Best Engineering Majors for Achieving the Highest Starting Salary

As of 2015, students who completed bachelor's programs in a variety of engineering disciplines were among the highest paid entry-level college graduates in the country. Some popular sub-fields are petroleum, computer, and chemical engineering. View article »

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  • 0:04 Best Paying Engineering Majors
  • 1:05 Other Factors Affecting Salary
  • 2:01 Petroleum Engineers
  • 2:30 Computer Engineer
  • 2:59 Chemical Engineer

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Video Transcript

Best Paying Engineering Majors

Some of the best paying engineering majors include bachelor's degrees in petroleum, chemical, and computer engineering and master's in geophysical engineering. Geographical locations, as well as industry, also affect salary.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported that petroleum engineering majors offered the highest starting salaries among the 2016 class of bachelor's degree in engineering college students. The average starting salary for 2016 graduates of petroleum engineering bachelor's degree programs was $89,563 according to NACE, while chemical engineers earned an average starting salary of $69,196. Computer engineering graduates reportedly averaged $65,606 per year, while geophysical engineers who earned master's degrees in their field made an average of $102,984 in 2015.

Other Factors Affecting Salary

Engineering salaries can also be determined by geographical location. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual wage among all petroleum engineers was $147,030 in May 2016, but the highest paying metropolitan area in that year was Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO, at $171,420 per year on average. For computer engineers, the top-paying states in 2016 were California, New Hampshire, Alaska, Virginia, and Maryland, per the BLS.

Industry can also determine top salaries. Chemical engineers earned a mean annual wage of $105,420 in May 2016. However, those working in the oil and gas extraction industries earned a mean annual salary of $134,130 during the same year.

Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum engineers design new technology for recovering oil and natural gas. They may also develop new techniques for removing these resources more efficiently. A petroleum engineering major usually consists of core chemistry, geology, and physics courses. Students then explore drilling techniques or factors determining a reservoir's output. Some programs may cover advanced topics such as fluid mechanics, fluid dynamics, and petrophysics.

Computer Engineer

Not only do computer engineers create new computer hardware, but they analyze and test new equipment and update older equipment. The most common education required for computer engineers is a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, computer science, or electrical engineering. Bachelor's degree programs in computer engineering are often combined with computer science and may include courses such as programming, discrete mathematics, software engineering, and logic design.

Chemical Engineer

Chemical engineers research and develop processes for the manufacture of petroleum products, plastics, and other goods. Students pursuing this major typically enroll in chemistry, math, and physics courses. They also master energy transport principles and computer modeling through internships or senior projects.

Students wishing to major in a field of engineering may want to consider petroleum, chemical, computer, or geophysical engineering if they wish to enter a high paying field upon graduation.

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