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It’s not business or computer science. Pre-med no longer tops the list of most popular majors. The #1 choice for college students is engineering.
Students choose engineering because of a favorable job outlook for engineers. But it’s a very rigorous major. Sticking with this major after your first midterm exam depends on many factors. But if you do, you’ll see good pay and strong job growth.
Engineer job growth continues year after year. But as you start to research an engineering major and career, there are many things to consider. First, which engineering field should you choose? What are the most in-demand engineering jobs? And where do you find these jobs?
Because many different types of engineers exist, this guide will help you decide which types offer the best job prospects. Read on to find out more about the engineer job outlook and what it promises for your future in engineering.
What is engineering and the engineering method?
The word “engineer” comes from ingeniare. It means invent, create, or devise. An engineer is inquisitive by nature. They apply their questions as they create. They design, build, and construct engines, machines, and other structures.
In high school science classes, you’re taught the scientific method. How to come up with a hypothesis and test it. You apply this method to different subjects as you learn how to research and draw conclusions. But what about the engineering method?
The engineering method takes principles you already know and applies them to the creation of a structure or machine. You might test mechanical systems or launch a new medical device. The method you take to get there follows a series of steps.
Phase 1: Come up with an idea or a plan and prepare to ask questions
Phase 1 of the engineering method is where you come up with a new idea. You may also identify a problem. This is like the scientific method where you come up with and ask a question.
Phase 2: Build a concept around your new idea while identifying problems
Here you identify criteria and constraints for your new idea. You might look at existing solutions. You might also think about things that will prevent your new idea from taking shape.
Phase 3: Plan your new idea and brainstorm solutions to your problems
As in the scientific method when you come up with a hypothesis, here you define your objectives. You brainstorm possible solutions while making a plan. You also come up with a program and schedule to carry out your plan.
Phase 4: Design a model or a schematic design for your idea
During the design phase, you generate ideas. You can draw and make models. You can also make schematics for electronic equipment or infrastructure projects. You explore the possibilities of your new idea and come up with ways to develop it.
For example, mechanical engineers design power producing machines. They might make electrical equipment for wind turbines or refrigeration systems.
Phase 5: Develop your prototype based on your design
The development phase is where you come up with prototypes based on your design work. You also conduct experiments in this phase. You validate and verify your design. If you run into a problem, you might need to redesign your prototype or model.
Phase 6: Launch your new engineering idea and see your hard work pay off
Once you have a working model, it’s time to launch. This is the phase where you get your results and see your hard work pay off. If you created electrical equipment or wanted to test mechanical systems, this is where you’ll launch your idea.
If you like to question new ideas to find better ones, you might consider an engineering career.
Engineering Job Outlook 2022 – How does your career measure up?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects engineers will see a 4% job growth between 2014 and 2024. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports the addition of 65,000 new engineer jobs during the decade. But the employment outlook varies for different engineer types. Below is the engineering job outlook for different engineer types.
- Biomedical engineer – 23.1% job growth
The biomedical engineer career outlook is higher than other engineering jobs. This means it’s a great time to study biomedical engineering.
Biomedical engineers are innovators. They analyze and design solutions to problems in biology and medicine. Their goal is addressing medical needs. They can specialize in different areas of medicine. These areas might include stem cell engineering or 3-D printing.
- Environmental engineer – 12.4% job growth
With engineering job growth strong for these engineers, it is a good field to enter. Environmental engineers work to improve recycling efforts, waste disposal, and pollution. They use their knowledge to come up with new solutions to environmental problems.
- Petroleum engineer – 9.8% job growth
A petroleum engineer helps find oil and gas to serve the country’s needs. They find new ways to extract oil from the earth or older wells. This occupation has a strong engineer outlook.
- Marine engineer – 8.9% job growth
The marine engineering career outlook remains strong. It should continue over the next 10 years. This is due to the need to design, build, and repair marine vessels, such as boats and ships. Now is a great time to go into marine engineering.
- Civil engineer – 8.4% job growth
Growth for civil engineers should continue for the next several years. Civil engineers develop major transportation systems. They design:
- Water supply systems
- Mechanical engineer – 5.3% job growth
Mechanical engineers should see a 5.3% engineering jobs growth. Mechanical engineers design everything from small engine parts to large machines like drill presses.
- Computer hardware engineer – 3.1% job growth
Computer hardware engineers should see stable job prospects over the next several years. Computer hardware engineers research, design, and develop computer parts and systems. For example, they create circuit boards and work with cloud computing.
Engineering careers continue to be popular for many reasons, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Engineers earn a median annual wage higher than the national averages for other jobs. They also offer various disciplines and job types. But it’s the engineering job availability that draws recent college grads.
Popular College Majors for In-Demand Engineering Jobs
They typical college graduate earns about $900,000 more than the typical high school graduate over their working life. But not all bachelor’s degrees are equal. What you major in can impact your future earnings. It can also make a difference in landing a job right out of college.
To help you choose the right college major, there are ways to track starting salaries for majors. CareerBuilder reports that engineering has the highest starting salary for college grads. Higher than computer science or other math and science disciplines.
But within the engineering field, there are many different types of engineering jobs. Read on to find out the most popular engineering college majors. These majors can lead you to the most in-demand jobs.
