|By Marleys_Ghost (Marleys_Ghost) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 04:39 pm: Edit|
There are a number of threads seeking advice on engineering, and with the college hunt gearing up for the current seniors its time to post a warning about engineering for those who are just now coming to this board. Like Marley's ghost in "A Christmas Carol" I'm here to show you what your future will be like unless you make some changes. Let me tell you right now, so you can say you were warned -- ENGINEERING IS A TERRIBLE CAREER CHOICE!!
It's been controversial, but you need to hear this advice today more than ever. The dot-com bust meant your chances of striking it rich and getting out in a few years have evaporated; if you choose engineering, you better know what you're getting into. It's time to reprise my post for this year's seniors.
Print this letter out, read it over, read it over again. If you don't believe me, just show it to anyone who ACTUALLY works in engineering. It's a little longer than most posts, I know, but we're talking about your future here, and I can't give you enough info in 3 sweet paragraphs.
And when you read the bashing replies bound to come on this board, put your budding analytical skills to work -- decide if they address the actual points I make or if they are just ad-hominen attacks meant to distract you from the real issues. I post links and give info you can easily verify on the web; ask yourself if the critics give hard evidence, or just engage in sophistry and offer their opinions. BTW I am an engineer with a decade of experience who has worked at several companies that are household names in hi-tech; I just wish there had been someone there to warn me when I was 18 of what I was really getting into.
So who are you, the prospective engineer? Maybe you have a knack for math and science courses, so well-meaning parents and teachers have suggested you consider a career in engineering. Maybe you like the toys you have -- the PC, the DVD player, the cell phone, some cool video games, and you think it would be fun to help create things like them. Maybe the attractive starting salaries, among the highest for college grads BTW, seem to be calling out to you. Or perhaps you dislike uncertainty and ambiguitity, and finding a job after college worries you -- how do English and History majors find jobs anyway? Everyone knows the "want fries with that?" joke, and you figure if you endure the schooling at least that won't be your fate.
But make no mistake about it. If you go into engineering, odds are you will regret the choice a few years down the line. I'm going to spell out exactly why.
As an engineer
1) you will miss out on a lot of fun in college, forsaking some of the best years of your life.
2) you will miss the best chance you'll have to enrich your mind in a variety of academic areas
3) you will be limited to working in a few major cities.
4) the hours will be excessively long
5) you will be surrounded primarily be men at work
6) many if not most of your coworkers are going to be foreigners
7) your salary will top out early and those liberal-arts majors will catch and pass you
8) by the time you're in your 30's you will be worried about keeping a job
9) you're NOT going to get into management
10) the long-term outlook for engineers is dismal
1) Missing out on fun in College -- as an engineering major you will be loaded down with labs and problem sets. You'll know the library better than your dorm room since you will spend more time there, working late most nites and on the weekend. Your buddies are going hiking and skiing, visiting friends at other colleges, going to bars and pizza places in town, surfing the web, going to the concerts and events on campus, and so on; you, by and large, will be studying.
Even the industry press acknowledges this; recently in EETimes they wrote "There's a sense among students of, 'Why should I stay? My friends are studying half as long as me and having a better time,' " said Ray Almgren, vice president of product strategy for National Instruments. See http://tinyurl.com/642tf The outcome is that on average 1 out of every 2 people who start in engineering switch out before graduating. For EE it is 2 out of 3!! BTW keep these stats in mind if you're considering a college focused mainly on engineering; with the odds at least 50:50 you'll leave the major, what are your alternatives going to be?
I'll note in passing that some guys choose engineering, consciously or subconsciously, because of the workload. I was surprised how many guys majoring in engineering had NEVER gone on a date in HS. In college instead of admitting they don't want to go to a party because they're scared to talk to girls, the ready excuse is "need to study".
And I say "guys" deliberately because thats who the studens are; these days only about 1/6 of the students getting engineering degrees are women (and thats considered an improvement over the past!).
