If you’re debating whether to go to University or not you’ve probably had a look at various degree paths, the inevitable Google search follows usually along the lines of ‘what do you earn as an XX’. If you’ve stumbled across engineering you’ve probably learned that most engineers make a decent enough living (US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)) suggests that the median salary for an engineer in the US is $91,000). Whilst it’s impressive it’s not exactly as good as a doctors wage or that of a high flying city lawyer. So why is it that those with engineering degrees are more likely to be millionaires than graduates from any other discipline. We discuss below.
It Depends on Where you Live
Most of our readers are from the US and the UK so it’s worth a quick mention for both. According to this study, the average salary for engineers in the UK is £48,000 coupled with the fact £1,000,000 is the equivalent of $1,385,000 at the time of writing it’s obviously much harder to be a millionaire as an engineer in the UK than the US. Even within the US wages vary massively, engineers get paid a lot more in San Francisco than Omaha for example and whilst living expenses are also higher in San Francisco if you can find cheap accommodation (maybe a tent in a field) then the road to 1 million would be much easier in the engineering field here than anywhere else in the US.
It Depends on What you Do
Not all engineering graduates become engineers, many are actively recruited by financial companies and various other business jobs due to the useful problem solving skills acquired whilst at University. Engineering graduates are also more likely to become entrepreneurs and company starters than those who study a different field.
Even if you Work as an Engineer it Depends on Your Field
Petroleum engineering was probably the most lucrative sub-sector of engineering in recent years although jobs are harder to come by now. Some fields still tend to pay more than others, engineers in the environmental sector will often get paid less than software engineers for example and it’s therefore easier to become a millionaire in some sub-sectors of engineering over others.
Engineering is Hard and the People Who Study it are Usually Smart
Perhaps the reason a lot of engineering graduates go on to become millionaires is that engineering is hard and becoming a millionaire is easier the smarter you are. It’s certainly not the only determining factor but definitely gives you a head start and schooling might have less input than previously thought with the calibre of student prior to the degree being the biggest factor in success.
Keeping up with the Joneses
Some professional white collar jobs often fall victim to the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ lifestyle. If you’re in the medical, law or finance fields you might get sucked into buying expensive cars, houses and watches. Engineering fields are often less ‘showy’, think Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, not exactly sleek looking businessmen. It’s possible that engineers are better savers and investors than some other well paying jobs.
Whilst it’s possible to become a millionaire as an engineer you should consider the opportunity cost of going to University. Think of the years of hard work studying and the sizeable student loan you’re going to have to pay off when you finally get a job (unless you’re from the UK where it’s more like a ‘student tax’). There’s also the fact you could have worked full time for several years and saved a sizeable chunk of money (especially when you’re young and could still live with your parents).
If you’re going to study engineering purely for the fact you want to be wealthy then it’s probably not a great idea as there are better paying careers out there which will probably require less hard work and schooling. It’s also possible for most people in the US to become millionaires if they save and invest over a long enough period of time. If you invested $550 per month for 30 years in a low cost index fund with an average annual return of 9% you would have over $1,000,000. Yes, that is a long period of time but it’s still probably achievable for a lot of people out there, non engineers included.
It’s possible to become a millionaire as an engineer, especially in the US with an above average salary. Whilst you’re more likely to become a millionaire if you study engineering it might not be through the engineering degree itself, it could be that the individual is naturally smart and went into a different field of work such as finance or starting a business.
The views expressed in this post are the authors and should not be construed as financial advice
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