A new survey has found that an engineering background produces more millionaires than any other form of tertiary instruction.

The survey, conducted by wealth management publication Spear's and consulting firm WealthInsight, found that engineering was the most popular degree amongst the world's millionaires, beating out even MBAs and computer science and finance degrees.

MBAs came in second after engineering, with economics, law and business administration degrees rounding out the top five. While engineering was at the top of the list, the only other STEM subject represented in the top 10 was computer science, logging in at number eight.

Other disciplines common among the world's millionaires included commerce, accounting, politics and finance.

The mammoth survey looked at over 70,000 millionaires around the world, who were defined as individuals possessing in excess of US$1 million excluding their primary residences.

Despite the prominence of engineering backgrounds amongst the world's wealthiest, WealthInsight's Oliver Williams said in a statement that the rankings could be somewhat misleading, since most of those millionaires amassed their fortunes as entrepreneurs as opposed full time vocational professionals.

"Interestingly, few of these degrees turn out to be outright vocational," he said. "Most engineering graduates, for example, are not engineers but entrepreneurs."

The combination of advanced abstract thought and practical problem-solving ability earned through training as an engineer undoubtedly contributed, however, to the success of degree holders in their chosen paths as entrepreneurs.

The results of the Spear's survey may come as little solace to engineering professionals in Australia, with recent surveys indicating that their incomes have declined of late in the wake of the mining boom's decline.

Mercer's Total Remuneration Survey, which was released last month, indicated that construction and engineering salaries in Australia are declining for the first time since 2009 despite pay gains in other sectors of the economy such as retail and manufacturing.

"We are seeing a considerably more conservative approach to remuneration than we have in most of the last decade," said Mercer spokesperson Garry Adams in a statement.

The Mercer study follows a survey released by Engineers Australia in February of this year, which indicated that the remuneration packages of members of the engineering profession fell by three per cent in 2012 compared to 2011, for their first decline in the decade since the survey was was launched.

The Engineers Australia Salary and Benefits Survey 2012 found that the average base salary for engineers had fallen from $104,156 in 2011 to $100,644 in 2012, while the average salary package fell from $117,030 to $113,421.

  • An interesting article that surveys 70,000 millionaires in the US and also quotes the salary experience of Engineers Australia’s salary survey saying that in 2011 to 2012 the base salary of engineers dropped due to the winding back of the resources and mining work. It says that in the US, despite the prominence of engineering backgrounds amongst the world’s wealthiest, most of those millionaires amassed their fortunes as entrepreneurs as opposed to working full time as engineers. It would be interesting to know whether that same finding applies here in Australia and for engineering graduates who are not working as engineers what are they actually doing and why.

    • Certainly is an interesting question Barry, one example that comes to mind is ex AFL football player James Hird who has a degree in Civil Engineering but, worked as a financial planner and stock broker, now a senior coach. Does anyone else have any Australian examples?

  • Pity they have not actually contributed to building up engineering.

    Could it be that engineering needs to be taught differently so that people actually want to be involved in engineering and do not see engineering as just a stepping stone to another career?

  • Its interesting that the article says the millionaires are not necessarily doing engineering. I believe that there is something in the engineering training such as problem solving and testing assumptions that lends itself to success as an entrepreneur

  • I would be interested to see what proportion of those millionaires had dual degrees, and if so which combinations made up the largest proportion of millionaires. As the article indicates, there are different skills and ways of approaching a task that different degrees would impart and therefore there are certain combinations of skills that best prepare a person for future entrepreneurial success.

    With that in mind, perhaps there are combinations of degrees whose skillsets are complementary…

    This is only my opinion, but I would think that the most popular (complementary) combinations among these would be a dual engineering/business or engineering/finance type. Does anyone have any actual facts to support or disprove my hypothesis?

    • May-yuu I am a strong supporter of the dual degree approach and have an engineering qualification and a Batchelor of Commerce. I have worked as a professional engineer and believe that the business qualification complements the technical experience.

      My view is that an MBA has real value only after you have worked for a period of time. I expect though that the millionaires in the survey, did less studying and more entrepreneural activities

    • Stand lone engineering degree & not “,,,,,dual engineering/business or engineering/finance type”, is what these “engineering-field -deserters” use to encounter the various cash cow industries making them millionaires overnight.If Peter Condie’s comments considered,that makes two of us who really knows true engineers in the field. Worse off,,even during uni,,,commerce guys who wd have started sme time with engineering mate,,,start driving and having good packs t 3rd yr.By 4th yer they graduate and are already into good money and pleasing packs.The engineer has to do whole 5 yrs the 2b yrs graduate training only to start getting little bit of what colleague in commerce is already getting by then.with engineering training and well connected social groups,,the engineer finds his way so easily once he has hit the right codes.Mr Ben holds n MSc Electrical Eng… “,,no more zenner diodes in his toolbox.”

  • I think most engineers work very hard to make other people millionaires.If a few have managed to break away and get financial success for themselves then well done.

    • very true observation.on their own,,,,not many are known to become millionaires.

      what’s very common is Engineers who leave engineering completely & make millions easily else where,,,see Mr Ben with parked MSc Electrical degree.

      I ECHO your comment,,,”If a few have managed to break away and get financial success for themselves then well done. “.