By BECKY GILLETTE
Six of the top ten best paying professions that require a college degree are in engineering, according to a survey of 1.2 million Reddit users, a summary of which has been published by www.visualcapitalist.com. When you average starting median salaries with salaries after working for ten years, the top four are chemical engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, and aerospace engineering. Industrial engineering comes in eighth on the list, mechanical engineering is ninth and civil engineering is twelfth.
“Engineering is one of the best paying careers nationally,” said Jason M. Keith, dean and professor, Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University (MSU). “The average starting salary for graduate from the Bagley College of Engineering is more than $60,000, and for some areas, such as oil and gas, it is considerably higher. The highest demand engineering jobs are currently in manufacturing, electrical power, process controls, construction, pulp and paper, and oil and gas.”
The Bagley College of Engineering graduated more than 600 students with undergraduate degrees this past year. Keith said disciplinary placements are more than 90 percent within six months from graduation and, in some disciplines, as high as 100 percent.
“Of our engineering graduates, more than half take jobs in the state of Mississippi,” Keith said. “This percentage continues to increase as the state, through the Mississippi Development Authority, attracts companies who offer hundreds of high-quality jobs.”
Students increase their chances of getting a good job after graduation by doing an internship. Charlie Wilder, assistant director– assessment, MSU Career Center, said more than half of their engineering students graduate have either internship experience, cooperative education experience, or both.
“Future students who are interested in engineering should plan to do an internship or co-op before graduating in order to be competitive in the job market, because students who gain this type of experience are more likely to be employed at graduation,” Wilder said. “GPA is also a very important factor in the hiring process for college graduates.”
Megan Upchurch Miller, career planning specialist, The University of Mississippi School of Engineering, agrees about the importance of working in the field prior to graduation.
“We have many undergraduate students who complete internships and cooperative education experiences which help them with job opportunities,” Miller said. “We also bring many employers to campus throughout the year to expose our students to various career paths. We have students finding jobs all over the state, country, and world. As industry grows and technology develops, there are more and more exciting careers available for engineering graduates. Our alumni work in a variety of fields including tech startups, manufacturing, oil and gas, the healthcare industry, and even public service. Following graduation, we have students who continue their education with medical school, law school, MBA programs, and more.”
Miller said on a national scale, biomedical engineering (BME) is the fastest growing engineering field.
“We have seen that reflected in the large numbers of students applying to our BME program,” Miller said. “Nevertheless, since our world is so reliant on technology these days, our computer science and electrical engineers help us stay connected. But without our civil and mechanical engineers, we wouldn’t have manufacturing facilities for the latest smartphones and gadgets. Chemical engineering students are finding jobs in every industry from oil and gas to the food industry, to the pulp and paper business. Over the past few years, our graduates have had great success in finding full-time jobs that interest them and align with their educational accomplishments.”
Dr. Shannon Campbell, executive director of the Trent Lott National Center for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern Mississippi, said engineering is part of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and Math) professions and those occupations pay above average wages and the outlook for jobs in those field is strong.
“For Mississippi, the engineering jobs have been stable in recent years and are anticipated to remain stable,” Campbell said. “Those are good paying jobs and they are going to be around.”
USM now has three engineering programs.
“The polymer engineering undergraduate program just graduated its third class of students,” Campbell said. “Approximately 50 percent of graduates go directly into the workforce, and 50 percent are accepted into graduate programs of study. Placement of students in polymer engineering has been very strong.”
The School of Polymers and High Performance Materials is considered a national leader in the multidisciplinary field that does more than work on paints and coatings. The center also does research on everyday items such as LCD TVs, synthetic fabrics, golf clubs and shampoo. The school is based in a $30 million, 104,000-square-foot Shelby F. Thames Polymer Science Research Center where researchers have access to state-of-the-art testing equipment, an advanced microscopy center, and a fabrication and electronics facility to design and create new equipment. The school receives millions of research dollars annually from industry and the government.
Campbell said the polymer engineering program is still a very new field for them having been launched in 2012. Some graduates go straight into a manufacturing job, with about half going into chemical or polymer related processing (considered to be applied processing), and half going into graduate schools to develop new types of polymers and high-performance materials.
Campbell said USM also has two new engineering programs, computer engineering and ocean engineering, both of which began accepting students in the fall of 2017.
“These programs were approved by Institutions of Higher Learning based upon strong industry demand for these skills sets,” she said.
USM’s School of Ocean Science and Technology is the only ocean engineering degree in the state of Mississippi and one of only 10 programs in the nation. It is designed to train people for jobs in the “Blue Economy.”
“The Blue Economy is what we refer to regarding any type of industries or occupations in Mississippi that are in existence because of coastline,” Campbell said. “There is a large presence of Blue Economy jobs in oil and gas, electrical utilities and the energy sector. Also, on the Gulf Coast we have a large defense sector that requires those technical skills. USM started offering ocean engineering because of a gap in the type of skill sets needed.”
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