A Comprehensive List of Engineering Careers and Salaries
The demand for professional engineers is expected to rise over the next few decades. This is because there are significant advancements in technology, research, and computing in 2021. Furthermore, engineering is considered to have one of the lowest unemployment rates of any major industry.
This article is meant for people who are considering pursuing a career in engineering. There are several subspecialties in the field to consider while looking for work. So, we’ll go over 15 types of engineering careers in this article to help you decide which one matches your skills and interests.
Top 15 Highest-Paying Engineering Jobs of 2021
There is currently an influx of job openings in the engineering industry. Job growth projections and average salaries in the field are higher than the national averages in the United States.
Below are some of the highest-paying engineering jobs of 2021. Also provided are the required education, including engineering degrees that can be taken online or in person.
Average Salary: $137,330
Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Petroleum Engineering, Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, or Chemical Engineering
Petroleum engineers come up with new ways to extract oil and gas from underground reserves and study them. The petroleum engineer position is increasing in popularity among students. Job growth of three percent is expected in this field.
Those who pursue a career as a petroleum engineer should have strong analytical and problem-solving skills and a willingness to explore and work indoors and outdoors.
Petroleum Engineer Duties
- Studies the engineering and geological data of an area
- Travels overseas and supervises stages of production
- Works in offices or at drilling and well sites
- Locates valuable oil sources
- Recovers and transports oil
Average Salary: $123,970
Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Photonics or Optical Engineering
Engineers working in photonics are concerned with developing and improving light sources as well as the optical fibers that light passes through. These engineers need to be well-versed in the fields of physics and optics.
Photonics engineers need to have design skills to come up with original and effective design plans for new technologies. They should also have strong analytical and problem-solving skills, with knowledge of computers and programming.
Photonics Engineer Duties
- Creates and improves types of technology that involve photons
- Collaborates and supervises the process of constructing prototypes
- Performs tests to ensure the designed technology is operating as desired
Average Salary: $118,610
Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering or related studies like a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering
Aerospace engineering is a branch of engineering that deals with the design and development of spacecraft and aircraft. Aerospace engineering has two subfields.
One is astronautical engineering, which deals with spacecraft and equipment outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. Another is aeronautical engineering, which deals with aircraft that travel inside the Earth’s atmosphere.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for aerospace engineers is expected to see a three percent increase. If you’re interested in aerospace engineering, you should have practical experience via internships or engineering camps.
Aerospace Engineer Duties
- Designs, develops, and tests aerospace products
- Evaluates the feasibility of products
- Troubleshoots and corrects product issues
- Observes adherence to product quality standards
Average Salary: $116,140
Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Nuclear Engineering
Nuclear engineers design and build equipment and technologies that utilize radiation and nuclear power. This makes them especially relevant employees in the government, research and development services, manufacturing, and healthcare.
Nuclear engineers also serve as compliance officers, to a degree, as they ensure that nuclear facilities and equipment operate safely and well within the standards and regulations specific to the industry and the government.
While nuclear engineers are among the highest-paid engineers, the job growth in the field is expected to decline by 13 percent in the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This may be caused by the increasing focus on using natural gas which is a more affordable power source.
Nuclear Engineer Duties
- Researches and documents the properties of nuclear energy and its sources
- Develops systems and technologies that harness nuclear energy
- Determines protocols for working with nuclear materials safely and feasibly
Average Salary: $110,140
Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Software Engineering Certification, Self-Taught
Software engineers are computer science professionals who use their knowledge of engineering principles and programming skills to design computer software and control systems.
Software engineering is one of the most in-demand engineering careers. According to BLS, demand for software developers will grow 22 percent by 2029, which is much faster than the national average for all occupations.
While a majority of software engineers hold bachelor’s degrees in computer science or software engineering, others have launched their careers without the traditional credential.
Some taught themselves through various online courses and tutorials. Others enrolled in coding bootcamps, which offer programs that focus on developing software engineering skills.
Software Engineer Duties
- Writes and develops software solutions and operating systems that meet user needs
- Improves development operations and establishes technical policies and procedures
- Troubleshoots issues and maintains products already deployed in the market
Average Salary: $108,540
Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering
Chemical engineers oversee chemical production and the manufacture of products through chemical processes. The chemical engineering field is expected to see an influx of nearly 1,500 jobs in the next decade, according to BLS.
