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PhD in Engineering: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue with a Ph.D. in engineering. Read on to learn more about career options along with certification and salary information.

What Careers Are There for Engineers With a Ph.D.?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies at least 20 different careers under engineering. Alphabetically you can be an aerospace engineer to mechanical engineer to a petroleum engineer. Those with a Ph.D. in engineering have a number of options, including nuclear, biomedical and petroleum engineering. Nuclear engineers work designing and testing products using radiation in a safe manner for energy or medical uses. Biomedical engineers work within the biological sciences creating machines to be used in the healthcare field. Petroleum engineers develop ways to extract oil from various places on the planet under differing conditions from old and new wells underground or underwater. Engineers with a Ph.D. typically oversee projects, engage in research and pursue upper-level management.

The following chart provides an overview of the education, job outlook and average salary for nuclear, petroleum and biomedical engineers.

Nuclear Engineer Biomedical Engineer Petroleum Engineer
Degree Required Bachelor's degree, some jobs require a Ph.D. Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Nuclear engineering Biomedical engineeringPetroleum, mechanical or chemical engineering
Licensing PE license necessary for higher level work NA PE license necessary for advancement
Key Responsibilities Devise and manage nuclear equipment and power plants Set up, maintain and correct biomedical equipment Design equipment to find and extract oil and gas efficiently
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 1% decline 4% growth 3% growth
Mean Salary (2018)* $110,790 $95,090 $156,370

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Engineering Ph.D. Programs are Available?

Engineering covers a broad range of fields that include many specializations. When going into a Ph.D. program for engineering, you can choose what branch of engineering you want to specialize in. Engineering fields offering Ph.D. programs include:

  • Civil engineering
  • Robotics engineering
  • Biomedical engineering
  • Software engineering
  • Electrical engineering
  • Industrial engineering
  • Chemical engineering
  • Aerospace engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Agricultural engineering
  • Nuclear engineering
  • Computer engineering

What Are Program Requirements?

Some schools offer combination master's and Ph.D. programs, and a few schools will allow students who have faculty approval to enter a Ph.D. with a bachelor's degree. Requirements vary by school and program, but typically include a master's degree in your engineering field. Other requirements may include letters of recommendation, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test scores and a master's level dissertation or proof of master's level research classes.

Is Licensure Necessary?

You'll be required to be licensed if your work has anything to do with the public sector. Typically, you'll be eligible for licensing following graduation from a bachelor's engineering program that has been accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (www.abet.org). Licensing for engineers is done at the state-level and other requirements vary by state.

What Will My Salary Be?

Your salary depends on the field of engineering that you're in and your level of education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mean annual 2018 salaries for engineers ranged from $156,370 for petroleum engineers to $93,720 for civil engineers (www.bls.gov). Salaries for other engineers include:

  • Aerospace engineer $117,100
  • Biomedical engineer $95,090
  • Electrical engineer $101,600
  • Industrial engineer $91,630
  • Mechanical engineer $92,800
  • Nuclear engineering $110,790

What is the Career Outlook?

According to the BLS, between 2018 and 2028 the engineering field in general would experience moderate to fair employment growth. Some fields would experience higher growth rates than others, with biomedical engineering having a 4 percent growth rate and petroleum engineering experiencing an increase of 3 percent. Another field that would experience a fair growth rate is industrial engineering with an expected increase of 8 percent.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Physicists and astronomers need a Ph.D. for jobs in research or academia. Like engineers, physicists can design and work with equipment for scientific purposes, like particle accelerators, electron microscopes and lasers. Astronomers work with equipment that is used on the ground, including radio and optical telescopes. Biochemists and biophysicists also need a doctoral degree and must understand the chemical and physical principles associated with the processes of living things.