What are the Fastest-Growing Fields in Engineering in 2021?

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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.

Of course, not all engineering fields are expected to enjoy the same rate of growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) reports that the fastest-growing subfields of engineering include industrial engineering with employment opportunities expected to swell by 10 percent between 2019 and 2029; electrical engineering (5 percent); biomedical engineering (5 percent); chemical engineering (4 percent); mechanical engineering (4 percent); petroleum engineering (3 percent); and environmental engineering (3 percent).

All of these projected percentages are about as fast as the growth anticipated across all occupations between 2019 and 2029 (4 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, chemical engineering positions are expected to grow by 4 percent by 2029 for a total increase of 1,400 overall; contrast this to mechanical engineering, a field that is also expected to experience a growth rate of 4 percent, and there is a much greater addition of 12,400 jobs.

This guide examines the seven branches of engineering which are expected to add the greatest number of jobs in the decade preceding 2029, 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 May 2019).

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Industrial Engineering

The field of industrial engineering is the fastest-growing subfield, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019). Between 2019 and 2029, the 10 percent projected growth equates to an addition of 30,000 jobs nationally. In other words, the number of available positions is expected to grow from 295,800 to 325,800 by the year 2029.

What Do Industrial Engineers Do?

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.

Industrial Engineer Salary

Here are the latest salary averages, number of industrial engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2019):

Industrial engineers (291,710 employed in the US): $92,660 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $57,290
  • 25th percentile: $70,540
  • 50th percentile (median): $88,020
  • 75th percentile: $110,160
  • 90th percentile: $134,070

Mechanical Engineering

After industrial engineering, mechanical engineering is slated to experience the greatest absolute increase in employment openings. The BLS (2019) reports that jobs in this field are expected to grow 4 percent resulting in the addition of 12,400 jobs, with positions rising from 316,300 to 328,700 by 2029.

What Do Mechanical Engineers Do?

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.

Mechanical Engineer Salary

Here are the latest salary averages, the number of mechanical engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2019):

Mechanical engineers (306,990 employed in the US): $93,540 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $57,130
  • 25th percentile: $70,280
  • 50th percentile (median): $88,430
  • 75th percentile: $111,980
  • 90th percentile: $138,020

Electrical Engineering

According to information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019), 9,000 positions will likely be added by 2029 in the field of electrical engineering, increasing the number of jobs to 202,100 overall. This field of engineering is the third-fastest-growing field as reported by the BLS (May 2019). Overall employment of electrical engineers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is higher than the average for all occupations (4 percent).

What Do Electrical Engineers Do?

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.

Electrical Engineer Salary

Here are the latest salary averages, the number of electrical engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2019):

Electrical engineers (185,570 employed in the US): $103,480 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $63,020
  • 25th percentile: $77,080
  • 50th percentile (median): $98,530
  • 75th percentile: $125,520
  • 90th percentile: $155,880

Civil Engineering

The field of civil engineering is the forth-fastest-growing subfield, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019). It states that 5,500 positions will likely be added by 2029 in the field of civil engineering, increasing the number of jobs to 334,700 overall. Despite this being the fourth-highest predicted increase in the absolute number of jobs, the rate of growth for this field is only 2 percent, slightly lower than the national average.

What Do Civil Engineers Do?

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.

Civil Engineer Salary

Here are the latest salary averages, the number of civil engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2019):

Civil engineers (310,850 employed in the US): $94,360 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $55,380
  • 25th percentile: $68,130
  • 50th percentile (median): $87,060
  • 75th percentile: $113,580
  • 90th percentile: $144,560

Aerospace Engineering

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 (2019) reports that this subfield expects growth of just 3 percent between 2019 and 2029, but this amounts to an increase of 1,900 positions or a change from 66,400 to 68,200 in that decade.

What Do Aerospace Engineers Do?

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 & combustion, and instrumentation and communication. They typically specialize in 1 of 2 types of engineering: astronautical or aeronautical.

