Salary Series: The Many Engineering Careers And Median Incomes

Female student engineer working with mechanical equipment

Did you know that engineering is one of the most popular fields of study today? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “overall employment in architecture and engineering occupations is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations from 2022 to 2032.” With about 188,000 job openings predicted year over year for the next decade, the median wage of more than $87,000 is nearly twice that of all other occupations. And, of course, that can increase exponentially as you go from a Bachelor's to a Master’s degree and/or gain work experience.

Our Daily Lives Depend on Engineering

The thinking that went into designing your home, the cars we drive, the roads we ride on, the planes we fly on, and nearly every product we purchase depends on the problem solvers we call engineers. Part of the STEM area of study (science, technology, engineering and math) the field of engineering covers a broad spectrum of disciplines. Five of today’s most popular engineering careers include:

  • Chemical engineering
  • Civil engineering
  • Electrical engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Aerospace (aeronautical) engineering

Five Engineering Careers and Their Respective Salaries

1. Chemical engineering—Chemical engineers often find themselves employed by pharmaceutical companies, cosmetic companies, and food manufacturers, for example. In fact, any company engaged in gas and oil extraction, refining, nuclear energy, and agrochemicals offer careers to those with degrees in chemical engineering. The national median salary is just over $81,000.

2. Civil engineering—Civil engineering jobs are typically with the government, working on major roads, towns, and cities. Civil engineers work with contractors to assess the project’s needs and help design safety measures so that buildings can withstand environmental hazards such as hurricanes or earthquakes. Job responsibilities include analyzing soil samples, recommending the most effective building materials, preparing cost estimates, submitting permit applications, and ensuring compliance with all federal and state regulations. The average median salary for a civil engineer is just over $82,000.

3. Electrical engineering—Electrical engineers work primarily with power generation and supply systems. They also work with electrical generation systems, wiring, lighting, and circuitry. There are many career paths, including developing instrumentation that measures electricity, improving systems that generate power, or streamlining the installations that transmit and use power. Electrical engineers are often tasked with  existing systems and updating where needed. Median annual salary is just above $87,000.

4. Mechanical engineering—Mechanical engineers design power-producing machines and devices. Examples include electrical generators, internal combustion engines, steam and gas turbines, as well as refrigeration and air-conditioning systems. They also design machines that run in buildings, such as elevators, escalator systems, and oversee safety and regulatory compliance. The annual median salary for a mechanical engineer is about $80,000.

5. Aerospace (aeronautical) engineering—Learn the mechanics that govern how planes,  rockets, helicopters, and space shuttles work. For a bachelor’s degree in this engineering discipline, you’ll need to take calculus, physics, and chemistry. Degree holders often follow careers working for commercial airlines, private space organizations or for government agencies or the military. Aerospace or aeronautical engineers earn an average salary of nearly $85,000 a year. 

In addition to the above, you’ll find a wealth of engineering specialties, such as:

  • Biomedical  
  • Computer
  • Environmental
  • Industrial
  • Nuclear
  • Software
  • Structural

So, how do you pick the specialty that’s right for you? Prelum, Powered by Kaplan has the answer. We partner with some of the leading research universities in the nation who offer online engineering enrichment programs for high school students. Many of our partners are strong STEM educators and provide a rich variety of courses. Here are some leading examples.

University of Rochester’s Pre-College Online Program for high school students offers courses in biomedical engineering. In addition to this engineering course, if other areas of STEM also strike your interest, University of Rochester offers several other pre-college STEM courses for teens. They have medicine and orthopedic medicine. They even have an option for video game design, ideal for budding design engineers who have a passion for the world of gaming.

Case Western Reserve University has two engineering enrichment courses for teens, that include engineering, biomedical engineering. In addition, they offer several other online STEM pre-college courses including  computer science, and neuroscience and medicine.

Finally, there’s Rice University. This renowned research school offers a genome engineering course for teens, which looks at how human genetics can be leveraged to diagnose and cure diseases. In addition to that, they also have an array of STEM enrichment programs online. Aerospace considers the potential for space exploration on Mars, and Physiology studies how the nervous, muscular, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems work together.

Keep in mind: engineering is one of the most diverse fields of study. So, whether you’re interested in biomedical, mechanical, electrical, aerospace, or even video game design, there is a role for you. Don’t wait! Start exploring with pre-college engineering courses while you’re in high school. It makes the choice a lot easier.

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*Kaplan may receive compensation upon student enrollment in one of our partner programs.*