Chemical engineers work in a variety of fields, from petroleum refineries and fertilizer plants to product manufacturing.
Chemical Engineer Duties
- Analyzes materials and products for chemical and physical properties
- Researches, plans, and creates new production procedures that adhere to industry regulations and maximize productivity
- Ensures that equipment meet the appropriate specifications and safety standards
Electrical and Electronics Engineering
Average Salary: $103,390
Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering (although some employers also require a master’s degree)
Electrical and electronics engineers design and build modern electrical equipment, devices, and systems. Because of the nature of their work, electrical engineers need to be knowledgeable in physics, electrical circuit theory, and mathematics.
Employment for electrical engineers is expected to increase by three percent in the next 10 years, according to BLS. This aligns with the average job growth rate across occupations.
Electrical Engineer Duties
- Conducts research to test the capabilities and efficiency of electrical systems, devices, materials, and applications
- Designs electrical systems and products that meet customer requirements
- Estimates project time frame as well as material and labor costs
Average Salary: $96,923
Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Nanotechnology or NanoEngineering, or related fields like Chemical, Mechanical, and Electrical Engineering (although some employers may require as high as a PhD)
Nanotechnology engineering is a branch of engineering that deals with the design, development, and operation of nanoscale engines, devices, structures, and materials. Examples include carbon nanotubes, nanocomposites, and quantum dots.
The field is expected to grow in size and scope, as we approach a more technologically advanced era.
Nanotechnology Engineer Duties
- Supervises or provides technical direction to technicians engaged in nanotechnology research and production
- Design plans and creates prototypes of nanomaterials
- Analyzes the life cycle and properties of nanomaterials to determine their environmental impact
Average Salary: $95,640
Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Materials Science and Engineering
Materials engineers study and design materials that are later used to create products used for bigger applications. This is why materials engineers are often said to work on materials “at the atomic level.”
According to the BLS, job openings for materials engineers are expected to grow by two percent in the next decade. This is much slower than the average growth across the job board. The work of material engineers extends to several other engineering fields, including mechanical, chemical, and electrical.
Materials Engineer Duties
- Uses power tools, lab equipment, and computer technologies to develop new materials
- Tests and analyzes the atomic structure of materials, including their sustainability and resilience
- Develop, test, and process materials for the manufacturing, communications, and civil engineering industries
Average Salary: $95,440
Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture
A marine engineer’s job is to study, design, build, and maintain marine vessels and components. Due to the scope of their projects, marine engineers need to demonstrate a high level of project management skills along with their technical capacities.
Marine engineers should also have experience with naval architecture and various engineering processes including mechanical, electrical, and software. They should also be physically fit and able to operate under challenging weather conditions.
Although marine engineers earn a high income, the field offers limited job opportunities for aspiring marine engineers. According to BLS, the field of marine engineering is expected to see the addition of only 200 jobs (equivalent to a one percent growth) in the next decade.
Marine Engineer Duties
- Conducts research and tests to inform the design and construction of marine vehicles and equipment
- Prepares technical reports such as systems diagnostics and design analysis documentation
- Ensures the quality and integrity of marine vessels and equipment
Average Salary: $93,800
Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Geoscience, Geotechnical Engineering, or Geological Engineering
Geological engineers use their knowledge of earth sciences to determine sources of mineral deposits. They also work closely with civil and structural engineers to assess the integrity of potential construction sites.
According to the BLS, aspiring geological engineers can expect a three percent employment growth in the field in the coming years.
Geological Engineer Duties
- Evaluates the environmental and structural feasibility of development projects that involve soil, rock, and other natural formations
- Oversees works that include excavation or underground exploration like mining projects
- Studies and determines possible sites for mineral deposits
Average Salary: $92,620
Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Bioengineering or Biomedical Engineering (although some employers may require advanced degrees)
A biomedical engineer analyzes and designs solutions for problems in biology and medicine. They work to improve the quality and effectiveness of patient care through engineering concepts.
Job opportunities for biomedical engineers are expected to grow by five percent in the next decade, according to BLS. This is equivalent to the addition of 1,000 jobs in the field from 2019 to 2029.
