With engineers always in high demand, some of the best salaries in the world are in the field. Workers regularly earn annual salaries over $100,000 in engineering with relatively little experience compared to other professions. Careers in engineering require specialized education with asymmetric information but considering engineer majors consistently earn among the highest average starting salaries, the time and cost pay off. Those who are interested in math and science, have solid problem-solving skills, and the right education can usually secure a solid career in engineering. Several jobs in the field pay extremely well and are worth investigating further.

Petroleum Engineers

The careers for petroleum engineers continue to flourish along with the boom in the U.S. oil and gas industry. Job opportunities abound, particularly in the states that produce the most oil. Many positions in this field do not require advanced degrees, but, rather, emphasize job experience, making it an even more lucrative career choice. It is common for petroleum engineers with more experience to make well over $200,000 annually. The median salary in 2019 was $137,720, according to the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Key Takeaways

  • Some of the highest-paying salaries are in the engineering field.
  • Petroleum engineers continue to draw high salaries thanks to ongoing demand in the oil and gas industry.
  • Chemical engineers have median salaries of $108,700 and many of the highest-paid are in the oil and gas industry.
  • Aerospace engineers work on aircraft, missiles. and spacecraft for commercial or military purposes.
  • Thanks to advances in cloud computing and data analytics, big data engineers are the newcomers to the field and are among the highest paid in IT.

Petroleum engineers help locate new sources of oil and natural gas, determine the most effective and efficient extraction methods, and often manage the process onsite. A petroleum engineer typically holds a bachelor's degree in engineering, often in petroleum engineering. Manufacturing universities offer geotechnical and petroleum-related engineering programs, and a number of online training programs are also available.

Nuclear Engineers

With many U.S. nuclear power facilities aging and in need of repair, demand for qualified nuclear engineers is expected to rise as upgrades are likely on the horizon. Many nuclear engineers monitor nuclear facilities to identify practices or flaws in design or operation that violate safety regulations. Nuclear engineers also research and develop processes and systems to discover other benefits of nuclear energy and radiation. Many find medical and industrial uses for radioactive materials for medical diagnoses and treatments for cancer and other diseases.

Salaries among nuclear engineers ranged from approximately $71,860 to $179,430, with a median of $113,460 in 2019, according to BLS. Nuclear engineers are typically required to hold a bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering.

Chemical Engineers

Chemical engineers apply principles of chemistry, biology, and physics in a wide variety of industries, such as manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, health care, design and construction, food processing, electronic and advanced materials, biotechnology, and environmental health. BLS reports that the median salary among chemical engineers in 2019 was almost $108,770 and the top 10% in the field earn annual incomes of $176,090 or more. The highest-paid chemical engineers are often those in the oil and gas industry.

Aerospace Engineers

Engineers working directly with aircraft are aeronautical engineers, and those who work on spacecraft are astronautical engineers. Professionals in the aerospace sector are the so-called "rocket scientists" that apply principles of physics to the design, construction, and testing of aircraft, missiles, and spacecraft for commercial or military purposes. Responsible for developing new technologies for aviation, defense, and space exploration, aerospace engineers usually specialize in areas such as propulsion, vehicle movement, or communications.

Aerospace engineers beginning their careers can expect starting salaries of $72,450, and the median salary in 2019 was $116,500, according to BLS. An aerospace engineer must have a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering or some other field of engineering or science related to aerospace systems. Many positions in this field also require special military clearance and U.S. citizenship to work on projects related to national defense.

Big Data Engineers

Thanks to advances in data analytics and cloud computing, individuals that crunch numbers are the newest to the highly paid ranks in the field of engineering. These big data engineers can take complex sets of data and structure the information into a comprehensive manner for others to understand. The process usually involves creating software and hardware systems that utilize and interpret steady streams of data. A 2019 update from the Robert Half recruiting firm ranked data engineering as the highest paying information technology career, with median salaries of $163,250.