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STEM CAREERS

ENGINEERING CAREERS

If you've ever wanted to use your math skills and design sensibilities to improve thousands of people's lives, then you might be an engineer at heart. Read on to learn more about the engineering field in its many forms.

Engineering Careers

Engineering degree programs have long provided a pathway to stable, rewarding and challenging jobs for passionate problem solvers, but the upside to engineering careers doesn't end there. All throughout history, engineers have found themselves at the cutting edge of culture and technology, designing and building the products and technologies that make civilization possible.

Engineering disciplines contain some of the most important STEM careers on the job market today, from the civil engineers who build our bridges and roads to the environmental engineers who work to ensure that human endeavor stays compatible with the natural world. Here's some info about the degree programs available at campus-based and online schools in engineering and how they can prepare you for a few of the hottest jobs in the field.

The value of engineering degrees

The world will always need skilled engineers, and engineering firms are constantly on the lookout for candidates who can contribute to their mission. Earning an engineering degree is a time-tested way to demonstrate that you're qualified to meet the challenges of an advertised position.

Degrees from certain engineering programs may carry more weight than others, particularly among employers hiring for competitive positions. Here's a list of the top 5 schools for undergraduate engineering degree programs in 2015, according to U.S. News & World Report:

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  2. Stanford University
  3. University of California - Berkeley
  4. California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech)
  5. University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign

The list of top schools for engineering graduate degree programs is strikingly similar to the above; Carnegie Mellon University, which tied for No. 6 on the undergraduate list, slots in at No. 4 among graduate programs and bumps Cal Tech down one spot.

Job outlook and salary for engineering careers

The unemployment rate for engineers is extraordinarily low -- just 2 percent in 2012, according to U.S. News & World Report -- and some of the careers available for aspiring engineers are projected to see monumental employment growth over the next several years. Here are some growth projections for the engineering disciplines expected to grow the fastest between 2012 and 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

  • Biomedical engineering: 28.6 percent
  • Petroleum engineering: 25.5 percent
  • Civil engineering: 19.7 percent
  • Environmental engineering: 15.3 percent
  • Mining and geological engineering: 12.0 percent

What's more, salaries for positions in these fields are typically somewhat higher than the national average yearly wage. Here are some mean annual engineering salary figures for 2014, as reported by the BLS:

  • Petroleum engineers: $147,520
  • Computer hardware engineers: $110,650
  • Aerospace engineers: $107,700
  • Nuclear engineers: $104,660
  • Chemical engineers: $103,590
  • Mining and geological engineers: $100,970
  • Biomedical engineers: $91,760
  • Mechanical engineers: $87,140
  • Civil engineers: $87,130
  • Environmental engineers: $86,340
CAREER OPPORTUNITIES
CAREER TYPE
MEAN
SALARY(S)
PROJECTED EMPLOYMENT CHANGE
JOB GROWTH %
(2014-2024)
Web Developers$72,15018826.6%
Software Developers, Applications$104,30085418.8%
Computer and Information Systems Managers$145,74040215.4%
Software Developers, Systems Software$110,59044713%
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

A bachelor's degree is often all that's required for entry-level positions in these fields, although the salary expectations for professionals in the first few years of their careers may not be quite as high as the overall averages listed above. Here are some average entry-level salaries for a few of the above disciplines, as reported by Michigan Technical University using data from Payscale.com:

  • Biomedical engineers: $60,698
  • Civil engineers: $55,220
  • Chemical engineers: $66,281
  • Mechanical engineers: $61,523
  • Computer hardware engineers: $66,945
  • Environmental engineers: $54,751

Although entry-level jobs don't often require engineering licenses or other additional certification, some engineers may need licensure to advance upward in the ranks of their fields. Advanced education, whether in engineering, business administration or another related body of knowledge, can help you remain competitive when applying for upper-tier engineering careers.

Systems engineers work in diverse industries but have one thing in common: they are the pros who bring all the pieces of a plan together.

Were you the type of kid who wanted to know how everything worked? Then a career as a mechanical engineer might be right up your alley.

If you're ready to make a difference in the world, you may find environmental engineering has the STEM job for you.

Conclusion

If you're thinking about making your living in one of the dozens of engineering careers, it's important to remember that the right education and experience can make all the difference in the job search. Look into the array of traditional and online engineering schools in your area and nationwide and discover how you can join the ranks of professional engineers.

DO YOU KNOW?

The unemployment rate for engineers is extraordinarily low — just 2 percent in 2012, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Sources

1. Best Colleges, U.S. News and World Report, accessed September 11, 2015: Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/engineering-doctorate; Best Graduate Engineering Programs, http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-engineering-schools/eng-rankings;
2. May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed September 11, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
3. Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed September 11, 2015, http://data.bls.gov/projections/occupationProj
4. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed September 11, 2015: Biomedical Engineers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/biomedical-engineers.htm; Petroleum Engineers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/petroleum-engineers.htm; Civil Engineers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/civil-engineers.htm; Environmental Engineers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/environmental-engineers.htm; Mining and Geological Engineers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/mining-and-geological-engineers.htm
5. "You're an Engineer? You're Hired," Christopher J. Gearon, U.S. News and World Report, March 22, 2012, accessed September 11, 2015, http://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/articles/2012/03/22/youre-an-engineer-youre-hired
6. 2015 Engineering Salary Statistics, Michigan Technical University, accessed September 11, 2015, http://www.mtu.edu/engineering/outreach/welcome/salary/