For those thinking of choosing a career in engineering, you don’t have to look far for inspiration. From the tube train you took to work this morning to the machine that made your morning latte, right to the building you’re sat in and the computer you’re reading this on right now, everything was designed, built and maintained by engineers.
Against such an industrially and technologically advanced backdrop, it’s likely that there is an industry and a discipline to suit everyone. But regardless of the field, the overall goal of engineering is the same: to innovate and develop solutions to society’s ever-shifting problems, no matter how large or small.
As a result, engineering is one of the fastest growing and best paid professions in the world. Whether you’re a graduate, an apprentice or an experienced hire, there is a broad array of fields to choose from; we’ve compiled a handy list of the highest paying ones! So read on, and find out where your skills could be best utilised…
Telecoms engineering is a hybrid of electrical and computer engineering, and is responsible for the installation and maintenance of telephone lines, switchboard services and, more recently, internet and broadband technologies.
As internet connection technologies evolve particularly, there is a high demand for engineers from all the traditional telecoms giants such as Verizon in the US and BT and Virgin in the UK. There are also contractor opportunities for strategic government installations, both at home and overseas.
Average salary: $64,697 (£47,631)
16. Acoustic / Audio
Acoustic engineering deals with the study of vibrations and sounds, and primarily focuses on devising ways to limit and eradicate hearing loss problems. It is also responsible for the development of ultrasound techniques in medicine, as well as the design of concert halls, the programming of music recordings and the installation of public address systems such as at railway stations and airports.
Average salary: $68,257 (£50,252)
Mechanical engineering is a very broad discipline and at its core is essentially the design and maintenance of anything that is composed of moving parts. It requires understanding in the following core areas:
- Dynamics and thermodynamics
- Materials science
- Structural analysis
It is the most common area of engineering and, as such, is applicable across all industries and fields on projects and operations of all shapes and sizes. As a result, mechanical engineers are highly employable by almost any large organisation that owns factories or manufacturing plants.
Average salary: $68,268 (£50,269)
Automotive engineers primarily design and build land-based vehicles, either for commercial purposes or for specialised organisations such as in motorsport or the military. Vehicles are made up of a variety of sub-systems working together, resulting in a research-heavy approach to development.
All the major car retailers such as Mercedes, Volkswagen and Ford offer positions at several entry levels, while it is also possible to work for government R&D departments or even a Formula 1 team!
Average salary: $68,883 (50,724) (estimates vary)
Agricultural engineers focus on the processes and management of naturally attained foods and resources such as in farming. Their primary role involves utilising this knowledge to design agricultural machinery, as well as understanding how land reacts to various processes and treatments.
Many engineers work on smaller, regionally owned farms, although there is scope to work for larger corporations such as Bernard Matthews, Del Monte Foods and Monsanto.
Average salary: $75,090 (£55,285)
Alongside naval architects, marine engineers design, build and maintain boats, ships, oil rigs and any other floating vessel or structure, as well as contributing to oceanographic engineering. As a result, the discipline is focused on the development of propulsion technology and various on-board systems.
Marine engineers are typically employed by shipping companies and energy firms such as Shell, BP and Total.
Average salary: $76,315 (£56,186)
11. Geological (Mining)
Mining engineers are tasked with the discovery, extraction and logistical make-up of minerals from the earth, and involves elements of several other engineering disciplines. As a side effect of extraction, the area around mines can often be vulnerable to pollution – therefore, it is also the responsibility of mining engineers to mitigate and minimise the risk of this happening.
Due to the finite nature of mining (as well as the human dangers involved), the pursuit of renewable energy sources is gradually becoming more preferable. That said, major mining corporations like Glencore and Rio Tinto are still hugely profitable.
Average salary: $77,968 (£57,392)
10. Design / Drafting / Architectural
Design engineers work with other specialists to produce detailed conceptualisations of a product or a building, with the emphasis on function and performance rather than aesthetics. Although this role traditionally required strong drawing skills, most of this work is now mainly done on CAD software.
Design engineer positions can exist in both engineering and architectural firms, depending on their size and industry specialism.
