Both electrical and mechanical engineers will be needed in the 21st Century, and their salaries will reflect the importance of their skills. While electrical engineers are in demand to design electrical systems and equipment, mechanical engineers are needed to build cars and other types of machines. There are unique advantages to pursuing either career. For example, mechanical engineers ranked sixth on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the top technology jobs of 2013. On the other hand, electrical engineers earn more money than their mechanical counterparts.
Electrical engineers earned an average annual income of $91,810 as of May 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median pay, or midway point between the highest and lowest salaries, was $87,920 a year. The top 10 percent of electrical engineers earned $136,690 or more, while the bottom 10 percent made $54,490 or less.
Mechanical engineers earned slightly less than electrical engineers in 2012. The average annual income for this position was $84,770, the BLS reports. The median annual salary was $80,580. The top 10 percent of mechanical engineers made $121,530 or more, while the bottom 10 percent earned $52,030 or less.
Electrical engineers earned the highest salaries working for oil and gas extraction companies, where the annual mean wage was $106,780 in 2012. However, this was a pretty small field in terms of employment. The biggest employers of electrical engineers were architectural and engineering firms, which paid an average of $92,540 a year. Computer systems and design firms ranked second in highest pay at $102,860 a year. California was the highest paying state, with an annual mean salary of $107,280. Alaska ranked second at $104,360.
The BLS reports that the oil and gas extraction industry was the highest-paying field for mechanical engineers in 2012, with an annual mean wage of $128,650. But again, employment in the field was low compared to other industries. The next highest-paying employers were companies that use pipelines to transport crude oil, which paid an average of $110,150 a year. The biggest employers of mechanical engineers were architectural and engineering firms and paid $89,760 on average. The top paying state for mechanical engineers was Alaska, with an annual mean wage of $103,840. It was followed by California at $94,420 a year.
- U.S. News & World Report: Best Technology Jobs 2013
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Electrical Engineers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Mechanical Engineers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012: 17-2071 Electrical Engineers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012: 17-2141 Mechanical Engineers
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