The Low and High Salaries of an Electrical Engineer

by Karen Farnen

Electrical engineers play a pivotal role in the design of modern wonders such as global positioning systems, satellites and wireless communication systems. Electrical engineers work in a variety of professions, including architecture and engineering, electronics, power generation and manufacturing. A minimum of a bachelor's degree in electrical or electronics engineering is required. The range of salaries for electrical engineers is affected by factors that include the type of industry, location of jobs and an engineer's qualifications.

Percentile Range

The wages of electrical engineers from the 10th to 90th percentiles vary over a wide range. The lowest-earning 10 percent earned $56,490 per year or less in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent earned $136,690 annually or more. The average income of all the 160,560 electrical engineers in the BLS survey was $91,810 per year.

Industry Range

The top-paying industry for electrical engineers is oil and gas extraction, paying an average wage of $106,780 per year, according to BLS data from 2012. Other industries paying more than $100,000 on average included computer-system design and aerospace manufacturing. Among the major industries in the BLS report, electrical equipment manufacturing had the lowest average pay of $81,840 per year.

Pay by State and City

Electrical engineers in California earned the highest annual salary in the profession in 2012, at $107,280, according to the BLS. Alaska is next with average annual pay of $104,360. The highest-paying metropolitan area: greater Sacramento, where electrical engineers received average annual salary of $130,340. The BLS doesn't provide a separate list of the states or cities with the lowest salaries for electrical engineers. However, among the five states with the most jobs in the BLS report, Florida had the lowest pay, an annual average of $85,590.

Additional Factors

Experience, professional licensing and graduate study are some of the factors that help electrical engineers reach the high end of the pay scale. An engineer who passes a preliminary exam and has the required on-the-job experience qualifies to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam for a state license. Although licensing isn't required for electrical engineers, it's preferred for work on government contracts and improves your chances at promotion. Completion of a master's degree in engineering also helps qualify you for higher-paying supervisory and management jobs. At some engineering schools, you can finish a combined program for the bachelor's and master's degrees in five years.


Jobs for electrical engineers will grow 6 percent by 2020, compared to the 14 percent average for all jobs, the BLS says. Wireless telecommunications, computer systems design and engineering services will be growth areas. Research and development will also generate demand for more electrical engineers to help develop new technologies.

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