Best Engineering Majors for Achieving the Highest Starting Salary

Students who completed bachelor's degrees in the petroleum, computer and chemical engineering sub-fields commanded the top starting salaries in 2013. These 4-year programs consist of math, chemistry and physics courses. Read ahead to learn more about these majors.

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What Are the Best Engineering Majors for Achieving the Highest Starting Salary?

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported that petroleum, computer and chemical engineering majors were offered the highest starting salaries among the 2013 class of college graduates (www.naceweb.org). As reported by the National Center for Education Statistics, engineering majors at the bachelor's level increased 8% from 1999-2000 and 2004-2005; a 12% rise was reported during the years of 2004-2005 and 2009-2010.

Top Paying Engineers' Descriptions

Petroleum Engineer

Engineers in the petroleum industry design new technology for recovering oil and natural gas. They may also develop new techniques for removing these resources more efficiently. A petroleum engineering major usually consists of core chemistry, geology and physics courses. Students then explore drilling techniques or factors determining a reservoir's output. Some programs may cover advanced topics such as fluid mechanics, fluid dynamics and petrophysics.

Computer Engineer

Not only do computer engineers create new computer hardware, but they analyze and test new equipment and update older equipment. The most common education required for computer engineers is a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, computer science or electrical engineering. Bachelor's degree programs in computer engineering are often combined with computer science and may include courses such as programming, discrete mathematics, software engineering and logic design.

Chemical Engineer

Chemical engineers research and develop processes for the manufacture of petroleum products, plastics and other goods. Students pursuing this major typically enroll in chemistry, math and physics courses. They also master energy transport principles and computer modeling through internships or senior projects.

Starting Salaries for Engineering Majors

The average starting salary for 2013 graduates of petroleum engineering bachelor's degree programs was $93,500, according to NACE, while computer engineering graduates were reported as starting at $71,700. Graduates of chemical engineering bachelor's degree programs were offered an average starting salary of $67,600.

Other Factors Affecting Salary

Engineering salaries can also be determined by geographical location. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual wage for petroleum engineers was $149,180 in May 2013, but the highest paying metropolitan area in that year was Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX, at $179,040 per year on average. For computer engineers, the top-paying states in 2013 were Wisconsin, Virginia, California, Massachusetts and Washington, per the BLS.

Industry can also determine top salaries. Chemical engineers earned a mean annual wage of $104,340 in May 2013. Those working in the oil and gas extraction industries earned a mean annual salary of $158,320 during the same year.

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