As a graduate of an online engineering degree program, you have the technical skills necessary for designing and developing a wide variety of possible systems and devices, across many types of engineering jobs. The specific area in which you will eventually specialize will depend on your own interests as well as the particular degree you hold.
A master’s degree from the online Master of Science in Engineering (MSE) program at the University of California, Irvine (UCR) gives you an advanced credential with plenty of room to concentrate on the engineering field you’re most passionate about. The UCR MSE features the following specialization options:
- Chemical engineering
- Data science
- Electrical engineering
- Environmental engineering
- Nanotechnology engineering
- Mechanical engineering
Not all fields and types of engineering jobs are in equal demand at any given moment. The average compensation for and number of available positions will vary over time, based on the makeup of the labor force and the level of demand from certain industries. Let’s dive deeper into a few major engineering job categories to see which career options might make the most sense in 2019 and beyond.
Biomedical engineer (bioengineer)
This engineering domain involves work on healthcare-related products, including medical equipment and devices, along with industry-specific software and IT infrastructure. It is ideal for engineers with backgrounds in the life sciences, interests and/or experience in the healthcare industry, and aspiring managers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) maintains numbers on multiple professions open to engineers with biomedical training. These jobs are relatively high-paying and in demand:
- Median pay for biomedical engineers was more than $88,000 in 2018. From 2016 to 2026, they are expected to see 7% growth in total employment, which is as fast as the average for all professions. These engineers design, build, and test items such as medical diagnosis devices and artificial internal organs. They may also perform research, safety evaluations, and presentations on their work.
- In 2018, medical scientists had mean annual compensation of $84,810. While lower than that for biomedical engineers, the profession also had much stronger growth prospects, with a projected 13% jump in positions from 2016 to 2026. Medical scientists normally perform research and testing, in contexts such as clinical trials of pharmaceuticals.
Other common and similar roles for bioengineers include pharmaceutical engineer, biophysicist, and biochemist. The latter two, grouped together by the BLS, had median pay above $92,000 in 2018 and expected employment growth of 11% for the 2016-2026 period.
Today’s mechanical engineers wear many hats. They build and design everything from home refrigeration and air conditioning systems to internal combustion engines, steam turbines, and electric generators. While mechanical engineering is one of the oldest specialties in the field, expertise in it will continue to be in demand, with numerous types of jobs potentially available to UCR MSE graduates with a mechanical engineering background.
The BLS expects 9% growth across all mechanical engineering positions from 2016 to 2026, which is right in line with the expected expansion for all professions. In 2018, mechanical engineers had median annual compensation of $87,370, which is well above the national median salary.
Many specialized engineering positions incorporate mechanical engineering principles as well. For example, nuclear and petroleum engineers both perform broadly similar tasks, albeit targeted toward the specific ends of nuclear energy and oil and gas extraction, respectively. Both of these job types have exceptionally high compensation, at more than $100,000 apiece. Petroleum engineers could see 15% growth in total employment from 2016 to 2026, but nuclear engineer jobs are expected to expand at only 4%.
As their job title states, chemical engineers work with chemicals, which have broad applications in the production of foods, pharmaceuticals, household goods like soaps, fuels, and much more. Unlike mechanical engineers, who work mostly in offices, chemical engineers work in industrial environments such as plants or refineries, where they provide on-site assistance and expertise.
They perform multiple tasks including research, testing, and safety evaluations to help improve chemical production and manufacturing processes. Project management is also an important part of typical chemical engineer responsibilities.
According to the BLS, the median chemical engineer earned $104,910 in 2018. The chemical engineering profession as a whole is expected to undergo 8% growth in total employment from 2016 to 2026, which is as fast as average. Biomedical engineering, chemist, and materials scientist are also viable paths for candidates with chemical engineering backgrounds. Both the chemical engineering and nanotechnology engineering tracks within the UCR MSE can provide the necessary preparation for these paths.
Electrical and electronics engineers perform the vital work of designing, producing, and testing the systems that enable products such as consumer electronics, electric motors, and various communications and navigation systems. Traditional electrical engineers work mostly on the applications of electrical power within products, while electronics engineers are more narrowly focused on electronic components and accompanying software.
The BLS groups these two professions together. Together, their median annual pay for 2018 was slightly more than $99,000. Estimated growth from 2016 to 2026 was an average 7%.
The job responsibilities and requirements of these professions bear some similarity to those for aerospace engineering and the previously discussed biomedical engineering. Aerospace engineers spent their time with aircraft and spacecraft, plus possibly other vehicles such missiles and satellites. They design and develop these items and are involved hands-on in their industrial manufacturing processes. Aerospace engineers earned median pay of $115,220 in 2018 and had expected growth of 6% from 2016 to 2026.
Environmental engineers work on environmental problems related to issues affecting the earth’s water, land, and air. The UCR MSE environmental engineering specialization focuses predominantly on water-related issues and how to address them via natural and manmade systems for filtration, treatment, and distribution.
In 2018, environmental engineers had median pay of $87,620 per year. Eight percent growth is expected in their employment between 2016 and 2026. Engineers with a background in environmental issues might also consider a career as a civil engineer.
Civil engineers had virtually the same 2018 median compensation as environmental engineers, but a faster growth outlook at 11%. These engineers work mostly on infrastructure projects such as roads, dams, and bridges.
Software has been one of the top areas for venture capital investment for decades. Moreover, its far-reaching effects on daily life have put software engineering expertise in high demand. Indeed, the BLS foresees an incredible 24% growth in software developer positions from 2016 to 2026, with median compensation above $100,000.
Within software engineering, there are many specialties and related professions, including computer and information research scientists – the BLS’ closest equivalent for data scientists. These professionals collect and analyze data for purposes including the improvement of software development and better understanding of trends within a business. The UCR MSE data science track covers the relevant subject matter expertise for entering this field.
To learn more about how to get started with any of the UCR MSE specialities that can lead to the positions discussed above, be sure to visit our main program overview page.