Engineers: Salary Overview
“Engineer” is a broad term that refers to a person who designs, builds, maintains, or repairs a variety of structures, machinery, or engines.
Engineers specialize in a specific field such as mechanical engineering, civil engineer, electrical and electronics engineering, aerospace engineering, environmental engineering, materials engineering, chemical engineering, computer hardware engineering, and more.
Their job responsibilities, job prospects, and salaries vary widely depending on the specialty.
For example, mechanical engineers typically earn less than nuclear engineers but mechanical engineers held more than 310,000 jobs in 2018 while nuclear engineers held only 17,700 jobs.
The level of experience and the industry of employment is another important factor that determines an engineer’s wage.
For instance, entry-level civil engineers who work in the non-residential building construction field may make less than $55,000 a year while experienced computer hardware engineers who work for computer manufacturers may make more than $180,000 a year.
The median annual salaries also vary widely depending on the engineer’s specialty.
The median annual wage for mechanical engineers was $88,430 in May 2019, while computer hardware engineers earned a median annual wage of $117,220.
Civil engineers earned around $87,060 a year in May 2019 while chemical engineers earned around $108,770 during the same time period.
The median annual wage was $93,360 for materials engineers, $91,410 for biomedical engineers, and $88,860 for environmental engineers.
Aerospace engineers made around $116,500 a year in May 2019 and nuclear engineers earned a median annual wage of $113,460.
As an engineer, you can make anywhere between less than $50,000 and more than $180,000 a year.
Engineer Salary by Industry
Salaries for engineers are greatly influenced by the industry of employment.
The number of jobs available in a specific industry for engineers depends on their specialty.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 312,900 mechanical engineers employed in the United States in 2018 while biomedical engineers held only 19,800 jobs.
The biggest employers for mechanical engineers were companies that provide engineering services, machinery manufacturers, transportation equipment manufacturers, and computer and electronics manufacturers.
Most environmental engineers worked for companies that provide engineering services, for businesses that provide technical consulting services or for the state or local governments.
Materials engineers held about 27,700 jobs in 2018, while environmental engineers held about 55,400 jobs.
The largest employers for materials engineers were transportation equipment manufacturers, engineering services providers, computers, and electronic product manufacturers.
Most environmental engineers work for companies that provide engineering services, for companies that provide technical consulting services, or for state governments.
For example, mechanical engineers who worked in the research field earned a median annual wage of $101,780 a year while the median annual wage for those who worked for machinery manufacturers was $80,720.
Materials engineers who worked in the research field earned a median annual salary of $108,860 in May 2019 while those who worked in primary metal manufacturing made around $81,580 a year.
Biomedical engineers who worked for navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturers earned a median annual wage of $105,720 while those who work for colleges, universities, and professional schools earned around $73,300 per year.
Engineer Salary by Compensation Structure
Typically engineers earn a fixed salary but some of them may be paid by the hour.
Some employers also offer bonuses, commission, profit-sharing, and other incentives designed to motivate workers.
These benefits can supplement an engineer’s annual salary with several thousands of dollars a year.
For example, according to payscale.com, structural engineers earned, on average, around $2,900 in bonuses, $4,500 in commissions, and around $3,000 in profit sharing, as of May 2020.
The numbers vary widely depending on the employer, the region, and the engineer’s skills and level of experience.
Some make less than $4,000 a year in benefits while others make as much as $30,000.
Many engineers also receive health benefits, including medical, dental, and vision.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Engineers. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.