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What Pays More: Civil, Electrical or Mechanical Engineering?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

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 generally earn the highest average income.

Mechanical Engineer Pay

Mechanical engineers plan, design, research and test new machines, equipment and devices used by households and businesses. The median annual salary for mechanical engineers was $84,190 in 2016.

This income is just above that of civil engineers, but well below electrical engineers. Ten percent of mechanical engineers earned salaries above $131,350 per year. The biggest employers of mechanical engineers are companies that provide architectural, engineering and related services, where the average pay was $95,270 in 2016.

Civil Engineer Pay

Civil engineers plan and lead construction of public buildings, infrastructure, pipelines, roadways, airports and other city buildings and systems. The median income of civil engineers was $83,540 in 2016. The top 10 percent in this field earned $132,880 or more, while the bottom 10 percent earned $53,470. Architectural and engineering firms provide more than half of all jobs to civil engineers and paid an average of $90,670 in 2016.

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 a median income of $94,210 in 2016. Ten percent of electrical engineers made at least $149,040 in 2016, while the bottom 10 percent of earners made $59,720 or less. Again, architectural and engineering firms are the biggest employers for this field and paid an average of $97,210 in 2016. Companies that make navigational and measurement control instruments ranked second in the number of jobs and paid an average of $93,920 that year.

Additional Pay Considerations

The top-paying states are different for each of these three types of engineering. California ranked first for electrical engineers, with 25,320 engineers employed in this field, earning an average salary of $115,290.

In 2016, Michigan employed the most mechanical engineers, with 42,080 positions paying an average of $88,700. With fewer positions, California and Texas paid more, each with an average salary over $100,000.

If you want to be a civil engineer, California is again the best place to find a job, with 38,440 positions in 2016, paying an average salary of $104,570. Texas comes in as a close second with 26,580 positions and an average salary of $99,810.