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The 12 Highest-Paying Engineering Degrees

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What’s Covered:


Many factors go into choosing your future career, and, once you pick one, there are still other considerations when deciding which specific degree to work towards. For example, under the broad umbrella of “engineering,” there are dozens of specific degrees that require varied skills and lead to different jobs. 


Important factors for choosing your degree within engineering include personality fit, desired workload, competitiveness, opportunities for job advancement, and earning potential. While earning potential should not be the only factor you consider when deciding which engineering degree to pursue, it is often important in students’ decision-making processes.


In this article, you will find a breakdown of the twelve engineering degrees that show the highest earning potential. You can also find information about the best engineering schools in the nation and other resources that will help you find the best degree and school for you.


Highest-Paying Engineering Jobs


Here, you can see the median salary for each high-paying type of engineering along with each type of engineering’s projected job growth. 


The average expected job growth for all occupations is around +3%. While many types of engineering are expected to follow this standard job growth, some (like nuclear engineering) are projected to see a large reduction in demand in the next ten years. This may be an important factor when deciding which engineering degree to pursue!


It is important to note that, generally, engineering degrees correspond with the jobs they lead to (i.e. if you want to be an aerospace engineer, you study aerospace engineering). That being said, there is a significant amount of overlap between some types of engineering. Throughout this list, we included some situations where a student’s degree might not directly align with their engineering job. These may be valuable degrees for students who want to keep their options open.


1. Petroleum Engineering


Median Salary (2020): $137,330


Projected Growth (2019-2029): +3%


Note: The growth of petroleum engineering as a career depends on changes in oil prices, as higher prices lead oil and gas companies to build new facilities and expand their operations.


What does a petroleum engineer do?


Petroleum engineers devise efficient methods for extracting oil and gas from onshore and offshore reserves. The daily work of a petroleum engineer involves monitoring production rates and finding ways to improve production efficiency. Because extraction happens at drilling and well sites, petroleum engineers often travel and work in the field.


Many petroleum engineers hold degrees in mechanical, civil, or chemical engineering.


2. Computer Hardware Engineering


Median Salary (2020): $119,560


Projected Growth (2019-2029): +2%


What does a computer hardware engineer do?


Computer hardware engineers work with computer systems and all of their components. including circuit boards, processors, memory divides, and routers. Hardware engineers must make sure that, as software evolves, the hardware components of a computer still function properly. Most computer hardware engineering happens in research laboratories where engineers build and test different computer models. 


Many computer hardware engineers hold degrees in electrical engineering or computer engineering/computer science.


3. Aerospace Engineering


Median Salary (2020): $118,610


Projected Growth (2019-2029): +3%


What does an aerospace engineer do?


Aerospace engineers design aircrafts, spacecrafts, satellites, missiles, and systems for national defense. These engineers decide whether proposed projects are financially and technically feasible. This includes assessing whether projects meet engineering principles, can be finished by the desired completion date, fulfill customer desires, and abide by environmental regulations. Many aerospace engineers are employed by the federal government. Most aerospace engineers specialize in aeronautical (aircraft) or astronautical (spacecraft) studies. 


Many aerospace engineers hold degrees in aerospace engineering but it is also possible to have a degree in mechanical engineering.


4. Nuclear Engineering


Median Salary (2020): $116,140


Projected Growth (2019-2029): -13%


Note: Nuclear energy is being replaced by cheaper natural gas options for power generation, leading to a decrease in demand for nuclear engineers.


What does a nuclear engineer do?


Nuclear engineers are responsible for the generation of nuclear energy and radiation. They design reactor cores, radiation shielding, and other materials and handle disposal of nuclear waste. They spend the majority of their time in an office setting.


Many nuclear engineers hold degrees in mechanical engineering or electrical engineering.


5. Chemical Engineering


Median Salary (2020): $108,540


Projected Growth (2019-2029): +4%


What does a chemical engineer do?


Chemical engineers apply their understanding of various science disciplines including biology, chemistry, and physics to problems related to the production of manufactured products. Chemical engineers are involved in the production of fuel, pharmaceuticals, drugs, and food products. There are many specializations within chemical engineering, including chemical engineers who specialize in nanomaterials or specific processes like oxidation. 


6. Electrical and Electronics Engineering


Median Salary (2020): $103,390


Projected Growth (2019-2029): +3%


What does an electrical and electronics engineer do?


Electrical engineers design and develop electrical equipment, including motors, navigation systems, communications systems, and power generation systems. Because they are involved with the electrical component of computers, they often work closely with computer hardware engineers. They are also often involved in repair projects for electrical systems. 


Many electrical and electronics engineers hold degrees in electrical engineering but it is also possible to hold a degree in computer engineering.


7. Materials Engineering


Median Salary (2020): $95,640


Projected Growth (2019-2029): +2%


Note: About half of materials engineers work in manufacturing, so as manufacturing decreases, the demand for material engineers will also decrease.


What does a materials engineer do?


