What Can You Do With an Engineering Degree? 12 Careers & Salaries Revealed

Students who study engineering gain valuable technical skills allowing them to work in nearly any sector of their choosing. Industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, and technology all require engineering to function in today’s society. Engineers learn how to work cross-functionally and solve problems. These critical thinking and collaborative abilities are valuable across all fields and explain today’s high demand for engineering graduates.

Engineering students have a wide selection of specialized degrees to choose from, including chemical, civil, mechanical, electrical, and biological engineering. While job opportunities are often linked to the degree type, all engineers learn skills that are easily transferable to other disciplines. An engineering degree can even be used to work in fields outside of engineering such as business, finance, and law.

Engineers are free to work on projects that they are passionate about and use their critical thinking, analytical abilities, and fundamental technical knowledge to solve problems that affect their communities. Engineering coursework has a reputation for challenging students, but it’s worth it for a degree that opens up a wide range of possibilities.

Whether students are interested in working with rockets, human cells, or complicated machinery, there is an engineering career that fits their passion. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, engineers have a median annual wage of $81,000 and a projected growth of 75,000 new jobs over the next decade. Read on to discover possible careers in engineering, as well as their respective salaries.

Aeronautical Engineer

Engineers at work
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Aeronautical engineers make flight possible by developing improved aircraft systems that fly faster than ever. While some focus on creating new airplanes, other aeronautical engineers optimize engines, navigation boards, and propulsion systems. Another responsibility is to develop and test prototypes to ensure that they work according to design. New aircraft systems must align with engineering principles, customer specifications, and official regulations.

Along with designing and prototyping new aircraft systems, aeronautical engineers research different construction materials to see how they perform in different environments. They may also be involved in research and development behind spacecraft, satellites, or missiles beyond the atmosphere.

Most workers in the field come from an aerospace or mechanical engineering background. By getting their degree, aerospace engineers understand scientific principles such as physics, thermodynamics, mechanics, and aerodynamics. A strong understanding of computer software is helpful in designing successful aeronautical systems. Due to their expertise, aeronautical engineers make an average annual salary of $116,500.

Agricultural Engineer

Agricultural engineers tackle problems to help farm operations run more smoothly, from machinery to buildings to the crops and animals. Through the development of new technologies, they help to improve efficiency in today’s agriculture processes. Projects focus on changing environmental factors such as airflow, pollution, and water quality.

These engineers work indoors and outdoors, often traveling to various agricultural sites to ensure that all of the equipment is working properly. They also work in labs to research and develop new technologies. For example, some of today’s agricultural engineers are studying new uses for agricultural waste. Others utilize sensors and intelligent technology to maximize crop harvest.

Agricultural engineers typically hold bioengineering or agricultural engineering degrees, although other engineering fields have many transferable skills. Hands-on science, math, and engineering knowledge that is provided by an engineering course load helps prepare them for their future career. Analytical and problem-solving skills are essential for tackling the most significant problems in agriculture today. Agricultural engineers earn a median salary of $80,700.

Biomedical Engineer

If graduates are interested in making a difference in a patient’s life, then biomedical engineering is an ideal future career. Biomedical engineers combine engineering principles with sciences to solve medical problems. They affect the care that people receive from doctors and hospitals by designing new devices, drugs, and other products. Biomedical engineers also create machines that can diagnose medical problems safely and effectively. 

Biomedical engineers work for a variety of employers in manufacturing, research, or development to help advance medical technology and improve human health. In the lab, these engineers are studying how to make new ideas such as artificial internal organs and body part replacements come to life. They are constantly working to improve and redesign existing devices to be better and better.

The field of biomedical engineering is genuinely interdisciplinary. Members come from a wide range of backgrounds, including chemical, mechanical, and biological engineering. Biomedical engineers that studied chemical engineering use their knowledge of process design to manipulate cells to replicate biological processes. Mechanical engineering graduates can use their prototyping and mechanics knowledge to build new artificial body parts. These students use their engineering background combined with biological sciences to create and develop new medical technologies. Biomedical engineers from a wide range of degrees make a median salary of $91,000.