2) missing out on a chance to explore the fields of knowledge -- For most students college is a time not only to learn about their major but to explore other areas as well. Take an art class, learn about history, perhaps there's a famous scholar teaching at your college or you want to work with one of the leading researchers in some area. That's what most students can do since they have ample time for electives. To pick Ohio State as a random example, if you are a history major you have 10 required classes for the major; see http://www.history.ohio-state.edu/undergrad/majorreq.htm The rest of your classes include some required breadth classes but by and large you can pursue your cultural and intellectual interests, working directly with the profs and surrounded by others to learn from and with. College is a glorious time for the intellectually curious!
And then there is engineering. Engineering is different. There is just so much to learn that you will be loaded down every semester with lots of required courses. Engineering programs are the same at every college since they're standardized by a group known as ABET. So lets go back and take a look at Ohio State. If you choose EE, for example, during your 4 years of college you will get to choose exactly 7 courses outside of science & engineering!! And BTW they must be on an approved list, not too many in any one area since they are your distribution requirements. See http://eewww.eng.ohio-state.edu/academic/pdf/ughndbk.pdf Choose wisely...
Actually if you take only ONE thing away from this, it would be this heartfelt advice. If you major in engineering, plan from the start to take 5 years to get your undergrad degree so you have some time to experience and explore something in college besides endless classes in math and engineering.
3) Engineering employers are concentrated in a few large cities; Austin, Silicon Valley, LA, Boston, and some others. Sure there may be companies that hire engineers in many other places, but when there are just a few shops in town the salary is going to be lower because they know you don't have many options. Even during the boom salaries in San Diego were 25-35% lower than Silicon Valley just because the employers weren't bidding that hard against one another. And you have to put up with more crap because where are you going to go if you don't like it? Right now it may be hard for this to seem like a realistic concern because everything you own probably fits into a few boxes and you don't have kids, but imagine your life a 10-15 years out. To put it another way, how easy would it be for your parents to drop everything and move to a new city? Add to that concerns about layoffs; how would you like to be working for IBM in Burlington or Kodak in Rochester right now? If you lose your job in a town with few engineering employers you're basically going to have to move to get another one. The upshot is that the engineer seeking stability chooses to live in a place with more hi-tech employers, meaning he only has the choice of a handful of major cities.
4) long hours -- EETimes reported "In an open letter to Congress this past week, IEEE-USA president Bryant said that long hours, stressful job conditions and other factors are converging to 'make careers in engineering less attractive,' "
Why? Coming out of school you might expect to work long hours to "prove" yourself. However as a working engineer these long hours are going to be the norm for your career. For example, suppose a project with 45 people working on it just took 18 months from start to customer ship, and now they are launching the successor project. A good estimate is 18 months, but some manager who wants a big bonus will step up and say he can do it in 14. What is his secret? Simple. He simply brings in the deadlines for various steps by 4 months. You get to work late into the night and on weekends to make up those 4 missing months, he gets praise from his bosses and a big end-of-the-year check for his accomplishement. When you go home at 8:30pm every nite you can't do much more than chow down, pay the bills, and go to sleep just to do it all over again the next day.
So why don't people just change jobs? If you're in a smaller town, see issue (3). And in general its hard to leave. During good times there's the golden handcuffs; you have some options that vest over 5 years and if you leave you walk away from the unvested ones, plus you'll start at ground 0 somewhere else and the option price is higher than where you are now. Plus odds are good the next employer will have a manager just as aggressive to look good by pulling in schedules. During bad times l ike the present, well nobody's hiring. In short, good times or bad, its hard to leave.
5) mostly men -- these days only about 1/6 of the students getting engineering degrees are women (and thats considered an improvement over the past!). The women you meet at work are going to primarily be the admin for the group and the ladies working in the cafeteria. So if you think that will be meeting women socially on the job, think again. Its easy to pooh-pooh this when you're in HS or college, but once you start on your career you're going to be spending long hours at work to prove yourself and advance, no matter what your career. So most of the people you meet during your waking hours are going to be coworkers.
