Engineer Jobs: 20+ Types of Engineering Careers with Salary and Job Outlook
Engineering is the practice of solving problems through the use of science and mathematics, generally with the goal of making systems more efficient and productive. Modern engineering is a broad discipline with many subfields, which include the design and development of civil infrastructure, machines, electronics, software, materials and energy.
The field of engineering provides professionals with countless opportunities for creative thinking and innovation when creating and refining these systems.
The salary expectations and job outlook for engineers depend on their specialty, in addition to other factors like education and location. In addition to examining some common engineering specialties, this guide discusses general issues of interest to anyone considering a career in engineering.
Statistics on Engineering Careers
The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) reports that there were about two million engineers in the United States in 2018, according to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In comparison, there were about 4 million computer professionals and 700,000 engineering technologists and technologists in the workforce.
The diversity of engineers is generally low based on ethnicity, gender and race, with about 21 percent of these workers coming from underrepresented ethnic and racial groups.
The BLS projects that the total number of engineering jobs will grow by 4 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Certain subfields of engineering will experience more robust job growth during this period, such as biomedical engineers (10 percent), chemical engineers (14 percent) and civil engineers (7 percent).
Popular Engineering Jobs
The following list outlines more than 20 of the most common engineering specialties, including an overview of the profession. This A-Z engineering career list also provides a summary of the salary expectations and educational requirements for each specialty.
Aerospace engineers are primarily concerned with the design and development of aircraft and spacecraft. It consists of two major branches, with aeronautical engineering relating to aircraft and astronautical engineering relating to spacecraft. The branch of astronautical engineering has emerged relatively recently with the development of vehicles that operate in outer space. Astronautical engineering is sometimes commonly referred to as “rocket science.” Avionics engineering is a type of aerospace engineering that deals specifically with electronics.
- The BLS reports that the median annual salary for aerospace engineers was approximately $122,300 in May 2021.
- Entry-level positions for aerospace engineers typically require at least a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or a related field.
Agricultural engineering deals with agricultural applications, such as crop and livestock production. This branch of engineering often weaves in elements from other branches of engineering, such as mechanical, civil, electrical, and chemical engineering. Agricultural engineering also involves the application of environmental science and food science. These engineers usually work closely with agriculturalists, an occupation that specializes in agricultural science and farming. Specific duties of agricultural engineers include the planning and development of systems for irrigation, drainage, flood control, and processing of agricultural products.
- The BLS reports that the median annual salary for agricultural engineers was about $82,600 in May 2021.
- Entry-level positions in agricultural engineering typically require at least an agricultural engineering bachelor’s degree or biological engineering.
An audio engineer may also be referred to as a sound engineer or recording engineer. This type of engineer typically balances sounds from various sources by using techniques such as audio effects, dynamics processing and equalization. These tasks often support live and recorded performances, especially their technical aspects. Audio engineers are often closely involved with the placement of microphones and determining settings for many types of audio equipment. This branch of engineering is one of the more creative engineering disciplines.
- The BLS reports that the median annual salary for audio engineers was about $48,800 in May 2021.
- Entry-level positions in audio engineering typically require some form of postsecondary education such as a certificate or bachelor’s degree in audio engineering. Specific requirements may vary depending on the type of work they perform. Individuals looking to expand their career growth options could benefit from advancing their skillset with an audio engineering master’s degree.
Automotive engineering is a type of vehicle engineering that deals with automobiles, motorcycles and trucks as well as more specialized vehicles. Automotive engineers are typically employed by vehicle manufacturers in the design and development of vehicles based on research and the application of mathematical models. These engineers often work on one particular design throughout its life cycle, from the original concept to correcting flaws in production models. The major functions of automotive engineering include development, manufacture, and production.
- Payscale reports that the median salary for automotive engineers was approximately $83,300 per year as of April 2023.
- Entry-level positions in automotive engineering typically require a bachelor’s degree in automotive engineering or mechanical engineering.
