Back in October we heard President Obama talk a lot about creating new opportunities in engineering and investing in STEM education. Obama’s jobs speech was inspiring, and things aren’t all bad – for new graduates of top engineering schools there’s a 70 percent placement rate within four months of searching, according to a recent article in The Stanford Daily.
Yet, as we head into 2012, the United States produces only 70,000 engineers annually compared to 400,000 out of China and India.
So what does the future look like for engineers? And what kinds of roles will engineers fill over the next 10 years?
In late 2011, CNN Money published the “Best Jobs in America” list. Of that top 10 list, civil engineer was ranked 4th, and environmental engineer also made the list, coming in at number 10.
Not surprisingly, the number-one slot went to software developer, with a top earning potential of $118K and 32 percent job growth over the next 10 years.
Engineers in the U.S. are earning around $92,000 three to five years out of college in some sectors according to a Salary.com report. And the highest paid engineers are earning nearly $150,000 per year in the energy sector, according to the United States Department of Labor.
Top-paying engineering jobs are found in aerospace, computer hardware, and nuclear and petroleum energy sectors, with earnings of between $92,500 to $108,000 annually.
Back to the CNN report, and civil engineering—with top salaries in the $110K range—was seen to have good long-term growth prospects (24 percent over next 10 years) thanks to an aging infrastructure and a growing population.
A blooming interest in green initiatives, especially in the automotive and energy fields, has made the environmental engineer a hot asset too. They can rake in an annual salary of $113K and job growth potential is significant at 31 percent.
Tighter environmental regulations around air and water pollution, waste management and recycling has the industrial and manufacturing sectors on the look out for new talent. Just five years ago there were 54,000 sustainability and environmental design engineers in the workforce and that number is growing.
Ford Motor Co. plans to add 750 engineers with expertise in batteries and other advanced technology over then next two years to accommodate a growing fleet of hybrid and electric vehicles. This year, Ford will launch the no-plug C-Max Hybrid and plug-in C-Max Energi.
In light of sustainability design and environmental engineering trends, combining a traditional engineering degree with further education in chemistry or geology might be a good option for recent graduates or those looking to stay a “hot item.”
Take a look at my prediction for the top six engineering fields which will show growth over the next five years:
- Civil Engineering – to repair an aging infrastructure (roads, bridges, and other public structures), as well as new jobs in transportation, water supply, and pollution-control systems
- Chemical Engineering – in the areas of energy, biotechnology and nanotechnology
- Biomedical Engineering – as our population ages and new health problems arise
- Sustainability Design & Environmental Engineering
- Electrical & Electronics Engineering
- Computer Software/Embedded Software Engineering
I missed off aerospace, perhaps unfairly. Even though it’s a huge field for engineers and the pay is good – the commercial industry has taken a severe pounding over the past few years.
What do you think will be the top engineering jobs of 2012?