Data Spotlight: Engineers in Manufacturing

Published on Feb 3, 2012

Updated on Nov 3, 2022

Written by Emsi Burning Glass

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Q: Can you tell me a little bit more about the demand for engineers in the manufacturing sector?

We’ve received this question a number of times, so we thought it deserved a blog post.

According to EMSI data, which is based on over 80 state and federal labor market sources, engineers and engineering technicians make up about 8% of the total manufacturing sector (886,000 out of 11,675,000 jobs). For the purposes of this analysis we will primarily consider the specific engineering occupations that staff manufacturing to get a sense of the trends and demand.

Data and analysis for this post comes from Analyst, EMSI’s web-based labor market analysis tool, which can be used to analyze industries and occupations for any region in the nation.

Staffing Pattern
We identified 31 engineering occupations that staff manufacturing. Nine of the 31 are technician occupations that require, on average, associate’s degrees or below. The remaining jobs typically require a bachelor’s degree.

  • The top engineering occupation in manufacturing is industrial engineers. There are 145,000 industrial engineer jobs in the manufacturing sector, which is 1.2% of the manufacturing workforce.

  • Mechanical engineers is just behind with 114,500 jobs or 1% of the manufacturing sector.

  • With 73,000 jobs in manufacturing, computer software engineers, system software is third. Also notice that with 53,000 jobs, the sixth occupation is computer software engineers, applications. That equates to 126,000 software engineer jobs in manufacturing, which speaks to the advanced, highly mechanized nature of domestic operations. Read more about these jobs here.

  • The fourth occupation on the list is electrical engineers, with about 52,500 jobs in manufacturing (.5% of the total workforce).

For a more complete look at the staffing pattern, see the table below.
SOC CodeOccupationEmployed in Industry (2011)% of the Total Jobs in Industry (2011)17-2112Industrial engineers144,7171.2%17-2141Mechanical engineers114,4551.0%15-1032Computer software engineers, systems software73,1290.6%11-9041Engineering managers69,0120.6%17-2071Electrical engineers54,1650.5%15-1031Computer software engineers, applications52,4860.4%17-2199Engineers, all other49,9310.4%17-3023Electrical and electronic engineering technicians49,7370.4%17-3026Industrial engineering technicians47,3350.4%17-2072Electronics engineers, except computer43,4670.4%17-2011Aerospace engineers37,6290.3%17-2061Computer hardware engineers30,6930.3%17-3027Mechanical engineering technicians19,0000.2%17-3029Engineering technicians, except drafters, all other17,0220.1%41-9031Sales engineers16,3020.1%17-2041Chemical engineers14,5050.1%17-2131Materials engineers13,3490.1%17-2031Biomedical engineers8,2130.1%47-2073Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators6,1730.1%51-8021Stationary engineers and boiler operators5,7600.0%17-3021Aerospace engineering and operations technicians5,0610.0%17-2111Health and safety engineers, except mining safety engineers and inspectors4,6230.0%17-2171Petroleum engineers2,1440.0%17-2051Civil engineers1,7300.0%17-2081Environmental engineers1,7070.0%17-2021Agricultural engineers1,0600.0%17-2121Marine engineers and naval architects1,0240.0%17-3025Environmental engineering technicians8380.0%17-2161Nuclear engineers3520.0%17-3022Civil engineering technicians2560.0%27-4014Sound engineering technicians970.0%TOTAL885,972SOURCE: EMSI COVERED EMPLOYMENT, 2011.4

Overall, these 31 occupations account for nearly 3.5 million jobs. This includes workers who are employed across all industries — not just manufacturing. About 25% of all engineers work in manufacturing.

Nationwide these occupations have grown by 1.3% in the past two years and the average pay is $37.60 per hour. Most of the folks who work in this sector are men and about half are between the ages of 25-44. The other half falls in the “aging workforce” category, so some thought should be given to the number of engineers that might be retiring in the coming years.

In 2011, we estimate that there were about 115,000 openings, which is an estimate of the new positions being created and existing positions needing to be filled due to an exiting from the occupation through retirement, career change, etc..

