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Council on Postsecondary Education study shows growing demand for engineers in Kentucky


Offering more evidence that higher education matters, the benefits of an engineering degree will continue to climb in Kentucky over the next decade thanks to growing demand in the job market and competitive salaries, a new report shows.

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) released the analysis on Monday, projecting that engineering jobs will increase more than 11.2 percent in Kentucky by 2029, outpacing the national average of 10.8 percent and driving the need for more college degrees.

In total, engineering occupations are expected to grow from the current 27,290 jobs to 30,000 over the coming 10 years. That creates demand for approximately 3,000 more professionals in engineering-related fields. 

Aaron Thompson

CPE President Aaron Thompson said the multiplying effect of those jobs will have far-reaching benefits for many sectors of the Kentucky economy – beyond engineering – and he encouraged leaders in education, business and government to invest for the future.

“COVID-19 has brought us to an inflection point in our economy,” Thompson said. “If we wish to harness this opportunity to fuel stable, high-paying jobs, we must redouble our focus on higher education and continue to support the groundwork on college campuses. Now is the time to train and prepare for the years ahead.”

CPE partnered with the labor market analytics firm, Emsi, to analyze economic and workforce trends and determine if the number of graduates is meeting the demand for engineers in the Kentucky economy.

Monday’s report shows that manufacturing, engineering technology, industrial engineering and civil engineering are expected to drive much of the coming job growth and demand for engineering degrees and other credentials.
Employers post the most job openings for industrial engineers under job titles such as process engineers, quality assurance engineers, and project engineers. General Electric, BAE Systems, and Lockheed Martin are some of the biggest employers.

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Researchers also found that around 54 percent of alumni from Kentucky engineering programs remain in the state, compared to an average of 43 percent in other states. That’s due in part to salaries; Kentucky wages have improved over the past decade and are more competitive to the states where engineering alumni are migrating.

The median annual salary for mechanical engineers in Kentucky, for instance, totaled $84,800 in 2019, topping almost every other state in the study, including Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Tennessee. Only engineers in Texas earned more.

Meanwhile, the median salary for industrial engineers in Kentucky totaled $76,400 in 2019 while electrical engineers earned around $86,700 annually. That’s compared to the median household income in Kentucky of close to $46,500, the study said.

“The benefits of an engineering degree are clear – they provide good jobs and good pay,” said David Mahan, associate vice president for data, research and advanced analytics at CPE. “However, if we want to meet demand over the next decade, Kentucky must remain deliberate and continue to focus on increasing degree production.”

The full report can be accessed at http://cpe.ky.gov/data/reports/engineeringreport.pdf.

From Council on Postsecondary Education


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