Amid Concerns Over Engineering Shortages, U.S. Engineers Get Some Good News

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Stacey A. Ober
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Sunday, October 14, 2007

While debates about a shortage of U.S. engineers and the future of the profession continue, engineers can finally focus on some good news: both engineering salaries and graduation rates are still on the rise. According to recent data from The Engineering Income & Salary Survey, median salaries for engineers are up over ten percent from 2006, and up more than 19 percent from 2005. And other statistics show the number of engineering graduates is also strong, with almost 75,000 new engineering bachelor's degrees awarded in the 2005–06 academic year.

"What we're seeing is a good sign for U.S. engineers," said NSPE Executive Director Lawrence Jacobson. "While we can't ignore that there will be an increased demand for engineers in the future, or be complacent in the need to meet that demand, the fact that employers are recognizing their value and more students are pursuing engineering careers is encouraging."

According to a matched sample of engineers participating in The Engineering Income & Salary Survey, the median salary for 2007 was $81,316. That shows a marked increase from $74,000 in 2006 and $68,025 in 2005. Starting salaries, determined by participants with less than one year of experience, are also following that trend with their median salary up nine percent from $45,250 in 2006 to $49,250 in 2007. The $44,300 starting salary reported in 2005 shows this rise isn't just an aberration. Coupled with these strong salary numbers, data from the American Society for Engineering Education shows that bachelor's degrees in engineering increased again for the seventh consecutive year, and undergraduate enrollment has rebounded after two years of decline.

Factors such as engineering discipline, geographic location, education, and licensure status can also affect engineering salaries, but salaries are still rising even when taking these into account. Engineers with a bachelor's degree currently earn a median salary of $73,00, compared with $70,000 in 2006. Those with a master's earn $82,558 compared with $79,000 in 2006, and engineers with doctorates saw an even greater increase from $87,561 to $94,000.

With 2007 being the 100th anniversary of engineering licensure, licensed professional engineers (PEs) are also receiving good news, with a significant increase in their salaries from $82,000 to $86,000 in a one-year span. In addition to the increase over last year, PEs also earned 24 percent more than engineers with no license or certification.

Some other interesting findings for 2007 include

  • Engineers in the Pacific Southwest (California, Nevada, and Hawaii) and Middle Atlantic (New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland) regions earn more than engineers in other parts of the country. In the Pacific Southwest states, engineers earn a median salary of $88,000 a year, while those in the Middle Atlantic earn $81,000. By contrast, engineers in the Upper Mountain (Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana) earn a median annual salary of $70,200;
  • Petroleum engineers have the highest median annual salary of all disciplines at $119,500 followed by a tie between mining and forensic engineers at $107,750. Nuclear engineers come in a close third at $106,000; and
  • The median income of female engineers ($65,000) is 80.3 percent that of male engineers ($80,995). However, that gap closes a bit when other factors such as length of experience and education are factored in.

NSPE has been conducting salary surveys since 1952 and updated its survey format in 2004. The Engineering Income & Salary Survey is a continually updated, searchable database providing real-time salary information directly online and is produced in partnership with other engineering societies. The survey tracks salary information by nine different categories: length of experience, level of education, professional responsibility, branch of engineering, job function, industry, licensing or certifications status, level of responsibility, and geographic location. Engineers are encouraged to participate in the survey by entering their own salary information at any of the partner association Web sites.

Additional Notes: 

The National Society of Professional Engineers is the national society of engineering professionals from all disciplines that promotes the ethical and competent practice of engineering, advocates licensure, and enhances the image and well-being of its members. Founded in 1934, NSPE serves more than 44,000 members and the public through 53 state and territorial societies and more than 500 chapters.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Complimentary survey data and results are available to credentialed members of the media.