Engineering Salaries in 2012

Engineering Salaries in 2012

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Although hiring has picked up in the U.S. over the past three months, at 8.3 percent, the nation's unemployment rate remains historically elevated. The financial crisis that struck in 2007 fundamentally altered the economic landscape, portending a shift toward an innovation-based system that has fueled demand for engineers. As a result, companies are not only paying engineers higher salaries, but also actively courting them, with some of the most prestigious firms in the world competing for both recent graduates and seasoned professionals.

Aerospace Engineer Salaries

Demand for aerospace engineers has risen over the past few years, even in the wake of the recession. With the nation's aerospace and defense sector continuing to experience robust growth, demand for aerospace engineers has similarly jumped, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Nationwide, they earned a mean annual salary of $99,000 in 2010, although wages were even higher in states where there is a higher concentration of such professionals. In California, which is home to the largest number of aerospace engineers, they commanded a mean annual salary of $108,750; in Texas, which ranks second, they earned $97,800.

Chemical Engineer Salaries

Chemical engineers employ their knowledge of chemistry and physics to develop new chemicals, products and enhanced manufacturing techniques. Amid continued shocks to global supplies of raw materials, chemical engineers are playing a critical role in creating new fuel sources and improved plastic technologies. According to BLS data, chemical engineers earned a mean annual salary of $94,590 in 2010. The more than 5,000 chemical engineers who live in Texas – by far the largest number of any state – were paid a mean yearly wage of $105,200. In California, where fewer than 2,000 chemical engineers reside, annual compensation was even more generous at $106,670.

Oil and Gas Engineer Salaries

Oil and gas engineers, otherwise referred to as petroleum engineers, are responsible for developing and perfecting oil and gas extraction and production techniques. The current boom in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the U.S. has spurred demand for oil and gas engineers, as has the continued exploration and development of drilling sites. Oil and gas engineers are benefiting from such torrid demand, with their 2010 mean yearly salary standing at nearly $128,000, according to the BLS. Depending on the state in which they live, however, oil and gas engineers can earn significantly more, with the mean annual wage in Oklahoma and Alaska totaling $142,890 and $157,480, respectively.

Materials Engineer Salaries

Private companies have increasingly recruited materials engineers over the past decade as they endeavored to develop machinery and processes that must adhere to exacting design and performance specifications. Materials engineers' mean annual salary in 2010 stood at more than $85,000, according to government data. With yearly mean wages of $112,280, materials engineers who work in Maryland are the highest paid in the U.S. Nevertheless, materials engineers in California command a mean annual salary of $98,940, and those in Washington are paid a mean yearly wage of approximately $94,900.

Electrical Engineering Salaries

Electrical engineers, who design, develop and test electrical equipment, components and other technological systems, have witnessed their career prospects surge over the past decade. The push among private firms to improve efficiency and reduce waste has prompted demand for electrical engineers, even with more than 148,000 people working as such professionals. Nationally, electrical engineers took home a mean annual salary of $87,770 in 2010. Still, those employed in Massachusetts earned a mean yearly wage of $103,350, ranking the state first in average compensation for such engineers. In Washington, D.C., electrical engineers were paid roughly $98,670 in mean annual wages, according to BLS estimates.

Recent Engineering Graduates

Hiring prospects for the class of 2011 were fair at best, but college graduates armed with their newly minted engineering degrees experienced a much more favorable job market. According to data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), job opportunities and starting average salaries climbed for most engineering graduates last year. The average engineering graduate in the U.S. earned an annual salary of $61,872 in 2011, according to NACE data.

Moreover, the organization's data indicates that engineering graduates' average starting salaries were among the highest of the class of 2011. Though the average starting salary for communications graduates, for example, stood at $39,577, chemical and aerospace engineering degree holders earned $69,600 and $63,900, respectively.

Future Engineering Demand

Economists and policymakers have warned that unless the number of engineering graduates in the U.S. increases, it will lose its position as the epicenter of innovation. Experts project demand for engineers will only continue to climb over the coming decades, especially as the public and private sectors contend with the challenges of a surging global population and dwindling resources.


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