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Graduate Engineer

Education and Training: College and graduate school (recommended)
Average Salary: $59,149 per year
Job Outlook: Good

Graduate engineers are people who have recently earned an engineering degree or who have recently entered the engineering field. The job title typically refers to engineers with less than three years of experience. It also applies to engineers who are not yet licensed or certified to work independently. Graduate engineers can work in any of the numerous subspecialties of engineering, which include civil, mechanical, chemical, aerospace, electrical, and civil engineering. The most popular fields are civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and industrial engineering. Specific responsibilities vary by discipline, but can include model construction, product design, consulting, product testing, manufacturing process design, failure analysis, and data analysis. However, graduate engineers are not qualified to make recommendations or improvements without the assistance or supervision of a licensed and certified engineer.

Education and Training Requirements

Prospective graduate engineers must first graduate from an accredited college or university with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, although some exceptional candidates with math or science degrees may be able to gain entry-level employment. Some positions may require a graduate degree. Graduate engineers are expected to have a strong background in engineering, mathematics, physics, and other natural sciences. Most undergraduates also concentrate in one discipline of engineering.

It is important to note that engineering technology programs are not the same as engineering programs. Although graduates from the two different kinds of programs may do similar work, engineering technology program graduates are often considered to be somewhere between technicians and engineers. While a graduate degree is not mandatory for most entry-level engineering positions, it is required for engineering faculty jobs and for many research and development positions.

All engineers who work independently and offer their services directly to the public must be licensed. Licensed engineers are known as professional engineers. When graduate engineers accrue four years of relevant work experience, they may take a state licensing examination. In some states, graduate engineers may take the first part of the exam soon after graduating from an accredited engineering program. After accruing the necessary work experience, they can take the second part of the exam. Many states also require continuing education in order to ensure that engineers stay up to date with the latest technological developments. Graduate engineers usually work under the supervision of professional engineers. Those who work for larger companies may also receive training through seminars or classes while they work.

Getting the Job

While specific job application processes and qualifications vary by industry, there are numerous employment referral websites for graduate engineers. Candidates can also seek employment through their schools’ job boards or career placement centers. Another excellent source for engineering jobs is the wide variety of engineering organizations.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook, and Career Development

Graduate engineers may eventually become professional engineers, and may even become technical specialists. Others eventually supervise a team of engineers and technicians or become engineering managers. Some engineers venture into sales, where a background in engineering can enable them to better market a product. The job outlook for graduate engineers is good, particularly as engineering is becoming an integral aspect of many different fields. While all disciplines should experience some growth, specific growth rates will vary by specialty.

Working Conditions and Environment

Working conditions tend to vary greatly depending on the industry. Some graduate engineers have desk jobs, where they evaluate data while others may do more fieldwork.

Salary and Benefits

The average starting salary for graduate engineers is $59,149. It is important to note that salaries vary by specialty. Graduate engineers who focus in electrical engineering have an average starting salary of $59,326, while chemical engineering graduates have an average starting salary of $66,437, and civil engineering graduates have an average starting salary of $52,443.

Where to Go for More Information:

National Society of Professional Engineers
1420 King St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 684-2800

Order of the Engineer
PO Box 25473
Scottsdale, AZ 85255
(866) 364-7464

Society of Women Engineers
120 S La Salle St., Ste. 1515
Chicago, IL 60603
(877) SWE-INFO

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesEngineering, Science, Technology, and Social Sciences