In 2010, 243,000 people completed education and training related to these occupations (note: these completers could have also entered other occupations we are not considering in this analysis).


  • Largest Employer – With 483,000 engineering jobs, California employs the most and has the second highest median earnings for engineers ($45.44 per hour). Jobs in the state increased by 1.5% since 2009. After California, Texas (315,000), New York (155,000), Michigan (143,000), Virginia (143,000), and Pennsylvania (134,000) employ the most.

  • Highest ConcentrationWashington’s location quotient of 1.6 indicates that it has the highest concentration of engineering workers. High LQs tend to be good indicators of specialization, so this is basically saying that Washington tends to specialize in this type of worker. There are currently 125,000 engineering jobs in the state. Average pay is about $41 per hour, and jobs increased by nearly 3% since 2009. Other states with high concentration are Colorado (1.58), Massachusetts (1.50), Virginia (1.44), Maryland (1.36), D.C. (1.36), Michigan (1.35), New Hampshire (1.35), California (1.23), Alaska (1.23), and New Mexico (1.22).

  • Fastest-Growing – The little engine that could continues to be North Dakota. Over the past two years engineering occupations in the state have grown by 12.5%. Also note that North Dakota is second only to South Dakota for the lowest level of employment. So it’s small, and — like almost everything else in that state – expanding. Other states with good growth over the past two years are: Michigan (6.8%), D.C. (6.7%), Vermont (6.4%), and South Carolina (4%).

  • Highest-Paying – Not surprisingly, D.C. offers the highest wages. The D.C. metro now has the highest cost of living in the U.S. and these engineering occupations average over $46 per hour in the city boundaries. Other high-paying states are California ($45), Massachusetts ($43), New Jersey ($42), Washington ($41), Virginia ($41), and Maryland ($41).

  • Decline – A handful of states shed engineering jobs over the past two years. With a decline of over 2,000 jobs, Florida lost the most. After that come Kansas (-1,900) Missouri (-1,700), Nevada (-1,200), Alabama (-1,100), and Arizona (-1,000). Nevada lost the highest percentage (-6.6%).

See the table for the complete results:

State Name2009 Jobs2011 JobsChange% Change2011 Median Hourly Wage2009 National LQCalifornia475,978482,9256,9471.46%$45.441.23Texas306,118314,7518,6332.82%$37.361.14New York154,433155,3349010.58%$37.960.71Virginia139,659142,7953,1362.25%$40.641.44Florida134,869132,712-2,157-1.60%$32.930.71Michigan133,802142,8809,0786.78%$35.851.35Pennsylvania131,187133,9192,7322.08%$33.050.91Massachusetts123,376126,0132,6372.14%$43.201.5Washington121,147124,6453,4982.89%$40.841.6Illinois120,066120,8077410.62%$37.880.82Ohio118,413121,0662,6532.24%$34.400.91New Jersey96,75396,625-128-0.13%$42.020.98Colorado92,95792,531-426-0.46%$40.461.58Maryland89,75591,8352,0802.32%$40.631.36North Carolina82,14182,189480.06%$35.670.79Georgia80,85381,2373840.47%$34.590.8Minnesota78,11178,8547430.95%$36.441.15Arizona68,47467,479-995-1.45%$35.891.08Wisconsin62,64762,8201730.28%$32.300.9Indiana59,88060,9011,0211.71%$31.280.84Missouri53,81752,134-1,683-3.13%$34.260.78Alabama50,78549,689-1,096-2.16%$34.461.04Connecticut48,67848,471-207-0.43%$38.591.15Tennessee41,82842,5076791.62%$31.270.62Oregon41,29842,0217231.75%$37.140.98Louisiana39,54339,200-343-0.87%$30.930.8South Carolina38,83340,3921,5594.01%$32.470.82Kansas36,29834,435-1,863-5.13%$31.051.02Kentucky35,58735,676890.25%$29.350.77Utah31,56932,4759062.87%$33.721.03Oklahoma29,03329,1421090.38%$31.440.72Iowa27,93728,0511140.41%$31.030.73New Mexico25,74325,043-700-2.72%$36.091.22District of Columbia24,78126,4481,6676.73%$46.231.36New Hampshire19,99320,3173241.62%$38.381.26Mississippi18,55418,55400.00%$26.970.64Nevada17,79916,620-1,179-6.62%$34.070.59Nebraska17,52517,8002751.57%$30.350.73Arkansas17,07017,116460.27%$26.670.56West Virginia15,98316,1731901.19%$25.790.86Idaho15,91615,91600.00%$33.690.98Maine11,42511,447220.19%$30.200.74Alaska10,88511,2073222.96%$40.471.23Rhode Island10,00810,092840.84%$39.350.84Hawaii9,9409,909-31-0.31%$36.990.59Delaware9,7149,72280.08%$37.920.91Wyoming8,7518,9882372.71%$25.681.18Montana8,2758,364891.08%$26.310.73Vermont7,5428,0264846.42%$33.250.98North Dakota7,5078,45094312.56%$27.630.78South Dakota6,4066,401-5-0.08%$25.050.61Total3409642345310643,4641.27%37.6


