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The engineering industry in the U.S. has seen tremendous growth over the last five years, with an average growth rate of 3.4% every year between 2017 and 2022. This growth potential, coupled with the fact that engineering allows you to be at the forefront of innovation and development, makes engineering one of the most sought-after career paths. According to ZipRecruiter, salaries can reach up to $129,500 a year, though the average is $73,529.
It's important to note that while these are some of the highest paying engineering jobs, they may also be among the most competitive and require a high level of education and training. Below is an overview of the top-paying professions within the engineering industry to help you choose the right career path.
Our Top 7 Picks for the Highest-Paying Engineering Jobs
- Aerospace engineer
- Computer hardware engineer
- Nuclear engineer
- Software engineer
- Electrical engineer
- Biomedical engineer
- Chemical engineer
Aerospace engineering is one of the most lucrative career paths in engineering, and they may work on projects for the military, commercial airlines, or space exploration agencies. An aerospace engineer is responsible for designing, developing and manufacturing helicopters, aircraft, missiles and spacecraft. Aerospace engineers also test the prototypes of these objects to ensure they’re functioning according to appropriate specifications.
Responsibilities may include:
- Analyzing data and testing results to determine the feasibility of design concepts
- Collaborating with other engineers and professionals to solve technical problems
- Preparing technical reports and documentation
- Keeping up to date with advances in technology and industry standards
Aerospace engineers typically work in offices, but they may also work in research and development laboratories, manufacturing plants, or at testing facilities. They typically need a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering or a related field. They may also need to be licensed as a professional engineer (PE) in order to work on certain projects.
Although entry-level positions won’t require a license, you’ll need a professional engineer license for advanced roles. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) sets the average annual salary of an aerospace engineer in the U.S. at $122,270.
Computer hardware engineer
Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop and test computer systems and components. They may work on the development of new technologies in areas such as computing, communication, and consumer electronics. A computer hardware engineer’s job involves creating new designs for processors, circuit boards and memory devices. They also ensure that computer systems can handle upgrades by testing them periodically and finding ways to improve their performance.
To land a job as a computer hardware engineer, you need to acquire a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering or a related field. Some employers may require you to go through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) program. Computer hardware engineers make $128,170 per year on average, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you search top job search sites like ZipRecruiter, you’ll find that nuclear engineering is another highly paid engineering career path. As a nuclear engineer, your duties will involve designing, constructing and operating nuclear power plants and researching atomic energy production. You'll also be responsible for maintaining nuclear systems and determining the best way to improve the sustainability, efficiency and stability of nuclear power plants.
You should have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nuclear engineering to get a job as a nuclear engineer. Most states require you to obtain a license to practice as an independent nuclear engineer, so you'll have to take the Professional Engineering exam. The BLS estimates that the average annual salary of a nuclear engineer is $120,380.
As a software engineer, you’ll design applications and programs that make people’s lives easier. The job requires you to use the right programming languages, architectures and platforms to develop network control systems, computer games, operating systems and software for embedded systems. You'll also be responsible for testing and improving the overall performance of these applications and programs.
You need a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering or a related engineering field to become a software engineer. You should consider obtaining a certificate as a software developer as well to enhance your expertise. You can also become a certified software engineer or an AWS-certified developer by getting a license from Amazon Web Services. According to the BLS, software engineers in the U.S. earn an average annual salary of $120,730.
Electrical engineers design, develop and test electrical systems. If you look at any electrical engineering job description, you’ll realize that the role involves managing the manufacturing of electrical equipment, from power generation equipment to electric motors. You can work on projects such as making household appliances and designing electrical power stations, or on the development of new technologies in areas such as transportation, communication, and power generation.
To become an electrical engineer, you'll have to obtain a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. To work on broader and more sophisticated projects, you should obtain a professional engineer license issued by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). The BLS sets the average annual salary for electrical engineers in the U.S. at $107,890.
Biomedical engineering is a discipline that applies engineering principles to medicine and health care. As a biomedical engineer, you’ll be involved in designing, developing and testing medical equipment and devices, such as prosthetics, artificial organs, pacemakers and diagnostic instruments. You may also work on innovative engineering projects to improve existing medical equipment or work on the development of new technologies in areas such as medical devices, diagnostic equipment, and drug delivery systems.
This career in engineering requires you to have a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering, bioengineering or a related field. The degree should be from an institution accredited by the ABET. Biomedical engineers earn an average salary of $101,020 per year, per the BLS.
