The best and worst countries for paying engineering grads

Engineering fields often top the list of lucrative careers for new grads — yet students may be still be selling themselves short.

Engineering students in the U.S. expect to earn an average $62,948 in their first job after graduation, according to a December report from Universum, a Stockholm-based employer branding firm. That places the country second only to Switzerland in terms of salary expectation. The firm surveyed 277,590 engineering students in 57 countries during September.

"When you look at what the reported expectations of salary are, a lot of that is driven by what [students] see around them," said Dustin Clinard, managing director for Universum Americas.

(See chart several paragraphs down for some of the countries Universum found have the highest and lowest starting salary expectations for engineers.)

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Grads' expectations tend to be in line with the cost of living in their country, Clinard said. Transparency in engineering salaries means students' expectations are often more closely aligned with reality than in other industries, he said.

Depending on their particular field of engineering, U.S. students may want to adjust their expectations upward. A December analysis from the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that electrical engineering was the most in-demand engineering major, with an average fall 2016 starting salary of $73,078 — up from $67,603 a year earlier.

In's list of highest-paying bachelor degrees, engineering careers account for 11 of the top 15. The highest paid? Petroleum engineering, which PayScale estimates has a median salary of $96,700 for employees with up to five years of work experience.

Female engineering students may also want to brush up their negotiation skills. Female engineers' expectations for starting salaries averaged 90 percent of those their male colleagues anticipated, Universum found.

"That's a pretty good number," said Clinard, "However, it's still less, which is not equal. Men tend to ask for more."