Materials engineers develop new materials for production, primarily through working with metals, ceramics, and plastics. They test the efficiency of new materials, including how durable they are over time. Their work is primarily at the atomic level. These engineers spend most of their time in an office setting where they have access to computer design equipment. There are specialties within materials engineering for specific materials (e.g. ceramics, composites, semiconductors).


Most materials engineers have degrees in materials science or materials engineering.


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8. Marine Engineering


Median Salary (2020): $95,440


Projected Growth (2019-2029): +1%


Note: Marine engineers often work on building ships and boats for the military, so changing federal military budgets may limit employment opportunities.


What does a marine engineer do?


Marine engineers build and maintain ships of all kinds, including carriers, submarines, and sailboats. They are responsible for systems like propulsion, refrigeration, and steering. A lot of their work involves sketching out systems and running performance tests on systems. They spend most of their time in an office setting, but may occasionally work on a ship. 


Many marine engineers hold degrees in mechanical or electrical engineering.


9. Health and Safety Engineering


Median Salary (2020): $94,240


Projected Growth (2019-2029): +4%


Note: As different products become more complex, new regulations will be created and health and safety engineers will be needed to reduce costs and produce safe consumer products.


What does a health and safety engineer do?


The goal of health and safety engineering is to protect individuals from illness or injury and to protect property from damage. This is achieved by monitoring production practices, ensuring that regulations are followed, and identifying potential hazards by inspecting machinery and production equipment. Health and safety engineers also investigate accidents to determine their causes, with the ultimate goal of eliminating any safety concerns.


Health and safety engineers typically hold degrees in environmental health and safety or a technical engineering field like electrical, chemical, mechanical, or industrial systems engineering.


10. Mining and Geological Engineering


Median Salary (2020): $93,800


Projected Growth (2019-2029): +4%


What does a mining and geological engineer do?


Mining and geological engineering center around designing safe mines that extract minerals and metals for use in manufacturing. Mining engineers must consider means of extraction and transportation, as well as problems related to pollution and sustainability. 


Some mining and geological engineers hold degrees in mining engineering or geological engineering, though many also hold degrees in related fields like civil or environmental engineering or geoscience.


11. Biomedical Engineering


Median Salary (2020): $92,620


Projected Growth (2019-2029): +5%


Note: As medical technology becomes more sophisticated, medical equipment and devices are more rapidly produced, meaning more biomedical engineers are increasingly in demand.


What does a biomedical engineer do?


Biomedical engineers are responsible for developing devices and equipment aimed at improving health. This includes designing prosthetics, machines for diagnosing medical problems, and any instruments used in a medical setting. Biomedical engineers also train physicians and clinicians on the correct use of biomedical equipment or machinery. Biomedical engineers tend to work in manufacturing or research facilities. 


Many biomedical engineers hold degrees in biomedical engineering or bioengineering. However, since biomedical engineers are often in charge of creating medical devices, pharmaceutical products or gene related therapies, it is also possible to hold a degree in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science or chemical engineering.


12. Environmental Engineering


Median Salary (2020): $92,120


Projected Growth (2019-2029): +3%


What does an environmental engineer do?


Environmental engineers use principles of engineering, natural science, and environmental science to solve environmental problems like recycling, waste disposal, and pollution control. They often design and lead projects related to environmental problems or advise corporations and governmental agencies about environmental concerns. They spend time in the office, as well as in the field at construction sites.


Many environmental engineers hold degrees in civil or chemical engineering.


Best Colleges for Engineering


In addition to choosing which engineering degree to pursue, you will have to choose where to get your degree. It may be important to you that the university you attend has a renowned engineering program. 


For an extensive list of schools with outstanding engineering programs, check out CollegeVine’s Best Colleges for Engineering. You can use this list’s filtering tool to find the perfect school for you. The filter will even take into account your preferences for the size, location, and cost of each school while searching for outstanding engineering programs. 


Here is some information about CollegeVine’s top ten engineering schools:


School Name


Acceptance Rate

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Cambridge, Massachusetts


California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

Pasadena, California


Stanford University

Stanford, California


Princeton University

Princeton, New Jersey


Harvard University

Cambridge, Massachusetts


University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, California


Columbia University

New York City, New York


Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Duke University

Durham, North Carolina


University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania



Many top engineering schools have low acceptance rates, but your personal chances of acceptance may be higher or lower than the general percentage. 


To find out your personal chances of acceptance at these top engineering schools, or any other schools you are interested in, use CollegeVine’s free chancing engine. By considering your grades, test scores, and extracurriculars, we’ll estimate your odds of acceptance at different schools and give you tips on improving your profile.



Brooke Elkjer
Blog Writer

Short Bio
Brooke is a film and television production assistant, originally from Dallas, Texas. She holds Bachelor’s degrees in English and Neuroscience from the University of Southern California. At USC, Brooke was a producer for the intersectional feminist production company on campus, a Resident Assistant (RA), and a student worker for the Thematic Option Honors GE Program. In her free time, Brooke enjoys reading, writing, and watching Gilmore Girls.