30+ Highest Paying Engineering Career Paths

By Henry R. Steele - July 30, 2018
Reading Time: 11 minutes

This article discusses the important aspects of an engineering career. You will learn what engineering is, where they work, job duties, how to become one, career paths, specialties, and more.

What We Do?

Engineering is applying science and math to solve various problems in the real world. Engineers determine how things work and find uses for new scientific discoveries. While scientists and inventors frequently get credit for innovations that advance society, it is the engineers who are key to make these innovations and inventions available to people on a broad scale.

Engineering is one of the major parts of STEM education, which is an interdisciplinary area of study designed to teach students about science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Engineers do such things as design, evaluate, develop, test, modify, install, inspect and maintain many types of products and systems. They recommend and specify processes and materials, supervise designs of construction projects and manufacturing, do failure analysis and offer engineering consulting services.

Job Duties

There are many types of engineer. One of the most common and broadest fields is mechanical engineering. Duties of mechanical engineers include:

  • Analyze engineering problems to see how thermal and mechanical devices may be used to solve a problem
  • Design or redesign mechanical and thermal devices using computer aided design and analysis
  • Investigate failures of equipment or difficulties to find out if a device is faulty and recommend repairs
  • Develop and test product prototypes
  • Analyze results of tests and change the design if needed
  • Provide oversight of manufacturing processes for the device

Some of the most common mechanical engineering specialties are:

  • Auto research engineer: Works to improve the performance of cars, such as suspension, aerodynamics and fuels.
  • Heating and cooling systems engineers: Create and maintain effective environmental systems where humidity and temperatures need to be kept in certain limits.
  • Robotic engineers: Plan, build and maintain various types of robots.

Where We Work

There are approximately 288,800 mechanical engineers working in the US today. The largest employers of mechanical engineers are:

  • Architectural, engineering and related services: 22%
  • Machinery manufacturing: 13%
  • Transportation equipment manufacturing: 12%
  • Scientific research and development services: 7%
  • Computer and electronic product manufacturing: 7%

Some of the best cities to work in for engineers are:

  • Warner Robins GA: Home of Robins Air Force Base
  • Huntsville AL: Home of NASA flight center and an Army arsenal
  • Palm Bay FL: Major center of telecommunications and semiconductor manufacturing
  • Warren MI: Major hub of auto manufacturing
  • San Jose CA: Great area for software engineers
  • Houston TX: Oil and petroleum engineers do well here
  • Midland TX: Key industries are oil and gas and aerospace
  • Decatur AL: Home of a United Launch Alliance facility
  • Kennewick WA: Major manufacturer of renewable energy parts and products
  • Dayton OH: Home of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

How to Become

To get going in an engineering career, you will need to have one of the many types of engineering degrees in one of the disciplines of engineering. You usually need to have courses in mathematics and the life and physical sciences, as well as engineering and design. Some universities offer a five year program that allow you to get your bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering at the same time.

Employment/Salaries

The engineering occupations are generally experiencing a positive trend, with 7% increase in demand from 2016 to 2026, which is about as fast as average when compared to other occupations. It is expected about 194,300 new engineering jobs will be added in this period.

Salary and job demand for engineers depends in part on the specific field of engineering. In electrical engineering, there will be 7% increase in job demand through 2026, with a median salary of $95,000. The median salary for electronics engineers is $102,000.

Job demand for mechanical engineers will rise by 9% by 2026, which is faster than average. The median salary for these engineers is $85,800.

Employment for civil engineers will rise by 11% through 2026, which is faster than average for all occupations. The median salary for civil engineers is $84,700.

For software engineers, the median salary is $82,700 with a range between $59,000 and $120,000.

Engineering Career Paths

Engineering is applying science and math to solve various problems in the real world. Engineers determine how things work and find uses for new scientific discoveries. While scientists and inventors frequently get credit for innovations that advance society, it is the engineers who are key to make these innovations and inventions available to people on a broad scale.

Engineering is one of the major parts of STEM education, which is an interdisciplinary area of study designed to teach students about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Engineers do such things as design, evaluate, develop, test, modify, install, inspect and maintain many types of products and systems. They recommend and specify processes and materials, supervise designs of construction projects and manufacturing, do failure analysis and offer engineering consulting services.

There are many types of engineering fields in which you can specialize, including the following:

Aerospace Engineer

  • Responsibilities: Concerns studying air and space travel, and may include military aircraft design, as well as the development of satellite and commercial airline design.
  • Salary Range: $60,000 to $130,000, median $82,150
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering
  • Skills Required: Computer software, mathematics, drafting, critical thinking, business, and analytical skills.

