Your money-making potential could be considerably higher in Europe and outside of the United States, with Denmark and Switzerland both offering higher salaries. Additionally, engineers in 'green' technologies – such as wind and solar, along with those in biomedical and medtech – are set to see high growth levels over the next 10 years.

Have you ever wondered in which countries engineers make the most money? A fair question and one that's not all that simple to answer. 

From the off, engineers tend to benefit from some of the highest wages of other career choices out there. But could you be underselling yourself by staying and working in your nation of origin? 

Of course, it's not all about money, and some feel more comfortable staying and working in their home nation. After all, it's difficult to leave your family and friends for long periods of time – not to mention potential language barriers and the issue of visas.

But if you are brave enough, you could find your money-making potential is considerably higher abroad.

Here, we'll see if engineering careers are worth all the hard work, which disciplines tend to make the most, and in which countries engineers tend to make the most money. 

Is an engineering degree worth it?

In short, yes, and then some engineering positions tend to regularly feature in the top 10 highest-paying careers. 

This is good news as it's always nice to know that all that hard work, blood, sweat, and tears you went through during your undergraduate and postgraduate studies has a good chance of paying off. And now is a good time to be getting into engineering-related career paths, as the job market is pretty healthy.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, engineers in 'green' technologies, such as wind and solar, along with those in health fields, are set to see high growth levels over the next 10 years.

Engineering graduates also enjoy very high recruitment levels post-graduation, which can be in stark contrast to many humanities graduates. But is pursuing a career in engineering actually worth all the hassle?

Much like driving a car, your degree is just the first step. Once you've graduated you will need to bolster your courage for a lifetime of hard work, steep learning curves, and, ultimately, one of the most rewarding careers one could choose. 

But, of course, like any career, there will be highs and lows. Although many engineers tend to love what they do, working conditions can get on top of them.

On the whole, most disgruntled engineers report that they have, or are tempted to, quit their job because of a few common issues. These include not getting on with the boss, long commutes, stupid working hours, and no potential for advancement – all reasons that apply in almost any career.

Which engineers earn the most?

Before we look into the countries that tend to offer the best salaries for engineers, we thought it might be useful to explore which disciplines of engineering tend to pay the most.

After all, engineering is something of an umbrella term that encompasses many different industries, specialisations, and, of course, competition for employment. 

The following are the top 18 highest-paid engineering jobs in the US. 

The data here has been compiled from the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, combined with data from universities, Forbes MagazineUS News & World Report, and reputable engineering associations, such as the National Society of Professional Engineers and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Rank Occupation Average Annual Salary Projected % growth in jobs between 2020 and 2030 Projected growth in jobs between 2020 and 2030
1 Petroleum Engineers $137,730 8% 2,200
2 Architectural & Engineering Managers $149,530 4% 8,100
3 Airline Pilots & Flight Engineers $130,440 13% 14,700
4 Computer Hardware Engineers $119,560 2% 1,000
5 Aerospace Engineers $118,610 8% 5,100
6 Sales Engineers $108,830 8% 5,000
7 Nuclear Engineers $116,140 -8% -1,500
8 Chemical Engineers $118,610 8% 5,100
9 Mining & Geological Engineers $93,800 4% 200
10 Electronics Engineers $103,390 7% 20,400
11 Marine Engineers $95,440  4% 400
12 Engineers, All Other $107,060 0.8% Not provided
13 Biomedical Engineers $92,620 6% 1,100
14 Materials Engineers $95,640 8% 2,100
15 Mechanical Engineers $90,160  7% 20.900
16 Civil Engineers $88,570  8% 25,300
17 Environmental Engineers $92,120 4% 1,900
18 Industrial Engineers $88,950 14% 40,000

As interesting as this is, it must be borne in mind that these figures are just a snapshot in time. They don't, for example, capture potential future trends in their respective industries. 

Some disciplines, like petroleum engineering, are highly paid at present but future employment could be affected by changes in the supply and demand of hydrocarbons around the world.

So long as consumption remains at least comparable to today, as well as reserves, this should be a lucrative choice for the near future.

But there is another interesting consideration with fields like petroleum engineering. It is predicted that many current employees are set to retire over the next 10 years.

This will certainly affect the demand for 'new blood', perhaps inflating offered salaries far in excess of current rates. 

Computer engineering is another field that might not be fairly represented in this data. It is a relatively new discipline in engineering with some claiming it is currently undersupplied with labour.

Of course, the future could also see a dramatic reduction in wages as more and more new graduates flood the market over the next few years given engineering's current popularity for undergraduates.

It should also be noted the quickest growing area is computer software engineering rather than computer hardware engineering.

That's before we even begin to consider the potential impacts of artificial intelligence over the next few decades. But just as happened during the Industrial Revolution, as old jobs are eliminated, new forms of employment are likely to rush in to fill the void.

Which countries pay engineers the most?

As we have seen incomes for engineers vary depending on what field of expertise they pursue.

Petroleum engineering, for example, is generally one of the best paid, while civil and mechanical engineers also make good salaries, but about 1.7 times less than petroleum engineers, on average, in the US.

Despite this, engineering careers tend to rank very high on any list of highest-paying bachelor degrees. 

Most new engineering graduates in the US can expect entry-level incomes of about $62,000, which makes the US second only to Sweden for expected engineering incomes for recent graduates.

This figure comes from a recent report by a Stockholm-based employer branding firm, Universum.

Universum derived its results from their analysis of  277,590 engineering students in 57 countries during September 2017. As a result, they uncovered some interesting information.

Another study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that electrical engineering seems to be the most in-demand engineering degree. They found that the average salary in 2016 was about $73,078. 

Compiling information from various sources found that the top three countries for engineering students, in terms of income, are:

  1. Switerzland – With an average expected income of about $77,438  a year.
  2. Denmark – With an average expected income of $71,565 per year.
  3. United States of America – With an average expected income of $62,019 per annum.

It's not how much you make but how much you keep

One element that is important to consider if you are moving for work is factoring in the living costs of countries you might decide to work in – especially if you are moving for a higher income or better quality of life.

After taxes, bills, and other expenses, your initially hefty income could end up making little difference to your quality of life.

Higher incomes tend to attract heftier tax brackets, sometimes as high as 60% or more above a certain threshold depending on where you are domiciled.

This varies widely from country to country and you should always bear this in mind, as well as your tax liability at home, before accepting a position.

After all, you wouldn't want to be pushed into a higher bracket (see this UK example) and be worse off than idling just below it and having relatively more money in your pocket – although there are ways around this.

Some employers might offer you other benefits like generous holiday allowances, pensions, flexi-time, healthcare, etc that might be more valuable than an extra 10% in take-home pay.

Another thing to consider is broadening your horizons and considering working and living abroad. This could also lead to a higher overall quality of life. For example, if you can earn in a strong currency like dollars but spend in a weaker currency.

In these circumstances, your income might not be as high as in the continental US, but as your expenditure will likely be considerably lower, so you will be left with more disposable income per month. Who knows, you might even have enough to save and/or invest...

Working remotely or overseas is becoming more and more popular today and for good reasons. Obviously, you'll want to check your tax liabilities from country to country but many have bilateral tax agreements to prevent dual/double taxation. 

Working overseas also exposes you to different and fascinating cultures and has other benefits including boosting your CV and skills.

Of course, this is not always possible nor desirable for many but it's something to consider when evaluating potential job applications.