As an engineer, your skills and expertise are extremely desirable across a number of different fields. From protecting the environment to increasing the efficiency of data storage and analysis, a degree in this hybrid intersection of math and science opens doors for you in thousands of places of employment across the country. In fact, according to analytics firm EMSI, the U.S. was home to about 1.6 million engineering jobs in 2014. That number has likely only grown as demand continues to rise in a number of specific facets of the field.
While opportunities for employment are plentiful, engineers entering the field today are faced with different options than those who started their careers 50 years ago. Whether you are in the process of earning your master’s in engineering or have recently completed your degree, here are five of the top jobs for recent engineering grads:
Sustainable product designers find solutions to help keep the environment safe. Consider the polymer chains (plastic rings) found around soda cans, while the design is simple and durable, it isn’t recyclable after use and never breaks down. Instead, the polymer chains end up in waterways and trapped in ecosystems.
1. Petroleum Engineer
As a petroleum engineer, you would be responsible for working with some of the world’s most highly-coveted natural resources: crude oil and natural gas. Professionals in this field with an engineering background are tasked with finding new ways to extract these resources from the earth, as well as improving upon older methods. While much of your time would likely be spent in a lab or office, you may be required to visit drilling sites, sometimes for extended periods of time. Consequently, this is a career that could provide opportunities for travel if you enjoy exploring new regions, depending on the organization with which you work.
EMSI reported that about 25 percent of the workforce was 55 or older in 2014, meaning that a good portion of these engineers are at or nearing the age of retirement. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were approximately 35,100 jobs for petroleum engineers in 2014, and that number is only expected to rise. The agency forecasted a 10 percent increase in job openings between 2014 and 2024, an addition of about 3,400 jobs in the U.S. alone.
And in addition to this growing demand, petroleum engineers are among the best paid in the field, according to Payscale, with an average mid-career annual salary of $179,000. Typically a professional working in this field will have a degree in petroleum engineering, but it is not necessarily required. Mechanical and chemical engineering degrees are also common.
Working in energy of any form is currently a wise choice. Energy conservation is more important than ever before, and with that brings new jobs for other types of engineers as well.
2. Biomedical Engineer
If you are looking for a career that uses your interest in engineering to have a tangible impact on the health and well-being of populations in the U.S., a position as a biomedical engineer could be the right fit. In biomedical engineering, professionals combine their background in engineering with their knowledge of the medical field and biological sciences to design equipment used in health care. This can include software, medical devices, computer systems and other elements of the field meant to improve the quality of medical care provided across the country. In this role, you will likely be employed by a hospital or other health care organization, research group or commercial manufacturer.
While those interested in this field often complete a degree specifically in biomedical engineering, nanoengineering is playing an increasingly prominent role in the profession. As medical devices become smaller and smaller, knowledge of working with materials on the nanoscale will give you a valuable advantage in your job search. If you earned a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, consider enrolling in an online master’s in engineering with an emphasis on nanoengineering to set yourself apart from competitors in your field.
Positions in biomedical engineering are expected to grow dramatically in the coming years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2014 and 2024 jobs for biomedical engineers are expected to grow by 23 percent, which is much higher than the average rate across industries. The BLS reported that the average annual salary for a biomedical engineer was $86,220 in 2015.
Specialized fields that hire engineers with biomedical backgrounds include medical imaging, clinical engineering, biomaterials, bioinstrumentation and systems physiology. Common job titles include software engineer, manufacturing engineer and quality engineer, but you may also end up working as a researcher for a government organization, academic institution or commercial company depending on your area of focus.
3. Data Scientist
In the current age of big data, there is more information being collected than ever before. And to ensure that those mass quantities of numbers are being analyzed and leveraged effectively for industrial purposes, there is increased pressure to hire professionals who can develop effective strategies and technology to this end. In the interdisciplinary field of data science, engineers may work in areas such as data mining, predictive analytics or quantum computing to design and implement new ways to collect, store and use data. Testing and maintaining these complex architectures are also part of the role of many engineers working in data science, while others focus more on extracting and analyzing the information.
Engineering positions that work with data are becoming so common, in fact, that there are even engineering master’s programs that focus on data science. In these programs, you will take courses on topics such as data mining techniques, statistical computing, technology innovation, engineering management, data visualization and machine learning en route to a career in this specialized field. Completing a master’s will show employers that not only do you have the deep knowledge and experience to be an asset to their company, but you are also committed to pursuing expertise in your field.
On top of being a professional with great demand in the current market due to the increased importance of data, data science is also a career choice for engineers which pays well. According to PayScale, the median annual salary of a data scientist is $93,146. A role in this field will be both intellectually fulfilling and financially and professionally stable, making it a good choice for any engineer with experience working with data.
4. Environmental Engineer
You may not have a cape and super powers, but as an environmental engineer you can still do your part to save the world. Professionals who work in this field apply their specialized knowledge of engineering principles and protect both the environment and human populations from risks that result from human and natural activity alike. Solutions that you may be tasked with finding as an environmental engineer include improved means of recycling, reducing pollution in the air and water, disposing of waste and more. En route to designing and implementing these new strategies in this collaborative field, you will likely work closely with urban and regional planners, as well as other engineers, the BLS reported.
As an environmental engineer, you could end up working with the government, in agencies as diverse as the Department of Health and Human Services, branches of the military or the Environmental Protection Agency. However, many private companies also hire engineers with this specialized knowledge to oversee construction projects and other activities that could have an impact on human populations or the environment. Conservation groups are also an option when you are job searching in this field. Wherever you end up working, you can find yourself in a variety of settings depending on the nature of your job. Some environmental engineers spend much of their time in offices and labs, while others make frequent trips to construction sites and other outdoor locations.
According to the BLS, jobs are expected to increase by 12 percent between 2014 and 2024, a faster than average rate when compared to other industries. The source additionally reported that the average salary for one of these positions in 2015 was $84,560 a year.
5. Chief IT Architect
No matter what field you enter, in this day and age it is likely that there will be information technology involved. Similar to a data scientist, an IT architect works with the collection and storage of large amounts of information. However, this position is specifically concerned with user experience more than analysis, and is typically engineering systems for a website. An IT architect will research user requirements and design solutions that will optimize the way that information is organized and presented.
To land a position and be successful in this field, the popular job website Monster.com reported that an engineer will need experience in database management, data modeling, data maintenance, requirements analysis and the presentation of technical information. Expertise in these areas is critical for managing an organization’s IT infrastructure.
If you are able to work your way up to the chief position, you will find yourself in one of the most lucrative jobs in engineering. PayScale named chief IT architects as the highest-paying jobs for engineering majors in 2015. The source listed the median annual salary of these positions at $151,000 for experienced professionals.