8 of the Most In-Demand Engineering Jobs for 2020
When deciding on a career path it is very difficult to know whether your chosen industry will continue growing, become oversaturated or even become completely redundant. It is clear that the trend is towards information technology and automation and this is set to remain the case for the foreseeable future. Traditional fields such as civil and petroleum engineering are still in high demand, but the fastest growing fields are those in the IT sphere. This article aims to list some of the engineering jobs that are most in-demand and show the greatest salary potential for 2020 and beyond.
1. Data Science & Machine Learning
Software engineering has seen continuous growth over the past few years and there are no signs of it stopping. Data science is a branch of software engineering that involves creating meaningful information based on large amounts of data. These large datasets are known as big data and can come from a variety of sources such as e-commerce, medical or financial sectors. This field uses both statistics and software engineering to gather, analyse and present data in such a way as to allow the end user to optimise their specific services. A simple example of this is using the data of which products sell best during a specific time of year to create targeted marketing campaigns.
Machine learning is a subset of data science that is used to make predictions of what might happen in the future based on data of what happened in the past. Machine learning algorithms will make predictions, test whether these predictions are accurate, and then optimise the algorithm to improve the accuracy of the prediction going forward. The more varied the volume of data available, the better the predictions. A Bachelor’s degree is not always necessary to begin a career in data science as there are various short courses that cover the required topics. However, it is important to note that a strong background in both mathematics and coding is necessary.
- Average starting salary: $89,000
- Average mid-level salary: $107,000
- Average late career salary: $120,000
2. Automation & Robotics Engineer
Robotic systems are already good at performing menial repetitive tasks that don’t require the dexterity and attention to detail provided by a human worker. However, with constant advances in computing, energy storage and materials, robots are beginning to move from single arm welding and assembly robots to complex humanoid machines. A striking example of this is the Boston Dynamics robot. A robotics engineer is involved in every aspect of the design, development, testing and implementation of robotic systems. Robotics engineers are typically either mechanical, electronics or mechatronic engineers. As we move ever-closer to an automated world, the only safe jobs are those within automation itself.
- Average starting salary: $77,000
- Average mid-level salary: $92,000
- Average late career salary: $99,000
3. Petroleum Engineer
Petroleum engineers typically work on drilling methods, the design of drilling equipment and implementing and monitoring the drilling plan for the extraction of crude oil. Petroleum engineering has been in demand for the past few years and is set to continue growing over the coming decade. Despite the push for electrical vehicles and clean energy, oil is still highly valued as it is used in many different industries. Many petroleum engineers are expected to retire in the coming years, meaning job positions for new engineers will open up. There is, of course, a moral dilemma in getting into the petroleum industry when one considers the growing environmental crisis we are facing, something that should be taken into account when searching for a job.
- Average starting salary: $97,000
- Average mid-level salary: $120,000
- Average late career salary: $140,000
4. Civil Engineering
Civil engineering was a highly sought-after job in 2018 and that trend continues 2019. Civil engineers build the infrastructure on which the world depends. There are various branches of civil engineering which make it difficult to saturate the market and it is therefore a great field to be in. The main civil engineering fields include: structural engineering, environmental engineering, road/highway engineering and transportation engineering.
- Average starting salary: $59,000
- Average mid-level salary: $72,000
- Average late career salary: $96,000
5. Electrical Engineering
Electrical engineering is another one of the traditional engineering fields that shows continued demand. Electrical engineering is a very broad field which includes: power engineering, instrumentation engineering, and electronic engineering, among others. The broad range of possible career paths within electrical engineering means that there will probably always be jobs available.
- Average starting salary: $67,000
- Average mid-level salary: $82,000
- Average late career salary: $96,000
6. Alternative Energy Engineer
Due to the increased pressure being placed on the planet due to climate change there has been an international push towards clean and renewable energy. For example, the demand for solar energy technology has increased dramatically, resulting in decreased panel cost. This is creating a feedback loop that is further pushing up demand. There can be no doubt that alternative clean energy is the future. Despite coal-fired power stations still making up the majority of global energy production, its growth has stagnated while alternative energy has grown. An energy engineer needs to start off with at least a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical or electrical engineering. Thereafter a Master's in energy engineering for the specific desired field can further improve job prospects.
- Average starting salary: $65,000
- Average mid-level salary: $82,000
- Average late career salary: $91,000
7. Mining Engineer
Mining is the start of any product's lifecycle as this is the stage where the raw materials for everything that is manufactured are obtained. A mining engineer typically designs both open pit and underground mines and supervises the excavation and construction of these. They also design methods for processing and transporting the mined materials to various processing plants. While the consumption trend for iron is set to begin falling in the next few decades, demand for lithium, copper, nickel and various other metals required in electronics and batteries is set to continue growing.
- Average starting salary: $68,000
- Average mid-level Salary: $89,000
- Average late career salary: $109,000
8. Project Engineer
A project engineer is a critical field that is a necessity in every branch of engineering. Project engineering is not typically something that is explicitly studied because any engineering degree can land you a project engineering post. However, further study in project management is usually recommended after a Bachelor's to improve overall efficiency. A project engineer manages projects that are technical in nature that may include the design, procurement, manufacture and delivery of small simple components to complex chemical treatment plants. The role is multidisciplinary in nature and requires a fundamental technical understanding of every facet of the project.
- Average starting salary: $71,000
- Average mid-level salary: $89,000
- Average late career salary: $100,000
The list of jobs mentioned in this article is by no means exhaustive but provides a good cross-section of the current job market. It is clear that jobs like data science and automation are the most in demand and offer higher than average starting and mid-level salaries. While traditional engineering fields still offer high salaries, it can be difficult to initially break into the industry as there tends to be an oversupply of entry-level engineers. However, with specialisation, the job search becomes easier.
More women are starting careers in engineering - but it still isn't enough
Recently, more and more attention has been paid to the gender imbalance in industries that have traditionally been very male-dominated. Engineering is no exception to this rule. In the past, engineering has been associated with technical, dirty and often physical work, and therefore a job for men. However, as gender stereotypes are broken down and the industry changes, we are seeing breakthroughs in the number of women who are looking to make careers out of engineering. But the numbers still aren’t high enough.
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