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Discover the engineering disciplines with the highest salaries

If you are considering a career in engineering, the first step is to complete an accredited bachelor’s program in the specific branch you are interested in. Internship and licensure exams are the next steps to become a licensed professional. With more than five major disciplines and over forty sub-disciplines, there are endless options when it comes to specialization.

Many surveys reveal that in absolute terms, the highest median entry and mid-career salaries are all in the engineering spectrum. In particular, petroleum, chemical computer science, nuclear and aerospace engineering have a median salary that is very close to $100,000.

While engineering is one of the highest paid careers, it is not entirely without risks. As with other professions, engineers can be held liable for the sub-optimal quality of work, delays, negligence, or non-adherence to budget. Professional liability insurance is a must-have for engineers at both entry level and at a senior level to obtain maximum financial protection against lawsuits and claims.

Top Highest Paid Engineering Jobs – Role and Salary Estimates

Engineering is an umbrella term encompassing a wide range of industries and applications. Combining science, technology, and mathematics, engineers offer creative solutions to the problems of the real world.  In the past, four major branches comprised the field of engineering. These were mechanical, civil, electrical, and chemical engineering.

Over time with the advent of technological innovations, environmental awareness, and big data, the number of engineering degree specializations have increased dramatically. Some of the major branches offered in colleges include mechanical, civil, chemical, mechanical, electrical, computer, environmental, biomedical, nuclear, aerospace, mining and metallurgy, architectural, geotechnical and petroleum engineering. Each of these major disciplines has hundreds of sub-categories of specialization.

The ever-expanding field is all set to witness increasing demand for qualified and licensed engineers. As per the BLS (Bureau of Labour Statistic) close to 140,000 new jobs are expected to become available for engineers in the decade between 2016 and 2026.

Engineering has emerged as the field with some of the highest salaries in the U.S. Glassdoor – a portal that offers employees an opportunity to anonymously review companies – surveyed close to 60,000 respondents to find out the average salaries based on years of experience across disciplines. It was found that the average salary for freshers and engineers with one year of experience was $67,368, while those with 4 to 6 years of experience earned $80,024 on an average. Seniors with 10 to 14 years of experience earned $95,239.

Glassdoor also compiled lists of 50 best jobs and 25 highest paying jobs in the U.S. for 2019 and found that 20 percent of the highest ranking jobs and close to 50 percent of the highest paying jobs were in the field of engineering.

Petroleum Engineers:  Petroleum engineering focuses on the evaluation of recoverable natural resources, analysis of the physical performance of water, oil and gas and on design and development of extraction tools and techniques. A bachelor’s program in petroleum engineering or general engineering with specialization in petroleum engineering is the first step to becoming a petroleum engineer. Licenses are acquired through professional exams while the Society of Petroleum Engineers also offers certifications. Although the salary depends on years of experience, qualification and the nature of roles and responsibilities, according to Glassdoor and PayScale, petroleum engineers earn a six-figure salary.

As per BLS data, a petroleum engineer’s estimated annual salary is between $99k and $196k each year with an average of $135k.  At the entry level, according to PayScale, the salary is to the tune of $94,000. At the supervisor level, recent estimates show the salary to be $237,784 while a junior technician or support staff earns $154,651. Salaries at the executive and top management levels range between $298,088 and $429,052. Texas, Alaska, Colorado, California, and Louisiana were the states which paid the highest salaries.

Nuclear Engineers: Nuclear engineers develop processes, systems, and instruments to leverage nuclear energy. Designing nuclear equipment, including reactor cores or radiation shielding instrumentation, overseeing maintenance and operation of nuclear power plants are just some of the areas where nuclear engineers work. A degree in general engineering or related fields followed by specialization in nuclear engineering and a professional license is the pathway to a career in the field.

According to A ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for a nuclear engineer in the U.S. is $88,118 as of May 2019. PayScale lists the average salary as $85,330, although it could be anywhere between $67,000 and $118,000.

Chemical engineering:  Chemical engineers approach the problems in research, production or analysis of chemicals for commercial application. Combining the principles of physics, chemistry, mathematics and biology, chemical engineers design and develop equipment and processes used in many industries including food, fuel, large scale manufacturing, pharmacy, and others. A four-year bachelor’s program in chemical engineering is the minimum requirement to enter the field. Licensing requirements and law vary in different states but obtaining a professional license brightens your job prospects apart from proving your competency.

As per the National Labour statistics, the median salary for chemical engineers is $68, 690 while the mean annual salary is $114,470.  According to Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter, the national average is $77,207 per year for chemical engineers. In 2018, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, the median pay was $104,910 per year.

Computer Science: Computer science is a broad term with many different specializations within the field such as systems analyst, hardware engineering, information security analyst, information system managers, software developer, and much more. Many computer science specialists work closely with other engineering experts and software teams to install, develop, or secure advanced software and computer systems. Software engineers also resolve any operational, security, or function issues with the software, computer systems, and internal computer networks. The BLS lists the median salary of a systems analyst as $88,740 per year while it could range between $58,800 and $112,600.  Entry into this field is possible through a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or allied fields.

Aerospace engineering: Aerospace engineers are involved with research and design of prototypes, missiles, aircraft, satellite, and spacecraft. A bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or in general engineering with a specialization in aerospace is the first step to pursuing a career in this field. License is a must for employment apart from security clearance if you wish to be employed in the defence sector. The median pay for aerospace engineers is $115,220 per year according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics. As per other estimates, the average salary for aerospace engineers ranges between 58,000 and $107,900.

In Summary

According to statistics from the Bureau of Labour, engineers enjoy a median wage of $91,010 with projected growth in the coming decade. With bright job prospects and emerging focus on innovation, it is quite evident that an engineering career is a smart choice for those who love and have the aptitude in mathematics and sciences. The options are multiple when it comes to choosing a discipline, with each of the engineering branch presenting its own set of unique opportunities and challenges. While the choice of discipline depends on your area of interest, salaries for almost all engineering disciplines are higher as compared to most other occupations. An essential aspect of pursuing a career in engineering is to secure your future with comprehensive professional liability insurance for engineers. Even when professionals exercise the utmost caution and diligence, mistakes tend to happen. At times, for reasons beyond your control, projects could miss the deadlines or exceed the agreed budget. Clients may also allege poor quality of work or negligence on your behalf.  Lawsuits and compensation can create a massive dent in your finances, making it difficult for you to get back on your feet in quick time. Engineer’s professional liability insurance is recommended for engineers at both entries, mid-career, and senior levels as clients also demand to see your liability insurance certificate before hiring you. The insurance protects against wide-ranging claims including mistakes, errors or omissions committed by your employee, inadequate or wrong execution of a project, carelessness and unfulfilled promises.


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