Many students are choosing to focus their education and career goals in one of the subfields of engineering and with a good reason: employment opportunities for many types of engineers are expected to grow over the next decade. Furthermore, engineering can be a truly rewarding career as these professionals often work at the cutting-edge of technology and receive relatively generous salaries.
Industrial engineers, for example, are responsible for figuring out how to best use all of an organization’s assets (people, materials, energy, information, etc.) in a way that minimizes waste and maximizes quality and efficiency.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021) reported that job opportunities for architecture and engineering occupations are expected to grow six percent nationwide between 2020 and 2030—an addition of 146,000 new positions in that period—which is just a bit lower than the average job growth anticipated across all U.S. occupations during that time (8 percent).
That said, not all engineering fields are expected to enjoy the same rate of growth. Some specializations are expected to be more in-demand around the country than others. Here are a few of the fastest-growing engineering subfields listed with their expected growth:
All of these projected percentages are about as fast as or faster than the growth anticipated across all occupations between 2020 and 2030 (8 percent).
While these percentages give a snapshot of the expected employment landscape for engineering subfields, the rankings change when evaluating the projected number of job openings. For example, aerospace engineering positions are expected to grow by 8 percent by 2030 for a total increase of 5,100 overall; contrast this to civil engineering, a field that is also expected to experience a growth rate of 8 percent, and there is a much greater addition of 25,300 jobs.
This guide examines the eleven branches of engineering which are expected to add the greatest number of jobs in the decade preceding 2030, including a discussion of typical job responsibilities, the number of current workers in each subfield, and prospective salaries.
Please note that all national data is from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021).
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The field of industrial engineering is the fastest-growing subfield, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021). Between 2020 and 2030, the 14 percent projected growth equates to an addition of 40,000 jobs nationally. In other words, the number of available positions is expected to grow from 292,000 to 332,000 by the year 2030.
The work of an industrial engineer is generally focused on the concept of production efficiency. Depending on their work setting, an industrial engineer may be tasked with developing efficient systems that integrate workers, materials, machines, information, and energy in the creation of a product or the provision of a specific service.
Here are the latest salary averages, number of industrial engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2020):
Industrial engineers (290,190 employed in the US): $93,610 average annual salary
The field of civil engineering is the second-fastest-growing subfield (in terms of the number of new jobs), as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021). It states that 25,300 positions will likely be added by 2030 in the field of civil engineering, increasing the number of jobs to 335,100 overall.
Despite this being the second-highest predicted increase in the absolute number of jobs, the rate of growth for this field is only 8 percent, which is as fast as the national average.
In general, civil engineers are responsible for the design, operation, supervision, and maintenance of construction projects and systems. These projects may be operated in the public or private sector, and often include the construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, dams, airports, tunnels, or even water supply or sewer treatment systems.
Civil engineers may also research current projects or operations, and present their findings to the public on topics such as environmental impact statements, bid proposals, or descriptions of the property.
Here are the latest salary averages, the number of civil engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2020):
Civil engineers (300,850 employed in the US): $95,440 average annual salary
After industrial and civil engineering, mechanical engineering is slated to experience the greatest absolute increase in employment openings. The BLS (2021) reports that jobs in this field are expected to grow 7 percent resulting in the addition of 20,900 jobs, with positions rising from 299,200 to 320,100 by 2030.
While all mechanical engineering positions will likely vary in specifics, in general, these professionals are responsible for developing, designing, building, and testing thermal and mechanical devices, which often include tools, machines, and even engines. Furthermore, mechanical engineers in more managerial roles may also be tasked with supervising the design and development process undertaken by other engineering professionals.
Here are the latest salary averages, the number of mechanical engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2020):
Mechanical engineers (293,960 employed in the US): $95,560 average annual salary
According to information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021), 20,400 positions will likely be added by 2030 in the field of electrical and electronics engineering, increasing the number of jobs to 313,200 overall. This field of engineering is the fourth-fastest-growing field as reported by the BLS (May 2020). Overall employment of electrical and electronics engineers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is just slightly lower than the average for all occupations (8 percent).
