Stiff Competition for Acquiring Engineering Grads

By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman

The competition for engineering grads has reached fever pitch on college campuses this spring.

U.S. employers are planning to offer signing bonuses to more graduates in 2015 than they have in the last five years. Chemical engineering majors are expected to receive the largest bonuses at $5,250, followed by general engineering majors at $5,107 and computer science majors at $4,364, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

Engineering Grads

Employers are pulling out all the stops, and their wallets, to attract the best and the brightest. A whopping 33% are offering higher starting salaries than a year ago, and 65% say they’re willing to negotiate. Suffice it to say that graduates in hot engineering disciplines have the edge in most compensation duels.

Here’s a look at the competitive landscape for 2015 engineering grads, and the starting pay for selected specialties.


Compensation and career advancement opportunities are top priorities for 2015 grads, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. However, work-life balance, meaningful work and a positive culture are also on their wish lists. So if you’re on a tight budget, consider offering new grads flexible schedules, training programs and interesting projects to offset a lower starting salary.


Here are some of the hottest fields today.

Mechanical Engineering

A full 52% of employers plan to hire mechanical engineers this spring. According to NACE, the average starting salary for graduates with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering is $63,501, while the average starting salary for those earning a master’s degree is $70,161.

Chemical Engineering

After several lackluster years, the demand for chemical engineering grads is rebounding. Some 44% of employers plan to hire new grads in 2015, and the average starting salary for graduates with a bachelor’s degree is $67,814. Those graduating with a master’s degree are garnering average starting salaries of $72,362.

Electrical Engineering

This discipline is expected to produce more than 10,000 new jobs through 2020, and 46% of employers plan to hire new grads in 2015. Graduates earning bachelor’s degrees are commanding average starting salaries of $64,081, while graduates with master’s degrees are receiving $71,747.

Biomedical Engineering

Most colleges report placement rates between 80% and 100% for graduates in this up-and-coming field. The average starting pay for graduates with a master’s degree is $71,600, and starting salaries are expected to rise over the next few years.

Computer Engineering

Computer engineering is the second hottest major, according to a broad-based survey of employers conducted by Michigan State University’s College Employment Research Institute (CERI).  The average starting salary for graduates with a bachelor’s degree is $62,553, while a master’s degree will fetch $70,650. And many offers are considerably higher. Andrew Moore, Dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, told Network World, that some software and computer engineering grads are fielding multiple offers with starting salaries of over $100,000.


These once-hot fields have cooled down a tad.

Petroleum Engineering

Employers have scaled back their hiring plans following the recent drop in oil prices, but they haven’t withdrawn from the market. Although newbies still pull down the highest starting salaries among graduates at the bachelor’s level at $80,600, some students are abandoning their hopes of six figure salaries and considering a move into other disciplines.

Aerospace and Civil Engineering

The demand for aerospace engineers is expected to rise just 5% over the next few years, given the cutback in space exploration. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace can expect an average starting salary of $60,805, while graduates with a master’s degree in civil engineering will command an average salary of just $62,837.


Over the next five years, thousands of new graduates are expected to be hired for engineering services, according to analysts at IbisWorld, as business confidence improves and government spending on infrastructure increases.

Who knows how high salaries may go when colleges admit that they just can’t graduate enough engineers to meet the surging demand.



Other information of potential interest

How to Engineer a Just-in-Time Talent Pool

Engineering Solutions to Today’s Talent Shortage

What to Look for in Contractor Engineering Resumes

What Engineers Really Want from Employers

Chemistry Lesson: Using Science to Select Culturally Compatible Contractors

Five Myths about Co-Employment

Need top engineering talent soon? Submit a job order or call 1-888-888-PEAK


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