Average salary: $81,532 (£60,016)
Aside from military engineering, this is the oldest engineering discipline in the world and is concerned with the building and maintenance of the built and natural environment. As a result, civil engineering is typically broken down into sub-disciplines, including:
- Structural: Probably the most prominent type of civil engineering, it involves the structural design and analysis of buildings, bridges, towers, tunnels, flyovers, off-shore structures and other manmade projects
- Construction: Deals with the planning and logistical side of building construction work, and is more business-focused
- Environmental: Involves sanitary engineering, including hazardous waste management procedures and environmental remediation work
- Transportation: Involves designing, monitoring and building transportation routes, including roads, highways, railway systems, canals, airports, ports and mass transit systems
- Coastal: Similar to water resources engineering (which focuses more on inland water management such as dams), coastal engineering deals with erosion and water defences – particularly in vulnerable areas such as the Netherlands and the southern US
Although these are the more prominent areas, there are many other sub-specialties, including municipal, surveying, plant, earthquake and forensic engineering.
Some of the largest civil engineering firms in the world include AECOM, Balfour Beatty and Laing O’Rourke, who are each responsible for constructing some of the most recognisable manmade features in the world.
Average salary: $82,220 (£60,522) (higher for chartered personnel)
Biomedical engineering is seen as the bridge between medicine and conventional engineering, utilising advances in biological science to develop machinery and tools that can diagnose, monitor and treat conditions.
There are many large biomed companies competing in this lucrative market such as Johnson & Johnson and the medical divisions of both Siemens and GE. Additionally, in the UK, there are biomed roles in the NHS.
Average salary: $86,220 (£63,463)
Unsurprisingly, electrical engineers are subject matter experts in electricity right across the engineering spectrum, operating in a wide variety of industries, roles and locations. Aside from being responsible for developing and running power stations, they also work in plants, factories, offices, ships and rigs – anywhere where electricity is being used.
As a result, electrical engineers are employable in nearly every industry and are always in demand.
Average salary: $93,010 (£68,461)
Chemical engineers typically work for commercial businesses who seek to transform chemicals, materials and energy sources into usable products such as plastics and other synthetics. As well as traditional engineering skills such as science and mathematics, it also requires a working knowledge of economics.
There are many large multinational companies that specialise in chemical engineering such as BASF, DowDuPont and Sinopec.
Average salary: $97,360 (£71,663)
Nuclear engineers utilise their knowledge of nuclear physics to work on notoriously complex projects – usually in nuclear reactors and power plants – that are designed to generate energy. In addition, they also develop nuclear medical techniques (including radiation therapy and diagnostic imaging), as well as working with the military on secretive weapon programmes.
Nuclear engineers possess unique skillsets that are always in demand from employers, such as EDF Energy, E.ON and RWE.
Average salary: $102,950 (£75,774)
Aerospace engineering is concerned with the development and maintenance of aircraft (aeronautical) and spacecraft (astronautical), and due to its complex nature is usually the responsibility of specialised sub-teams of engineers such as in avionics, aerodynamics and propulsion.
Most of the large aircraft manufacturers, such as Boeing and Airbus, offer positions directly, although it is also possible to work for part-specific companies such as GE or Rolls-Royce, who build engines.
Average salary: $107,830 (£79,366)
Software engineers write, test, implement and update code that is used by computers or other digital platforms that contain software. As we move further into the digital age, software engineer numbers are increasing year-on-year and it is predicted to be one of the most common and important jobs in the near future.
Although any company that runs its own databases require software engineers, they form the core foundation of many innovative tech giants such as Apple, Google and Facebook.
Average salary: $109,087 (£80,289)
2. Computer / Hardware
Hardware engineering (not to be confused with software engineering) is a combination of electrical engineering and computer science, and is used to build the components used in computers and network systems. As our world becomes increasingly reliant on computers, computer engineering is emerging as a sought-after and highly valued profession.
Many computer engineering companies, such as Dell, Intel and Microsoft, are often named among the top companies in the world to work for.
Average salary: $111,730 (£82,221)
The discovery and recovery of natural oil resources is a hugely lucrative business for energy companies and relies primarily on the expertise of petroleum engineers – experts on the physical behaviour of water, oil and gas. They employ this knowledge to estimate the suitability of a potential drilling site.
As a result, petroleum engineers are compensated handsomely by the global energy companies that hire them such as Sinopec, ExxonMobil and Gazprom.
Average salary: $129,990 (£95,658)
As you can see, careers in engineering are enormously varied, with the opportunity to work in some fascinating fields and truly make a difference to the way we live. They are also very well paid – especially in the IT and energy sectors, which society is becoming ever reliant on. So if you are technically minded and looking for a new career in 2018, why not consider it?
Do you work in any of these fields? Let us know your experiences in the comments below…
Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 3 January 2018.