Geotechnical engineering is a subspecialty of civil engineering. Engineers in this field work with projects involving earth, soil and bedrock, such as tunnels, dams and foundations of buildings. They also prepare and inspect projects involving drilling and exploration. Most geotechnical engineers earn salaries higher than $50,000 per year, as reported by Salary.com.
Geotechnical engineers analyze and interpret geologic information and develop conceptual models for engineering projects. They participate in field investigations and site inspections and conduct safety analyses. Geotechnical engineers work with databases, perform calculations, prepare technical reports and make presentations to management and regulatory oversight groups. They develop cost estimates and project schedules, and they communicate regularly with other members of the engineering team, construction employees and clients.
Entry-level positions for geotechnical engineers typically require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in civil, environmental, geological or geotechnical engineering. The median salary for a geotechnical engineer with limited experience, or a geotechnical engineer I, was about $53,370 as of January 2011, according to Salary.com. The middle 50 percent of those on the earnings scale were making $49,180 to $56,610, and the top 10 percent had salaries higher than $59,540. Only the bottom 10 percent were earning less than $45,370 per year.
Some higher-level geotechnical engineering jobs require a master's degree or even a Ph.D. Some employers look for a combination of education and experience, such as a bachelor's degree and at least five years of work in the field. Geotechnical engineers with two to four years of experience were earning a median salary of about $61,000 in January 2011, according to Salary.com. Those with four to six years of experience had a median salary of $78,940, and with six to eight years of experience, over $100,000 per year. The top 10 percent of geotechnical engineers at this level were earning a median salary of nearly $110,000 per year, and only the bottom 10 percent had salaries below $90,700.
The job search website indeed.com shows about 400 jobs for geotechnical engineers throughout the country in January 2011. Most are at engineering, environmental and construction services firms. Although the listings generally do not post salaries, they indicate that full-time positions provide benefit packages including a 401(k) or other savings plan, paid vacations and holidays, tuition reimbursement for continuing education, and health, dental, vision, disability and life insurance.