Where The Jobs Are: 2015

Manufacturing and big data are among the hot sectors in IEEE Spectrum’s annual roundup

This should be a good year for those entering the workforce from college, or midlevel engineers looking to change jobs in the United States. As the U.S. economy continues to grow, American employers plan to hire 9.6 percent more college graduates this year than they did last year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) in Bethlehem, Pa. And according to tech recruiting firm Randstad Engineering, in April there were over 130,000 engineering job openings to fill across the country, an average of 17 openings per candidate.

The top starting salaries for new electrical engineers are in pharmaceuticals manufacturing and computer/electronics manufacturing, averaging US $69,958 and $67,227 respectively, according to NACE. For computer engineers, the utilities and computer/electronics manufacturing industries offer top starting salaries of $69,250 and $66,938. The average starting salary for EEs this year is $64,081.

There are increasingly more and better jobs for graduating electrical engineers in the areas of software and IT. Most of the on-campus hiring for EEs has been in those areas, says Holly Evarts, director of communications and media relations at Columbia University’s engineering school.

For those already in the workforce, many companies need engineers with 5 to 10 years’ experience, says David Findley, senior vice president for Randstad. Because of the recession five years ago, fewer engineers entered the workplace and began gaining relevant experience. As a result, there is extreme competition for midlevel engineers, he says.

The most recent data from salary analysis firm PayScale shows that the highest-paying jobs for EEs in 2015 are in IT and computer networking. Staffing firm Robert Half identifies mobile applications development, big data, and wireless networking as providing some of the highest-paying careers in the United States and Canada with the largest starting salary increases this year over last year. The firm predicts that the supply of highly skilled tech professionals in these areas will remain below demand for the foreseeable future.

Electrical engineers are also in high demand in aerospace and defense, engineering services, and consumer goods companies, says Greg Margin, Randstad’s vice president of embedded engineering. U.S. companies looking to hire the most electrical engineers include Black & Veatch, Burns & McDonnell, L-3 Communications, Raytheon, and Rockwell Collins. EEs should also be able to use their talent in the areas of renewables and energy efficiency, while important areas of expertise in manufacturing include automation and 3-D printing, according to employment company Kelly Services.

Outside the United States, in India, IT giant Tata Consultancy Services says it plans to hire 55,000 people in 2015, while Infosys plans to hire 25,000 to 30,000 people in the next three years. But entry-level salaries at these top IT firms have been stagnant for the past seven years due to a glut of fresh graduates.

In the United Kingdom, the news is mixed. The number of engineering jobs there is growing at its fastest rate since the recession, but salaries seem to have leveled out, according to a study by accounting firm Nixon Williams. The study found that the number of engineering jobs increased last year by 17.7 percent to 159,000, which is 15,000 shy of 2009’s number. However, the median annual pay this year is only 2 percent higher than it was in 2009.

The nonprofit EngineeringUK released a report in January that claimed there was an annual shortfall of 55,000 engineers in the U.K. Germany, with its numerous high-tech companies, has a large number of vacancies for EEs: over 12,000 at the end of 2014, according to the Association of German Engineers.

To fill the skill gap, Germany, the U.K., and other European countries are starting to welcome more foreign engineers as immigrants.