The surest path to wealth and fortune may be an electrical engineering degree. Every year, Fortune ranks the top five hundred American corporations by adjusted gross revenue. This year brought a number of changes in the ranks ...     The surest path to wealth and fortune may be an electrical engineering degree.

Every year, Fortune ranks the top five hundred American corporations by adjusted gross revenue. Last year, we filtered the list for CEOs who started as engineers – but this year brought a number of changes in the ranks, as some of our engineers moved on to fresh challenges:

  • 24% of Fortune 50 CEOs are engineers, down 3% from last year.
  • Of that 24%, only two are female: Mary Barra and Virginia Rometty.
  • Engineers run five of the top ten companies, down two from last year.
  • Twice as many electrical engineers run top 50 companies as did at this time, last year.

Here are this year’s Fortune 50 CEOs who made their start where most of us are, today – making them 12 of the highest paid engineers on the planet.


Rex W. Tillerson – Chief Executive Officer, Exxon Mobil

A native of Wichita Falls, Texas, Rex Tillerson earned a bachelor of science degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin before joining Exxon Company, U.S.A. in 1975 as a Production Engineer.


Tim Cook – Chief Executive Officer and Director, Apple Inc.

Cook started as Apple’s Sr. VP of Worldwide Operations in 1998, where he radically streamlined supply chain and manufacturing operations. Six years later, he moved to direct Apple’s Macintosh division, while filling in for Jobs during periods of ill health. He was promoted to COO in 2007 and confirmed as CEO in 2011.

  • Discipline: Industrial Engineering
  • Alma Mater: Auburn
  • Fortune 500 Rank: 5(+1)
  • Total Compensation (FY 2013): $4,252,727


Greg C. Garland – Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Phillips 66

Garland started at Phillips as a project engineer in 1980 and began steadily working his way up through the company: from project to sales engineer, then a business service manager, and development director. He serves as an executive-level director in a half-dozen companies, is a director of the American Chemistry Council, and is a member of Texas A&M’s Chemical Engineering Industrial Advisory Board.


Mary T. Barra – Chief Executive Officer, General Motors

Still debating whether or not to apply for co-op programs? Barra started at GM as a co-op student at the age of 18, in 1980. She worked her way into senior engineering roles, then executive positions of increasing power and responsibility, before becoming CEO in 2014.

According to Forbes, she is the most powerful woman in corporate America.


Alan R. Mulally – Chief Executive Officer, President, Ford Motor Company

Mulally took his first engineering job with Boeing in 1969, working as as an engineer – then program manager – on the 727, 737, 747, 757, and 767. He worked his way up to VP of Engineering and GM on the 777 program before becoming CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes and Executive VP of Boeing.

He became CEO of the Ford Motor Company in September of 2006.


Lowell C. McAdam –Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Verizon Communications

McAdam is a licensed PE and six-year veteran of the US Navy’s Civil Engineering Corps. He worked his way into the executive ranks at Pacific Bell in the 80s and 90s, moving on to a series of executive director and COO positions supervising the development of wireless and digital communications networks. He took his first executive position with Verizon in 2010, became CEO in 2011, and Chairman in 2012.


Virginia M. Rometty – Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, IBM

After a brief stay at General Motors, Rometty took a systems engineering position with IBM. Within ten years, she earned a place in the executive ranks, eventually becoming Sr VP of sales, marketing, and strategy (2009) and CEO in 2011. Under her leadership, IBM moved into big data analytics and cloud computing, ensuring the venerable company’s continued (and growing) relevance.

  • Discipline: Computer Science and Electrical Engineering (with honors)
  • Alma Mater: Northwestern University
  • Fortune 500 Rank: 23 (-3)
  • Total Compensation (FY 2013): $13,965,677


Satya Nadella – Chief Executive Officer and Director, Microsoft Corporation

Nadella’s resume at Microsoft is impressive, to say the least. Every division he’s run has either become incredibly lucrative or broken technological records; he lead the company’s transition to cloud computing, for one, and designed and supervised the world’s largest cloud computing infrastructure.

Microsoft’s CloudOS is Nadella’s work and he maintains direct involvement with several key technological incubation programs within the company.


Jeff Bezos – Founder, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and President, Inc

Bezos’ career mirrors the rise of the Internet itself, from a promising platform to total ubiquity. Neither Bezos nor Amazon require introduction. He is the twelfth richest man in America and it’s a safe bet you’ve used Amazon more often than you’ve visited your local Mall.


Larry Page – Co-Founder, Chief Executive Officer, Director, Google Inc

In elementary school, Page was the first child to turn in an assignment written on a word processor. The technology bug bit him early, but his Stanford PhD project set the course for the rest of his life: with fellow student Sergey Brin, he developed a mathematical model of the fledgeling Web, especially the way pages linked to each other. Data on this link structure was used to rank pages by relevance.

Page and Brin went on to found a moderately successful computer company.


Ryan M. Lance – Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Conoco Phillips

A petroleum engineer by training, Lance’s executive career at Conoco Phillips began as President of Downstream Strategy and Specialty Businesses in 2005. He moved up quickly, serving as Sr VP of Technology and Major Projects in 2006, President of Exploration and Production (Europe, Asia, Africa, Middle East) in 2007, Senior VP of Exploration and Production (International) in 2009, and finally CEO and Chairman in 2012.


Andrew N. Liveris – Executive Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and President, Dow Chemical Company

Liveris studied chemical engineering in Australia, where he also began his career with Dow Chemical in 1976. After working in the company’s engineering, manufacturing, sales, and marketing divisons on several continents, he was unanimously elected CEO on the strength of his plan to renew and transform the company. (His plan directly lead to a sixfold growth in share value.)

A noted champion of the manufacturing sector, Liveris published a similar plan for reestablishing American manufacturing in “Make it in America: The Case for Re-Inventing The Economy”. President Obama named him Co-Chair of his Advanced Manufacturing Partnership initiative.