Chemical engineering involves applying engineering principles to produce and develop chemicals, medicines, fuels and other materials. As a chemical engineer, you’ll be responsible for finding new ways of producing chemicals while minimizing waste and adhering to safety regulations.
Chemical engineers can have various specializations — for example, you could work at a petroleum refinery where you'd convert crude oil into jet fuel, gasoline and petrochemicals. Or, you might join a company that manufactures personal care products and work with different ingredients to make skin lotion or shampoo.
You need a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering or a relevant field to work as a chemical engineer. Some employers may require you to have professional experience, so you should consider an engineering internship while you’re still studying. Chemical engineers earn an average annual salary of $121,840, according to the BLS.
Highest-Paying Engineering Jobs Guide
The field of engineering is full of opportunities for aspiring engineering professionals. However, to navigate the industry and find the best engineering career pathways, you need to understand the basics, including what engineering entails and the requirements you should meet. This guide will help you learn more about engineering jobs.
What is engineering?
Engineering is the application of science and mathematics to create solutions to various technical problems. Engineers implement the discoveries made by scientists and inventors in the real world. They design, build and maintain devices or systems used in industries such as construction, transportation, energy production, manufacturing and health care.
As an engineer, you will likely collaborate with professionals from different disciplines, such as architects and computer scientists, to create effective solutions. Since engineering is an ever-evolving field, professionals in the industry must constantly learn and adapt to new technology.
Types of engineering jobs
Engineering is a broad field with many specialized careers. Popular engineering jobs categories include:
- Mechanical engineering: A mechanical engineering career involves designing and building mechanical systems, such as engines, machines and robots.
- Civil engineering: Civil engineers plan and design infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, dams, airports and buildings.
- Electrical engineering: These engineers work with electrical systems and devices, such as motors, power generators, navigational systems, communications systems and lighting.
- Chemical engineering: This type of engineering career involves using chemical processes to develop new materials or products.
- Design engineering: Design engineers use computer-aided design (CAD) software to develop and create manufacturing frameworks and products.
- Reservoir engineering: A reservoir engineering job involves working with different types of oil and gas reservoirs to ensure efficient production.
- Computer engineering: Computer engineers specialize in hardware, software and systems engineering. They create and maintain computers and computer networks and troubleshoot any problems that may occur.
- Director of engineering: A director of engineering job involves managing and overseeing an engineering team. They guide the engineering staff, manage projects and ensure that all engineering standards are met.
Requirements for an engineering job
The requirements for an engineering job vary depending on the type of engineering career you choose. Generally, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in engineering or a related field. Some jobs may require a license, especially if you work in the public sector. Additionally, employers may require that you have experience and knowledge of engineering principles, mathematics and computer software, like CAD.
Strong communication and analytical skills are also essential for most engineering jobs. You should understand and be able to apply the current industry standards and regulations, and keep abreast of innovations in your field.
How to find the highest-paying jobs in engineering
If you’re looking for an engineering job that pays well, you should keep these tips in mind:
Research the industry
Understanding the industry and its trends will help you know where to look for higher-paying jobs. You can start your research on job search sites to learn about the kinds of engineering jobs available and their requirements. When reviewing these sites, focus on finding out how much each job pays and what experience is required to earn a better wage.
Sharpen your skills
Having an advanced degree or certifications will give you an edge in the job market and increase your earning potential. Consider taking courses to update your knowledge of new technologies, software and standard practices.
Network with industry professionals
It’s helpful to connect with industry professionals who can point you in the right direction when it comes to engineering jobs. Join professional organizations, attend an engineering career fair and conferences and seek out mentors who can help widen your reach.
Write a perfect cover letter for the job
Knowing how to write a cover letter for a job is essential for a successful job search. Make sure your cover letter stands out from the rest and highlights your relevant experience, qualifications and skills. Tell the employer why you're the best candidate for the job and what makes you uniquely qualified.
Prepare for the interview
Your performance during an interview can make or break your chances of getting a job. So, ensure you understand how to prepare for an interview through best practices like understanding your strengths and weaknesses and watching your body language.
Highest-Paying Engineering Jobs FAQ
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How We Chose the Highest-Paying Engineering Jobs
We chose the best-paying jobs in engineering primarily by using the data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Given the influx of sites reporting average salary data for different job titles and industry sectors, we used the BLS as the most reliable source of information. The BLS also provides job outlooks, which helped us identify the engineering careers with the best job growth prospects.