Biomedical engineering, also known as medical engineering, applies principles of biology and medicine to the development of healthcare devices and equipment. It has only recently emerged as a distinct field of study compared to other engineering disciplines. The scope of biomedical engineering primarily includes the three general categories of monitoring, diagnosis, and therapy. However, it also involves managing medical equipment according to industry standards. This type of biomedical engineer may be known more specifically as a biomedical equipment technician or clinical engineer.
- The BLS reports that the median annual salary for biomedical engineers was about $97,400 in May 2021.
- Entry-level biomedical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering or bioengineering, although some positions require a graduate degree.
Chemical engineering deals with methods of improving production in chemical processes as well as the design and operation of chemical plants. These engineers often develop methods for converting raw materials into salable products on a commercial scale. The scope of this engineering discipline can also include chemical processes on a small scale in the laboratory through the use of nanomaterials and nanotechnology. Aspects of plant design and operation that chemical engineers are closely involved with include safety assessments, construction specifications and control engineering. While they make the greatest use of chemical principles, chemical engineers also apply principles of biology, economics, mathematics, and physics.
- The BLS reports that the median salary for chemical engineers was approximately $105,600 per year in May 2021.
- Entry-level positions in chemical engineering generally require a chemical engineering bachelor’s degree or a degree in a related field. Some employers will also require the completion of an internship.
Civil engineering involves the design, construction, and maintenance of physical structures, including the structural components of buildings as well as bridges, roads, and dams.
Civil engineering is one of the oldest engineering disciplines. The pyramids of Egypt and the qanat canals in Iraq are some of the earliest examples of civil engineering projects. However, this discipline has only been formally taught since the 17th century.
Primarily, civil engineering deals with the conceptualization, design, construction, and maintenance of physical infrastructures that play an integral role in modern society. This could include not only structural elements of buildings but also vital systems like water supply, sewage treatment, transportation networks, and flood management systems.
Key Responsibilities of Civil Engineers:
- Design: Civil engineers utilize software and design principles to create detailed plans for infrastructure projects, ensuring that these designs adhere to safety standards and comply with construction regulations.
- Construction Supervision: They often oversee construction sites, ensuring that projects are built according to the design and specifications.
- Infrastructure Maintenance: After construction, civil engineers might be involved in the maintenance and repair of these structures, ensuring their longevity and safety.
- Project Management: These engineers often lead teams, manage budgets, and ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget.
- Research & Development: They research materials and construction methods, aiming to make infrastructures more sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective.
- Environmental Impact Assessments: They assess potential project impacts on the environment and propose mitigating solutions.
Subdisciplines of Civil Engineering:
Civil engineering encompasses numerous subdisciplines, including:
- Structural Engineering: Focuses on designing and analyzing structures like bridges, buildings, and dams.
- Geotechnical Engineering: Studies the behavior and properties of soil and rock, which influence the design of foundations and earth structures.
- Transportation Engineering: Deals with the planning, design, and operation of transportation systems.
- Environmental Engineering: Concerned with creating solutions for wastewater management, air pollution control, and waste disposal.
- Hydraulic & Water Resources Engineering: Concerned with the flow and management of water, including the design of reservoirs, dams, and channels.
- Construction Engineering: Focuses on the logistics and methods of constructing infrastructures.
Key Skills of a Civil Engineer:
- Analytical Skills: Ability to analyze complex data and design solutions for intricate problems.
- Technical Proficiency: Familiarity with CAD software, simulation tools, and other industry-specific technologies.
- Project Management: Organizing tasks, managing time, and ensuring project completion within budget and timeframe.
- Team Collaboration: Working effectively with various professionals, from architects to construction laborers.
- Communication Skills: Conveying complex technical information clearly to both professionals and the general public.
- Problem-solving: Quickly adapting and finding solutions when unforeseen challenges arise.
Civil Engineering Salary and Education Requirements
- The BLS reports that the median annual salary for civil engineers was about $88,100 in May 2021.
- Entry-level civil engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or a related field. They also need a government-issued license to provide public services in most jurisdictions.