Chemical Engineer

Chemical engineers are also known as “universal engineers” because their broad background and transferable skills apply to a wide variety of industries. They use chemical, biological, physics, and math principles to improve significantly any process. Chemical engineers work to produce chemicals, fuel, drugs, food, and other products that are used in daily life.

These engineers typically work in research and development in laboratories or at industrial plants to monitor manufacturing systems. As an interdisciplinary field, chemical engineers are instrumental in creating many new products, from pharmaceuticals to computer parts. They are also responsible for making sure that all processes are compliant with safety and environmental regulations. 

Chemical engineers require strong analytical, creativity, and communication skills that typically come with a degree in chemical engineering. Through coursework and hands-on experience, graduates learn how to design processes and equipment for efficient manufacturing. Due to their flexibility and specialization in specific processes, chemical engineers make a respectable annual salary of $109,000.

Civil Engineer

The work of civil engineers shows up throughout their communities. They are responsible for designing and building infrastructures such as roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, and bridges. Water and sewage treatment plants and transportation systems also rely on the planning expertise of civil engineers. This profession is exciting for many engineering graduates because they can see the results of their work whether it’s a new bridge or building.

Civil engineers ensure safe work practices are followed. For any project, they must consider best construction practices, government sanctions, and environmental regulations. They typically work in offices to design new projects and create proposals or at outdoor construction sites as needed to oversee the process.

Civil engineers need to have a strong understanding of design fundamentals as well as good math and problem-solving skills. As the population continues to grow, civil engineers are required to ensure infrastructure and utilities can keep up. Because of the essential role they play in society, civil engineers earn a median salary of $87,000.

Electrical Engineer

As one of the newer branches of engineering, electrical engineers are responsible for designing, developing, and testing electrical equipment from motors to power generators. They constantly create innovative ways to use electrical power to make daily life easier. This includes navigation systems for vehicles, communication devices, and computer hardware. 

Electrical engineers rely on baseline engineering knowledge and design software to simulate how electrical devices will function. This profession is hands-on and workers use a variety of tools including voltmeters, top end analyzers, and manufacturing software. Electrical engineers can work in engineering services, power companies, or in researching new technologies.

These engineers need strong math skills and analytical thinking to develop and manufacture new electrical devices. Most electrical engineers graduate with a degree in electrical engineering, where they study topics from digital systems design to circuit theory. Because of their specialized knowledge, electrical engineers earn a median salary of $101,000.

Engineering Manager

As a broad leadership profession, engineering managers direct and coordinate department activities in various engineering companies. They are responsible for planning out new projects in research and development that align with company needs. Managers must take into account the equipment and staffing needs. Engineering managers use their technical knowledge to ensure that the proper methods are being used and that results are well-supported.

Along with a strong engineering background, managers need other skills to propose budgets, supervise staff, and coordinate team members. They work with other managers across departments, including finance, production, marketing, and outside contractors. Engineering managers are responsible for understanding the broader picture of a project and directing their team to effectively complete more specific goals. 

Engineering managers come from a wide variety of engineering specialty degrees. Additional leadership skills through a management-specific degree or business courses can support a career in engineering management. Due to strong organizational, communication, and detail-oriented abilities, engineering managers earn a median salary of $145,000.

Environmental Engineer

Engineers who want to use engineering and scientific engineering principles to help save the planet should consider environmental engineering. They focus on solutions surrounding environmental issues such as recycling, waste disposal, pollution, drinking water, climate change, and sustainability.

In the laboratory, environmental engineers design projects that help reclaim water or control air pollution. They can also go onsite to various sites for environmental projects to quality check, provide technical support, and ensure smooth operation. Environmental engineers also develop investigation reports by inspecting facilities to ensure they are following environmental regulations. Along with seeking solutions to keep Earth’s air, land, and water healthy, environmental engineers help the government develop appropriate regulations.

