Engineering Degree & Career Guide

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What Is Engineering?

Engineering incorporates research, science, and extensive mathematics to solve problems and design solutions. Engineers may use their analytical and problem-solving skills to create efficient processes and products. They may build bridges and buildings, test and refine products, or develop solutions to environmental problems.

Some engineers spend their days trying to improve upon the human condition. Others spend their time seeking to improve the nation’s defense strategies or design the latest pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities.

Because of the many disciplines and subfields in engineering, engineers work in almost every industry. You can find these professionals in manufacturing, architecture, healthcare, petroleum, and renewable energy. They may work for government agencies like NASA, tech powerhouses like Google, and aerospace companies like Boeing.

Frequently Asked Questions About Engineering

Is being an engineer worth it?

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For creative, analytical individuals with a firm grasp of mathematics and science, becoming an engineer can offer a rewarding and lucrative career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), of the over 56.8 million people employed with a bachelor's degree in 2019, over 4.7 million held engineering degrees. The median annual wage for these individuals came to about $93,000.

The New York Federal Reserve's February 2022 study on salaries for college graduates found 9 out of the top 10 majors with the highest earnings were engineering majors. Computer engineering came in number one with an early career median wage of $74,000.

What are the best engineering degrees?

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The BLS reports that, in 2019, about 75% of students specialized in electrical, mechanical, civil, general, or computer engineering. However, the best engineering degrees are largely determined by a student's interests and strengths. Aspiring engineers can pursue numerous subfields within the main types of engineering.

For example, those interested in renewable energy may specialize in solar engineering. Someone intrigued by monitoring coastal environments and working on harbors or undersea vehicles may consider ocean engineering. Others work in plastics, biomedical, and robotics engineering. The best engineering degree may be the one that stirs your passion and offers diverse opportunities.

What are the best engineering jobs?

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For those looking for one of the top in-demand engineering careers, the BLS projects a 14% job growth for industrial engineers from 2020-2030. This amounts to an average of 23,300 job openings every year.

Because these engineers focus on reducing costs and increasing efficiency, they work in numerous industries, including manufacturing, aerospace, and healthcare. These professionals earn a median annual wage of $95,300 as of May 2021.

Engineers looking for one of the highest paying engineering jobs may seek positions as petroleum engineers. The BLS reports that these engineers earn a median annual wage of $130,580 as of May 2021.

How much do engineers make?

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According to the BLS, people with an engineering degree earned a median wage of $93,000 in 2019. However, salaries for engineers vary dramatically, based on the specialty, experience level, position, and location.

For example, aerospace engineers earn a median salary of $122,270 as of May 2021, while civil engineers reported a median wage of $88,050.

Environmental engineers offer an example of the difference in salaries by location. These professionals earn a median wage of $96,820 as of May 2020. Environmental engineers in Texas and California boast some of the highest earnings, with average salaries of $122,170 and $115,160, respectively, as of May 2021.

What are the highest-paying engineering careers?

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Engineering managers boast some of the highest pay in the field. These managers may coordinate and oversee construction or manufacturing sites, or develop concepts and production plans for new products.

This position typically requires several years of work experience, with some professionals earning their master's degrees. According to the BLS, in May 2021, these managers earned a median annual salary of $152,350, with the top 10% making more than $208,000.

The three types of engineers with the highest salaries are petroleum, computer hardware, and aerospace engineers. These professionals earned a median annual wage of $130,850, $128,170, and $122,270, respectively, in 2021.

How do I become an engineer?

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The first step to becoming an engineer is earning your bachelor's degree in engineering from a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Accreditation ensures a high standard of education and is a requirement for licensure.

States require licensure for engineers working directly with the public and preparing and submitting engineering plans and drawings to a public authority. Licensure is also required if you are a consultant or private practitioner, and government agencies may require it for higher-level positions.

Engineers must work under a licensed professional engineer for at least four years and pass two exams to gain licensure.

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