- Additionally, to offer public services in most jurisdictions, a government-issued professional engineering (PE) license is mandatory, which often necessitates further education, work experience, and passing a rigorous exam.
Computer engineering is a branch of electrical engineering that deals with the development of computer components. It also overlaps with software engineering, although computer engineering is more closely associated with hardware. Computer engineers routinely design microcontrollers and microprocessors as well as entire computer systems. They may also work on computer architecture, computer networks, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. Integrating components into larger systems is also the purview of computer engineering.
- The BLS reports that the median annual salary for computer hardware engineers was approximately $128,200 in May 2021.
- Entry-level positions in computer engineering require a bachelor’s degree in a related field, although the specific name of the discipline varies by institution.
Data engineers, sometimes referred to as data scientists, develop methods for collecting, storing, and using data. Data engineering is a branch of software engineering that has existed as a distinct discipline since the late 1970s/early 1980s. Data engineering also entails analyzing large amounts of data to glean meaningful insights, which often involves the use of advanced technologies like AI and machine learning.
- The BLS reports that the median annual salary for data scientists was about $100,900 in May 2021.
- Entry-level positions in data engineering typically require at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, mathematics, or statistics. Some positions require a master’s or doctoral degree.
Drafting and Design Engineer
A drafting and design engineer is known by other names, such as an engineering drafter and drafting technician. These professionals create detailed technical drawings of various objects, such as buildings, machinery, electronics, and other components of infrastructure. Historically, drafters made these drawings by hand with the aid of simple tools. However, modern drafters typically convert designs from architects and engineers into technical drawings with the aid of computer software. Drafters also sketch engineering drawings from preliminary concepts.
- The BLS reports that the median annual salary for engineering drafters was approximately $60,300 in May 2021.
- Engineering drafters typically complete their education through a technical school or community college. Some programs lead to an associate degree in drafting or a related discipline.
Electrical engineers are involved in the design, development and application of devices that use electricity. It emerged as a separate engineering discipline during the late 19th century, coinciding with the development of commercial devices such as electrical power generators, telegraphs and telephones.
Today, electrical engineering has many branches due to the specialization this discipline requires, including computer engineering, power engineering, electronics engineering, and optical engineering. These disciplines often overlap, resulting in electrical engineering and electronics engineering being used interchangeably in some cases. In addition to formal educational requirements, electrical engineers often need government-issued licenses to practice their trade.
- The BLS reports that the median salary for electrical engineers was about $101,800 per year in May 2021.
- Entry-level positions in electrical engineering typically require at least an electrical engineering bachelor’s degree. Individual employers may also require practical experience in the form of internships or cooperative programs.
Engineering managers plan and oversee engineering activities, including the hiring and supervision of engineering staff. This role entails both the technical problem-solving ability of engineers and the planning, organizational and administrative abilities of management. Engineering managers typically oversee large engineering projects, often those involving multiple engineering disciplines. This discipline emerged as a separate occupation during the early 20th century, with the proliferation of engineering occupations during that period. Engineering managers often obtain a formal education in management after working as engineers.
- The BLS reports that the median annual salary for engineering managers was approximately $152,400 in May 2021.
- Engineering managers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, but a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management is often preferred.
- Engineer managers will also need to have significant experience as an engineer.
Environmental engineers develop solutions to environmental issues by applying principles of engineering, biology, chemistry and other relevant disciplines. Environmental engineering is closely related to environmental science and is usually considered a branch of civil engineering, although it may also be treated as a type of chemical engineering. Typical projects for environmental engineers include the design, construction and maintenance of water supplies and wastewater treatment centers. They may also develop plans for improving sanitation in both urban and rural areas.
- The BLS reports that the median annual salary for environmental engineers was about $96,800 in May 2021.
- Environmental engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering, but they may also have a degree in chemical or civil engineering.
Genetic engineers modify an organism’s genetic code, including the transfer of existing genes between species. They may also create new genes by recombining DNA or synthesizing it from scratch. In addition, genetic engineers may create constructs to insert the new DNA into the host organism. This engineering discipline originates from the early 1970s, although genetic engineering has only been performed on a commercial scale since the 1990s. Genetic engineers may also be known as bioengineers or biomedical engineers.