Electrical engineers bring electronics to life. If a device or piece of equipment requires electricity, electrical engineers have engaged in the research, design, development, testing, and supervision of manufacturing that makes the device functional.
They are involved in designing, developing, testing, and supervising the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, communications systems, power generation equipment, or navigation systems. They may also be involved in designing the electrical systems of aircraft and automobiles. Electrical engineers are centrally concerned about the production and distribution of electricity.
Electronics engineers are involved in the designing and developing of electronic equipment, including communications and broadcast systems, such as GPS (Global Positioning System) devices and portable music players. They work for the federal government researching, developing, and evaluating electronic devices used in several areas, such as computing, aviation, manufacturing, and transportation. They work on federal electronic systems and devices, including flight systems, satellites, communications systems, and radar and sonar systems.
Here are the latest salary averages, the number of electrical and electronics engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2020):
Electrical engineers (185,220 employed in the US): $105,990 average annual salary
Electronics engineers (122,320 employed in the US): $112,320 average annual salary
The redesigning of aircraft is resulting in less noise pollution and better fuel efficiency, which in turn helps in sustaining the demand for development and research. The BLS (2021) reports that this subfield expects a growth of 8 percent between 2020 and 2030, which amounts to an increase of 5,100 positions or a change from 61,400 to 66,500 in that decade.
Aerospace engineers primarily design spacecraft, aircraft, missiles, and satellites. Besides, these engineers are also involved in creating and testing prototypes for making sure that they function accordingly. They may also develop the latest technologies for use in defense systems, spacecraft, and aviation.
Aerospace engineers are often seen specializing in areas such as structural design; aerodynamic fluid flow; guidance, navigation, and control; robotics; propulsion and combustion; and instrumentation and communication. They typically specialize in one of two types of engineering: astronautical or aeronautical.
Here are the latest salary averages, the number of aerospace engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2020):
Aerospace engineers (60,630 employed in the US): $121,110 average annual salary
The BLS (2021) reports that jobs in chemical engineering are expected to grow 9 percent, resulting in the addition of 2,400 jobs. The total number of jobs will rise from 26,300 to 28,700 in 2030. The rate of growth for the chemical engineering field is higher than the national average.
The demand for chemical engineering services largely depends on the demand for the products of several manufacturing industries. The need to find alternative fuels will continue to require the expertise of chemical engineers.
From food to pharmaceuticals, chemical engineers are responsible for applying STEM-based knowledge to solve practical problems in manufacturing and production.
Chemical engineers tend to have the technical and scientific mastery that is quite comprehensive, enabling them to work in a wide range of fields. Furthermore, chemical engineers in more managerial roles may also be tasked with supervising the design and development process undertaken by other engineering professionals.
Here are the latest salary averages, the number of chemical engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2020):
Chemical engineers (25,770 employed in the US): $114,820 average annual salary
The employment level for petroleum engineers depends largely on oil prices. Petroleum engineers are generally work in gas and oil extraction, so if there is any change in oil prices, it eventually affects the employment level. The BLS (2021) reports that jobs in this field are expected to grow 8 percent resulting in the addition of 2,200 jobs, with positions rising from 28,500 to 30,700 by 2030.
Petroleum engineers are involved in designing and developing methods for extracting gas and oil from deposits below the Earth’s surface. These engineers also find new and innovative ways for extracting gas and oil from older wells.
Here are the latest salary averages, the number of petroleum engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2020):
Petroleum engineers (27,850 employed in the US): $154,330 average annual salary
Developing and creating new materials or improving the existing ones often requires collaboration with several engineering disciplines, such as electrical, chemical, and mechanical.
As the demand continues to increase for materials use, the demand for employment also increases. A wider focus on environmental sustainability also creates demand for materials engineers. The BLS (2021) reports that this subfield expects an 8 percent growth between 2020 and 2030, which amounts to an increase of 2,100 positions altogether, or a change from 25,100 to 27,200.