Workers in this profession collaborate with many other groups, including environmental scientists, hazardous-waste technicians, and specialists in law and business, to best protect the environment. Environmental engineers come from many disciples, including environmental, civil, and chemical engineering.

The median salary for an environmental engineer is $89,000.

Industrial Engineer

Industrial engineers streamline production processes that successfully combine workers, machines, and materials. They understand all aspects of the methods and activities throughout manufacturing to deliver services efficiently. Industrial engineers are also responsible for performing quality control checks to make sure the process is running smoothly. If any problems arise, they resolve them quickly and efficiently.

Industrial engineers are needed in many fields, from manufacturing to healthcare to business. They are well-regarded for their ability to control costs while maximizing efficiencies. They must be organized and detail-oriented to balance a variety of factors such as efficiency, costs, time, technology, and safety. Industrial engineers also must communicate with clients, management, and outside vendors to provide status updates on a project.

While industrial engineers typically study industrial engineering, mechanical and electrical engineers can also find success in the field. Workers utilize critical thinking, ingenuity, and communication skills that are provided by most engineering degrees. Industrial engineers in the US earn a median salary of $88,000.

Mechanical Engineer

Mechanical engineers are behind many of the devices that society uses in everyday life. As one of the broadest engineering fields, mechanical engineers create products ranging from medical devices to batteries. They fully immerse themselves in the design process from initial conception to final manufacturing. Mechanical engineers design and test prototypes of their designs and make changes as needed.

Along with their thermal and mechanical knowledge, mechanical engineers use analysis and computer-aided simulations to produce the best possible products. Computer technology helps to create and analyze their designs as well as generating specifications for their models. Mechanical engineers also work with a variety of tools, engines, and machines to create their designs. 

Outside of creating new mechanical products, workers also integrate sensors and controllers onto existing devices to improve functionality. Their strong understanding of mechanics, structural analysis, and thermodynamics helps them see how mechanical devices can solve any problem. Mechanical engineers earn a median annual salary of $88,000.

Nuclear Engineer

Nuclear engineers work with nuclear energy and radiation; these scientists are at the forefront of the energy field. They research and develop new processes, devices, and systems utilizing nuclear energy to benefit society. This relatively new energy source has many industrial and medical uses, from cancer diagnosis and treatment to power sources for spacecraft. Nuclear engineers perform experiments on the use and disposal of nuclear material.

Along with researching new technologies, nuclear engineers ensure the safe operation and maintenance of current nuclear power plants to meet safety standards. As a result, many workers directly oversee maintenance and operation at power plants. They are responsible for keeping surrounding communities safe from any accidents. If there are issues, nuclear engineers find the problem and make sure proper mitigation techniques are in place. 

Nuclear engineers must have solid analytical, detail-oriented, and logical-thinking skills provided by an engineering degree. They have to pay close attention to what is happening around them to ensure that facilities are in compliance and that the workers and environment are protected. Due to their responsibilities, nuclear engineers make an impressive median salary of $113,000.

Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum engineers create and develop new methods for extracting oil and gas from beneath the surface. This can be in the form of new equipment for onshore and offshore excavation or innovative methods to recover additional oil and gas using the existing equipment. For example, researchers study strategies for injecting water or chemicals into an oil reserve to force more fuel out for collection.

In order to make sure petroleum recovery is safe and effective, petroleum engineers generally work onsite at drilling and well sites. They ensure all equipment is installed and operated properly to ensure safety and that no oil or gas is being wasted.Along with developing new technologies for oil extraction, engineers need to determine if the effort of extraction is worth the resources required. Petroleum engineers typically study petroleum engineering or a related field such as civil or chemical engineering to help analyze the problem. This field is lucrative, with a median annual salary of $137,000.

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