What Pays More: Civil, Electrical or Mechanical Engineering?

by Neil Kokemuller

Civil, electrical and mechanical engineering are three prominent career areas within the vast field of engineering. To enter any of these professions, you typically need a bachelor's degree specific to the field. While pay for most engineers is well above the national average, electrical engineers earned the highest average income as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Mechanical Engineer Pay

Mechanical engineers plan, design, research and test new machines, equipment and devices used by households and businesses. The average annual salary for mechanical engineers was $84,770 as of May 2012, according to the BLS. This income is just above that of civil engineers, but well below electrical engineers. Ten percent of mechanical engineers earned salaries at or above $121,530 per year. The biggest employers of mechanical engineers in 2012 were companies that provide architectural, engineering and related services. The average pay here was $89,760 a year.

Civil Engineer Pay

Civil engineers plan and lead construction of public buildings, infrastructure, pipelines, roadways, airports and other city buildings and systems. Pay averaged $84,140 per year as of May 2012. Top-end pay was actually a bit better for civil engineers than mechanical, with10 percent of civil engineers making at or above $122,020 a year. Architectural and engineering firms provided the most jobs to civil engineers in 2012 and paid an average of $86,170 a year. State governments ranked second in the number of jobs and paid an average of $76,520.

Electrical Engineer Pay

Electrical engineers research, design, develop, test or supervise the production and installation of electrical equipment, components, or systems. They were easily the highest earning of these three professions with an average annual salary of $91,810 as of May 2012, according to the BLS. Ten percent of electrical engineers made at or above $136,690 per year. Again, architectural and engineering firms were the biggest employers and paid an average of $92,540 a year. Companies that make navigational and measurement control instruments ranked second in the number of jobs and paid $95,930 a year on average.

Additional Pay Considerations

Interestingly, the top-paying states are different for each of these three categories. California ranked first for electrical engineers at an average annual salary of $107,280. Alaska paid the highest average salary for mechanical engineers at $103,840. Rhode Island civil engineers earned the highest average salary within that sector at $97,720. Among the different industries, civil engineers in the commercial and industrial machinery sector had the earnings at $138,780 a year, though this is a relatively small employment arena.

About the Author

Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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