The U.S. economy may be stuck in second gear, but for electrical engineers at all levels of experience, the job market just keeps getting better. Opportunities and salaries are increasing even more in Europe and Asia, where economies are healthy if not booming.
The field ranks third among bachelor’s degrees and second among master’s degrees on the list of majors that companies most want, says Andrea Koncz of the National Association for Colleges and Employers (NACE) in Bethlehem, Pa. Demand is particularly strong in defense, aerospace equipment, and medical and consumer electronics.
Even nontraditional employers are on the hunt. ”We’re losing people to places like Disneyland,” says Boeing spokeswoman Cindy Wall.
The average offer this year was US $56 512, up 3.5 percent from last year. That’s much higher than the $49 427 average for civil engineers, but modest compared with the chemical engineers’ $63 749, buoyed by the soaring fortunes of the petroleum-products sector. ”What’s driving salaries in those industries can arguably be summed up in one word: energy,” says Tim McCreight, marketing manager at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.
EE salaries, on the other hand, are rising in part because the United States is not producing enough grads to replace retiring employees. Wall thinks that this might be because students have more career options now and might not consider math and engineering as appealing as they were back in the space age. ”Look at the Sputnik era,” she says. ”There were so many engineers rolling into the workforce 40 years ago, and we don’t have that now.”
Engineers with analog, RF, and wireless skills, as well as those with postgraduate training, are becoming harder and harder to find. ”If you’re a 20- to 30-year-old analog engineer, you’re sitting pretty right now,” says Jignasha Patel, a human resources director at Freescale Semiconductor in Austin, Texas. ”It’s a buyer’s market for you.”