- The BLS reports that the median salary for genetic engineers was approximately $97,400 per year in May 2021.
- Genetic engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering, biomedical engineering or a related discipline. Some positions require a graduate degree.
Geological engineering applies principles of geological science to engineering projects, especially in construction, mining, and forestry. These engineers often support other disciplines in identifying the best locations for a project by conducting geological studies. Geological engineers may also predict the impact that an engineering project could have on the surface and subsurface environment, which is often a critical consideration in selecting a location. The earliest applications of geological engineering are ancient, but it didn’t emerge as a formal discipline until the early 20th century.
- The BLS reports that the median annual salary for geological engineers was about $97,100 in May 2021.
- Entry-level positions in geological engineering typically require a bachelor’s degree in engineering, geology or a related discipline.
Industrial engineers generally work on optimizing organizations, processes, and systems, primarily in manufacturing operations. They also improve the integration of their various components, such as equipment, information, finances and people. Industrial engineers apply knowledge from many disciplines, including mathematics, physics and the social sciences. In addition, they use engineering principles to design and evaluate systems and processes. Industrial engineers often specialize in one or more standardized practices for managing workflows.
- The BLS reports that the median salary for industrial engineers was approximately $95,300 per year in May 2021.
- Entry-level positions in industrial engineering typically require a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering or a related field like mechanical or electrical engineering.
Marine engineering is an engineering discipline that specializes in marine vessels and structures. It’s most closely associated with vessels like ships and submarines, but marine engineers may also work on structures like offshore oil rigs and wind turbines. Marine engineers apply the principles of many major branches of engineering, such as computer, electrical and mechanical, especially when designing propulsion systems. They also work on power plants, control systems, piping and many other types of machinery.
- The BLS reports that the median annual salary for marine engineers was approximately $93,400 in May 2021.
- Entry-level positions in marine engineering typically require a marine engineering bachelor’s degree, but they may also hold degrees in related fields like mechanical engineering.
Mechanical engineers design, develop and oversee the manufacture of mechanical and thermal devices and systems. It’s one of the major branches of engineering and has many areas of specialization. Mechanical engineers routinely apply principles of mathematics and physics to design, manufacture and maintain mechanical systems. In addition to mechanics, core areas of study for these engineers include materials science, structural analysis, thermodynamics and electricity. Modern mechanical engineers also make regular use of computer-aided design (CAD) to design machines.
- The BLS reports that the median salary for mechanical engineers was about $95,300 per year in May 2021.
- Entry-level positions for mechanical engineers typically require at least a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and may also require specialization in a particular area.
Nanotechnology engineers work on a very small scale, such that at least one dimension is no more than 100 nanometers (for scale, a piece of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick, according to the National Nanotechnology Initiative). These engineers manipulate atoms and molecules, making quantum effects a significant design consideration. This type of engineering incorporates many fields of science, including molecular biology, organic chemistry and semiconductor physics. Common applications of nanotechnology engineering include the miniaturization of conventional devices and new approaches to manufacturing, like molecular self-assembly. These engineers also develop new materials by directly controlling matter at the atomic scale.
- Payscale reports that the median annual salary for senior chemical engineers was about $112,900 as of May 2023.
- Entry-level positions in nanotechnology engineering typically require at least a bachelor’s degree in nanoengineering or a field like chemical engineering, although many positions require more advanced degrees.
Petroleum engineering deals with activities related to natural petroleum products like crude oil or natural gas. Exploration and production are common areas of focus for this discipline, with an emphasis on maximizing the economic returns of recovering petroleum. Petroleum engineers often apply geology and geophysics to evaluate deposits, along with their knowledge of the behavior of gas, oil and water under high pressure. Additional concepts that are highly relevant to this branch of engineering include drilling, well logging, reservoir simulation and artificial lift systems. Other types of engineers are often recruited into petroleum engineering positions.
