PayScale’s Salary Report Shows Earning Potential for Engineering Careers

When you start to look at Best Schools for Engineering Majors by Salary Potential, a report from PayScale, the first thing you are apt to think is, “Boy, an awful lot of American colleges and universities offer engineering degrees today.” And a lot of them do. The PayScale report, in fact, offers salary data for graduates of no fewer than 409 American institutions that offer undergraduate engineering degrees.

PayScale has organized the salary data in an interesting way. For each school listed, you can find an estimate of the salary that a graduate will earn early in his or her engineering career, and a second estimate of the salary at mid-career.

A graduate of the United States Naval Academy (which PayScale lists as the #1 school for top-earning graduates), for example, can expect to earn $83,700 shortly after graduation, and $153,700 at mid-career. What about school #409, you ask? That would be SUNY Polytechnic Institute, where recent engineering grads can expect to earn $55,200 and mid-careerists can expect $90,700.

That seems like a wide disparity between earnings at PayScale’s top-ranked and lowest-ranked schools, doesn’t it? And perhaps it is. But looking at PayScale’s salary statistics that way is deceptive because there are other insights to be gained from reviewing PayScale’s salary data, including . . .

  • Engineering graduates can generally expect to do quite well in their careers. One example? Engineers who graduated from the University of Cincinnati, which PayScale ranks at #200 in earning potential (and hence, smack-dab in the middle of the salary ratings) can expect to earn $66,000 shortly after graduation, and $119,000 at mid-career. So in other words, engineering is a profession that offers a good livelihood overall.
  • You don’t need to attend an elite institution to make a good living as an engineer. In fields like law, graduates of elite institutions can expect to earn a good deal more than graduates of other institutions. (Back in 2014, for example, Forbes Magazine conducted a survey and found that graduates of Ivy League law schools earned substantially more than graduates of most other schools; one contributing factor was that law schools were graduating more attorneys than could be hired in the then-current marketplace.) Of course, you can earn an engineering degree from MIT, Dartmouth, Stanford or Berkeley, all of which fall toward the top of the PayScale ratings, and expect to do quite well. But if you earn an engineering degree from hundreds of other institutions that fall lower on the list (places like Marietta College or Louisiana State), you are going to do just fine too. One reason could be that engineers are in demand, and demand makes employers offer higher salaries to recent grads.
  • High salaries can be earned by engineers who have only earned undergraduate degrees. If you want to become an attorney or a physician, you will have to attend law or medical school before you start earning a paycheck. And physicians will need to tack on additional years for residencies. In contrast, many engineers can start working after completing four-year undergraduate programs of study. So engineers can spend fewer years in school, start earning sooner and enjoy other financial advantages.

The Lesson to Learn . . .

If you are interested in knowing more about the benefits of pursuing a career in engineering, you’ll want to spend some time reading Best Schools for Engineering Majors by Salary Potential from PayScale. You can consider its salary information in a number of different ways. You can even take out your calculator and determine average salaries, mean salaries, median salaries, and more. But no matter how you analyze the data, we think you will agree that pursuing a career in engineering is a smart career option today.

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