Depending on which field of engineering you choose, many different career paths are available. For instance, if you want to design and develop aircraft systems, you’ll want a degree in aerospace engineering. If you want to focus on creating new and improved medical devices, you’ll be most prepared if you focus on biomedical engineering.
Each year, almost 110,000 students obtain a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Certain fields within the discipline graduate a lot more than others. For example, electrical engineering is far more popular than ocean engineering.
College Factual has put together a list of which engineering majors are the most popular in the U.S., along with which schools are the best for each major. Have a specific college in mind and wonder how it compares to others? Check out College Factual’s Engineering section for more rankings.
1. Mechanical Engineering (ME)
The most popular engineering degree, by far, is mechanical engineering. With almost 30,000 undergraduate degrees awarded annually, mechanical engineering is almost twice as popular as the second field on this list.
Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering branches. It involves designing and manufacturing everything from individual components to complex, large-scale systems. The average mid-career salary for mechanical engineers is $97,654.
The job outlook for mechanical engineers is good, with a projected 9% growth rate from 2016 to 2026. The most popular colleges for the discipline include Georgia Tech, Penn State and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
2. Electrical Engineering (EE)
In contrast to civil engineering, electrical engineering is one of the newest branches of engineering. It is the branch of engineering that deals with electricity and electronics. It is also the second most popular engineering major, with more than 16,000 undergraduate degrees handed out each year.
The field is expected to have a 9% growth rate from 2016 to 2026 – a slightly higher rate than the all-occupation growth rate. The largest employers of electrical engineers are engineering services, research and development, and manufacturing industries. The average mid-career salary for this occupation is $105,789.
Want the opportunity to work with lots of other students in your major? Check out the most popular schools for electrical engineering, including the University of California-Berkeley, University of Texas at Austin and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
3. Civil Engineering
Civil engineering is one of the oldest engineering disciplines and it involves designing and creating roads, bridges, water systems, buildings, and other constructions. It’s also one of the most popular with over 13,000 students graduating each year.
The job outlook for civil engineers is excellent. The field can expect to see an 11% growth rate from 2016 to 2026. By mid-career, civil engineers make an average of $90,161. It is possible this may rise due to the increased growth rate of the occupation.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has the most popular program for civil engineering majors, while Texas A&M University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University are the second and third most popular.
4. Chemical Engineering
Chemical engineers use math, science and other engineering skills to solve problems related to the production, storage, and transportation of chemicals, food, fuel, and other products. Over 10,000 students receive undergraduate degrees in chemical engineering every year.
The number of jobs in chemical engineering is expected to grow 8% from 2016 to 2026. That’s slightly faster than the all-occupation growth rate of 7%. The average mid-career salary for chemical engineers is a very respectable $109,904.
The University of California-San Diego is the most popular university for chemical engineering in the country. Georgia Tech and Ohio State are the second and third most popular, respectively.
5. Computer Engineering (CE)
If you’re trying to decide whether to manage in electrical engineering or computer science, give some thought to computer engineering. This discipline uses the combined skills learned in the former two to design and develop hardware, software and hardware-software integrations.
Relative to all majors, computer engineering may seem like an uncommon path, but among engineering, this discipline is the fifth most popular with over 7,500 new graduates each year. By the time they reach the middle of their careers, computer engineers make an average of $104,749.
Ohio State University tops the list of the most popular schools for chemical engineering majors. The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Iowa State University aren’t far behind.
6. Biomedical Engineering
Biomedical engineers are researchers, inventors, and innovators. They combine their medical and engineering knowledge to design and improve medical devices and other systems used in healthcare. Around 6,600 undergraduate degrees in biomedical engineering are handed out each year.
The average mid-career salary of biomedical engineers is $112,300 – that’s nothing to sneeze at. That average is likely to keep rising as the demand for biomedical devices continues to grow.
Once again, Georgia Tech tops the list of most popular colleges for biomedical engineering majors. Other popular schools are Arizona State University and Boston University.
7. Industrial Engineering (IE)
Industrial engineers are the people you turn to when you want to optimize or improve the performance of an engineering process. They figure out new ways to reduce the waste of resources, including money, materials, and work-hours. Around 5,000 new graduates get their B.S. in industrial engineering each year.
The average mid-career salary of industrial engineers is $94,274 – a little bit lower than other engineering fields, but still significantly higher than most other occupations. The job outlook for industrial engineers is quite good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects jobs in this field to grow 10% between 2016 and 2017. That’s faster than both the all-occupation and the all-engineer growth rate.
If you’re interested in this field, you may want to look at the most popular schools for industrial engineering majors. They are Georgia Institute of Technology, Purdue University and the University of Michigan.
8. Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering
Interested in aviation or space exploration? If so, aerospace and aeronautical engineering may be a great match for you. Majors in this field study everything from aircraft testing to space vehicle design to missile testing. And, yes, that includes rocket science.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of aerospace engineers should grow about 6% (about as fast as the average for all occupations) from 2016 to 2026. The pay isn’t too shabby either. The average mid-career salary for aerospace engineers is $109,862. About 4,000 students a year are awarded undergraduate degrees in this field.
For those who like to be surrounded by a lot of like-minded individuals, the most popular schools for aerospace and aeronautical engineering are Embry Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona Beach, Georgia Institute of Technology and Purdue University.
9. General Engineering
Students majoring in general engineering get a broad understanding of many different engineering fields along with a solid background in the subjects – including math and science topics – that all engineers must master. Once getting a bachelor’s degree in general engineering, many students go on to graduate school to study a more specific field within the discipline.
Approximately 2,300 students get a degree in general engineering each year. Since the range of options of students with this type of degree is so diverse, it’s hard to determine a meaningful average salary for majors. However, one thing to keep in mind is that the average mid-career salary for all engineers is $98,000.
The most popular schools for studying general engineering are Arizona State University-Polytechnic, University of California-Davis and East Carolina University.
10. Petroleum Engineering
Petroleum engineers look for ways to improve oil and gas extraction and production, while also trying to minimize any negative effects of extraction methods on the environment. Although it is possible for a petroleum engineer to work anywhere in the country, certain U.S. states have higher concentrations of jobs. In particular, Alaska, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and Texas have a high demand for petroleum engineers.
Almost 2,000 students a year get a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering. The average mid-career salary for engineers working in this field is quite high at $170,782. The most popular schools for studying this major are Colorado School of Mines, Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College, and Pennsylvania State University.