of the way, here’s a list of the top 10 engineering jobs in the U.S. We’re using engineering salary information from PayScale, an occupation salary data and information platform, Glassdoor, Zip Recruiter, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to form our list:
Engineers in the oil and gas sector routinely rank among the highest-paying engineering jobs. In 2019, petroleum engineers top PayScale’s list, with an “early career” pay of $94,500 and a mid-career salary range of $176,900. The overall average salary range for petroleum engineers is $110,000, as of 2019.
Electrical engineers can earn as little as $60,000 or as much as $142,000. Engineers in these fields are historically in high demand. Median salary clocks in at $96,000, according to the BLS. You’ll likely need an ABET accreditation that certifies bachelor's and master's degree programs in engineering, engineering technology, computing, and applied sciences, to qualify for higher pay.
Aerospace may well be one of the most compelling areas of engineering that drew young math and science students to the sector, with visions of Apollo missions and space station exploration fueling their rise in high school and college.
These days, aerospace engineers can ply their trade in several different areas, including aircraft and missile technology, aerodynamics and avionics. Pay is high at a startup annual salary at $66,300 and a mid-career salary of $113,000, according to PayScale. With the industry abuzz over blockchain in space and commercial travel to the moon, expect the aerospace sector to thrive in the next decade – and hire a load of new engineers to bring magic to the moon again.
Civil engineering professionals are in robust demand, as well, in a new decade. That’s especially the case with the nation’s infrastructure aging at best and crumbling at worst. Plus, with new green environmental practices on the rise across the globe, occupational growth should only increase. First time hires on the civil engineering front can expect to earn $57,500 with an upward path to $98,500 by mid-career.
Biomedical engineers meet at the intersection of medicine and engineering, with most of the sector's jobs coming from pharmaceutical, scientific data and research, and medical manufacturing companies. With biomedical engineers, it’s all the big breakthrough in an industry that thrives on medical advancements, and that’s exactly why biomedical engineers earn such hefty paychecks. Biomedical engineers start out in the $50,000 range in terms of salary, and are earning over $100,000 annually by mid-career. According to PayScale, the median annual salary for biomedical engineers stands at $65,000 heading into 2020.
A mechanical engineer may expect to apply his or her trade in a wide variety of industry jobs, as mechanical engineering is a broad, highly occupied workplace sector. Mechanical engineers can specialize in the material sciences, structural analysis, electricity, and dynamics and thermodynamics fields. Average salary stands at $84,000, with starting pay at around $64,000 and a mid-career average of $108,000.
An industrial engineer excels in the manufacturing and production industries, with many industrial engineers edging into the environmental arena, figuring out ways companies can “go green” and comply with government anti-waste, constructional and other environmental mandates. Average industrial engineering salaries stand at about $64,000, with mid-career average salaries at $84,000.
It’s hardly a surprise to see that the technology sector attracts a high volume of computer engineers, but compared to other engineering fields like manufacturing or industrial engineering, the high-tech engineer is a relatively new concept that has only emerged over the past 50 years. Now, with new game-breaking technologies on the rise like artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, and the internet of things, among others, demand for new computer engineers should be high in the 2020s. Right now, computer engineers can expect to earn about $70,000 with their first professional post and earn up to $116,000 in the middle portion of their careers.
Engineers who specialize in chemical studies don’t just work for chemical companies (although many do.) Chemical engineers also work in the manufacturing, electronics, and oil and gas sectors, in addition to many others. Pay is robust at $70,000 for new chemical engineers while mid-career salary growth rises to about $125,000. Median pay is $104,000 annually, according to the U.S. Labor Department and job growth is expect rise by 6% from 2018 to 2028.
While there aren’t all that many marine engineers (only about 500 graduate with marine engineering degrees each year), the pay is great for those who do choose the ocean as an engineering career path . Sometimes called naval architects, marine engineers can expect to haul in $92,000 annually, according to the BLS, with a faster-than-average growth rate of 9%.