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What engineering major should you choose as an international student based on job growth

interstride logo by Interstride
April 27, 2023

There are many advantages for international students who choose an engineering major. Qualified engineers are in high demand in the US which means employers are more likely to sponsor foreign workers for visas. Additionally, engineering is a STEM field, so engineering majors qualify for STEM OPT work authorization. STEM OPT grants an extra two years to work in the US after graduation and one year of regular OPT. This also gives you two additional chances to apply for the H-1B visa each fiscal year if you do not get accepted for the lottery the first time.Based on a report from the Institute of International Education, engineering majors were the second most common field of study for international students in 2021-2022, with 20% of international students studying some type of engineering. The most common engineering majors are mechanical, electrical, civil, computer, and chemical engineering.

Top engineering degrees for international students

Based on projected job growth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), we ranked the top engineering degrees for international students to consider.

Software or computer engineers

In the next ten years, the number of jobs for software engineers and developers is expected to grow by 25%. This is much faster than the average 5.3% job growth across all occupations. Software engineers design software such as computer and phone apps and programs. They also test software and computer systems to identify and fix problems.

The job titles software engineer and computer engineer are often used interchangeably with software developer. Many software and computer engineering positions only require a bachelor’s degree and have high earning potential. The median yearly wage for software developers and engineers in 2021 was $120,730.

Chemical engineers

Chemical engineers work with chemicals found in products we use such as oil and gas, food, and medicine. They often work in refineries, plants, and laboratories. With a predicted job growth of 14% in the next decade and a median salary of $105,550 per year, chemical engineering is a smart field of study.

The job responsibilities of a chemical engineer include designing equipment and processes for safely handling and transporting chemicals. They also help test systems and products for safety and compliance with all laws and regulations. An example project for a chemical engineer is designing an improved pipeline for transporting natural gas.

Biomedical engineers

Biomedical engineers or bioengineers work with medical equipment such as x-rays and biomedical equipment such as artificial limbs and organs. They may design, test, perform maintenance, and repair medical technology. The availability of biomedical engineering jobs is expected to increase by 10% in the next ten years. The median annual salary in 2021 was $97,410.

Biological engineering requires a unique mix of education in engineering and biological sciences. If you are interested in this field, look for a school with a specific biomedical engineering major. Most positions for bioengineers ask candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree, but some require a master’s.

Industrial engineers

Industrial engineers work to solve problems and design efficient systems in various industries. Their overall goals are to improve a business or industry’s productivity, efficiency, and sustainability. Industrial engineers may also work to improve the quality of products and services in a specific industry.

Experts predict there will be 22,400 new job openings for industrial engineers each year on average for the next decade. That’s an increase of 10%. Industrial engineers make around $95,300 per year on average. Many universities offer an industrial engineering major. A related degree such as electrical or mechanical engineering may also be relevant for this career pathway.

Petroleum engineers

Petroleum engineering is one of the most lucrative engineering majors with a median annual salary of $130,850. The projected job growth for petroleum engineering in the next decade is 8%. Petroleum engineering is also the most common engineering major for graduate international students in the US.

A petroleum engineer uses engineering principles and technology to design methods and equipment to extract oil and gas from the Earth. This job often involves working on-site in oil fields or refineries. Many colleges and universities offer a specific petroleum engineering major, particularly those in states with a large oil and gas industry such as Texas and California.

Cybersecurity engineers

Cybersecurity is a relatively new field that is growing quickly. It involves securing and protecting computer networks. When a security breach or attack occurs, cybersecurity engineers work to identify the weak point in the security system and make it stronger. This will continue to be an in-demand job as more sensitive information becomes digital and cyberattacks become more frequent.

While the BLS does not have specific data on cybersecurity engineers, the related field of information security analysis is expected to grow 35% in the next ten years. The job has a median annual salary of $102,600, and the majority of positions are located on the East Coast.

Choosing the right engineering major for you

Engineering is one of the highest-paying fields in the US, and many companies are seeking international talent. Looking at job growth ten years into the future can help ensure you choose an engineering major that will set you up for a stable career. The majors with the best job outlooks are software engineering, cybersecurity engineering, and chemical engineering. Explore Interstride’s blog written specifically with international students in mind to learn more about US universities and how to legally work as an international student majoring in engineering.