Materials engineers are involved in the developing, processing, and testing materials that are used for creating a range of products, from aircraft wings and computer chips to biomedical devices and golf clubs.
They study the structures and properties of ceramics, metals, composites, plastics, nanomaterials, and other substances to create new materials that meet certain electrical, chemical, and mechanical requirements. Materials engineers are also involved in helping select materials for specific products and developing new ways for using existing materials.
Here are the latest salary averages, number of materials engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2020):
Materials engineers (24,740 employed in the US): $100,550 average annual salary
The BLS (2021) reported that the field of environmental engineering is expected to grow by 4 percent overall, which amounts to an increase of 1,900 positions, or from 52,300 to 54,300 jobs by the year 2030. The growth rate for this branch of engineering is lower than the national average.
The majority of the projected growth for environmental engineers is in scientific, technical, and professional services, as governments at the local and state levels look up to the industry for addressing water efficiency concerns.
Environmental engineers are in relatively high demand in today’s society, as many individuals and organizations look towards engineering professionals to help solve complex issues as they relate to the environment. Environmental engineers are generally tasked with applying engineering ideas and principles, as well as those related to biology, soil science, and chemistry, to develop solutions to issues posed by the environment.
Types of projects on which environmental engineering might work include those aimed at improving public health, waste disposal, water treatment, recycling, and even air pollution.
Here are the latest salary averages, number of environmental engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2020):
Environmental engineers (50,260 employed in the US): $96,890 average annual salary
The BLS (2021) reported that the field of health and safety engineering is expected to grow by 6 percent overall, which amounts to an increase of 1,500 positions, or from 24,100 to 25,600 jobs by the year 2030. The growth rate for this branch of engineering is also lower than the national average (8 percent).
As products, processes, and buildings continue to become more complex and new regulations are created, these engineers will be needed for reducing costs, saving lives, and producing safe consumer products.
Health and safety engineers are involved in developing procedures and designing systems for protecting people from injuries and illness and property from damage. These engineers combine knowledge of engineering and of health and safety making sure that machinery, chemicals, furniture, software, and other products will not cause damage to property or harm to people.
They also investigate industrial injuries and accidents to determine what caused the accident and whether the incidents were avoidable or can be prevented in the future. Health and safety engineers also interview employees and employers to know about the work environments and incidents that lead to injuries or accidents.
Here are the latest salary averages, number of health and safety engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2020):
Health and safety engineers (23,780 employed in the US): $97,330 average annual salary
The BLS (2021) reports that jobs in biomedical engineering are expected to grow 6 percent, resulting in the addition of 1,100 jobs. The total number of jobs will rise from 19,300 to 20,500 in 2030. The rate of growth for the biomedical engineering field is lower than the national average (8 percent).
These engineers generally work with scientists, manufacturers, and medical researchers for addressing a wide range of physical disabilities and injuries.
These engineers combine biological and medical sciences with engineering principles for designing and creating equipment, computer systems, software used in healthcare, and devices. Biomedical engineers are the ones designing electrical circuits or computer simulations for testing new drug therapies. Besides, these engineers are involved in designing and building artificial body parts, such as knee and hip joints.
Here are the latest salary averages, the number of biomedical engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2020):
Biomedical engineers (18,660 employed in the US): $98,340 average annual salary
Nearly all subfields of engineering are expected to experience growth between 2020 and 2030. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021), only one field of engineering is projected to have no growth and lose jobs by 2030: nuclear engineering (8 percent loss).
Apart from this subfield, the entire field of engineering is expected to grow at a rate that is essentially equal to the average rate of job growth for all occupations.
By 2030, this engineering profession is expected to create an abundance of opportunities for aspiring engineers. Because of an omnipresent need for a wide variety of engineering expertise, pursuing a career in engineering can provide a rewarding and lucrative future.