Top 13 Highest Paying Engineering Jobs in 2020

By Jeff Gillis

Engineers make the world go-round. Alright, technically, they don’t, but that doesn’t mean the impact they make doesn’t have a similar magnitude. After all, if it’s a plane, train, automobile, building, bridge, or a slew of other things, an engineer likely had a hand in it.

Most professionals don’t go into engineering entirely for the cash. Instead, it’s the ability to make something – to have a physical manifestation of their effort – that drives most. But that doesn’t mean money is never a factor.

Luckily, by focusing on high paying engineering jobs, you can have the best of both worlds. Are you ready to find out what they are?

Great! Come along with us, and we’ll show you the way.

A Quick Engineering Primer

Before we take a deep dive into the financially best engineering jobs, let’s take a moment to consider what engineering is. After all, the title “engineer” is applied to a ton of roles. Software engineer, civil engineer, chemical engineer… they are all engineers. But their job duties are incredibly different.

What brings the engineering field together is the core concept. Each of those professionals uses scientific, technical, and mathematical skills to create something. Whether that’s a building, a compound, or a program, once their work is done, the world gets a new or improved thing. That’s pretty amazing.

Plus, if you choose engineering, you’ll be in good company. Nikola Tesla, Henry Ford, Leonardo Da Vinci, the Wright Brothers… they were all engineers. So, if you’re ready to join them, let’s take a look at high paying engineering jobs that can be a part of an amazing career.

JEFF'S TIP: If engineering is your calling, then get ready to head to college. Essentially every engineering-style position is going to require a degree, typically a Bachelor’s. However, some may see a Master’s as the minimum. Don’t see this as a deterrent. These positions can be rewarding, both intrinsically and financially. As a result, spending a few years in school can be incredibly worthwhile if working as an engineer feels right for you.

Top 13 Engineering Jobs

So, what are the best engineering jobs? Usually, they are the ones that are engaging, challenging, and can meet your salary needs. Here’s a look at the top 13 engineering positions that bring all of that and more to the table.

1. Big Data Engineer

A position that may be a bit unexpected to some, big data engineers are responsible for creating systems that ensure companies can make sense of their data. Their roles focus on building solutions for making unstructured information comprehensible, ensuring the data can be used to generate powerful insights that can drive a business toward better decisions.

Big data engineers can earn around $90,000 a year. However, if you work your way into a lead role, salaries of $158,000 or higher are certainly possible.

2. Petroleum Engineers

As a petroleum engineer, you’d be responsible for developing methods for extracting and refining petroleum and natural gas, both of which are critical energy sources. In many cases, the goals are to increase extraction efficiency while also finding ways to limit the negative impacts on the environment.

By and large, petroleum engineering is a growth field. Additionally, the roles can be incredibly lucrative, coming with annual salaries around the $138,000 mark as well as comprehensive benefits packages.

3. Electrical Engineer

Nearly every manufacturing industry has some need for electrical engineers. These professionals create electrical components and systems, ranging from motors and machinery to communications systems. Electrical engineers can also help develop products, like GPS devices or smartphones.

Once you make your way into the field, you could earn the median annual salary of $101,250. After you gain experience, pay up to or above $155,880 a year is a real possibility.

4. Chemical Engineer

If you love the hard sciences, a career as a chemical engineer could be a great choice. You’ll spend your days producing compounds for a variety of purposes, such as creating pharmaceuticals or fuel additives.

Usually, a background in biology, chemistry, or physics is a must. Additionally, you need to have strong teamwork skills, as you typically won’t work in a bubble. With that, you can land a yearly salary near $109,000, with the potential to reach pay rates around $176,000 as you hone your abilities.

5. Computer Hardware Engineer

One of the best engineering jobs for tech-oriented professionals, computer hardware engineers design, develop, test, and refine computer components and systems. This can include focusing on parts like processors, RAM, or hard drives, as well as determining how to put together available components to achieve the optimum results.

Yearly salaries for computer hardware engineers usually come in near $117,000. However, the top 10 percent earn in excess of $185,000, showcasing just how far you can go if you choose this specialty area.