Here is a closer look at the national data for the occupations. Again, these are all occupations and not just the ones that staff manufacturing.

  • Most Jobs & Most New Jobs – The largest category of jobs are computer software engineers, applications (506,000 jobs) and computer software engineers, system software (393,000 jobs). These jobs pay well — between $42 and $45 per hour as a national average, and require a bachelor’s degree. Over the past couple of years growth has been 4%, which translates to about 34,000 new jobs.

  • Fastest-Growing – With 11% growth over the past two years, the fastest-growing jobs are petroleum engineers and biomedical engineers. Because the total employment size isn’t as large as the previous example, not as many jobs were actually added (about 3,400 jobs), but it is still worth noting as there appears to be substantial demand. Petroleum engineers are also the highest-paying job on the list.

  • DeclineOperating engineers lost over 9,000 jobs since 2009, which is a 3% decline in the total workforce. After that electronic and electrical engineers as well as electrical and electronic engineering technicians lost about 1% of their total workforce. Civil engineering occupations also suffered a bit.

For the complete list, see the table below:

SOC CodeDescription2009 Jobs2011 JobsChange% Change2011 Median Hourly WageEducation Level15-1031Computer software engineers, applications486,959506,53019,5714%$42.32Bachelor's degree15-1032Computer software engineers, systems software378,749392,61513,8664%$45.32Bachelor's degree17-2112Industrial engineers205,428213,0347,6064%$36.19Bachelor's degree17-2141Mechanical engineers227,807231,3583,5512%$37.28Bachelor's degree17-2171Petroleum engineers25,20327,8932,69011%$53.78Bachelor's degree17-2199Engineers, all other156,791158,6041,8131%$43.27Bachelor's degree17-2061Computer hardware engineers64,20265,8691,6673%$47.70Bachelor's degree17-3026Industrial engineering technicians64,13265,7871,6553%$22.65Associate's degree17-2031Biomedical engineers14,51716,1561,63911%$37.92Bachelor's degree17-3029Engineering technicians, except drafters, all other68,04769,4181,3712%$27.94Associate's degree17-2081Environmental engineers49,82050,8481,0282%$36.96Bachelor's degree17-2131Materials engineers22,04722,6425953%$40.12Bachelor's degree41-9031Sales engineers70,14670,6304841%$40.45Bachelor's degree17-2011Aerospace engineers69,63670,0323961%$45.91Bachelor's degree17-3025Environmental engineering technicians20,28120,6503692%$20.63Associate's degree17-2161Nuclear engineers16,43916,7993602%$46.90Bachelor's degree27-4014Sound engineering technicians15,26615,4982322%$22.19Postsecondary vocational award17-2121Marine engineers and naval architects5,2285,3411132%$36.53Bachelor's degree17-3027Mechanical engineering technicians42,68942,729400%$23.50Associate's degree17-2021Agricultural engineers2,5822,599171%$34.76Bachelor's degree17-2111Health and safety engineers, except mining safety engineers and inspectors23,65423,523(131)(1%)$35.72Bachelor's degree51-8021Stationary engineers and boiler operators36,69336,547(146)0%$24.54Long-term on-the-job training17-3021Aerospace engineering and operations technicians7,8687,720(148)(2%)$27.20Associate's degree17-2041Chemical engineers28,50628,221(285)(1%)$42.45Bachelor's degree11-9041Engineering managers174,707174,217(490)0%$56.47Degree plus work experience17-3022Civil engineering technicians81,37580,870(505)(1%)$22.28Associate's degree17-2051Civil engineers254,971254,358(613)0%$36.98Bachelor's degree17-3023Electrical and electronic engineering technicians151,351150,210(1,141)(1%)$26.44Associate's degree17-2071Electrical engineers148,853147,396(1,457)(1%)$40.27Bachelor's degree17-2072Electronics engineers, except computer133,541131,921(1,620)(1%)$43.33Bachelor's degree47-2073Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators362,151353,091(9,060)(3%)$20.44Moderate-term on-the-job trainingTotal3,409,6393,453,10643,4672%$36.08Source: EMSI Covered Employment - 2011.4