6) mostly foreigners -- out here in CA I'd say the hi-tech workforce is 1/3 chinese, 1/3 indian, 1/3 white. If you've ever wanted to feel like a minority in your own country, engineering is the job for you. And BTW a lot of them don't bother with soap or deodorant because thats the way things are in their country. If you're in a building you can tell when you're close to the section where the farm of cubicals for engineers is just by the odor. Yeah, you'll see people jump on this claim, but like they say in court, truth is a defense to libel. As the well-known leftist magazine "Mother Jones" wrote in an article about foreigners moving here, "Ravi's boss actually took him shopping for deodorant" (see "High-Tech Melting Pot" in August 4, 1998 issue).
7) many HS students are attracted by the high starting salaries for engineers, especially compared to what the other majors make out of the gate. However don't be fooled by the number that applies at one point in your life. You will be working for 30+ years and you need to consider what happens over that span. Liberal arts majors may start out in relatively low-paying jobs but as they prove themselves and become more valuable they rise in salary. Now if you already expect that you won't be able to prove yourself in business maybe tech is right for you; but for those who have faith in themselves after a dozen years or so those engineers will be working for you!
It turns out that salaries in engineering rise rapidly for 6 or 7 years and then plateau. Why is that? Because the ideal engineering employee is someone with 3-5 years experience. After you've been around the block once or twice you know what needs to get done on a project, you know how to run the tools, work with the vendor, etc. After this its just doing more of the same thing. Unlike doctors or lawyers or other professionals who become more valued as they get older, the most valued engineers are 25-32 or so. They seldom families so they don't complain about the long hours, and they can be plugged right into the project.
Another source of the salary cap is the H1B program. Your friends in Congress let hi-tech employers bring in 120,000 workers from overseas each year (thats where the Chinese and Indians come from). And its communist China, BTW. Think about that. Do they say "well, lawyers are making too much so lets bring in 100,000 each year to help keep the cost of legal advice down?" No. Same with doctors, accountants, other professions. But employers have the bucks to lobby Congress, so they had the cap raised from 65,000 to 100,000 just a few years ago. The beauty of this program to employers is the visa is for 5 years and is non-renewable. In other words they can get a worker at low cost, have him work his ass off for a couple of years, and then US Immigration boots him out of the country before he starts demanding more! And BTW search on the web and you'll find out that even though this program is supposed to address the "shortage" of workers, there is NO requirement that H1B visa holders be laid off before American workers! So since they make less, many companies have been doing just that; firing the Americans and keeping the cheaper foreigners. All perfectly legal.
8) By the time your only in your 30's you'll be worried about your job. That's right! The ideal employee is 25-30, so by the time you get a little older you might not be as willing to work the insane hours. And since your salary goes up a little each year (2-4%), after a few more years all of a sudden you are making 20% more than people doing essentially the same work. So you're first out the door and the last one in.
IF YOU FOLLOW NO OTHER LINK IN THIS POSTING, you have to read "Debunking the Myth of a Desperate Software Labor Shortage" at http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/itaa.html PRINT IT OUT. Read it, read it again. Its from a UC Davis professor and it spells out in great detail exactly why you are going to have trouble finding work by the time you are in your late 30's. The article is aimed primarily at software people since the professor teaches CS, but it applies to all the other engineering disciplines as well.
As he points out, "An InformationWeek survey of hiring managers found that only 2% of them would prefer to hire an applicant with more than 10 years of experience." He also notes that "Twenty years after graduation from college, only 19% of computer science majors are still employed as programmers".
In most other professions, those with experience are valued. You want your lawyer to have seen a bunch of similar cases, your doctor to have experience, your accountant, your professor, and so on. Yet to be honest engineering is blue-collar assembly-line work done with the mind instead of the hands. So sure, its indoor work with no heavy lifting, but just like a mechanic or painter or something all they want is a couple of years experience and then you're as good as you're going to get as far as industry is concerned.