Biomechanical Engineer

  • Responsibilities: Study of mechanics and organisms, and how the two are used to solve complex engineering problems at the biomechanical level. This field is growing fast and some of the problems being decided today are serious environmental issues, such as how to control waste and keep water bodies free of all kinds of pollution.
  • Salary Range: $49,000 to $93,000, median $64,400
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Science in Biomechanical Engineering
  • Skills Required: Engineering, mathematics, biomedical science, chemistry, and medicine

Blockchain Engineer

  • Responsibilities: Specialize in the creation and implementing of digital solutions for companies using blockchain. Develop and implement assets, accelerators and help companies to establish the infrastructure to use Bitcoin and Ethereum, among others.
  • Salary Range: $122,000 to $179,000
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Computer Science, Master of Software Engineering, various online blockchain development courses.
  • Skills Required: Engineering, C++, Java/C#, Bitcoin Core, Blockchain App, understanding of Bitcoin and altcoins, object-oriented programming, software development, Android/iOS mobile applications.

Automotive Engineer

  • Responsibilities: An automotive engineer is involved in the production and design of many types of vehicles designed for the road. Involves the production and design of vehicles. This is a very diverse industry, and engineers with this specialty could work in such areas as mechanical design, manufacturing, performance, and electrical engineering. manufacturing, electrical engineering, and systems management.
  • Salary Range: $48,000 to $100,000, median $73,900
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Science in Automotive Engineering
  • Skills Required: CAD software, electronic circuitry, engineering, computer science, mechanical engineering.

Chemical Engineer

  • Responsibilities: A chemical engineer is engaged in practical applications of chemistry. This specialty deals with technology that features chemical reactions to solve complex problems in the real world. Chemical engineers create all types of products that we use every day, including foods, beverages, pharmaceuticals, and cleaners.
  • Salary Range: $53,000 to $110,000, median $73,000
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Science in Chemical Engineering.
  • Skills Required: Proficiency in computers, software, automated chemical equipment, spectrometers, mathematics.

Environmental Engineer

  • Responsibilities: This is a sub specialty of chemical engineering that involves studying science and engineering to enhance our environment. Environmental engineers work on improving the quality of air, food, and water. They also study what effects humans have on the environment, such as pollution that occurs from manufacturing and construction.
  • Salary Range: $48,000 to $95,000, median $63,700
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Science in Environmental Engineering.
  • Skills Required: Mathematics, chemistry, biology

Civil Engineer

  • Responsibilities: Involves development of infrastructure, including buildings, roads, railways, bridges and general construction project management. Also, play key roles in various rebuilding projects after a natural disaster. Can work in a private or public setting.
  • Salary Range: $49,000 to $98,000, median $64,500
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Science in Civil Engineering
  • Skills Required: Good knowledge of mathematics, CAD software and engineering design software.

Structural Engineer

  • Responsibilities: This is a special type of civil engineer that specializes in designing various structures, such as homes, commercial buildings, museums, stores etc. Structural engineers must understand how buildings are built and how corrosion and erosion affect them.
  • Salary Range: $51,000 to $94,000, median $66,500
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Science in Civil Engineering.
  • Skills Required: Civil engineering, mathematics, CAD software, structural engineering.

Industrial Engineer

  • Responsibilities: Increase productivity and to reduce spending and waste with proper engineering and design. Industrial engineers are used to make companies more efficient and also to test in-house processes and gauge employee productivity.
  • Salary Range: $50,000 to $76,000, median $65,300
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Science in Civil Engineering.
  • Skills Required: Civil engineering, mathematics, mechanical engineering

Architectural Engineer

  • Responsibilities: Work in planning, construction, and design phase of architectural projects. They are mostly focused on the structure of buildings and interior design. Their work includes such specialties as ventilation, heating, air conditioning, fire protection and electrical.
  • Salary Range: $43,000 to $99,000, median $64,000
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Science in Architectural Engineering.
  • Skills Required: CAD software, licensed by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, mathematics, strong oral and written communications skills.

