3 Traits of the Highest Paying Engineering Jobs

The highest paying engineering jobs often share three unique traits. They call for innovation, a rare skill, and risk-taking.

Together, these traits create $500k per year paying engineering jobs!

I know, this level of pay may seem insanely high, but it’s actually not. I’ll show how these traits drive the highest paying engineering jobs. And also, what you can learn from these traits to level yourself up.

To point out, the highest paid engineers are often 10x engineers, or at the very least, far from average. Because only a select few can take on mountains of responsibility and still perform at a high level.

#1 Rare technical specialty skills

engineering specialty skills

With employment, the law of supply and demand is king. It’s one of the leading drivers for how much an employer is willing to pay you. So, if you have a specialty skill low in supply and high in demand, employers will bend over backward for you. It’s all very similar to pro sports and superstar athletes.

As a superstar athlete, teams will literally throw money and roll the red carpet out for you. All in the hope you sign on the dotted line to join their team to make them a contender. Because the skills of superstar athletes are extremely rare. Almost as rare as a bigfoot sighting…

In engineering, superstar engineers are just as rare. You rarely hear about them though, because they’re not flamboyant. Rather, they’re almost always reserved as their work does the talking for them. These maestro engineers all have a combination of the following traits:

  • Success in leading high-demand work for years
  • A track record of discovering new innovative tech and/or processes
  • Ability to figure out unique approaches how to solve problems to save employers money
  • A special knack for doing high-level technical work efficiently and effectively
  • A relentless work ethic with a deep desire to constantly improve and innovate

In short, you want to have skills low in supply but high in demand. So you need to peek into the future, to pinpoint the direction of technology to be ahead of the curve.

#2 Focus on innovation and building a better future

advance space technology

You can have the most amazing skills, but in the wrong niche, you’ll never maximize your income. You’ll just rot away with an abundance of untapped potential.

For example, imagine you’re a world-renowned programmer. But, you work in a large bank doing mundane work. Your work scope is processing the core financial accounting systems for the bank.

So, not only are you not doing any innovative work, but you’re using less than 10% of your skillset. To make matters worse, your superiors can’t tell the difference between you and your peers. And I know, it sucks, because you have 10x the abilities of your peers. But, you can’t blame your superiors. How would they know any better?…

After years of working in a bank, all your superiors will know and think about is bank processes. Also, your work tasks are all simple, so you never even have opportunities to showcase your full skillset. To pile on, most bank employees aren’t thinking about world-changing inventions. It’s not a knock-on working in a bank, but just a reality.

Now, imagine instead of a bank, you work for a top Artificial Intelligence (AI) company. In your role, you use every last ounce of your skillset. Heck, you stretch your skills to their absolute limits. You singlehandedly drag society forward with new advancements.

Even more, in this role, your skills are highly desired and noticed by your peers. This includes your superiors, who recognize the financial value your skills bring to the table. They see how you may revolutionize humanity and create new billion-dollar industries.

As a result, you’re paid appropriately. If a bank pays you $80,000 per year, an AI employer may pay you upwards of $1,000,000 per year. The point is, to align your abilities with industries with bright futures. You can then fully leverage your skills and maximize your income.

Learning from the success of Standard Oil Company

Standard Oil Company founded by John D. Rockefeller in 1870 revolutionized the oil industry. The company produced, transported, refined, and marketed what we call black gold. It rose in height in a period when America was rapidly growing. But also, a single oil industry leader didn’t exist at the time. The industry door was wide open for a suitor to plant their winning flag.

So, John D. Rockefeller had impeccable timing when he pounced on the opportunity. In return, his company became one of the world’s largest oil companies at its height.

Now, try to do the same today with your everyday oil products. You’ll flop, and flop hard no matter what you do. This is exactly why you need to be a forward thinker. You need to pinpoint future booming industries and jump in with both feet before it gets crowded. This is the first-mover advantage and the following are future booming industry examples:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Robotics
  • Biohacking
  • Clean energy

You can find other hot future niches by reading about all the types of engineering.

#3 High-risk work

akashi kaikyo bridge kobe japan
Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Kobe, Japan (Photo Credit: Thomas Schmitz)

High-risk work most often comes with a high salary, and deservedly so. There’s a reason why some underwater welders demand half a million dollars in salary. They do incredibly dangerous and valuable work. Not only can they lose their lives with any given project, but their work puts the lives of the public at risk.

More specifically, high-risk projects include the following two distinct yet closely related parts:

  • Cost: a project costing hundreds of millions of dollars
  • Injuries and death: design failures causing injuries and loss of human life

When it comes to safety, I’m pointing out the obvious. But you need to go above and beyond with any and all engineering to ensure public safety. This added safety factor greatly increases project costs. In the same vein, if people get hurt from any engineering work, the liability is huge. So much so, the court costs can bankrupt a company.

It’s not an understatement to say a lot is on the line with high-risk engineering projects. So, these engineers need to be the best of the best. Then like superstar athletes, they demand the big bucks!

The doctor pay grade analogy 

This correlation between salary and risk is further illustrated by doctors. For example, the salary of a cardiologist is much greater than a primary care doctor’s salary. And rightfully so.

A cardiologist operates on people’s hearts, and their work can kill someone on an operating table. Whereas a primary care doctor mainly gives general information. Information you can fairly quickly find on Google yourself.

This same risk profile and salary model applies to the engineering profession as well. One engineer designs 120-volt lighting for malls. While another engineer leads the design of bridges across turbulent deep seas. The latter engineer is the person putting thousands of lives at risk.

To no one’s surprise, the bridge engineer demands a much higher salary than the lighting engineer. This then leads us to the following popular quote:

With great risk often comes great reward.

So if you don’t make huge stressful decisions, you’re probably not doing any high-risk work. Because high-risk positions aren’t laid back and cushy.

A good litmus test for the risk level in a job is the salary. More times than not, a salary will reflect the level of risk in a job. But, if the two other attributes of innovation and specialty skills are missing, a high-risk job can still be low-paying. A great example is structural engineers who design regular everyday bridges. They hold a lot of liability with their designs putting many lives at risk, yet they’re low-paid.

“What makes the highest paying engineering jobs?” wrap up

Engineering includes many high-paying jobs. Like any other profession though, only the best of the best land these jobs. So think over how you can check off all three boxes we discussed, to make yourself competitive.

In the end, money brings power. But with great power comes great responsibility.

What are the highest-paying engineering jobs you know about? What factors do you think contribute the most to high-paying engineering jobs? Are you up for the responsibilities of high-paying engineering jobs?


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