Here's a quote you should read carefully -- 'I spent seven years in school, and it resulted in a six-year career,' says Mr. Porter, who feels his master's degree in engineering is little more than 'a base.' And another -- "Many engineers are facing a challenge of a different sort. Graying engineers who have decades of work experience are as rare as a black and white TV. Even those under 40 are often considered old". See the article "A Short Circuit for US Engineering Careers" at http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/1226/p02s01-usec.html
9) You won't be a manager. If you share this with your teachers or counselor, they might agree more or less with the 8 points above. But they have an ace left up their sleeve. "The age discrimination might be real, and maybe most people aren't working in what they slaved over learning in college, but it doesn't matter to you. See, you'll be a manager". If only it were true! Sure, in a growing field there's room for advancement. But other than the phony numbers the industry manufactures to justify the H1B programs, there's not a huge amount of growth left in engineering. So do the math. The average 1st-line manager has 10 employees. Since the field is barely growing, only about 1/10 of those starting in hi-tech will become managers.
10) long term its going to get worse for engineers. Its easy to ignore slow changes until they are pervasive. Global warming, for instance. But here's a fun one. Ask your parents what the perception was of Japanese quality back in the 60's. You aren't going to believe the answer!!! The stuff was seen as junk, low quality stuff nobody wanted. And yet today they dominate consumer electronics, build better cars than the US makers, and so on. The change was gradual but sure, people were able to ignore what was happening right under there noses, and all of a sudden the american manufacturers were dead.
The same inexorable change is dooming engineering in the US. Employers just want low costs and their search to find them is going to make even that high starting salary go away. Most major hi-tech companies already have engineering efforts overseas. going to happen in engineering. Recently Microsoft announced it is investing $400 million in India. see http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/4500683.htm) And the 65,000 (soon to be 100,000) trained workers that are going back home just about when you get out of college, well they are competing against american workers on salary.
What's happening is this. American employers are capping salaries today by bringing in hundreds of thousands of cheap workers. And after a couple of years they go home where they continue working for tech employers, but now at 1/4 or less of what an american makes. It takes a while to get the critical mass going. At first they start with sustaining engineering (eg supporting existing products), then they will move to having the overseas workers cost-reduce existing products. Next they will be used to add improvements to existing products, at which point they are poised for the final blow. New product development will go to Shanghai and Bangalore, and who needs those overpaid Americans anymore?
This change is coming, its already starting. Just like the Japanese change from junk manufacturers to best in the world, it may take a decade or two but its going to happen. And in a decade or two you're barely 30, then what are you going to do?
|By Rogracer (Rogracer) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 05:48 pm: Edit|
I've worked for a leading aerospace company for the last 23 years as an engineer, and I can't imagine having a more enjoyable career. You're entitled to your opinion, of course, but I hope the young men and woman on this board comtemplating a career in engineering understand that your opinion is not shared by a great many people. Incidentally, we are always looking for talented young engineers, and we develop them for the long term, and hope they spend their entire careers with us.
|By Wobudong (Wobudong) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 05:58 pm: Edit|
If you want to be an engineer so you can work for somebody else and take home a paycheck, Marley has some points. If you choose engineering because you like to solve problems, there are no limitations.
|By Benzinspeicher (Benzinspeicher) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 07:00 pm: Edit|
typical liberal arts person
|By Kletian (Kletian) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 07:46 pm: Edit|
Some people, like me, like engineering (and are engineering majors) because we find it interesting and useful. Apparently, you do not. Not everyone is a slave to money and an easy life. Without the challenge to drive me, I'd feel that I have a very boring and hollow life.
|By Reveler (Reveler) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 08:42 pm: Edit|
That was a very very long post that I quite frankly can't read because it bogs my mind of how many minutes it would take!
|By Madelinemay11 (Madelinemay11) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 08:45 pm: Edit|
I totally agree with Marley...
