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Engineering salaries: should you go for your Masters?

Katie Schenk - May 01, 2018

Prodigy Finance looks at MS engineering salaries

There are some disciplines where it’s almost imperative to move straight from a bachelors degree into a post-grad education; without the graduate degree, career progression and mobility is restricted.

And then there is the engineering field.

A masters degree isn’t a prerequisite for employment. It’s not even necessary to land a good starting salary. 

So, what’s the point? 

And is it financially worth it to pursue a masters in engineering

You might be surprised.

What’s difference between engineering degrees?

There are definite distinctions between the different levels of engineering degrees:

Bachelors degree

You have a general understanding, with perhaps a touch of specialisation (depending on where you study)

Masters degree

You can lead a team of engineers – and, more importantly, you’ve narrowed your focus within the different disciplines. 

PhD degree

You can pursue research and projects at the highest levels within private and public industries.

While you may find these levels across disciplines, engineering is unlike other fields when it comes to pursuing graduate education:
  • Teachers, for example, often need to have completed work towards their masters before they’re employed. 
  • By contrast, an MBA isn’t recommended until you’ve had a few years of work experience. 

With engineering, you can move straight into a masters, or you can enter the workforce first – with a very respectable salary.

Post-graduate engineering salaries

Engineers tend to make a lot of money. 

Sure, there’s a lot of variation in pay scales – as there is in any other field (such as law or medicine), but engineering salaries are certainly respectable.

That’s exactly why undergraduate professors urge students to move straight into their graduate degrees; it’s difficult to find the right time to return to school.

Still, there’s always a difference between bachelors and masters level salaries – even if that difference isn’t, perhaps, as wide as it is in other fields.

A closer look at engineering salaries

Back in 2010, the (American) National Society of Professional Engineers¹ reported the increasing engineering salaries:

  • New bachelors degree holders had a median annual salary just shy of $55K. 
  • After a year or two of experience, they could expect that number to bump to $57K. 
  • With a masters degree and a few years of work, engineers took in about $61K.

Over the years, those engineering salary medians have only continued to grow.

Both the growth and difference in income is much easier to see when looking at Carnegie Mellon’s College of Engineering 2017 salary statistics.² 

In some fields, the jump between bachelors and masters salaries is strikingly obvious.


Average $66,307

Median $72,000

$29,100 – 110,000


Average $69,651

Median $66,000

$47,400 – 100,000


Average $70,847

Median $72,500

$29,100 – 114,000


Average $83,981

Median $84,000

$41,600 – 132,000


Average $62,375

Median $63,000

$52,998 – 75,000


Average $68,214

Median $62,500

$24,000 – 115,800


Average $98,130

Median $104,000

$35,000 - 160,000



Median $115,000

$24,000 – 170,000


Average $73,661

Median $75,000

$65,000 – 80,000


Average $64,550

Median $67,000

$45,000 – 80,000


Average $69,717

Median $69,500

$36,200 – 120,000


Average $90,617

Median $90,000

$30,000 – 130,000

Even in departments where the salary hike between CMU grads isn't glaringly obvious, there may still be an incredible jump between the salary you're making now and the average salary you might be able to expect with a CMU masters

And, these jumps are hardly isolated to CMU grads. 

At MIT, the median starting salary in 2017³ for those with bachelors degrees was $85K; while those with a Master’s in Engineering degree have a median salary of $115K. That’s an enormous difference.

Bachelor of Science

Mean $88,381

Median $85,000

Master of Science

Mean $87,812

Median $85,000

Master of Engineering

Mean $108,973

Median $115,000

These sharp contrasts have been reiterated across schools and the industry in general. 

According to GoodCall⁴, an online platform dedicated to higher education news, those with graduate degrees earn an average of $17K more than those withoutand that’s across any discipline. 

For electrical engineers, the median salary for those with electrical engineering degrees is $93K; add $19K for a masters degree

They report similar increases for other disciplines within engineering, including civil and mechanical engineering degrees.

Is MS worth it for you? Should you pursue an ME? 

This decision can be tough. You have to weigh up the sacrifices you'll need to make now against the benefits you'll undoubtedly experience in the not-so-distant future. 

Fortunately, we've developed a return on engineering masters tool to help you decide.

Calculate the 20 year returns from studying a Master’s degree.

Please enter a number between $ 20,000 and $ 225,000.
Please enter a number between $ 2,000 and $ 200,000.
Please enter a number between $ 2,000 and $ 250,000.
Please enter a number between 0% and 5%.

Total 20 year earnings

You would earn Help over 20 years if you did a Master’s degree.

Without a Master's degree

With a Master's degree

Can't wait to further your education and increase your salary?

Prodigy Finance provides loans for international MS and ME students pursuing their degrees at top universities. Your dream programme could be on the list.

¹ nspe.org/resources/press-room/press-releases/engineering-salaries-continue-rise-despite-concern-over

² cmu.edu/career/about-us/salaries_and_destinations/2017.html

³ web.mit.edu/facts/alum.html

⁴ goodcall.com/news/how-much-more-can-you-make-with-a-masters-degree-01529

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