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The Big Payback: Engineering Salaries Rank Among Highest for Graduates

Jan. 5, 2024
Engineering, computer and IT are among America’s highest-paying sectors, reveals Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Engineering grads earn $97K on average.

The path to the highest paying job evolves from multiple factors. But if salary is the goal right off the bat, one data analysis positions graduates from engineering at the top of its rankings. 

QR code generator analyzed data for industries in which graduates can earn the most. Their research revealed that engineering comes out tops with a median salary of $97K per year.   

Methodology Matters

The study’s source information is based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and analyzed median salary, the percentage of workers with an advanced degree and the percentage of graduates with a specific major. These criteria were sourced for 36 fields of degree in the U.S. Serving as comparable figures, the average annual median wage and the average percentage of employees with an advanced degree were also included. 

READ MORE: Engineers Bring Pride, Experience to Their Craft—and it Pays

Data Sparks Conversation

Insights from the ASME’s (The American Society of Mechanical Engineers) review of salaries for mechanical engineers provide a useful comparison. Their latest report revealed the median annual wage estimates for mechanical engineers to be $96,310, a figure that is well above the national average ($61,990). The top 10 percentile makes an average annual wage of $151,260 in this research.

ASME’s figures are based on 277,000 mechanical engineers currently employed in the U.S. and are drawn from National Occupation Employment and Wage Estimates published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Astute readers will bear in mind that the use of data involves an interpretive process and that data is underpinned by underlying conditions and contexts.  

Presented below is a duplicate of the QR code generator findings. By no means an end-in-itself, consider the information a conversation starter when compared with other engineering surveys.

1. Engineering Takes the Lead

With the highest median salary of $97K, engineering graduates working in the industry have the most lucrative degrees. The average median wage across all industries is $63K for graduates, meaning that those with engineering degrees are earning 54% more. The data revealed that 42% of people working in the industry have an advanced degree, and one of the most popular engineering majors is electrical engineering, with a total of 22% majoring in this discipline. 

2. Computer and IT 

Computer and IT graduates are the second-highest earners, with a median annual salary of $90K. Individuals working in this sector are earning 43% more than the average graduate, and 30% of these workers hold an advanced degree. An overwhelming majority of graduates majored in computer science, 61% to be exact. 

3. Transportation Sciences and Technologies

The third highest-earning industry for graduates is transportation, with the median salary at $82K. Those with transportation degrees are earning 30% more than the average graduate, and all of these graduates majored in transportation sciences and technologies. 21% of workers in the field have an advanced degree. 

4. Engineering Technologies 

Engineering technologies graduates are the fourth-highest earners with a median salary of $80K. Graduates working in this industry are earning 27% more than the average degree holder and 25% hold an advanced degree. Electrical engineering technology majors make up 27% of engineering technologies graduates. 

5. Mathematics

Taking the fifth spot is the mathematics sector. With a median salary of $78K, math grads are earning 24% more than the average graduate. 51% of workers in the industry have an advanced degree. 

READ MORE: Annual Salary Survey eBook from Machine Design

6. Construction Industry

Closely following in sixth place is the construction industry, with graduates earning a median salary of $77K; this is 22% above the average. All graduates majored in construction services, and 11% hold an advanced degree.  

7. Physical Science

Physical science is the seventh most lucrative industry for graduates with a median salary of $74K, which is 17% more than the average. Chemistry majors hold the largest share of the physical science majors, with 35%. The industry proves itself as scholarly, with 53% holding an advanced degree.  

8. Science Technologies

In eighth place is science technologies. Graduates in this industry earn a median salary of $72K, which is 14% more than an average graduate wage. Approximately 100% of science technologies graduates majored in nuclear, industrial radiology and biological technologies. 24% have earned an advanced degree. 

9. Architecture, Biology, Military

In the penultimate spot is architecture, biology and the military in joint ninth place. The graduates of these industries earn a median salary of $70K and are above the average percentage of employees with an advanced degree, which is 38%.  

10. Business

Rounding off the rankings is business. Graduates in this industry are earning a median salary of $69K. The data showed that 27% of business graduates major in business management and administration and 26% of workers hold an advanced degree. 

READ MORE: Survey of Engineers: Pushing Roles to the Edge of Possibility

What’s the Upshot?

QRFY has this to say about the findings: “With the majority of the top ten industries in the rankings being math-based and science-based, it shows how it is most profitable for students to major in these subjects. Since last year, university tuition rates have risen by up to 5%, so it will be interesting to see if demand for these well-paying degree fields rises in line with increasing tuition costs.

Also notable, according to the company, there appears to be little correlation between having an advanced degree and earning a large salary. “Four of the least well-paid industries are also four of the industries with the highest percentage of workers with an advanced degree,” noted the company’s release. “At 67%, library science is the sector with the highest percentage of workers with an advanced degree, but it ranks in the bottom ten for pay, with a median salary of $49K.”    

Editor’s Note: Machine Design's WISE (Workers in Science and Engineering) hub compiles our coverage of workplace issues affecting the engineering field, in addition to contributions from equity seeking groups and subject matter experts within various subdisciplines.

About the Author

Rehana Begg | Editor-in-Chief, Machine Design

As Machine Design’s content lead, Rehana Begg is tasked with elevating the voice of the design and multi-disciplinary engineer in the face of digital transformation and engineering innovation. Begg has more than 24 years of editorial experience and has spent the past decade in the trenches of industrial manufacturing, focusing on new technologies, manufacturing innovation and business. Her B2B career has taken her from corporate boardrooms to plant floors and underground mining stopes, covering everything from automation & IIoT, robotics, mechanical design and additive manufacturing to plant operations, maintenance, reliability and continuous improvement. Begg holds an MBA, a Master of Journalism degree, and a BA (Hons.) in Political Science. She is committed to lifelong learning and feeds her passion for innovation in publishing, transparent science and clear communication by attending relevant conferences and seminars/workshops. 

Email: rbegg@endeavorb2b.com

LinkedIn: @rehanabegg and @MachineDesign

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