Why Engineers Earn More – ThomasNet News

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Year after year, engineers are ranked among the highest-paid professionals in the U.S., both in terms of starting and mid-career salary.
Let’s look at the reasons why engineers command top-tier compensation, and what recent graduates, as well as experienced engineers, can expect to earn.
Good news for those about to graduate with engineering degrees: your education is going to pay off more than most other majors, despite the fact that the cost of college tuition continues to rise faster than many families can keep up with. Multiple sources report that careers in engineering pay well above the national average and become increasingly lucrative as experience builds over time.
According to a report released by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average salary for 2020 college grads was $55,260, which was a meager 2.5% increase from 2019’s average salary of $53,889. Meanwhile, student debt continues to soar 一 according to Student Loan Hero, a student debt management and consulting agency, 55% of the Class of 2020 graduating with a bachelor’s degree amassed student loans that averaged out to $28,400.
However, according to Indeed, entry-level engineering positions for recent grads yield an average starting salary of $62,059, depending on engineering type and location. In fact, according to U.S. News, more than half of the top 10 college degrees with the best starting salaries are engineering degrees.
The long-term earning potential for engineers is among the strongest in the U.S. job market, with several types of engineering being among the top-paying professions across the country. Topping the list is petroleum engineering, which according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, petroleum engineers earned a median salary of $130,850 in 2021, with the top-paid 10% earning more than $208,000. 
Ranked by median salary, the top-paying engineering fields are:
Petroleum Engineering
Computer Hardware Engineering
Aerospace Engineering
Nuclear Engineering
Chemical Engineering
Electrical and Electronics Engineering
Health and Safety Engineering
Materials Engineering
Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering
Mining and Geological Engineering
Environmental Engineering
Industrial Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture
Civil Engineering
Agricultural Engineering
Engineers’ high earnings are commensurate with the role’s required technical skills, which are extremely high in demand. Furthermore, many industries are becoming more technical in nature, which also drives up the need for engineers with both unique technical skills and soft skills.
Although the national unemployment rate is low, many industrial employers report being unable to fill a high number of open engineering positions. Known as the skills gap, hiring managers and CEOs attribute this disparity to a lack of qualified candidates. Engineers are well paid to aid in recruitment and to recognize their unique skill set in the industry.
One of the biggest challenges engineers face once they’re out of school and working is keeping up with the fast-paced evolution of technology and industry.
To maintain relevancy and sharpen their competitive edge, many engineers spend a portion of their careers expanding their knowledge and skillsets through continued training and education, including college courses, seminars, and conferences.
While even just a bachelor’s degree in engineering is a worthwhile investment, higher degrees carry greater earning power. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for mechanical engineers in 2021 was $95,300, with the highest 10% earning upwards of $136,210. As Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering points out, earning a master’s degree delivers about a 20% higher salary than a bachelor’s degree for a mechanical engineer. 
There are also a wide variety of certifications and licenses that engineers can obtain, such as a Professional Engineer license. According to a 2020 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), civil engineers with a Professional Engineer license earned a median salary of $121,000, which was $31,000 more than civil engineers that had not earned a professional license or any certifications.  
In its Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that architecture and engineering jobs will increase by 6% between 2020 and 2030, meaning that not only is the engineering field a massively lucrative one, it’s also teeming with opportunity. 

This article was originally written by Christian Bonawandt and updated by Kristin Manganello.
Image Credit: Pand P Studio / Shutterstock.com
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