Since the days of Edison and electricity’s emergence as a utility, electrical engineers have been at the forefront of some of the greatest technological advances. With the job market changing quickly, however, it’s reasonable to wonder what the career outlook is for professionals just joining the field. Will tomorrow’s electrical engineers have sufficient opportunities?
Here are some of the most important findings from recent job market research.
The Number of Electrical Engineering Jobs Will Remain Steady
While some fields are growing fast and others are disappearing thanks to changing technologies, electrical engineering job growth between the years 2018 and 2028 will be modest. This projection is backed up by data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which estimates the employment of electrical engineers to grow by 2% within that time period.. The BLS further projects that job growth in this field will occur in scientific, professional, and technical service firms, as “more companies are expected to tap the expertise of engineers for projects involving electronic devices and systems.”
U.S. states with the highest levels of employment for the profession include the following:
- New York
Average annual salary: $114,170
Size of workforce: 26,570
California offers a host of work opportunities for engineers, especially in the Silicon Valley communities of San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara, where the average annual salary is approximately $20,000 higher than the state average. Silicon Valley is home to thousands of technology companies that hire engineers. Computer networking company Cisco is one of the largest employers in the area.
Average annual salary: $106,260
Size of the workforce: 14,680
Several industries in the densely populated cities of Houston, Sugar Land, Baytown, and Midland need engineers. Oil and gas companies such as Phillips 66, Marathon Oil, and Kinder Morgan employ thousands of engineers in the energy sector. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and SpaceX are just a few of the aerospace giants located in Texas that employ electrical engineers.
Average annual salary: $103,740
Size of the workforce: 10,500
New York has plenty of currents and future engineering projects that need skilled electrical engineers. For example, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which builds, operates, and maintains some of the most important trade infrastructure and transportation assets in the U.S., is among the most high-profile employers of electrical engineers in the state.
Average annual salary: $90,700
Size of the workforce: 9,190
Michigan — the Detroit suburbs in particular — has long been known as the home of the auto industry. Companies such as General Motors, Chrysler, Nissan, and Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas employ the majority of engineers who work in the area. Although the average salary for engineers is lower than in other states, the cost of living is lower as well.
Average annual salary: $94,700
Size of the workforce: 8,870
The electrical engineering job outlook in the Keystone State is also favorable, although the majority of employment opportunities are available in larger metropolitan areas, such as Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, King of Prussia, and Lancaster. Commercial development of the Marcellus Shale and recent increases in the state’s natural gas production have helped contribute to job opportunities in Pennsylvania. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration indicates that for 2018, the state’s natural gas production was recorded at 6.1 trillion cubic feet, up from 5.4 trillion cubic feet in 2017.
Median Pay for Skilled Electrical Engineers Is Relatively High
The BLS reports that the median annual pay for electrical engineers was $96,640 in 2018, although earners in the top 10th percentile reported annual earnings of more than $153,240. The median annual pay in this field compares favorably to a large number of professions, including those in the skilled trades.
For the same reporting period, the BLS found the following:
- The highest median pay for electrical engineers working in research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences fields was $108,130;
- The median pay for electrical engineers working in navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing was $100,630.
- The median pay for electrical engineers charged with performing general engineering services was $93,850.
The Wide Range of Employers Provides Security
The BLS projects that engineering consultancies will continue to expand, especially in the fields of R&D, adding that engineers are expected to play key roles in new developments with communications technologies, semiconductors, and solar arrays. The need to upgrade the nation’s power grids is also projected to create demand for electrical engineering services.
An electrical engineer can also serve as a general contractor, handling a wide variety of systems. However, specializing in particular applications may result in better compensation in the long run. Electrical engineers can be found in R&D, general engineering, telecom, manufacturing, and government. Professionals who specialize in several applications may find they’re well prepared to adapt quickly if market forces or other circumstances cause them to lose employment.
Skilled electrical engineers also have great potential to start their own business. Such engineers, equipped with specialized skills in a high-demand industry, can secure opportunities for short- and long-term projects that may pay far more than the average hourly rate. Of course, would-be entrepreneurs need to contend with the early challenges of securing capital, developing a business structure, and networking to connect with potential clients.
Electrical Engineering Remains a Strong Bet
Even without explosive growth, electrical engineering will remain one of the most important aspects of technological progress in this decade. As engineers diversify and work across disciplines to add new skills to their tool kits, opportunities for professional specialization will emerge. Continuous improvement will be the key to distinguishing one’s talents and achieving greater career stability. Cultivating leadership skills alongside technical ones remains a good investment of time and effort.
Engineers interested in taking their careers to the next level, and who want to take advantage of electrical engineering job growth projections, are likely to find that completing an advanced education, such as an Online Master of Science in Electrical Engineering, can help them toward that goal.
Discover how the Online Master of Science in Electrical Engineering program at Ohio University can provide you with the skills and acumen you’ll need to position yourself as a leader in this field.
Monster.com, “Where (in the U.S.) the Engineering Jobs Are”
Pew Research Center, “Are You in the American Middle Class? Find Out with Our Income Calculator”
Pittsburgh Business Times, “Pennsylvania’s Natural Gas Production Growth Continues to Lead U.S.”
SEIA, Washington Solar
TRIDEC, Major Employers, Tri-Cities Area
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Electrical and Electronics Engineers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Electrical Engineers
U.S. Energy Information Administration, Natural Gas Annual Supply & Disposition by State