Electrical Engineer

  • Responsibilities: This very important specialty of engineering concerns the study of energy, which is available in various forms, such as hydro, electrical, wind and solar. These engineers devise methods and technologies to apply different types of energy to assorted engineering projects. Electrical engineers may design parts for electrical apparatuses, automobiles and power grids.
  • Salary Range: $56,000 to $110,000, median $73,300
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Science in Electrical Engineering.
  • Skills Required: Engineering, math, science, thinking creatively, oral communications skills, engineering software

Computer Engineer

  • Responsibilities: A specialty of electrical engineering that focuses on the computer and IT industries. It combines the fields of computer science and electrical engineering. Engineers may work in networking, telecommunications, software application development, or even manufacturing. Newer areas of the field include application development network security and Web development.
  • Salary Range: $60,000 to $120,000, median $83,300
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Science in Computer Engineering.
  • Skills Required: Computer programming, software programming, computer science

Electronics Engineer

  • Responsibilities: An electronics engineer designs and builds electronic equipment. Works with switchboards, circuits, and various electronic configurations to devise electronic devices, including smart tablets and smartphones.
  • Salary Range: $49,000 to $120,000, median $75,600
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Science in Electronics Engineering.
  • Skills Required: Computer hardware and software coding skills, certification from American Association of Engineers.

Mechatronics Engineer

  • Responsibilities: This is a combination of mechanical and electronics engineering. Most mechanical equipment today is a combination of software and electronics that are based on computers and technology.
  • Salary Range: $59,500 to $114,500, median $80,500
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
  • Skills Required: Computer, software and hardware experience.

Robotics Engineer

  • Responsibilities: A robotics engineer focuses on automation and the use of machines to assist with repetitive tasks, many of which are in the manufacturing field. Robotics engineers are responsible for designing robotic technology and the creation of maintenance systems to achieve ideal efficiency with robots.
  • Salary Range: $55,000 to $120,000, median $80,800
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Science in Robotic Engineering.
  • Skills Required: Mechanical, software or electrical engineering skills; vast grasp of design, manufacturing and automated systems, analytical and critical thinking.

Microelectronic Engineer

  • Responsibilities: A robotics engineer focuses on automation and the use of machines to assist with repetitive tasks, many of which are in the manufacturing field. Robotics engineers are responsible for designing robotic technology and the creation of maintenance systems to achieve ideal efficiency with robots.
  • Salary Range: $50,000 to $110,000, median $72,600
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Science in Electronics
  • Skills Required: Mathematics, electronic engineering, semiconductors, millimeter and microwave integrated circuits.

Management Engineer

  • Responsibilities: Combines assorted specialties of engineering with training in business management training to give you the skills and abilities to manage the most complex engineering projects and to manage large engineering teams. A degree in management engineering arms you with management and business training.
  • Salary Range: $67,000 to $130,000, median $100,100
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Business Administration in Engineering.
  • Skills Required: Various specialties of engineering, mathematics, business, and management skills.

Manufacturing Engineer

  • Responsibilities: Core responsibilities are in manufacturing processes, QC systems, and machinery. Manufacturing is 20% of US GDP, so it is vital that manufacturing engineers boost manufacturing efficiency. Includes materials science, manufacturing technology and automation.
  • Salary Range:$51,000 to $88,000, median $66,900
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Manufacturing Engineering.
  • Skills Required: Deep grasp of math, physics, and strong computer skills.

Petroleum Engineer

  • Responsibilities: This engineer works with the extraction of gas and oil under the earth. Also work with coming up with new extraction methods and technologies, such as new methods that have a higher level of efficiency and are less harmful to the environment.
  • Salary Range: $60,000 to $170,000, median $100,900
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Petroleum Engineering.
  • Skills Required: Mathematics, software, CAD software, mechanical engineering.

Materials Science Engineer

  • Responsibilities: Study of materials and way they act in a certain way or react to things in such a way. The most common materials these engineers work with are plastics, ceramics and polymers.
  • Salary Range: $56,000 to $100,000, median $73,400
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Materials Science Engineering
  • Skills Required: Mathematics, software, CAD software, skilled in schematic interpretation and material properties, familiar with mechanical and digital tools.

Agriculture Engineer

  • Responsibilities: How to apply engineering in the agricultural industry to help with farming. This can include conserving soil, ground preparation, farm machinery design and irrigation.
  • Salary Range: $40,000 to $120,000, median $60,900
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Agricultural Engineering
  • Skills Required: Agricultural materials, automated irrigation systems, environmental sciences and crop nutrition

Paper Engineer

  • Responsibilities: This is a specialization of chemical engineering, involves understanding the chemical and mechanical aspects of paper production. Requires research based work and the practical assessment of laboratory work.
  • Salary Range: $42,000 to $101,000, median $76,000
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Chemical Engineering
  • Skills Required: Molecular science, fluid mechanics and wood pulping.