Biomedical Engineer Duties
- Designs, maintains, and calibrates biomedical equipment and machines for diagnosing medical problems
- Studies how engineering principles apply to biological systems with life scientists, chemists, and medical scientists
- Evaluates any proposals for new biomedical equipment by assessing its purpose and efficiency
Average Salary: $92,120
Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Engineering
Environmental engineers create solutions to environmental issues. Depending on their specialization, environmental engineers may work on mitigating land, air, or water pollution. They may also work to devise strategies that can help with waste management and maintaining public health.
Because of the nature of the field, a career in environmental engineering is ideal for those who are comfortable with working in offices and on the field.
BLS reports a three percent employment growth in this particular engineering field. Many environmental engineers find employment as consultants in corporations and government agencies.
Environmental Engineer Duties
- Evaluates the compliance of infrastructure with environmental regulations
- Studies and determines potential sources of environmental contaminants
- Devises strategies to mitigate the effects of pollution and potentially stem the sources
Average Salary: $90,160
Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering Technology
Mechanical engineers develop a range of mechanical products and machinery across industries. This makes mechanical engineering one of the far-reaching fields in engineering. Incoming mechanical engineers must obtain a license valid in every state in America to be considered professional engineers.
The job outlook for mechanical engineers looks promising. According to the BLS, there’s an expected influx of over 12,000 jobs in the field in the next decade. Mechanical engineers usually work in offices or go to work sites.
Mechanical Engineer Duties
- Estimates project life cycle, labor, and material costs
- Develops and maintains mechanical products and systems to specifications and expected capacities
- Creates technical documentation to be used as a guide by mechanical operators
Computer Science Engineering
Average Salary: $83,821
Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering
Computer science engineers design, build, and test new computer hardware. Their work is utilized in the development of a variety of appliances, ranging from home alarm systems to medical devices.
As technology becomes more advanced, computer science engineers are becoming highly in demand. Computer science engineers should have strong knowledge of programming and computer theory. They should also be keen collaborators and innovative thinkers.
Computer Science Engineer Duties
- Designs and constructs components that help computers operate
- Collaborates in teams and researches user requirements
- Monitors and evaluates system performance for maintenance or further improvements
Other Notable Engineering Careers
Below is a list of several more engineering careers that you may be interested in. Although not in the top 15 of the highest-paying engineering jobs for 2021, you should also take note of these other fields if you are keen to pursue an engineering career. The salaries below were taken from the BLS, ZipRecruiter, PayScale, and Salary.com and reflect average rates at the time of writing.
What Does It Take to Become An Engineer?
Engineering is an exciting career with a lot of growth and earning potential. Engineers work in a range of industries and use science, mathematics, and technological tools to solve problems.
The best engineers are those who possess strong organizational and time management skills. Those who can work well with teams as well as independently are also strong assets.
To become an engineer, you should have a strong knowledge of math and science skills. You’ll also need to acquire industry-specific knowledge, which should be possible if you pursue a relevant bachelor’s degree online or in person.
For most fields, employers seek candidates who have practical experience. Therefore, internships and cooperative engineering programs are helpful.
Engineering Jobs FAQs
What kinds of jobs do engineers work in?
Engineers are involved in several tasks that involve experimentation, creative thinking, and problem-solving. Engineers work in several kinds of industries and fields. You could work with aircraft, watercraft, road design, and software programs.
Which engineering field is the easiest?
Some areas may tend to be simpler than others in terms of technicality and knowledge, but that does not diminish their significance. Ultimately, the field that will be the easiest for you is the one that plays to your strengths, interests, and lifestyle. Some less-demanding yet high-paying engineering careers include architectural, civil, and environmental.
Which engineers earn the highest salary?
The five highest-earning engineer careers specialize in petroleum, photonics, computer science, aerospace, and nuclear engineering. However, each of these careers is demanding and requires hard work, so salary is not the only thing you should consider when choosing a field to study.
What do engineers study?
An engineering major involves an interdisciplinary and hands-on study of math, science, and some business concepts. Students learn how to plan and perform experiments as well as how to find and solve problems. Engineers must also consider professional and ethical responsibilities and interact effectively in general engineering courses.