How Much Do Engineers Make? The Financial Future of a Career in Engineering

30/08/202311 minute read
How Much Do Engineers Make? The Financial Future of a Career in Engineering

Engineering is an age-old profession, one which is well respected and crucial across many industries. This blog post explores the earning potential of engineers, offering insight to parents and students who are wondering if an engineering degree is worth it. We’ll survey salary data generally and by subfields, see why engineering degrees are touted for delivering a good return on investment for college students, and why getting your degree at a top school can make the returns even bigger.

Overview of Engineering

Engineering is a profession that plays a vital role in shaping the world we live in. It exists on a broad spectrum - encompassing various branches, including civil, mechanical, electrical, computer engineering, chemical, aeronautical, and industrial.

Fundamentally, engineers are problem solvers, but some people have misconceptions about what engineers really do, and too often what people imagine is oversimplified.

As masterful problem solvers, engineers use many skills: they design, innovate, trouble-shoot at advanced levels, solve complex problems creatively and with exacting precision — all to meet society's needs.

From building infrastructure to developing advanced technologies, engineers are at the forefront of driving progress.

As technology evolves and society's demands change, the field of engineering continues to adapt and thrive. For instance, with the accelerating pace of digital innovation and energy transitions in today’s world, all forms of engineering skills and engineering degrees are in high demand!

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Engineering Salaries – A Deep Dive

As we explore engineering salaries we’ll be looking at the big picture, and can’t truly predict how any individual will fare in their own personal career.

The fact is that engineering salaries can be impacted by many factors: geographic location, kind of engineering degree and level of education, worker experience, evolving technology trends and innovations, industry subsector, and so forth. So as we survey salary information, remember that salaries can and will often fluctuate according to many factors as well as broader labor market conditions.

Despite variations in earnings due to individual circumstances, salary surveys paint a clear picture: most people with engineering degrees will be in a position to earn salaries that are superior to salaries in many other fields and professions.

Because college students have a wide range of engineering sectors to consider — along with different engineering degree pathways — let’s explore some average salary information by looking at salaries within different branches of engineering.

1. Civil Engineering

Civil Engineers made a median salary of $88,050 in 2021. The best-paid 25% made $117,270 that year, while the lowest-paid 25% made $74,250.

Civil Engineer Salary

Source: US News and World Report

2. Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Engineers made a median salary of $95,300 in 2021. The best-paid 25% made $120,180 that year, while the lowest-paid 25% made $76,050.

Mechanical Engineer Salary

Source: US News and World Report

3. Electrical Engineering

The average electrical engineer salary in the USA is $99,996 per year or $48.07 per hour. Entry-level positions start at $80,000 per year while most experienced workers make up to $129,996 per year.

Electrical Engineer Salary


4. Computer Engineering

The average computer engineer salary in the USA is $130,190 per year or $62.59 per hour. Entry-level positions start at $98,172 per year while most experienced workers make up to $182,500 per year.

Computer Engineer Salary


Real-world successful STEM students who found themselves well positioned to catch big waves of technology innovation exemplify the way technologies driven by engineering advances can lead to giant financial rewards.

A few famous examples include Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon (studied physics at Princeton), and Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and creator of Space X (studied physics and economics at the University of Pennsylvania), and Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook (studied computer science at Harvard until he dropped out of college to pursue entrepreneurship).

Getting an engineering degree may not launch you into the kind of salaries earned by the 1% or the likes of Musk, Bezos, or Zuckerberg, but in today’s technology-driven society, engineering seems destined to rank high among all professions in terms of both workforce demand and potential financial rewards.

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The Return on Investment for Engineering Education

While engineering education may require a significant investment, it often proves to be a wise one. Quality education from a top engineering school can significantly enhance earning potential, graduate’s career prospects, and deliver a positive return on educational investments.

Starting with simple cost-benefit analysis, the average cost of an undergraduate degree in engineering in the United States ranges from 40,000-90,000 USD per year. Given these salary figures, it is definitely plausible that engineers are able to reap a significant net gain — a positive return on the investments they made to get their engineering degree.

Graduates from more prestigious institutions also have a competitive edge in the job market. The best engineering programs typically reward students with access to extensive networks, cutting-edge research opportunities, and industry partnerships and pipelines.

“These…schools [the top 20 to 30 US universities]… are a very strong return on investment, particularly if you're thinking about careers in finance, management consulting, technology, engineering, law, medicine — these types of professions that really value degrees. If you go to these top institutions, the ROI is very strong.”

- Jamie Beaton, CEO of Crimson Education, Interview with Yahoo News

The agglomeration of these advantages can give graduates advantages in the job market, to be in a stronger position to secure competitive job roles at established institutions.

The potential for higher salaries and greater career advancement therefore makes the cost of education a worthwhile investment, as it opens doors that may not otherwise be open without a degree.

Therefore, it is important to make decisions in an informed and rational manner. While college tuition is not cheap, you may want to avoid limiting your decision making to a myopic focus on the short-term costs of tuition. It’s important to account for the longer-term monetary and holistic benefits of a well-recognized engineering degree.

To drive this point home, consider this salary data from the Federal Reserve

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Given the accelerating pace of innovation, it's hardly surprising that engineering careers ranked so high salary wise in this survey. There's every reason to believe that getting an engineering degree should help you experience a bright future!

Securing Long-Term Benefits

With all the good news about the value that an engineering degree can deliver for your career future, it’s worth stopping to consider “it is not the paper that carries the man, but the man that carries the paper.” One’s career success is not dictated nor limited by mere ink on a university degree, but rather one’s conscientiousness and attitude in being able to make the most out of one’s opportunities. While a good degree is extremely beneficial, it is by no means a guarantee of success.

With this in mind, some financial considerations to keep in mind as you consider whether an engineering degree is worth it:

  • The cost of a degree can vary significantly from one school and one program to another, so be sure to consider a range of options as you decide what level of educational investment is right for you.
  • If affording the upfront costs of a degree program is a hardship, be sure to remember that educational grants, incentive programs, need-based scholarships offered by a large spectrum of universities, student loans, and parent loans make up a wide range of financing options to help you keep moving forward with your college aspirations.
  • Once you get your degree — and hopefully a rewarding first job — continue to assess your skillsets and the changing technological and economic landscape: identify and pursue prudent and rewarding postgraduate professional learning and education, including graduate degree programs, to maintain your professional edge and open doors to new opportunities.
  • Don’t fall prey to believing that success in engineering is for men and not women — while women are often underrepresented in many STEM career paths, the tide is changing, and there are already many women achieving tremendous success in science and engineering roles.

Taking a thoughtful approach to your educational decision making — such as you’re doing now reading this post — should help you navigate your college and career journey toward the most successful outcomes possible.

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Final Thoughts

Engineering offers a promising and rewarding career path with considerable earning potential. The ever-evolving nature of the field ensures that engineers remain in demand, and therefore well remunerated. Investing in a quality engineering education therefore serves as an essential step towards maximizing your earning potential and professional growth, and opening doors that are not open to many.

Remember, with engineering, not only can you make a difference in the world, but you can also enjoy a rewarding and financially promising career. Feeling an innate calling within you?

To unlock the doors to top engineering schools and gain personalized guidance on the admission process, we encourage you to book a free consultation with Crimson Education. Their team of experienced mentors can provide valuable insights, help you craft strong applications, and guide you towards securing admission to prestigious engineering schools.

Take the leap towards a successful engineering career today by visiting

Your engineering journey awaits!