The United States has approximately 1.5 million engineers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Project engineers direct the overall scope of a construction or design venture. The earnings of engineers can vary depending on the level of education, experience, and the geographic location. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as a group, engineers are among the highest entry-level wage earners in the United States. In 2009, CNNMoney.com listed the engineering profession as the "most lucrative" profession for new graduates entering the workforce.
A project engineer oversees an engineering enterprise and keeps a specific project on track. Project engineers direct other engineers and workers and communicate with vendors and contractors to ensure that work is done properly. While some engineers are specialists, project engineers are generalists who must consider the overall goals, budget, and progress of an engineering project. New entry-level project engineers may begin their careers working under the supervision of a more experienced engineer. After gaining experience in the profession, project engineers can be responsible for leading and directing the entire scope of a project without direct supervision. This position requires a bachelor's degree in an engineering field, as well as hands-on experience managing other workers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the starting salary for an entry-level engineer is between $52,048 and $83,121. According to numbers provided by the BLS, the median pay for all entry-level engineers with bachelor's degrees is $58,766 per year. Salaries for project engineers usually increase significantly with experience. The level of education held by an engineer can also affect the level of salary. Generally, engineers with master's or doctorate degrees make more than workers with only bachelor's degrees.
The specialty of a project engineer can affect the level of salary. Entry-level engineers in specialties that are in high demand often earn more than workers in more common specialties. For instance, the average starting salary for an engineer specializing in petroleum is $83,121 per year, according to the BLS. Nuclear engineers receive an average entry-level salary of $61,610 annually, while civil engineers earn $52,048 to start.
The BLS reported that employment opportunities and salaries for all engineers were projected to increase in the future. Between 2008 and 2018, employment were expected to expand by 11 percent. The best opportunities for promotion will be for engineers who have advanced degrees and experience directing and managing other workers.