Aerospace Engineer Salary

Here are the latest salary averages, the number of aerospace engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2019):

Aerospace engineers (63,200 employed in the US): $119,220 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $72,450
  • 25th percentile: $91,240
  • 50th percentile (median): $116,500
  • 75th percentile: $145,530
  • 90th percentile: $166,620

Environmental Engineering

The BLS (May 2019) reported that the field of environmental engineering is expected to grow by 3 percent overall, which amounts to an increase of 1,700 positions, or from 55,800 to 57,600 jobs by the year 2029. 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.

What Do Environmental Engineers Do?

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.

Environmental Engineer Salary

Here are the latest salary averages, number of environmental engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2019):

Environmental engineers (53,150 employed in the US): $94,220 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $54,330
  • 25th percentile: $68,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $88,860
  • 75th percentile: $114,250
  • 90th percentile: $142,070

Chemical Engineering

The BLS (2019) reports that jobs in chemical engineering are expected to grow 4 percent, resulting in the addition of 1,400 jobs. The total number of jobs will rise from 32,600 to 34,000 in 2029. The rate of growth for the chemical engineering field is as fast as 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.

What Do Chemical Engineers Do?

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.

Chemical Engineer Salary

Here are the latest salary averages, the number of chemical engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2019):

Chemical engineers (30,120 employed in the US): $117,090 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $66,810
  • 25th percentile: $84,720
  • 50th percentile (median): $108,770
  • 75th percentile: $137,860
  • 90th percentile: $176,090

Computer Hardware Engineering

Because computers and computer systems have become so ubiquitous in today’s society, the demand for more computer hardware engineers continues to grow over the years. The BLS (2019) reports that this subfield expects a 2 percent growth between 2019 and 2029, which amounts to an increase of 1,100 positions altogether, or a change from 71,100 to 72,200.

What Do Computer Hardware Engineers Do?

Computer hardware engineers retain various responsibilities focusing on the application of engineering principles to computer issues. For example, computer hardware engineers generally research, design, develop and test computer systems, as well as components such as processors, memory devices, networks, circuit boards, and routers. Many perform detailed research to help advance the field of computer systems.

Computer Hardware Engineer Salary

Here are the latest salary averages, number of computer hardware engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2019):

Computer hardware engineers (67,880 employed in the US): $123,030 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $68,460
  • 25th percentile: $88,800
  • 50th percentile (median): $117,220
  • 75th percentile: $150,840
  • 90th percentile: $185,240

Petroleum Engineering

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 (2019) reports that jobs in this field are expected to grow 3 percent resulting in the addition of 1,100 jobs, with positions rising from 33,400 to 34,400 by 2029.

What Do Petroleum Engineers Do?

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.

Petroleum Engineer Salary

Here are the latest salary averages, the number of petroleum engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2019):

Petroleum engineers (32,620 employed in the US): $156,780 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $79,270
  • 25th percentile: $107,020
  • 50th percentile (median): $137,720
  • 75th percentile: $193,430
  • 90th percentile: $208,000

Biomedical Engineering

The BLS (2019) reports that jobs in biomedical engineering are expected to grow 5 percent, resulting in the addition of 1,000 jobs. The total number of jobs will rise from 21,200 to 22,200 in 2029. The rate of growth for the biomedical engineering field is slightly higher than the national average (4 percent).

These engineers generally work with scientists, manufacturers, and medical researchers for addressing a wide range of physical disabilities and injuries.

What Do Biomedical Engineers Do?

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.

Biomedical Engineer Salary

Here are the latest salary averages, the number of biomedical engineers employed, and wage percentiles from the BLS (May 2019):

Biomedical engineers (19,780 employed in the US): $97,090 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $55,280
  • 25th percentile: $70,990
  • 50th percentile (median): $91,410
  • 75th percentile: $118,020
  • 90th percentile: $148,210

Conclusions: Pursuing a Career in an Engineering Subfield

Nearly all subfields of engineering are expected to experience growth between 2019 and 2029. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019), only two fields of engineering are projected to have no growth or to lose jobs by 2029: agricultural engineering (no jobs added) and nuclear engineering (-13 percent loss).

Outside of these two subfields, 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 2029, 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.