- The BLS reports that the median annual salary for petroleum engineers was about $130,900 in May 2021.
- Entry-level petroleum engineers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering or a related field like civil, chemical or mechanical engineering.
Robotics engineers design, construct and operate robots, which are a type of machine that replicates human actions such as cognition, walking, speech and lifting. While many robots are designed to resemble humans, this isn’t a design requirement. Robotics engineers use knowledge from other branches of engineering, including mechanical, electrical and computer. Robots are often used in hazardous applications, such as the disposal of bombs and radioactive materials, as well as operating in underwater environments and in outer space.
- Payscale reports that the median annual salary for robotics engineers was about $91,500 in July 2023.
- Entry-level positions in robotics engineering typically require a bachelor’s degree in mechanical or electronics engineering, often with a specialization in robotics.
Software engineers apply engineering principles to the design, development and maintenance of software. They may also be known as programmers, although this term fails to convey the role’s engineering approach to software development. Software engineers seek to improve the software life cycle through engineering-based techniques for assessment, especially performance measurement. They also rely heavily on software configuration management to systematically control configuration changes, which helps maintain the configuration’s integrity. Software versioning is also a key aspect of software engineering.
- The BLS reports that the median annual salary for software engineers was approximately $109,000 in May 2021.
- Entry-level positions in software engineering typically require a software engineering bachelor’s degree or a degree in a field like computer science or information technology. Some employers prefer to hire software engineers with a master’s degree.
Structural engineering is a branch of civil engineering that specializes in the shape and form of human-made structures. These engineers consider factors like strength, rigidity and stability when designing these structures, often for the purpose of reducing their vulnerability to earthquakes. The designs of structural engineers must be integrated into the designs of other professionals, like building services engineers and architects, requiring a high degree of collaboration. Structural engineers are also closely involved with the design of other components affecting a structure’s safety, including elevators, medical equipment and emergency vehicles.
- Payscale reports that the median salary for structural engineers was approximately $75,100 per year as of July 2023.
- Entry-level positions in structural engineering typically require a structural engineering bachelor’s degree or a degree in civil engineering or a related field.
Telecommunications engineers design and develop systems for communicating at a distance. It’s primarily a subfield of electronics engineering, but it also incorporates elements of civil and systems engineering. Telecommunications engineering entails the design of basic circuits as well as large-scale electronic components. These engineers often oversee the installation of equipment such as microwave transmission systems, switching systems, and IP networks. They’re also responsible for laying cables such as coaxial, optical and twisted pairs.
- Payscale reports that the median salary for telecommunications engineers was about $82,100 per year as of June 2023.
- Entry-level positions in telecommunications engineering often don’t require a college degree, although some employers may require vocational training or certifications. Telecommunication engineers looking to advance their career could benefit from a telecommunications master’s degree.
Engineering Career Salary and Job Outlook
The salary and job outlook of engineers vary greatly by the specific discipline, but the BLS reports that the number of architecture and engineering jobs is expected to grow at an average rate of 4 percent from 2021 to 2031. This rate is about equal to the average growth expected for all occupations during this period. About 91,300 new architecture and engineering jobs will become available during this period, with about 200,900 openings each year, on average, due to replacement and growth.
Average Engineering Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary across all architecture and engineering jobs was approximately $79,800 in May 2021, which is significantly higher than the average of $45,800 per year for all occupations.
Highest-Paying Engineering Job
The highest-paying engineering job is petroleum engineering with a median annual salary of $131,800, according to the BLS. The BLS also reports that the highest-earning petroleum engineers made about $220,040 per year. The industry with the highest median salaries for petroleum engineers was credit intermediation and related activities, with a salary of about $216,700.
Learn more about engineering salaries by checking out our list of the highest paying engineering careers.
States with Highest Engineering Salaries
The state with the highest median salary for petroleum engineers was New Jersey, at approximately $209,000, while Texas had the second-highest at $150,900. However, other states offer higher salaries to engineers in other disciplines.
