How Much Do Engineers Make? Engineering Salaries

Updated on October 9, 2018
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Katy mentors young professionals beginning their careers and financial journeys to make informed decisions.

In any country, engineers receive a relatively high salary. This is partly because of the rigorous education required. But the main reason they are well paid is the value they contribute. A company hires engineers to create and improve processes that directly add value.

Let's look at how much engineers make and what factors to consider.

Highest-Paid Engineering Jobs

Which engineering jobs pay the most? Let's start with the top five:

Petroleum Engineer

Engineers that studied petroleum are the highest earners. The starting salary is high at $85k and could grow to $171k [1].

Keep in mind this is a cyclic industry, which can mean unstable employment. Petroleum engineers that make the most money are in the field. They often live on-site in remote areas to work long hours.

Software Engineer

Software engineers are still in high demand. Salaries can start from $78k and can increase to up to $154k [1]. Engineers who can write code on teams are valuable to any business.

Aerospace Engineer

Aerospace engineers also demand a high salary. It's a specialized field sharing fundamentals with mechanical engineering. Aero engineers will make $83k to $126k annually [1].

As in petroleum engineering, constant employment is not a guarantee. Aerospace projects are multi-year and usually funded by the government. This can mean cancellations and budget cuts.

Chemical Engineer

Chemical engineeering is also a lucrative field. Entry-level chemical engineers can expect to make $67k and work up as high as $107k [1].

Processes that need chemical engineers span many industries so it's a stable career path. ChemEs looking to make more money may be qualified to transition to petroleum engineering.

Engineer Salaries

Engineering Specialty
Lower Salary Range (10 percentile)
Upper Salary Range (90 percentile)
Average Salary
Petroleum
$85,000
$171,000
$123,000
Software
$78,000
$154,000
$115,000
Aerospace
$83,000
$126,000
$100,000
Electrical
$74,000
$125,000
$91,000
Chemical
$67,000
$112,000
$88,000
Environmental
$68,000
$107,000
$87,000
Mechanical
$62,000
$116,000
$84,000
Civil
$53,000
$104,000
$77,000
Industry
$64,000
$100,000
$73,000
Taken from Glassdoor, 2018 [1]

More Engineering Specialties That Pay Well

Most engineers work in areas outside the five top-paying jobs above.

Environmental Engineer

Environmental engineers can expect to make $68k to $107k per year [1]. Both public and private sectors need environmental engineers. Working for a private company usually means a slightly higher salary.

Mechanical Engineer

Mechanical Engineer (ME) salaries are the hardest to predict, because the title spans so many industries. Mechanical engineers in HVAC, for example, make less than those employed by aerospace companies.

MEs usually start at about $50-60k and top out around $100k [1].

Civil Engineer

Civil engineers have relatively low starting salaries at $53k, but they can get as high as $104 during a career [1].

Civil engineers are integral in any infrastructure project. There are jobs available all over the world.

Industrial Engineer

Industrial engineers can start at $64k and make up to $100k [1]. These engineers work on almost all non-chemical processes. Like civil engineering jobs, industrial engineering jobs are widespread.

What is the Main Reason You Chose Engineering?

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Factors Affecting Engineers' Salaries

Besides industry, what factors determine your salary?

Education

It's rare that the college an engineer attended affects his/her salary directly. But the level of education usually impacts how much engineers are paid. A bachelor's degree is the minimum for most engineering positions. A master's degree can help your engineering career. In industry this usually counts for two years of work experience when it comes to pay grade.

It takes a PhD to qualify for the top specialty and research positions. The degree can give you a 10-20% bump over normal industry pay for these roles.

Years of Experience

For most cases, an engineer's salary will gradually increase over the years. Most see their biggest increases in the first five years after graduation.

Geographic Location

As with most occupations, engineers' salaries fluctuate with cost of living in an area. For example, a software engineer in Silicon Valley will make more than one in the rural US for the same role.

Boost Your Salary

The salary ranges in the table above are not set in stone. An individual's skills and background determine the pay they can demand. How can an engineer increase his/her salary?

Specialize

Specializing in a technical field can bring in more money. Especially if it's in high demand. For example, engineers with a specialty in AI or Machine Learning will be able to demand a higher salary.

Security Clearance

Engineers that hold a security clearance are hard to find. So they can demand a higher salary than their non-cleared counterparts. Engineering Salary's survey reported a 11-15% increase for a security clearance [2].

Management Title

A manager will earn more than an individual contributor with the same experience. Engineers looking to make more money often take the management route.

Proven leadership ability helps in landing these roles. Many companies want to see you be technical lead for at least a few years before giving the "manager" title. Depending on industry, an MBA may help.

Salary survey results are available for specific industries and experience levels.
Salary survey results are available for specific industries and experience levels. | Source

Learn More About Engineer Salaries

Research specific positions and qualifications to get more accurate results.
[1] Glassdoor, 2018, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries
[2] Engineer Salary, 2018, http://www.engineersalary.com/security-clearance.asp

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