How graduate engineers have it both ways

Published: 16 Apr 2015

Recent analysis of the top 100 billionaires on the Forbes rich list revealed that over a fifth of the top earners studied engineering at university, making it the most common degree for the world’s top earners. Business-to-business buying platform Approved Index also found that these high-performing engineering graduates are the richest among their prosperous peers, with an average wealth of £17.6bn.

However, it isn’t just engineers at the top end of the scale who are benefiting from their choice of degree. Recent graduates enjoy some of the healthiest starting salaries and find a wide range of international opportunities available. Last year, education charity Sutton Trust found those taking engineering can earn 55 per cent – or £8,000 – more than design and creative arts graduates six months after leaving university.

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It has also emerged that a degree in engineering isn’t just a recipe for a healthy bank balance, but happiness as well. Analysis by the Guardian didn’t discover a link between a high salary and happiness at work, as less-well paid professions such as gardening, nursing and teaching ranked highly, but it did conclude that engineers, more than any other profession, are going to work with a smile on their face.

When the engineers were asked why they felt so good about their 9-5, the reasons they gave included access to state-of-the-art technology and a wide variety of projects, as well as facing different challenges and learning new skills on a daily basis.

The findings will add weight to calls for more students to consider studying engineering and other STEM subjects that have traditionally been seen as less popular than the arts.

Aspiring engineers who are already planning to study the subject will welcome the recent announcement by inventor and entrepreneur Sir James Dyson that he plans to set up an engineering school at Imperial College London. His investment of £12m aims to tackle the “dearth” of engineers in the UK and will provide a new opportunity for forty undergraduates in London at the Dyson School of Design Engineering.

Sir James told the Telegraph that only 40,000 engineers qualify each year, which means there will be a shortfall of half a million by 2020. Needed in all areas of industry, from aerospace to car making, he warned that the UK will fall behind the rest of the world if it doesn’t produce another 640,000 engineers by the end of this decade.

Graduates will also stand to benefit from his generosity, as he has invested £250m into Dyson’s UK research and development base in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, which will create 3,000 new jobs over the next few years.

With a healthy bank balance, high levels of happiness and an expanding job market to look forward to, engineers would seem to have it sorted after graduation.

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