Major in biomedical engineering
If you’re interested in engineering and scientific research, why not blend the two? Biomedical engineering allows for jobs in different industries. You can take on jobs in health care, medicine, and pharmaceutical manufacturing.
In this major, you study everything from biochemistry to mathematics. Your courses include:
- Organic chemistry
You also take biomedical and chemical engineering classes and labs.
Major in civil engineering or architecture
From your neighborhood street to the Golden Gate Bridge, civil engineers create and maintain public works. They construct buildings, bridges and roads. But to work as a civil engineer, you need a college degree.
When you major in civil engineering, you take courses that teach you how to design and build. Your courses might include:
- Bridge engineering
- Computer programming
- Construction materials
- Construction safety
- Pavement design
- Urban engineering
Major in environmental engineering or engineering science
Environmental engineers use engineering principles to solve environmental problems. Much of their job involves tackling pollution, waste, and recycling.
In college, you take math, physics, and engineering courses. You also take drafting and surveying courses to help you learn how to design solutions.
Major in mechanical engineering
One of the top engineering jobs with a good engineer job outlook is the mechanical engineer. This type of engineer has many job options. You might design medical equipment or mechanical instruments. You can work in any industry.
Mechanical engineering majors study:
- Elements of mechanical design
- Mechanics of materials
- Principles of design
Major in petroleum engineering
As a petroleum engineer, you design equipment that extracts oil and gas. Extraction might take place below the earth’s surface or in deep reservoirs. When you major in this type of engineering, you take many math and engineering courses. You also take physics and earth science.
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Highly Ranked Engineering Jobs – The Best in Engineer Jobs
There are three different types of engineers ranked in the U.S. News & World Report 100 Best Jobs category in 2022:
- Civil engineers
- Mechanical engineers
- Petroleum engineers
Here are the rankings for these three occupations, according to U.S. News.
- #1 in Best Engineering Jobs
- #16 in Best STEM Jobs
- #43 in 100 Best Jobs
- #2 in Best Engineering Jobs
- #21 in Best STEM Jobs
- #59 in 100 Best Jobs
- #3 in Best Engineering Jobs
- #15 in Best Paying Jobs
- #65 in 100 Best Jobs
Engineers perform many different tasks. They are the creative minds behind many designs and infrastructure projects. This is why the career fascinates students.
But the field is broad. You can apply your engineering principles to many different industries. Because your degree is versatile, there are many jobs to choose from. This is another reason why the engineering job outlook is strong.
Other occupations with good earnings potential and a favorable outlook include:
- Electronic engineering technologists
- Information technology occupations
- Naval architects
- Operations technologists
Good Pay Right Out of College: Salary Potential for Engineers
Engineers not only have interesting and rewarding jobs but also make good wages. But certain factors impact earnings. These factors include:
- Degree level
- Geographic location
- Years of experience
With that said, here are some of the top paying engineer jobs reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and their median annual wage.
- Petroleum engineers – $130,850/year (median annual wage)
- Computer hardware engineers – $128,170/year
- Aerospace engineers – $122,270/year
- Chemical engineers – $105,550/year
- Electrical engineers – $101,780/year
- Materials engineers – $98/300/year
- Biomedical engineers – $97,410/year
- Environmental engineers – $96,820/year
- Industrial engineers – $95,300/year
- Mechanical engineers – $95,300/year
- Marine engineers – $93,370/year
- Civil engineers – $88,050/year
Source: The Bureau of Labor Statistics
Is Engineering a Saturated Field?
With the number of engineering majors graduating college, it may seem like a saturated field. But is engineering oversaturated? The answer depends on which field you look at.
There are certain fields with a strong engineer career outlook. These fields are less saturated and have low unemployment rates.
- Civil engineers
Civil engineering is one of the fastest growing engineering fields. It has a low unemployment rate of 1.9% and about 25,300 jobs.
But to land a job as a civil engineer, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. Senior positions might want a master’s or doctoral degree. Other roles might ask for more certifications, such as a professional engineer license.
Pay is good and upward mobility is possible. The stress level for this job is average.
- Mechanical engineers
Mechanical engineering also has a low unemployment rate of 4.1%. Because of this, you should find work after college. There are about 20,900 mechanical engineer jobs. This means job prospects are favorable.
You need a degree in mechanical engineering to work in this profession. But you can land a job with a four-year degree. If you want to work as a senior engineer, plan on getting your master’s degree.
Upward mobility is high in this field. The stress level is average, but flexibility is part of the job. Many employers allow alternate work schedules that help the work life balance.
- Petroleum engineer
You will find about 2,200 projected jobs in this field. You will also find a lower than average unemployment rate. But to land a job, you need an ABET-accredited bachelor’s in engineering or petroleum engineering.
Programs that offer internships or other practical experiences help prove your value to a potential employer. Since the field is competitive, it’s important to make your resumé stand out.
Job satisfaction for this career is above average. There are opportunities for advancement and routine salary increases.
- Architectural engineers
Architectural engineers or architects see a low unemployment rate of 2.9%. About 3,900 projected jobs make the field a great one to pursue after college.
Architects are artists. But their canvas is cities, college campuses, or parks. Because of the type of work they do, the stress level associated with the job is low. Upward mobility for this job is average, but there are opportunities to advance or get a raise.
Some architects work in other engineering fields as electronic engineering technologists or operations technologists, among other roles.
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This concludes our article on the job growth for engineers and what to expect for the future.