We’ve seen lots of interest in the performance of the technician positions — so we’ve broken them out and included them in this analysis. Nine of the 31 occupation we selected are technicians. There are 490,000 of these jobs and all but two require associate’s degrees. The average pay is about $25 per hour. As a group, these occupations experienced no real growth over the past two years.

  • Largest EmployerElectrical and electronic engineering technicians is the largest in terms of jobs (about 150,000) and has seen the steepest decline (more than 1,100 in the last two years).

  • Fastest-GrowingIndustrial engineering technicians gained 3% and added 1,655 jobs. Engineering technicians (except drafters) gained 1,371 jobs and is also the highest-paying job on the list.

Here is a closer look at the industries that employ these technicians. Note: This is not the complete list.

NAICS CodeIndustryOccupation Group Jobs in Industry (2011)% of Occupation Group in Industry (2011)% of Total Jobs in Industry (2011)541330Engineering Services61,41112.5%7.0%920000State government42,0628.6%0.8%930000Local government34,8277.1%0.2%911000Federal government, civilian, except postal service32,5606.7%1.4%541380Testing Laboratories14,2882.9%9.7%334413Semiconductor and Related Device Manufacturing13,7082.8%7.3%541712Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Biotechnology)12,3132.5%2.8%561320Temporary Help Services10,3242.1%0.5%517110Wired Telecommunications Carriers7,8951.6%1.4%334511Search, Detection, Navigation, Guidance, Aeronautical, and Nautical System and Instrument Manufacturing7,2881.5%5.0%551114Corporate, Subsidiary, and Regional Managing Offices6,8571.4%0.4%336411Aircraft Manufacturing6,8341.4%2.9%491110Postal Service6,7421.4%1.0%221122Electric Power Distribution5,8431.2%2.9%622110General Medical and Surgical Hospitals5,7011.2%0.1%512110Motion Picture and Video Production5,4241.1%2.7%334419Other Electronic Component Manufacturing4,2940.9%6.9%SOURCE: EMSI COVERED EMPLOYMENT, 2011.4

Some quick observations:

  • Nearly 13% (or 61,500) of all engineering techs – not surprisingly – work in the engineering services sector.

  • Nearly 10% of the testing laboratory industry is composed of engineering techs.

  • Local, state and federal governments employ 110,000 engineering techs, which is 22.4% of the total engineering tech workforce.

Here is a look at the top programs that train engineering techs.


Engineering clearly offers a wide array of intriguing employment and training options in the United States. It was particularly interesting to see how many computer software engineers are being employed in domestic manufacturing. Jobs related to anything that has to do with the domestic oil and gas boom are also thriving.

Lots of data has been presented here, so as always, if you have questions, comments, or would like to dig in deeper, please let us know. Also, follow us on Twitter @DesktopEcon to stay up with our data posts.

Illustration by Mark Beauchamp.