I'd like to add that engineering in the real world (from what I've heard from my betters) is not really engineering at all. It's totally process driven, cookbook, thankless and unimaginative.
In CS, nobody gets to code anything useful. Working on web pages is NOT what CS majors wnat to do, but 90% of the CS majors are forced to do that, or work on phone support cases.
Civil engineering has zero thought involved...soil density, thickness of asphalt etc. is written in a code book, and all you have to do is follow the recipe and make sure the almost-criminal contractors do things right. The "work" is to hang around with a measuring tape to make sure 3-inches on paper means 3 inches on the freeway.
Electrical engineers - What was the last thing EE's even invented? They are in no-mans territory, because the CS guys are better than them for software, all real research is done by physicists, all hands-on work is done by blue-collar technicians, and anything to do with solid-state is done by mat-scis.
Mechanical engineering - this is as worthless as a steam pulled locomotive.
I'd say that the medical field is theeeee best. There are so many barriers to entry that IMGs get killed trying to get thru, there are TIGHT controls into the field, so even the worst doctors, which are physciatrist (sp?) and internal-medicinists make a minimum of 130K, coming from even the worst schools.
|By Donomom (Donomom) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 08:49 pm: Edit|
This is about the fourth time I've seen this post. . . earlier on the PR board, now here.
Posters here will respond about this poster's demeaning attitudes about foreigners, dating-impaired engineers, and so on. The thread will go on for a while, disappear, and then it'll be re-posted in about six months.
|By Flopsy (Flopsy) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 09:25 pm: Edit|
It's either Engineering or "would you like fries with that?"
|By Annieivy (Annieivy) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 09:41 pm: Edit|
I asked my dad about this as he runs a large technology company and is on the board of several others. He says the poster has a big point in that there are many, many unemployed engineers now and will continue to be with jobs moving overseas. However, he thinks an engineering undergrad degree is a great degree if you combine it with a grad degree such as an MBA. That way you are valuable in many businesses because you understand the underlying technology. Dad says their will be a lot of "do you want fries with that" people with only undergrad engineering degrees though.
|By Philvid2 (Philvid2) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 10:40 pm: Edit|
My mom works at a branch office of a major engineering firm as a administrative assistant. One of my good friend's father also works at the office so I heard I good number of stories. Based on what I have heard, I have to agree with Marley.
I'll comment on some of his points.
1. I have heard my friend's dad complain several times about his college experience compared to others. Mind you that he is in his mid-40s and he still complains. He said that he studied at least twice as much as his non-engineering friends.
3. The office that my mom works at is located in a small city. There are not that many other firms in the area, and if it was not for the fact that the city is the state capitol, this office would probably not be open today.
5. I have never heard my mom talk about a female engineer either work at or visit the office. In fact, the only women that she ever mentions are either administrative assistants or work in HR.
6. With no one at my mom's office is a foreigner, mind you that its a small office, a lot of the other engineers that they come in contact with are Indian.
8. My friend's dad is very worried about losing his job for the last three years or so. They just laid off someone else in the office who was in this late 40s and replaced him with someone who just graduated from grad. school (Leigh if you care).
9. I just like to add that even if you make management you are not safe. The head engineer at the office (I not sure of his real title), who used to a big shot with the state and is a office in all the local engineering groups, is about to be replace with someone else. If he does get replaced, he will probably have to live off his state pension because he won't be able to find a similar job.
|By Iska (Iska) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 11:18 pm: Edit|
Does the absence of women protect marriages or does the job instabilty destabilize marriages? Not so outlandish a question.
|By Glowingamy (Glowingamy) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 09:32 am: Edit|
My dad is always making sarcastic/morbid humor about the fate of engineering in the country. He is not a "software engineer" but a "top software architect" which apparently entails more experience than engineering - anyway yes, lots of layoffs and high outsourcing do make it very hard to get a stable job.
|By Baltodad (Baltodad) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 09:49 am: Edit|
"Engineering employers are concentrated in a few large cities; Austin, Silicon Valley, LA, Boston, and some others."
