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Best-paid engineering jobs

Katie Schenk - April 11, 2018

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Job satisfaction doesn’t come from a big pay cheque, but it certainly helps. And engineers are some of the highest earners of the lot.

It’s a little difficult to nail down the best engineering salaries because there are enormous differences in specialisations, career levels, and the country of employment. But, there are norms and averages that provide insight into the highest paying engineering positions out there.

Note: We’ve considered American-based salaries here as the statistics are generally reliable – and it would be impossible to account for every country in the world.

Aerospace engineers

Just about every blog post and article that considers engineering salaries has something to say about aerospace engineering salaries. And, as that suggests, they are among the highest paid engineers.

Entry-level aerospace engineers should expect to bring in US $58K to 65K annually. And that really is an entry point for newly minted engineers with a Bachelor’s degree. 

The current median salary is closer to $82K¹ with mid-career engineers breaking into the six-figure region. At the top of their game, aerospace engineers can expect to earn around $130K annually.

Petroleum engineers

This is another of those well-paid positions that continues to crop up on big salary lists. And it really deserves to be there – not just because the world demands safer, cleaner, easier access to petroleum and its by-products; a look at the figures tells the whole story.

The lowest-reported salary for a petroleum engineer sits just under $61K.² 

But, the median salary is just over $100K. A mid-career petroleum engineer (typically with a master’s degree) is likely to earn closer to $132K annually.

So what will you earn when you’ve had plenty of education and experience? Petroleum engineers can expect something closer to $165K to $190K, depending on where you work.

Top petroleum engineering programmes in the US:

  1. University of Texas at Austin - Cockrell School of Engineering
  2. Stanford University - Stanford School of Engineering
  3. Texas A&M University—​College Station
  4. University of Tulsa
  5. Colorado School of Mines

Civil engineers

Not all engineering positions push through to six digit salaries as easily, but that doesn't mean there isn't a rewarding position in civil engineering. This is one area where there is always job growth and availability. 

In the United States, civil engineers can expect to bring in somewhere between $47K and $98K annually.³ 

Those figures are obviously variable on career level, education, experience, and region.

Now, that may not look as appealing as the top reported salaries for petroleum engineers, but you really can’t turn your nose up at the pay cheque – especially when you consider the worldwide demand for skilled civil engineers.

Computer engineers

Computer engineers work across a huge range of industries; the title itself can include everything from software engineer to computer programmers. That alone accounts for the incredible range of salaries.

Software engineers will likely start with a salary of $58K. Median salaries fall around $81K⁴, depending on which source you believe. Although most software engineers move on to other jobs, a big earner might take home $120K annually.

Computer programmers often earn less, with a range between $39K and $96K⁵, from low to high. But, again, this is more like an entry-level position with skilled engineers moving up the ladder.

Materials engineers

Moving up the pay scale slightly are materials engineers. Not only is this one of the most exciting areas of study,  many grads use this as a starting point of their careers. 

There are a lot of directions that these engineers can go as they climb through the ranks. Popular moves are structural and mechanical engineering, usually with a management title added over the years.

Most sources agree that $55K⁶ is about right for an entry-level, low-end salary. 

Median salary falls in around $73K with mid-level materials engineers bringing in about $85K. Salaries do stretch as high as $107K, however.

Nuclear engineers

There’s a demand for nuclear engineers even in countries that don’t use nuclear power. Not only does the technology itself continues to grow, but there are plenty of nuclear engineers reaching the age of retirement. 

A focus on design and technical analysis (not to mention the extreme safety measures needed) boosts nuclear engineers into a slightly higher pay grade.

Entry-level salaries start at about $71K, while the median salary is $82K⁷. 

Experienced nuclear engineers can expect to bring in roughly $108K. After several years of experience, you could expect to earn $135K.

Chemical engineers

Although the starting pay for chemical engineers is slightly lower than that of nuclear engineers, the field itself continues to grow - and there's a lot of space for new engineers in the market. 

With a base salary of $68K, higher end salaries are rather good at $124K. The median salary is also strong at $72K.

But, once a chemical engineer has about five to ten years of experience, salaries sit closer to $86K⁸. 

After ten to 20 years of experience, remuneration hits six figures. That’s one of the most rapid increases, and payment increases even faster with a master’s degree.

Electrical engineers

This branch of engineering may not seem to achieve the higher salaries earned by chemical or aerospace engineers, but you shouldn’t be fooled by the baseline figures that electrical engineers make.

Entry level salaries fall between $57K and $66K (again, depending on the source of the statistics)¹⁰. 

The median salary is a little less than $72K⁹, and electrical engineers with more than 20 years of experience should expect a take-home of $111K.

But, a Principle Electrical Engineer can earn about $127K¹¹ annually – and that’s a mid-career salary.And, there are plenty of opportunities to move in new directions.

No matter what field you pursue, from civil to petroleum, managing engineers earn higher incomes. An automation engineering manager can earn as much as $127K after five to ten years. A chemical plant manager brings in $133K.

While you may be able to move into a managing position by putting in your time at a company or a specific field, you’ll get there a great deal faster by investing in a Master’s in Engineering.

Want a high-paying engineering career?

Interested? Prodigy Finance provides international educational loans across top engineering programmes and degrees to help you get to the to faster.


¹ payscale.com/research/US/Job=Aerospace_Engineer/Salary

² payscale.com/research/US/Job=Petroleum_Engineer/Salary

³ payscale.com/research/US/Job=Civil_Engineer/Salary

⁴ payscale.com/research/US/Job=Software_Engineer/Salary

⁵ payscale.com/research/US/Job=Computer_Programmer/Salary

⁶ payscale.com/research/US/Job=Materials_Engineer/Salary

⁷ payscale.com/research/US/Job=Nuclear_Engineer/Salary

⁸ payscale.com/research/US/Job=Chemical_Engineer/Salary

⁹ typesofengineeringdegrees.org/highest-paid-engineering-jobs

¹⁰ payscale.com/research/US/Job=Electrical_Engineer/Salary

¹¹ payscale.com/college-salary-report/common-jobs-for-majors/engineering

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