How Much Do Engineers Make? Engineering Salaries

Updated on February 23, 2020
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Katy mentors and educates young professionals beginning their careers and financial journeys to make informed decisions.

Engineers are well paid. 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 paying careers:

Petroleum Engineer

Engineers that studied petroleum are the highest earners. The starting salary is high at $89k and could grow to $175k [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 $157k [1]. Engineers who can write code on teams are valuable to any business.

A software engineer can make even more by specializing in Artificial Intelligence. These roles can be hard to get but the Machine Learning salaries are impressive.

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 engineering 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
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?

See results

Factors Affecting Engineers' Salaries

Besides the industry you work in, what other factors determine your salary?


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.

The easiest way to get a pay bump is by taking new job offers. Expect only gradual cost of living raises if you stay in the same large company. Read more tips below on increasing your salary.

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.

In-Demand Engineering Fields in the Future

Which engineering jobs will be in high demand in the future?

The engineers that work in software, medicine and infrastructure will see their fields expand. These fields need more workers to take advantage of the new technology improving our lives.

You can read more about other jobs in demand in the future and here are the engineering jobs we can expect to grow:

Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical engineers already demand a high salary. This will continue to be the case in the future as the field grows.

Civil Engineering

We will always need more infrastructure, the primary job of civil engineers. Even if robots automate a lot of the repetitive tasks of the construction worker, engineers will still be needed.

Machine Learning for Software Engineers

Machine learning is the subset of artificial intelligence concerned with algorithms that let computers teach themselves. It's a rapidly growing field that is ready to make big changes to the economy.

While strict machine learning is done by programmers and data scientists, software engineers that can use it will be in high demand in the future.

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?


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,
[2] Engineer Salary, 2018,

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Katy Medium


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