Engineering is known as a high paying career path. If you’re wondering just how much money you could make, the answer depends on factors such as what branch of engineering your pursue, what industry you work in and how much time and effort you are willing to invest in furthering your career.
Engineering Salaries by Discipline
Perhaps the biggest factor in your salary potential is which type of engineer you choose to become. The median wage for engineers is $92,220, but different disciplines of engineering command different salaries.
At the lower end of the spectrum of engineering branches are disciplines like agricultural engineering, with a median wage of $74,780, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median salary for civil engineers is $84,770 per year. Mechanical engineers and industrial engineers both earn a median wage of $85,880. Environmental engineers make a median salary of $86,800 annually. Biomedical engineers have an $88,040 per year median income, while health and safety engineers make $88,510 annually.
Closer to the median salary among all engineers are wages in the $90,000 range. Marine engineers earn a median salary of $90,970 per year. Mining and geological engineers make a median wage of $94,240. For materials engineers, the median salary is $94,610. Electrical engineers earn a median salary of $95,060.
In the engineering industries with the highest salaries, median wages are in the six-figure range. Chemical engineers earn a median salary of $102,160. For electronics engineers excluding those working with computers, the median wage is $102,180, the BLS reported. Nuclear engineers make a median salary of $105,810. Aerospace engineers earn a median wage of $113,030 per year. Computer hardware engineers enjoy a median salary of $115,120 per year. The highest paid engineering discipline, petroleum engineering, offers a median wage of $132,280.
One fact that is important to consider is that even within a single engineering occupation, different types of employers pay significantly different salaries. For example, though biomedical engineers have a median wage of $88,040, those working in scientific research and development earn a median wage as high as $95,980, while those working in a college or university make just $61,990 per year. Even in the highest paying engineering role, petroleum engineering, the median salary ranges from $110,280 for engineers who work in support activities for mining to $167,950 for those working in management.
Some graduates earn lucrative salaries by putting their engineering degree to work in a field not directly related to engineering. Sales engineers earn a median wage of $98,720 per year.
How to Increase Your Salary as an Engineer
There are plenty of variables that go into determining how much you could make with an engineering degree. In every branch of engineering, there are things you can do to improve your earning potential. One of the most popular options for boosting your salary is to earn an advanced degree. The benefits of earning a master’s degree in engineering include a potentially large salary boost and the opportunity to move into more specialized or senior-level roles. However, one fact you should be aware of is that the value of a master’s degree changes from one engineering discipline to the next. In disciplines like civil and mechanical engineering, going to graduate school can result in a nine to 13 percent pay raise, but in other disciplines, having a master’s degree has no impact – or even a negative impact – on salary, the BLS reported.
How else can you increase your earnings? One possibility is to get your engineering license. Most branches of engineering do not require new engineers to attain a license for entry-level roles. However, you might need a Professional Engineering (PE) license eventually, especially if you want to move into senior roles or if you need to perform certain job duties that only licensed engineers can do. To start attaining licensure, you will need to first take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which you can do after you have earned your undergraduate engineering degree. Passing this exam qualifies you to become an engineer in training (EIT) or engineer intern (EI). Once you gain four years of experience as an intern, you can take the Professional Engineering exam and attain your license.
Is licensure worthwhile? The answer may depend on your discipline of engineering. For example, mechanical engineers with a PE license earn nearly $16,000 more than those without a license, according to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
One final way to improve your salary potential is to move into management roles. Engineering managers, who oversee engineering projects, staff, and plans, earn a median wage of $137,720 per year.
Engineering managers typically need at least five years of experience and may have to earn a master’s degree in engineering management or a Master of Business Administration degree, according to the BLS.