Here’s a snapshot of the salaries and job prospects for engineering careers by discipline. These numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that some professions such as biomedical engineering will see growth as high as 62% through 2020, while many others such as aerospace engineering and chemical engineering will see growth rates well below 10%. For most of these disciplines, job prospects will be bolstered by the retiring baby boomers combined with low graduation rates.
As for salaries, petroleum engineers are enjoying relative prosperity with a mean salary of $149,000 and top-rung earnings of $186,000. At the low end on the salary spectrum, the industrial engineer is seeing a mean of $83,000, with top earnings at $123,000.
Click on the image below to see how engineers in other disciplines are faring.
Electrical and Electronics Engineering
The BLS expects employment of electrical and electronics engineers to grow 6% from 2010 to 2020. Mean salaries are $93,000, with top earners getting $139,000. Employment growth will be tempered by the slow growth or decline of most manufacturing sectors. New growth will largely be in engineering services firms, as more companies cut costs by contracting engineering services rather than directly employing engineers.
As for job prospects, the rapid pace of technological innovation and development will likely drive demand for electrical and electronics engineers in research and development, where their expertise will be needed to develop distribution systems related to new technologies.
Another aspect to consider: Can the job be outsourced to a "low-cost country"? If it can, it will be (or has been). In software, computer, electrical, and mechanical engineering disciplines, I have observed a tremendous effort on the part of many employers to perform the bulk of the engineering in Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, India, Phillipines, and China while the customer interactions, high-level system design, and system integration are performed on-shore. It seems more difficult to off-shore nuclear, petroleum, mining, and environment engineering that require site presence.
Regarding technologies versus fundamentals, I disagree with Stephen Paine that having learned the engineering fundamentals, "he will be better able to adapt to newer technologies." It seems employers in software/computer/electronics are all about hiring people already being knowledgable about desired technologies. Companies clean house through a Reduction In Force to avoid training costs. They seem quite happy to hire the (cheap) engineer with 0-5 years of experience, but who learned the latest technologies in university.
The growth rate in any particular field is only part of the data needed to judge job prospects. You also need to know the number employed in a particular field and the age distribution of those employees.
A rapidly expanding workforce in a narrow specialty won't have a large number of open positions and it is more likely that the workforce will be skewed towards younger workers. A projection of rapidly expanding growth in a narrow field may cause more students to enter the field even though the actual number jobs to be filled won't be that great.
Training in a field that has many engineers, a modest growth rate, but a large percentage nearing retirement may well offer a greater chance of finding employment. New engineers will be needed to fill new positions as well as replacing the retiring engineers.
Most people have a career lasting about 40 years. Even if the size of the workforce was stable every ten years 25% of the workforce needs to be replaced.
After a new engineer gets his first job he starts to think about two things: how long will the job last, and how much will my salary grow. If his education was all about the newest technology and techniques he may become obsolete after a few years. If his education was more about math, science and engineering fundamentals he will be better able to adapt to newer technologies.
I agree. I am also an engineer with a background in computer engineering and I don't see these numbers in SE Michigan. So, there is a lot of detail missing to get a full understanding behind the numbers.
If the published results are true, this is a horribly depressing presentation. Here in southeastern Michigan controls engineers have not been getting nearly that much. And that is with a full degree in electrical/electronics engineering, the ability to do mechanical, hydraulic, and pneumatic system designs, and a good talent for customer relations.
So a breakdown by states could make the data a lot more useful and informative, and possibly demanding a copy of tax returns or W2 forms to verify the claimed incomes.
Excellent slides Rob. It's good to see the engineering profession is somewhat insulated from economic conditions and particular skill sets will remain valuable over the next decade. One take-a-way from your slides seem to indicate that contract and/or consulting fields should be more in demand than ever. I have an engineering consulting firm and notice that more and more companies wish to employ contract engineers rather than have overhead numbers on their books. When the project is over, we go home. I suspect this will be a continuing trend in this decade also. I was very surprised with the 62% projected growth rate of biomedical engineering. This is a very exciting field and hopefully will continue to attract the best and brightest engineers in the near future.
I have a friend who was a Nuclear Engineer at a reactor in South Florida; a skill he gained from his 20 years in the US Navy, as a Chief on a Nuclear Submarine. When I recently asked him why he was no longer working there, and instead is now an operations manager at a small HVAC company, to stared somberly at me, and said, "You just cannot imagine the stress".
Most people viewing the presented info will see two things for each engineering group:
Median wage (not average)
Top wages (sometimes defined - not always- as top 10%)
What is lost .. the observation that 1/2 of the engineers in each of these categories will be making less than the Median wage. With no indication of the minimum.
Young people can often be mis-lead with this kind of information.
- Where the work is (Northeasten seaboard, South Dakota, ?)
- The life style required of the work (many of these "engineering" categories require being constantly "on the road" / "in the field"....having any consistent time with your children nearly impossible.
- to get top money requires becoming engineering management.
- reflect the years of experience of the group. (median age of the group?)
All have dramatic impact on wage scale for the work being performed.
These often impact quality of life as much as the work.
I often find young people ignoring these very important aspects of their choices - only to be very un-happy later.
Life choices are rarely simple. And career choices are among the toughest.
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