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Highest Paid Engineer Jobs in the USA

Updated on March 28, 2012
Aeronautics is one of the highest paid engineering professions.
Aeronautics is one of the highest paid engineering professions. | Source

(Updated 3/27/2012) The U.S. Department of Labor classifies engineers in the same occupational group as engineering technicians, architects and drafters. As a category, they average a mean $37.08 per hour or $77,120 per year as of 2011, which is an increase of two percent over the previous year.

This is quite a bit more than the average salary in the U.S.A., which is only $21.74 per hour or $45,230 per year. Engineers need a minimum bachelor’s degree in a related technical discipline. Those interested in research must often also have a master’s degree or Ph.D. The following are the highest paid engineer jobs in the USA, ranked from smallest to largest salaries.

1. Petroleum Engineers

The highest paid engineer jobs in the U.S.A. belong to petroleum engineers, who create equipment and methods for extracting oil and gas from beneath the earth. They develop new drilling methods, create machinery for more efficient extraction and find ways to increase recovery of these fossil fuels. They receive mean earnings of $66.82 per hour or $138,980 per year. This is an increase of nine percent over the previous year, the largest increase of any engineering discipline.

Employment will grow by 17 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is much faster than average. This is because a growing population will demand more fuel, and many jobs will be available around the world as well as domestically. Prospects should be excellent, since the number of job openings exceeds the number of graduates.

© 2011 by Aurelio Locsin.

2. Nuclear Engineers

Nuclear engineers study processes involved in nuclear energy and radiation. They create, monitor and operate nuclear power plants, find more efficient ways to produce and handle nuclear materials, and develop new strategies for disposing of nuclear waste. Some specialize in the use of nuclear fuel to power vehicles, while others create equipment for medical treatment. Mean salaries run $50.56 per hour or $105,160 per year, an increase of four percent over the previous year.

Nuclear engineering jobs are expected to grow by 10.2 percent, which is about average for all jobs. This is because of growing interest in the nuclear power plans as an alternative source of energy. Job opportunities will be good since the number of job openings will balance the number of nuclear engineering graduates.

3. Aerospace Engineers

Aerospace engineers design, test and handle the production of air vehicles such as jetliners and helicopters, spacecraft and missiles. They can specialize in systems such as structural design, communication, guidance or navigation, or in specific types of aircraft such as fighter jets, rockets or commercial planes. They earn a mean income of $49.94 per hour or $99,000 per year, an increase of five percent over the previous year.

Jobs for this profession are expected to increase by 4.9 percent, which is about average for all occupations in the U.S.A. This is due to a growing population that will demand aircraft for both travel and the delivery of freight. New technologies and materials will also spur the design of new commercial, combat and spacecraft, requiring more engineering expertise.

4. Computer Hardware Engineers

Computer hardware engineers research, develop, test, and manage manufacturing and installation of computer hardware such as systems, routers, networks, chips, circuit boards and printers. Much of their work involves electronic engineering knowledge, but only as it relates to computer design. They get a mean income of $48.73 per hour or $101,360 per year, which is similar to the previous year.

Jobs for this field are expected to increase by nine percent, which is slower than average. Though computer demand and information technology continues to expand, foreign competition is also increasing. Much of the job growth will come from systems design and services.

5. Chemical Engineers

Chemical engineers use the principles of chemistry to solve practical problems about the manufacture and use of chemicals, which are found everywhere. These engineers are thus involved in many industries such as electronics, food production, energy, medicine manufacturing, paper and clothing. They must not only control chemical process used in production, but must ensure that such processes are safe for consumers receiving the final product. Chemical engineers are number five on the highest paying engineer jobs list, making a mean salary of $44.81 per hour or $99,440 per year. This is an increase of five percent over the previous year. Job opportunities are also expected to increase by 5.9 percent.

Other Engineering Salaries Sorted by Salary

(click column header to sort results)
2010 - 2020 Employment Change  
6. Electronics Engineers, except Computer
7. Engineers, All Other
8. Marine Engineers and Naval Architects
9. Mining and Geological Engineers, including Mining Safety
10. Electrical Engineers
11. Biomedical Engineers
12. Materials Engineers
13. Mechanical Engineers
14. Environmental Engineers
15. Civil Engineers
16. Industrial Engineers
17. Health and Safety Engineers, Except Mining Safety


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    • Alvinet profile image

      Alvinet 2 years ago

      I was wandering about one thing, is it true that in USA you have only one type of job contract and your employer can lay you off at once, without any notice period (like in europe 2 weeks, month and so on ...) ?

    • profile image

      Ephantus 3 years ago

      am an engineering student in Kenya pursing Mechanical and Production Engineering.What can you comment about the course?Is it good paying?

    • profile image

      sarvsammat 5 years ago

      Very nice post i like this post very much and i will recommend my friend to see this for sure .

    • profile image

      Tracy Bennette 5 years ago

      This is a very important Hub for the engineers who are looking for some jobs, it would be a great help for them that you have posted this.many people are looking for some jobs that can be able to help with their families.

    • profile image

      Wisdom 5 years ago

      what about metallurgy? am in South Africa

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      That's a great career to be in, ronny2005.

    • ronny2005 profile image

      ronny2005 5 years ago from HubPages

      This is what I was looking for since a couple of days. I am an Electronics Engineer. It will be useful for my friends too. Thank you Alocsin for such a detailed information !

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I hope they find this useful. It is the latest info from the government.

    • brianlokker profile image

      Brian Lokker 5 years ago from Bethesda, Maryland

      Good article, and good news for engineers. It was shared by a friend on Facebook, and in turn I'm sharing it with my son, who is currently in engineering school.

    • Gloshei profile image

      Gloria 5 years ago from France

      Well here I am as promised, what a great post and what salaries!! I bet the stress factor is high.

      I can't believe 'Computor Engineers' and 'Nuclear Engineers' earn near enough the same.

      Thanks for sharing

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Actually, I haven't investigated OC pay for engineers. The article would not generate a lot views and earnings, so it's not worth writing for me.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 5 years ago from Southern California


      Congrats on the 100,000 views.

      How does Orange County Engineering Pay differ from the average in the USA.

      It seems to me that specialties within the engineering classification are why the big pay difference occurs.

      This is especially true with SAP and Microsoft Dynamics AX.


    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Exactly why I wrote it, jainismus. I believe I've posted links in an Indian forum or two as well. Thanks for stopping by.

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 6 years ago from Pune, India

      This is a very important Hub for the engineers who are looking for jobs in USA. Voted up and shared.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This is interesting and for kids still in school they should be looking at things like this when it comes to making career decisions...if they have the interest and aptitude, of course. Voted up and useful.

    • how-to-make profile image

      how-to-make 6 years ago from India

      Hey alocsin, I am basically a software engineer. How much I could have earn while being in USA?

    • htodd profile image

      htodd 6 years ago from United States

      That is really good money...Thanks

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      You can show them this article as proof of your wife words, kschimmel.

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 6 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Good info! As I've told my own kids, engineering is the most money you can make with just a Bachelor's Degree.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thanks for the kind words. The field has always fascinated me.

    • forhirejobs profile image

      forhirejobs 6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Fantastic post. This is a career path that typically earns (as you mentioned)a great income as well as be a career that is virtually recession proof.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      A very interesting hub! Thanks for sharing what the highest paid engineers are.