6. Nuclear Engineer

Working as a nuclear engineer is nothing like you see on The Simpsons. Instead, you would design, develop, and build tools that make nuclear energy safe and efficient. Often, directing operations in a nuclear facility comes with the job, something that can be challenging but highly engaging.

Once you work your way into a position, an annual salary of about $113,000 is a real possibility. Have you hone your skills and gain experience, pay above $179,000 isn’t out of the question.

7. Biomedical Engineer

If you want to be an engineer but would like to have a positive impact on the world of healthcare, then working as a biomedical engineer could be an excellent choice. In this role, you would spend your time developing and building tools that can help medical professionals diagnose or treat various conditions. It’s an opportunity to have an indirect role in patient care, making the job especially rewarding.

In this field, the median yearly pay comes in at $91,410. However, the top 10 percent earn $148,210 or more, showcasing just how lucrative this career can be.

8. Aerospace Engineer

If you pursue a career in aerospace engineering, you can actually let people know that your job really is rocket science. These professionals design, develop, and build spacecraft, aircraft, satellites, missiles, and, of course, rockets. Along with strong design and drafting skills, these roles require analytical, mathematical, physics, technological, and similar capabilities.

Once you become an aerospace engineer, you can work your way up to the median yearly salary of $116,500. After you gain some experience, annual pay rates above $166,000 are potentially on the table.

9. Environmental Engineer

Usually part of the construction industry, environmental engineers combine their engineering skills with their ecological, environmental, or biological know-how to make sure environmental issues can be solved or addressed. Spending a substantial amount of time at actual job sites is common, so this can be an ideal position for green-minded outdoor enthusiasts.

In this field, you can easily earn about $89,000 a year. With a bit of time, working your way up to $142,000 or more is possible.

10. Materials Engineer

Typically, materials engineers focus on the creation of new materials. They’ll examine the potential of metals, plastics, and more, striving to find ways to make them better, stronger, or ideally suited for specific uses. The work can be highly varied but almost always involves innovation, creativity, and the ability to bring something new into the world.

Materials engineer positions can be very lucrative. The median salary in the field comes in at $93,360, which certainly qualifies the role as a high paying engineering job.

11. Systems Engineer

Another option for tech-savvy professionals, systems engineers manage a company’s technical infrastructure, ensuring that all of the involved hardware and software can meet the organization’s needs. It requires technical expertise as well as stellar soft skills, particularly communication. Along with designing solutions, you have to be able to discuss them with stakeholders who may not be as technically adept.

How much you can earn depends on the level of your position. System engineer I professionals typically bring in around $70,000 a year. However, once you hit system engineer V, a $145,000+ salary is a reasonable target.

12. Agricultural Engineer

One of the best engineering jobs around, agricultural engineers solve problems surrounding power supplies, machinery efficiency, facility design, pollution management, and more. This can make the work varied and engaging. Additionally, you can opt to take your career in the “green” direction, focusing on ways to protect the environment and enhance sustainability.

In this field, you can bring in around $81,000 annually. Once you’ve gained some experience, pay rates above $160,000 could even be yours.

13. Health and Safety Engineer

As a health and safety engineer, your main goal is to protect people from injuries or illnesses as well as reduce the odds that property will be damaged. Reducing risk through procedure development, system improvement, and similar efforts are what its all about, allowing you to have a significant impact on the lives of many.

When you work as a health and safety engineer, you could earn the median yearly salary of $91,410. However, the top paid professionals in this field bring in much more, coming in above $143,000.

Putting It All Together

In the end, the world of engineering is surprisingly vast. If you are technical or scientifically-oriented, want to spend your time and energy creating new things, and wouldn’t mind earning a strong salary along the way, any of these high paying engineering jobs might be right for you.

So, consider your goals, preferences, and interests. If one of the positions above appeals to you, research the educational requirements, and work to get on the path. There’s a decent chance you’ll be happy you did, so why wait? Engineering is a great field. If it speaks to you, then head in that direction.

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About The Author

Jeff Gillis

Co-founder and CTO of Jeff is a featured contributor delivering advice on job search, job interviews and career advancement, having published more than 50 pieces of unique content on the site, with his work being featured in top publications such as INC, ZDnet, MSN and more. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.