Today’s college graduates are entering the toughest employment market since the Great Depression. In an economy where thousands of recent graduates jockey for limited job openings, choosing a major can be difficult if not downright demoralizing. But amid all the doom and gloom, one degree seems to be a sure thing: engineering.
Engineering degrees are available from a long list of schools, and each offers an array of engineering disciplines from which to choose. Here are three key benefits to choosing to major in engineering and enter this booming field.
Salaries for engineers are excellent.
While many recent graduates languish in entry-level jobs with dismal salaries, engineers entering the field from college can expect very healthy starting salaries. According to The Wall Street Journal, a 2013 study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that while the average starting salary for 2013 college graduates was $44, 928, engineering grads averaged $62,535.
In fact, seven of the top ten starting salaries by field went to engineers:
- Petroleum Engineering: $93,500
- Computer Engineering: $71,700
- Chemical Engineering: $67,600
- Aerospace/Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering: $64,400
- Mechanical Engineering: $64,000
- Electrical/Electronics and Communications Engineering: $63,400
- Engineering Technology: $62,200
Petroleum engineers also came in second (behind neurosurgeons) in CNN Money’s 2012 list of highest paying jobs, with a median income of $162,000 and topping out at $265,000.
Engineering majors are highly in-demand.
The media is full of stories about college graduates with massive debt loads and limited prospects for full-time employment. Just over half of Americans 25 and younger with bachelor’s degrees are unemployed or under-employed. However, the unemployment rate for engineers is just 2 percent.
And the demand is only going to increase.
Engineering is a field with enormous growth potential.
Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age in droves, and that means large swathes of vacancies for qualified engineers. “Half of the engineers in the power industry are going to be retiring in the next five years,” T.E. “Ed” Schlesinger, department head of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, recently told U.S. News.
U.S. News cited civil engineering as a prime example of rising demand; by 2020, significant investments in the United States’ aging infrastructure will require 19% more civil engineers than currently exist.
Biomedical engineering provides an even more dramatic example. Demand for this highly specialized field is expected to grow a staggering 61.7% over the next ten years.
Of course, these aren’t the only attractive qualities of an engineering career. Engineering’s diverse fields offer graduates a chance to build and create, to travel and explore, and to have a direct impact on the physical and technological world. A degree in engineering can open doors and provide new opportunities over the course of an entire career. The high salary and employment prospects don’t hurt, either.