How Much Can I Earn With an Electrical Engineering Degree?

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The highest paid electrical engineers are employed in the gas and oil extraction industry.
The highest paid electrical engineers are employed in the gas and oil extraction industry. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

An electrical engineering degree prepares you for employment in the architectural, engineering, manufacturing, oil and gas industries, research and development, and even in the motion picture industry. Annual salaries for electrical engineers vary depending on the type of industry, location and education levels. The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics forecasts job opportunities for electrical engineers to remain at or near current levels through 2018. Foreign competition and increased efficiency in design and manufacture are partly responsible for the lack of growth in this industry.

Level of Education

Degree programs in electrical engineering range from associate degrees to the Ph.D. level. Salaries are commensurate with the level of education and experience. An associate degree prepares you for employment as an engineering technician, which pays an annual median wage of $54,820, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Entry-level technicians earn a median wage of $33,380. Individuals holding bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering earn an average starting salary of $60,125. Expect a starting salary 6 to 10 percent higher if you have a master’s degree. According to Pay Scale, employees with a doctorate in electrical engineering earn a median, starting salary of $78,600 per year. According to Michigan Technological University, average salary offers for electrical engineering graduates decreased by 1.2 percent in 2008. According to CNN Money, the third highest-paying degree was electrical engineering in the five years leading up to 2009.

Salary Ranges

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2009 the annual mean wage for electrical engineers was $41.47 per hour, or $86,250 per year. The annual median wage earned was $83,110. The lowest paid engineers earned $53,510 per year. In the 25th percentile, median earnings were $65,720. In the 75th percentile, median earnings were $104,060 and rose to $126,810 in the 90th percentile. Based on the information provided by 95 individuals reporting salary information to Pay Scale, the highest paid electrical engineers, those with a Ph.D. and 20 or more years of experience, were earning a median annual salary of $150,000 as of March 2011.

Top Industries

As of 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported architectural, engineering and related services as the industries employing the most electrical engineers – an estimated 34,760 employees earning an average annual wage of $86,550. An estimated 8,990, employed in research and development, earned an average wage of $94,480. The engineers employed in the oil and gas extraction industry were the highest paid, with annual mean wages of $120,140. Engineers working in control instruments manufacturing were earning $89,360 annually. Those employed in the electrical component manufacturing industry earned an average $93,050 per year.

Location

Location plays a role in how much electrical engineers earn as well as the number of employment opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2009, states with the highest concentration of engineers were Virginia with 7,890 engineers, Massachusetts with 7,700 and Idaho with 1,590 electrical engineering positions. The highest paying state was Massachusetts, where engineers earned an average $100,740 per year. Alaska was second highest with an average wage of $100,250, followed by California with earnings at $97,250.

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