Employment Outlook for Engineers

High starting salaries

Overall growth in engineering for the next decade should be about average, with some industries (manufacturing) slowing and others (service) generating growth. Job opportunities and salaries vary widely by specialty.

Most working engineers are civil (16 percent) and mechanical (15 percent), followed by industrial, electrical and electronics. The rest make up a smaller percentage.

Unlike other careers, such as electronics technician, technological advancements are good for engineers. The reason is, advancements will allow for the development of new products and processes, tasks that are the engineer's bread and butter.

The job situation

Well-trained and often English-speaking foreign engineers may accept lower pay for the same job. This holds down some growth in the North American job market. Relatively fewer engineers leave their jobs each year, but there are openings due to retirements or workers transferring to jobs in management, sales or other higher-level positions.

Median engineer wages

Median engineer salaries vary drastically by specialty and education level. An entry-level position can net an engineer anywhere from $43,000 (civil) to $61,000 (petroleum). Those with Master's degrees generally earn over $50,000, while Ph.D. engineers can make over $60,000 or even $80,000 (electrical, electronics and communication) to start. Some of the highest paid professional engineers earn well over $100,000 each year.

Specialty by growth pace

Faster than average

  • Biomedical engineers - This specialty focuses on finding solutions to medical and health-related problems. Work can include anything from designing and testing artificial organs, prosthetics and instruments, to developing medical information or health care delivery systems. Fast growth in the next decade will be due to an increased focus on health issues for a rapidly aging population that demands better medical procedures and equipment. Because so many students are discovering this specialty, a graduate degree is often required for entry-level jobs.
  • Environmental engineers - These engineers solve environmental problems. Work can involve issues including global warming, ozone depletion, air and water pollution, vehicle emissions and recycling. Jobs in this field often consist of consulting with clients on issues such as regulation compliance and hazardous waste clean-up. Encouraging growth and an expected wealth of job opportunities will be due to public health concerns, the needs of business to comply with new environmental regulations and an emphasis on hazard prevention. Job opportunities could be reduced in a slow economy where environmental issues become less important.


  • Agricultural
  • Chemical
  • Civil
  • Computer hardware - Potentially one of the highest paying engineer specialties, the number of openings is expected to be close to par with the number of graduates.
  • Electrical
  • Electronics (except computer)
  • Health and safety
  • Industrial
  • Materials
  • Mechanical

Slower than average

  • Aerospace
  • Marine engineers and naval architects
  • Nuclear - From operating nuclear power plants to creating medical diagnostics and treatment equipment using radioactive materials, these engineers have a lot of responsibility. Compared to other engineering specialties there aren't many of them, but it's one of the highest paying jobs and the number of graduates compared to job openings should stay almost even.


  • Mining and geological
  • Petroleum - Although the number of available jobs is expected to decline, there should be good opportunities for employment due to a small number of graduates to fill openings. This job is perfect for those with an interest in working in another country, as they'll be searching the world for oil and gas reservoirs and finding ways to recover it profitably. It can be one of the highest paying engineer specialties.

Statistics courtesy the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2004