Geological Engineer

  • Responsibilities: Combines engineering and research for mining and construction projects. Works often with construction firms to assess ground conditions and natural hazards, including earthquakes and tremors before commencing construction.
  • Salary Range: $41,000 to $89,000, median $60,500
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Geological Engineering.
  • Skills Required: Mechanical engineering, fluid dynamics, mathematics, geology

 Biomedical Engineer

  • Responsibilities: Applies principles and problem-solving techniques of engineering to medicine and biology. Biomedical engineering is vital to healthcare, as there are so many implantable medical devices today, including artificial hips and pacemakers. These engineers use advanced principles of biology in their modern engineering designs.
  • Salary Range: $49,000 to $93,000, median $64,400
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Biomedical Engineering
  • Skills Required: Engineering, medicine, chemistry, mathematics

Nuclear Engineer

  • Responsibilities: Work for consulting firms, power plants and government agencies to grow the use of nuclear power. Designing, implementing and maintaining nuclear plants are major parts of their duties.
  • Salary Range: $61,000 to $130,000, median $83,600
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Nuclear Engineering
  • Skills Required: Mechanical and civil engineering, proficient with GEANT, MATLAB and related codes.

Marine Engineer

  • Responsibilities: Applies knowledge to the development of advanced ocean technologies, such as fixed and floating structures, pontoons and jetties, power generation for boats and propulsion. Developing new types of energy that rely on oceans and wind farms.
  • Salary Range: $64,000 to $96,000, median $85,000
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Marine Biology
  • Skills Required: Mechanical engineering, marine biology, computer science, knowledge of ship fuel intake systems.

Software Engineer

  • Responsibilities: Applies engineering principles to the designing, developing and maintenance of computer software. Software engineers must be able to design software that is dependable, usable, efficient and easy to maintain. These engineers work in development and evolution, concept creation, design, integration and testing.
  • Salary Range: $60,000 to $120,000, median $83,300
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Software Engineering.
  • Skills Required: Coding, computer science, programming, mathematics

Photonics Engineering

  • Responsibilities: Photonic engineers work with the exploration of light, such as generation of light, processing of light signals, modulation and amplification of light.
  • Salary Range: $39,000 to $99,000, median $69,400
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Electrical Engineering
  • Skills Required: Computer programming, electrical and related engineering, physics

Nanotechnology Engineer

  • Responsibilities: Nanotechnology engineering is the study of very small elements of molecules and single atoms, as well as the production of very tiny devices. Nanotechnology engineers may be able to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems in health and the environment.
  • Salary Range: $$57,300 to $160,200, median $107,200
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Nanotechnology Engineering
  • Skills Required: Engineering, analytical skills, IT skills, coding skills, mathematics

Mining Engineer

  • Responsibilities: Studying the extraction of mined materials from the earth in a way that is safe, economical and environmentally friendly. Mining engineers may work in machinery production and design, mine construction and mine design. May also work closely with geologists to discover better extraction techniques.
  • Salary Range: $54,000 to $120,000, median $76,200
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Mining Engineering
  • Skills Required: Mining engineering, geology, civil engineering

Ceramics Engineer

  • Responsibilities: Develop products from ceramics, which are nonmetal and nonorganic materials produced by heating and cooling. Generally better than metals because of their heat and cool resistance.
  • Salary Range: $65,000 to $106,800, median $87,000
  • Education Required: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Master of Chemical Engineering
  • Skills Required: Chemical engineering, mathematics, knowledge of producing materials at high temperature

Training and Certifications

To enjoy the best and most rewarding engineering career, you may want to earn various engineering certifications.

One of the major certifications to consider is the Professional Engineer (PE) certification offered by the National Society of Professional Engineers. To earn your PE, you must first have a four year college degree in one of the major engineering disciplines, and work under a Professional Engineer for at least four years. Then, you must pass two competency examinations and earn your license from the state licensure board. To retain your license, you must maintain and improve your engineering skills throughout the years.

The PE designation is very important for the progress of your career. Here are some of the most important reasons:

  • Only an engineer that is licensed can prepare, sign, seal and submit engineering plans to a public entity for approval.
  • PEs take the responsibility for not just their work but also for the lives that are affected by that work. They must hold themselves to the highest ethical standards.
  • Licensure for an engineering consultant is not just desirable; it is legally required if you are in charge of engineering work.
  • Engineering licensing for work in local, state and federal government projects is becoming more important every year. Most of these projects can only be worked on by licensed, professional engineers.
  • Most states now require that professionals teaching engineering be licensed.

References

Henry R. Steele
Henry R. Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of BusinessStudent.com. He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.Follow on Twitter.com

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