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starting pay for a fresh engineering Ph.D holder?

Ni-SDCNi-SDC Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
edited February 2009 in Graduate School
I know this is not really a good question...and the purpose of pursuing a Ph.D is more than earning money. but i am really concerned with how much i can earn upon getting a Ph.D because i want to repay my undergrad student loans ASAP. I am an international student and know almost no one who has graduated from any top engineering schools in the States. I dont have relatives in the US either...so i hope people in this forum can help me a little bit on that. I am sorry if i sound naive as it appears that my purpose of advanced studies is about to earn money.

I have decided to get a Ph.D and am recently admitted to a top 10 engineering school with renowned reputation. I wonder what is roughly the starting pay when I graduate and join the industry working as an research engineer? I know the number varies from major to major and may be influenced by many other factors like the location of the company and the nature of work. I just need a rough estimate or a range. Thank you.
Post edited by Ni-SDC on

Replies to: starting pay for a fresh engineering Ph.D holder?

  • Ni-SDCNi-SDC Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
    this piece of information is actually very important to me because i need to decide if i will accept the offer and head to US right away OR i will work for some time after completing my undergrad so that i can repay the money.
  • G.P.BurdellG.P.Burdell User Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 2,294 Senior Member
    Here's the 2006 survey results from Georgia Tech:

    2006 Career & Salary Survey (Fall)

    The numbers will be skewed lower because of post doc salaries, so I would take those as a lower bound. Also, if you're going into academic, you also have to consider things like summer support, consulting, executive education / professional master's, and research grants.
  • RacinReaverRacinReaver Registered User Posts: 6,610 Senior Member
    If you're going into industry and not Civil Engineering, I think starting is generally around $75-85k. Some fields, like EE, PetE, and ChemE, can be higher, while others can be lower. If you're going to national labs, be a post-doc, or some other non-industry position, you might also make less. Also, there's massive regional variations in salary. For example, $100k a year in Silicon Valley isn't as much as $80,000 in Houston.
  • Ni-SDCNi-SDC Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
    thank you guys for the information.
  • Ni-SDCNi-SDC Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
    to RacinReaver:
    you mentioned that "100k in silicon valley isnt as much as 80k in Houston"? why is it so?
    Is it because living expenses around silicon valley is considerably higher than that in Houston?
  • NretsNrets Registered User Posts: 62 Junior Member
    I know ChemE's, even with just a Bachelors, can make around 70-80K straight out. In fact, I'm sometimes tempted to take some of these offers in the 80K range instead of going to grad school, but I know it's probably the wrong decision. I don't know how a Ph.D. changes this number right away, but in the long run, I'm sure it has tremendous advantages.
  • RacinReaverRacinReaver Registered User Posts: 6,610 Senior Member
    A PhD is generally a career move as to the type of work that you want to be doing. If you want to maximize your career's earnings you're better off getting a MS and/or a MBA.
    to RacinReaver:
    you mentioned that "100k in silicon valley isnt as much as 80k in Houston"? why is it so?
    Is it because living expenses around silicon valley is considerably higher than that in Houston?

    That's pretty much why. The US has huge variability in how far a dollar will go. It's definitely something to take into account when looking at jobs in the future, or how much a particular field pays. Like, I'm getting $26,000 a year in Pasadena as a grad student, but in order to have the same standard of living in Pittsburgh, I'd only need to earn $15,284 ( Cost of living: Compare prices in two cities - CNNMoney.com ).
  • G.P.BurdellG.P.Burdell User Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 2,294 Senior Member
    Salaries can be deceiving. The two highest starting salary students from my undergrad both had very low GPAs. One was sent to Vietnam, worked 18 hours a day 7 days a week (which you can do there) and quit after 6 months. Another was stationed on an oil rig, worked 16 hours per day in the middle of the gulf, two weeks on (13 days), one week off.

    The standard salary for a BS ChE with a decent GPA working in a plant is about $70,000 right now (surprisingly, regardless of where you live). An MS straight into industry makes almost about the same (and less than a BS + 2 years of experience). A PhD makes between $80,000 and $90,000 (less than a BS + 5 years of experience). In addition, a PhD limits your job opportunities (many more people hiring experienced BS/MS than PhD), a PhD limits your growth potential (you're usually confined to R&D or design work, as opposed to being able to move up through normal management), and a PhD is really expensive (5 years of lost salary is probably close to $300,000 after taxes).

    Why do people do it? Like Racin said, it's to change careers. Of course, there are still the idiots that do it for the letters.
    you mentioned that "100k in silicon valley isnt as much as 80k in Houston"? why is it so?

    A 2000 sqft home in Houston is around $200,000 - $250,000. The same house in San Francisco is $1,000,000. Groceries cost nearly twice as much in SF than in TX. Taxes are much higher in CA than TX. Restaurants are much more expensive.

    Everything costs more, but people don't make much more. It's a price you pay to live on the pleasant SF Bay as opposed to Galveston Bay, which sometimes catches on fire from all the oil floating on it.
  • Ni-SDCNi-SDC Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
    thank you so much for the input. For me, the starting salary doesnt have to be really really high. as long as it is reasonably high and that i can repay my undergrad loans, it will good enough.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,411 Super Moderator
    Hmm, I like that salary converter. My graduate stipend in New York City is $27,000 a year, which sounds like a lot for a graduate salary but just helps me get by in NYC. But CNN tells me that less than $12,000 will get me just as far in Atlanta, my home city, and even in Los Angeles the equivalent would be just under $18,000.
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