What is the Starting Salary for an Automotive Engineer?

Shelby engineered the Cobra to go from 0 to 60 mph in under four seconds.
Shelby engineered the Cobra to go from 0 to 60 mph in under four seconds. (Image: Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Carroll Shelby, legendary creator of the Cobra, was an automotive engineer who revolutionized the auto industry with the fastest car of its time, according to the “Princeton Review.” Like Shelby, automotive engineers have a natural affinity for the inner workings of vehicles. While pursuing a college degree in automotive engineering may be competitive and difficult, graduates who work in this field are rewarded with a starting salary that is higher than average than most industries.

Starting Salary

According to a 2010 executive summary of a survey for the Society of Automotive Engineers International, the average starting salary of an automotive engineer who has less than five years of experience is $72,000. To become an automotive engineer, a individual should seek an engineering degree with a specialization in automotive engineering from a college or university accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Upon graduation, an automotive engineer major should sit for the Fundamentals of Engineering examination so he can take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam four years later so he can receive his professional engineer license. It is also a good idea for a automotive engineer to seek certifications in his respective field.

Salary Determinations

The average annual salary of an automotive engineer in 2009, according to O*Net Online, was $77,020. According to the SAE International survey, automotive engineers earned an average salary of $105,800 per year and a median salary of $94,000. SAE International explains that the salary of automotive engineers can vary by geographical location, employer, years of experience, automotive industry sector, age, level of education, gender and job function as an engineer. The survey also found that automotive engineers who were part of a union earned up to 10 percent higher wages than their non-union counterparts.


New automotive engineer graduates generally work under the supervision of a more experienced engineer and may receive specialized training within their company. With time, these professionals gain more independence and responsibilities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an engineer can advance to a technical specialist position or into a supervisory role. SAE International found that promotions led to a pay increase of up to 5 percent and that automotive engineers in supervisory roles earn up to $20,000 more than the industry’s average salary.

Related Occupations and Pay

"The Princeton Review” states that automotive engineering can overlap with aspects of mechanical engineering. Consequently, mechanical engineers may work alongside automotive engineers. The automotive industry also hires electrical engineers, according to the BLS. In 2009, mechanical engineers earned a median annual salary of $74,920 and electrical engineers earned a median salary of $82,160.

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