Sunday, November 1, 2015

Salaries by Degree Field:

Nuclear Engineering Near the Top

I just stumbled upon a new salary survey by degree field, and was pleased to see nuclear engineering near the top of the pack.  And the pack was large--319 degree fields, covering the spectrum from engineering and science to humanities, and from philosophy to supply-chain management, and including graduates of over 1000 colleges and universities in the US.

Very briefly, at the bachelor's degree level, most of the top fields, in terms of early and mid-career salaries, were engineering fields.  Of the engineering fields, petroleum engineers fared significantly better than all other fields, both at early and mid-career levels.  But the second ranking discipline for the mid-career cohort was nuclear engineering, with a couple of other fields close behind.  Overall, while STEM majors have the greatest earning potential, there are humanities fields that outrank some STEM fields in earning potential.

The study looked at salary distributions according to several metrics, including by college attended, for different fields at the bachelor's degree level, for different fields at the Ph.D. level, and for different fields at the associate degree level.  The number of fields shown at the Ph.D. level was much smaller than the number at the bachelor's degree level (only 39 fields) and, for some reason, nuclear engineering was not included in the survey at the Ph.D. level.

I want to caution the reader that I have looked only at the reported results and cannot independently vouch for the methodology or the analysis.  There are also other breakdowns of the data I would have liked to see.  And maybe I would have liked to see the 319 different academic fields aggregated into a more manageable set of fields.

It was really no surprise to me to see engineering fields rank so high.  I have seen that in other studies over the years.  And nuclear engineering has also usually ranked high, although I think the exact ranking has drifted up or down a few notches, depending on the year of the study, and on the exact methodology used. 

Nevertheless, in an era where we worry about the aging work force and the impact of nuclear power plant closures on our ability to attract new talent into the field, this study should be a shot in the arm for nuclear engineering departments. 


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