Industries to Watch: Engineering

The next time you're on your way to catch a flight, think about the amount of work necessary to make your trip happen. Someone had to create the engine system that powers the car you're taking to the airport. Another person designed the roads and bridges you drive on to reach the airport, which someone created to keep passengers safely and happily inside while planes arrive at their gates. Not to mention the planes themselves -- the engine, the electrical system, the seating: all perfected after years of design.

In each step of these processes, engineers were there.

In its simplest form, engineering is where science and math intersect with consumer demands. That consumer might be a customer buying an iPod, a city looking to build a highway, or a company in need of new billing software. Engineers need to access both their creative and critical sides on a regular basis. Consumers still depend on engineers to create new products for them -- such as ever-evolving smartphones -- so you can expect technology companies to keep engineers in high demand.

One of the biggest employers you'll see for engineering in the coming decade, however, is the government. The multibillion-dollar American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is intended to create new jobs throughout the country. New roads, rail routes, federal buildings, green initiatives and housing projects will employ millions of workers. One of the first employees on these major projects is an engineer who will assess the project's scope in order to decide the timeline, cost and necessary workforce.

Why you should consider it

Engineer jobs, as a whole, are expected to grow by 11 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some concentrations will grow faster than others, with biomedical engineers leading the group with an explosive 72 percent growth. In addition, according to the 2011 Job Outlook from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers cite computer engineering degrees at all education levels as their most sought-after graduates.

Whether you already studied engineering or are considering it now, your future looks bright. In an economy that's struggled over the last few years and is slowly making its way back, engineering has consistently been a promising field and it looks to only get better. Here are some jobs in the ever-growing engineering industry and their average annual salaries.

Jobs to consider

If you're thinking about making a career move, here are a few jobs to consider in the engineering industry:

1. Aerospace engineer

While the aerospace industry has seen its ups and down over the past decade, 2010 was a record year for sales. The Aerospace Industries Association's 2010 Year-End Review and Forecast expects 2011 to be another strong year for sales with a bright outlook for commercial aircraft. Another area of growth is expected in military aircraft due to high defense spending.

Salary: $96,200 *

2. Biomedical engineer

According to the BLS, biomedical engineering jobs are the fastest growing in the work force. Between 2008 and 2018, the biomedical engineering field will gain more than 11,000 new employees. Health care advances will only increase as our population lives longer and baby boomers get older, requiring more medical attention.

Salary: $77,400

3. Civil engineer

Public infrastructure -- such as bridges, dams, highways and airports -- falls under the responsibility of civil engineers. Not only do these large-scale projects require meticulous research, they also affect large portions of the population. Because much of the Recovery Act's funds are geared to construction of new roads and other major initiatives that will employ many workers, expect to see civil engineers in high demand in the coming decade.

Salary: $76,590

4. Computer software engineer

Software engineers, at their broadest level, design software that is eventually developed and used for both personal and business needs. Computer systems software engineers focus on the network of a specific company or organization. They often create specific software to address the needs of different departments in order to simplify processes. Computer applications software engineers modify or troubleshoot an organization's existing programs in order to improve efficiency.

Salary:Applications: $87,480; systems software: $93,470.

5. Environmental engineer

Although environmental engineering has existed for centuries, it has grown in stature in the past 25 years, as the general public has focused more on air quality, preservation of natural resources and sustainability. Consumers have begun to demand more environmental responsibility from businesses in their practices and products and, accordingly, the BLS expects to see a 31 percent increase in employment in this area in the coming decade.

Salary: $77,040

* Salary information based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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