Engineering jobs have long been a source for consistent career opportunities and relative job security. But, more than many other professional fields, there is a fairly distinct geography to engineering’s major disciplines. With that in mind, here’s a rough map of where in the US you can find an engineering job in your specialty.
High Concentrations of Engineers in Defense, Aerospace and High Tech
Many of the flashiest jobs in traditional engineering disciplines can be found out West.
“Hot spots for engineering jobs are where the defense contractors, high tech industries and aerospace congregate -- California, the Pacific Northwest, Texas, Arizona and around Washington, DC,” says Jim Turnquist, director of the career center at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan.
As always, there’s substantial military engineering work happening on the West Coast and in the Northeast, according to Ziyad Duron, chair of the engineering program at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California.
Hot Spots for Energy Engineering Jobs
Oil and natural gas prices have fluctuated considerably over the last few years, but demand for energy engineers of one subspecialty or another has remained strong.
“Chemical and petroleum engineering are big in the West,” says Paul Klein, director of career services at Cleveland State University. Petroleum engineers are being hired in California, Arizona, Texas and Louisiana, with a lot of new activity in North Dakota, Turnquist adds.
Engineering for renewable energy systems like wind and solar is a small discipline that promises to grow rapidly. “Colorado is big in wind power,” Klein says. California and Arizona are home to a number of companies trying to make a go of it by engineering next-generation solar-powered technologies and products.
Then there’s electricity transmission and distribution. “Power-grid upgrades have been in the plans for a while,” Turnquist says. “Now the stimulus package has added money for smart grids.” Big cities across the country are the most likely sites for engineers in this specialty.
Mining engineers, a small cadre in high demand, are most sought-after in the natural resource-rich West, especially the Rocky Mountain states.
Environmental, Health and Safety Engineers
On the flip side of energy engineers are environmental engineers -- the ones concerned with mitigating the environmental impacts of fossil fuels.
“There’s a lot of environmental engineering going on in Orange County and northern California, in Seattle and in the Northeast, especially Maine,” Duron says.
Environmental engineering tends to be stronger in states on the forefront of environmental regulation. The same holds true for health and safety engineering, though much of the work for these disciplines is driven by federal regulation.
Bio, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Jobs
“The hotbeds of bioengineering are in Philadelphia and New Jersey and parts of Texas,” Klein says. Greater Boston and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina are also strong in bioengineering.
What about those trusty engineers who keep American business and manufacturing running? Mechanical engineers and industrial engineers are in demand in many parts of the country, but especially in the South, where so much manufacturing has migrated in recent decades.
Electrical and Civil Engineers Cover the Map
Some disciplines by nature are distributed relatively evenly over the nation. Civil engineers are in demand where the infrastructure is older and in need of repair and rebuilding, as in the Northeast, and where the population is expanding, which in recent decades has meant the South and the West.
“With civil engineers, no matter where you go, they’re looking for you,” Klein says. “The bridges, roads and other infrastructure funded by the Recovery Act are fueling creation of civil engineering jobs.” Similarly, electrical engineers are needed on many kinds of projects all over the country.
Don’t Forget Government Jobs in Engineering
Engineers often overlook the largest employer -- the government, Klein says. “Engineers in the federal government will be retiring at great rates very soon, and your upward mobility will skyrocket,” he says. Federal, state and local governments employed about 12 percent of engineers in 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
One more tip: “Graduates should pay attention to where state departments of economic development are allocating money,” Klein says.