Software engineers are just the tip of the iceberg. You can have a lucrative and fulfilling engineering career without dedicating your life to developing the latest iPhone app. That’s why it’s important to explore engineering majors wisely.
With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of the top five engineering careers (along with a few honorable mentions) that covers everything from median salary to what you can expect from a typical day on the job.
#1 Petroleum Engineer
At the top of our list of potential career paths is petroleum engineer. As the experts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) point out, no other engineering-related job rakes in quite the average yearly salary as this one. Specifically, the median salary for a petroleum engineer stands at about $130,280. That being said, landing a job in this field is far from a walk in the park.
To be considered for a position in petroleum engineering, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering – with preference given to those who go the extra mile and specialize in petroleum engineering. Once you’re on the job, the average work day will cover developing and designing methods for extracting oil and gas from resource-laden deposits located deep below the earth’s surface. Additionally, some petroleum engineers also focus on discovering new methods for extracting even more oil and gas from previously tapped older wells and deposits.
In terms of job outlook, the BLS notes that the rise in demand over the past several years – a 26 percent rate that easily dwarfs the averages of other fields – shows that those willing to put in the hard work on this front are more than capable of securing a position fresh out of college.
#2 Nuclear Engineer
If delving into the deep and dark recesses of the earth’s crust in search of natural resources doesn’t pique your interest, then it might be time to consider the second-highest paying engineering profession on this list – nuclear engineering. As a nuclear engineer, you can expect to make around $104,270 per year, all while facing a job growth rate that is roughly equal to the average rate across other professions.
As far as an actual work day at the power plant goes, serving as a nuclear engineer means studying, creating, and implementing processes, instruments, and systems that aim to harvest and control nuclear energy and radiation. To reach this position, you’ll need a bachelor’s in nuclear engineering, with internships and prior work experience standing as a highly desirable attribute during the hiring process.
#3 Aerospace Engineer
Coming in at third place in our look at the top five engineering careers, aerospace engineers seek to take their practical and mechanical acumen to the skies with the design of aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. Generally, this type of engineer works with large scale manufacturers and firms as these organizations conduct cutting-edge research and test relevant prototypes.
In return for your acquisition of a degree in aerospace engineering – or another related field of engineering or aerospace science – you’ll receive a median salary that hovers around the $103,720 mark. Unfortunately, this subset of engineering currently offers a job growth rate that is slightly lower than the national average (nine percent), so the job search and application process may take longer than what is expected with some of the other entries on this list.
#4 Computer Hardware Engineer
Taking on a position as a computer hardware engineer is all about combining your love of computer technology with the desire to work with a “hands-on” approach. With an average salary of around $100,920 a year, most engineers in this field end up working with high-tech manufacturing firms as they pursue new advancements in component functionality and processing power.
Generally, you’ll need a degree from an accredited program covering either – or both – of the computer science or engineering disciplines. Much like the prospects facing aerospace engineers, this field is also currently facing a slightly below average rate of growth in terms of future job opportunities.
#5 Chemical Engineer
The career path clocking in at the fifth and final position – chemical engineering – is all about applying the concepts held within chemistry, biology, physics, and math to the production of chemicals, food, medicinal supplies, fuel, and a variety of other end-user items. Usually, students who aim for this opportunity will participate in on-site work or internships at corporate offices or laboratories, as the emphasis placed upon practical experience is elevated significantly within this profession.
In return for your education and practical experience, you can expect to take home a median salary that stands at $94,350 a year. However, with a growth rate of only four percent, patience and a willingness to work toward the right opportunity during the job search is vital to your success.
Of course, if none of these options fit what you’re looking for as a prospective engineering student, there are still plenty of other engineering careers that can fit your needs. Here’s a quick look at the next three “honorable mentions” that just barely missed out on making the top five list:
- Electrical Engineer – Focuses on the design and development of electrical equipment; averages an annual salary of $89,630.
- Marine Engineer – Engineers that build and maintain everything from sailboats to submersibles. Members of this engineering discipline lay claim to a yearly salary that comes in at about $88,100.
- Biomedical Engineer – With an emphasis on analyzing and designing solutions to biological and medicinal problems, this type of engineer receives nearly $87,000 a year in compensation.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of opportunities for the students out there who want take their studies to the next level with a degree in one of the many engineering fields. From harvesting resources efficiently as a petroleum engineer, to moving into the chemical or biomedical fields, there’s sure to be a job out there that combines your love of the practical world of engineering with a problem that needs solving.
As owner of the higher education site Accelerated Degree, Joy Miller researches and reviews colleges offering accelerated classes and degrees, connecting students with programs that match their educational goals and career interests.