Consulting engineering has had a reputation for being a highly selective field that offers high levels of compensation to entry-level engineers. While industry salaries have tended to catch up to consulting salaries, it is important to know that starting salaries in consulting firms vary widely depending on the skills and knowledge you bring. In addition, consulting engineering firms usually provide excellent training and educational benefits to ensure that their consultants are knowledgeable and competent in the latest theory and techniques.
According to Careers in Consulting (careers-in-business.com/consulting/mcsal.htm), bachelor’s-level consultants can receive starting salaries ranging from $40,000 to $80,000, with engineers being toward the upper end, if they have industry experience. Some bachelor-level hires also receive bonuses of $5,000 to $10,000. Graduates of combined engineering and management programs can typically command six figures and may be offered signing bonuses and other enticements to join major consulting firms. Increasingly, Ph.D. candidates in engineering are being recruited by consulting firms, and their starting salaries are typically as high as the graduate salary mentioned above.
There is ample opportunity for economic growth in the consulting field, as evidenced by the more successful consultants in the industry today. The consultant’s compensation is equivalent to and sometimes surpasses the economic reward of an engineer in industry. However, the rate of salary increases, once employed, will depend on the individual’s ability to contribute to projects.
While the selectivity and the high compensation are attractive features of the engineering consulting career path, the long hours and intensive pressure to meet deadlines are sometimes seen as the disadvantages of this career path. Often, the consulting engineer must work in a manner—and on a schedule— that is prescribed by the client. This may mean that the engineer’s time is not his or her own and, unfortunately, compensation alone is the “just reward.”