What Jobs Can You Get With an Engineering Bachelor’s Degree?
An engineering bachelor’s degree in an appropriate discipline is usually sufficient to qualify for most entry-level engineering positions. However, you may also need a degree in a particular specialization to qualify for certain positions.
What Jobs Can You Get With an Engineering Master’s Degree?
If you’re looking to advance your career, you may need a master’s degree in engineering. This is especially true in research, especially in new fields of engineering. Management positions may also require a master’s degree in engineering or business.
What Jobs Can You Get With a Ph.D. in Engineering?
A Ph.D. in engineering is particularly beneficial for teaching positions at the postsecondary education level, where this degree is usually required. Some research positions may also need a Ph.D., such as project leads.
Engineering Career FAQ
What is an engineering career?
An engineering career refers to the professional pathway that involves applying scientific and mathematical principles to design, analyze, and develop technological solutions for various challenges. Engineers utilize their knowledge and skills to create products, systems, and processes that serve specific purposes, often with the goal of improving functionality, safety, and efficiency.
What do engineers do?
Engineers generally apply scientific knowledge to practical applications, although the specifics depend on the discipline. Specifically, engineers are problem-solvers who:
- Apply Principles: They use scientific and mathematical principles to design and develop systems, structures, and technologies.
- Identify Challenges: Before creating a solution, engineers understand and analyze the problem.
- Conduct Research: They gather data and insights to inform their designs.
- Design & Test: Engineers create solutions and test their effectiveness to ensure reliability and safety.
- Collaborate: They work with professionals from various disciplines, ensuring comprehensive solutions.
- Continuous Learning: As technology evolves, engineers update their knowledge to remain current.
In essence, engineers bridge the gap between theoretical science and its practical application, turning innovative ideas into real-world solutions. They may design manufactured objects, from toys to space shuttles. Engineers may also develop other things, like new food products or special effects in movies. Others may find ways to reduce pollution or make the world more sustainable in other ways. Some engineers work to improve more abstract concepts like processes or methodologies.
What are the four main engineering fields?
The four main fields of engineering are chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering. The vast majority of all engineering disciplines fall under one or more of these fields. Only a few of the newest disciplines, like genetic engineering, aren’t clearly part of these four major fields.
What areas of engineering are growing the most?
In terms of total new job openings, industrial engineering will see the largest growth over the next decade, with the BLS projecting 30,600 new jobs from 2021 to 2031. Chemical engineering will experience the fastest growth during that period, growing at a rate of 14 percent, leading to the creation of 3,700 new jobs, according to the BLS.
What is the future job outlook for engineers?
The future job outlook for engineers is about equal to that of job growth overall, with a growth rate of about 4 percent over the next decade. This shouldn’t be surprising, given how many jobs in the U.S. are some type of engineering. The future of individual engineering disciplines varies greatly, as some technologies continue to develop while others become obsolete.
Do you need a master’s degree to be an engineer?
You generally don’t need a master’s degree to become an engineer, with the exception of some newer disciplines. However, the lack of an advanced degree may keep you out of some positions later in your career, especially in academia and management.
What are potential future engineering careers?
The rapid pace of technological and scientific advancement means that the engineering landscape is constantly evolving. Here are some potential future engineering careers that could emerge or become more prominent in the coming years:
- Space Habitat Engineer: As space exploration advances, there will be a need for engineers who specialize in designing and constructing sustainable habitats on other planets or in space stations.
- Biomedical Nanotechnology Engineer: These engineers will work on the interface of nanotechnology and medicine, designing nano-scale devices and treatments for various diseases.
- Neural Interface Engineer: As brain-computer interfaces develop, engineers in this field will design and refine systems that directly connect the human brain to computers and other devices.
- Climate Change Mitigation Engineer: These engineers will focus on developing technologies and infrastructures to combat and adapt to the effects of climate change, such as sea-level rise or extreme weather events.
- Virtual Reality Infrastructure Engineer: As virtual and augmented realities become more integrated into daily life, these engineers will design the systems and structures that support these digital worlds.