Top 6 high-paying engineering jobs
What are the most lucrative niches with the highest engineering salaries? Here are six high-paying specialties, from entry level to senior management.
The U.S. produces some of the best engineering talent in the world, and engineers trained in the most in-demand fields can command among the highest salaries of all college graduates in the country. For some of the highest-paying engineering jobs, some employers will require a master’s degree or, occasionally, a doctorate, though a bachelor's degree is the standard engineering qualification. Additionally, all engineers, in any discipline, generally must pass a licensure exam if they offer services directly to the public.
Who earns a high engineering salary? That depends on your specialty and where in the country you work. For example, salaries for mining engineers in Reston, Virginia differ from salaries for plumbing engineers in Fremont, California, which differ from devOps engineers in Blackfoot, Indiana. That said, most engineers are well compensated across the board.
Here are six of the highest-paying disciplines, from entry-level to senior engineer.
1. Aerospace engineer, level V
What you'd do: Aerospace engineering jobs are one of those few high-paying positions that actually may require rocket science. Working on multidisciplinary teams, aerospace engineers design, develop and test spaceships, aircraft and missiles, exploiting knowledge that spans aerodynamics, avionics, propulsion and materials science. A senior aerospace engineer typically has many years of experience, not necessarily all in the aerospace industry. At this level, aerospace engineers usually supervise other engineers and may have buck-stops-here responsibility for major projects, military or civilian.
What you'd need: A bachelor’s degree in aerospace or an allied engineering specialty, plus eight or more years’ experience.
What you'd make: $119,292 per year
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2. Engineering manager
What you'd do: Engineers often make the best managers of engineers; that’s why many organizations have created the role of engineering manager. Understanding the capabilities and limitations of engineering talent, these managers oversee many engineering projects and processes, from creating design specs to managing people and budgets, and measuring and evaluating results. Engineering managers typically have talent and experience in general business management and in the engineering disciplines practiced within their organizations. An engineering manager might supervise half a dozen or more staff engineers; an engineering director might oversee hundreds or thousands.
What you'd need: A bachelor’s degree in engineering and eight or so years’ experience.
What you'd make: $115,036 per year
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3. Materials engineer, level III
What you'd do: Materials engineers have the right stuff to make stuff smarter—and cheaper, which is ironic seeing as how they're among the highest paying engineering jobs. Whether they’re building a better bulletproof vest or creating glue that sticks only where you want it to, materials engineers think deep thoughts about which existing materials are suited to the task or what new materials need to be invented. Many engineers specialize in a particular material—like ceramics, plastics or steel—and conjure a way to make that material serve where it’s never served before. Biomedical material promises to be one of the most fascinating and potentially lucrative engineering subspecialties of the future, starting now.
What you'd need: A bachelor’s degree in engineering, plus four to six years’ experience.
What you'd make: $81,871 per year
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4. Petroleum drilling engineer, level I
What you'd do: Drill, baby, drill: Politicians may disagree on the sentiment, and fossil fuel prices may shift priorities, but producers are always looking for engineers to design and implement systems to extract oil and gas from the earth. Drilling engineers use an ever-expanding array of technologies to bring forth the maximum petroleum at the lowest cost, while meeting stringent worker-safety and environmental-protection requirements. An entry-level petroleum drilling engineer is more likely to be assigned a reservoir to tap than a novel technique to develop, but the challenges are plentiful from the start. What happens when the world passes peak oil production? The tasks of petroleum engineers only get more interesting.
What you'd need: A bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering is preferred, but those qualified in chemical, civil, or mechanical engineering may need higher education.
What you'd make: $76,747 per year
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5. Chemical engineer, level II
What you'd do: Chemical engineers are not alchemists, though they sometimes appear to work magic. Process designers above all, these practical chemists figure out how to make more and better product out of less raw materials less expensively, employing everything from oxidation reactions to nanotechnology. Chemical engineers build better molecular mousetraps to create everything from ultrastrong fibers to materials for prosthetics. A mid-career chemical engineer will take on projects with increasing autonomy, while collaborating with professionals from many technical disciplines.
What you'd need: A bachelor’s degree, preferably in chemical engineering, plus three to five years’ experience.
What you'd make: $74,480 per year
6. Nuclear engineer, level I
What you'd do: With its tremendous potential for both good and harm, nuclear energy is nothing if not complex. Consider the billions of dollars of control, backup and other safety systems that go into the construction, maintenance and upgrading of each nuclear plant. Engineers design, test and monitor the operations of nuclear plants, and drive the processes by which plants are decommissioned and their spent fuel transported and stored for thousands of years. Nuclear fuels also power many spacecraft and submarines, and nuclear medicine is a burgeoning field. One caveat: As one of the most controversial and regulated industries, nuclear power and the jobs it creates are subject to the shifting winds of politics and government policy.
What you'd need: A bachelor’s degree at a minimum. Some positions require licensing; senior positions may require an advanced degree.
What you'd make: $64,605 per year
Find the highest-paying engineering jobs
Engineering can be an extremely lucrative career, but you have to go where the big money is. That includes plotting a career path that gives you ample opportunity to move up the ladder. Are you trying to find a good engineering job, but don't know where to start? Join Monster today. As a member, you can upload up to five different versions of your resume—each tailored to different types of jobs you're interested in. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top engineering jobs with qualified candidates, just like you.