Engineering Starting Salaries on Top

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Prospective college students might be well advised to enroll in engineering—it’s an interesting, challenging subject, and graduates can expect high starting salaries.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the class of 2013, across all job categories, will receive average starting salaries of $44,928, up 5.3% from 2012. The organization’s April 2013 salary survey indicates that, although engineering salaries rose only 4% over the past year, the average starting salary of $62,535 keeps engineering at the top of the list. Other categories surveyed include business ($54,234), health science ($49,713), communications ($43,145), math and science ($42,724), education ($40,480), and humanities and social sciences ($37,058).

NACE also reports computer sciences separate from engineering—graduates earning degrees in computer-related fields saw average salaries increase 4.3% to $59,977. NACE breaks the computer sciences classification into subgroups, reporting that computer science majors’ salaries rose 5.2% to $64,800 while information sciences and systems graduates’ average salaries increased 3.6% to $57,100.

Among the engineering disciplines, NACE reports that petroleum engineering majors scored the top salaries—at $93,500. And the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry offers the highest starting salaries across job categories: $84,182, although the industry is expected to absorb only 1,100 class-of-2013 graduates. In contrast, manufacturing will absorb 94,700 graduates at an average of $55,084 while finance and insurance will hire 100,200 graduates at an average of $52,875.

A master’s degree can boost starting salaries further, according to an article in The Washington Post (“Master’s degree programs surge at nation’s colleges and universities,” May 25). Indeed, master’s degrees are increasing in popularity as students seek higher salaries. The Post quoted Katherine S. Newman, dean of arts and sciences at Johns Hopkins, as saying, “The master’s degree has become a much more important part of the American mobility story. Once upon a time, American industry would have expected people to learn on the job. Increasingly, employers are looking to universities. We are becoming more of a training machine for American industry at the high-skill end.”

The Post article presented a regional data point of interest to EE students: “Virginia data shows that those who earn a master’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering in the state command a median salary after graduation of about $75,000. A bachelor’s degree in the same field draws $56,000.”

The article noted that emerging online access to master’s degree programs is a big draw, offering flexibility for students who continue to work while pursuing advanced degrees.

The Post article quoted Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Center on Education and the Workforce, as saying the earnings return for post-baccalaureate degrees is very high, especially for degrees in engineering.

The proliferation of advanced degrees is not without some controversy, with one observer hinting at an endless loop of degree inflation. But The Post article quoted Debra W. Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, as saying, “The fact of the matter is, it’s the complexity of the knowledge economy that’s driving more education.”

In any event, as Matthew Yglesias writing at Slate (“Want to Make Money Right Out of School? Study Engineering,” May 9) put it, if you’re going to college “…because you heard that college is the ticket to a good job, you should study engineering.”

That sounds like good advice.

And be sure to stay tuned for our August issue, which will include a survey that examines the salaries and professional concerns of those of us who have been out of college for a while.

Rick Nelson 90x110 Rick Nelson
Executive Editor
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