I think the original poster of this thread is a little too self-absorbed. Clearly he's thinking of computer engineering and not of all the other types of jobs that engineers are involved in. There are mechanical engineers and industrial engineers, for example, everywhere there's manufacturing.
My son is a freshman who is thinking about a job in automotive engineering. Not one of those cities cited by Mr. Ghost have any particular concentrations of automotive engineers. But they certainly have their share, because manufacturers that supply component parts of cars and trucks are all over the country.
General comment: Mr. Ghost seems bitter that he didn't "get rich quick" during the dot.com bubble. I suggest he get over it. Start playing the lottery or something.
Most sensible people aren't out to get rich at a young age, and engineers tend to be more sensible than the norm. What's wrong with working at a job you are good at and that you enjoy, and getting compensated at the upper end of the middle-class scale?
|By Thinkingoutloud (Thinkingoutloud) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 10:38 am: Edit|
The original post is terribly flawed. It should be ignored. When a post cites Mother Jones magazine as authority, that should tell you something.
|By Annieivy (Annieivy) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 01:02 pm: Edit|
OP, you were right, people get upset at you for starting this conversation! Why is it such an emotional topic? It's good that you warn kids. I'm still considering an engineering major, but I do want to know the realities.
Baltodad, I know a lot of kids who want to do a lot of things they realize won't make them rich. But I have to say, most kids I know don't hope to end up middle class. My best friend knows her love of art might make her a starving artist, but I know no one who aspires to become middle class!
|By Anovice (Anovice) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 01:28 pm: Edit|
I've read this before and brushed it off as a bitter worker who hates his life. But then I started to think about it...
It is true that there are layoffs- but in every field. It is a fact that more people are getting educated and qualified for jobs which just aren't there. There is always uncertainty in the work force no matter what field you are in. Someone above said that medicine was the field to be in- I disagree. When you are trained in medicine(be it podiatry, osteopathic, optometry,etc...) you are good in only one field. With talk about government healthcare and all the problems with insurance, healthcare is a necessary but not completely stable field. My mom is in medicine and all she ever talks about are the problems with insurance and compromises that hospitals are forced to deal with. Also realize, that a normal doctors salary is not that great... by the hour. At least with engineering you are able to work in a huge variety of jobs... way too many to even begin to list. My father is an ex military engineer, now a top exec making fives times what the average person in America makes... he's not a brianic, he didn't go to MIT... actually, if he didn't go into the military, he was not going to college at all because of his academics(actually, lack thereof). Another family member is a top exec of a competing company with a similar background. My sister is in school to become an engineer(mechanical) and I am planning on being an engineer as well(civil & environmental but wanting to go onto law... I know bad undergrad choice, right?). I guess I may be baised because I have seen the opportunities that engineering can bring. What other degree can you get in four years that is worth as much as an engineering degree and has a large number of jobs available? Accounting? Business? Political Science? Nursing? ... think about it... if you have any great ideas, let me know...
It's all a crap shoot when deciding your future. I used to worry so much about what college I wanted to go to and exactly where I wanted to be in ten years... but that's not reality. Things change, and so do people.
... just some ideas!
|By Thedad (Thedad) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 02:45 pm: Edit|
Find something that you like and that you can be very good at. Outside of that, there are no guarantees, whether it's engineering, investment banking, or herding goats in Mongolia.
The world will change in ways that you can't imagine, you will change in ways that you don't imagine.
Short of being able to live off investment income no matter what--and even that has some caveats--financial security is an illusion, so making that your first priority is probably a mistake...if it *is* your first priority, go back and be born to wealthier parents.
Fwiw, I started out in engineering because of a passion for the space program. I was fortunate enough during college to work summers and breaks in engineering labs for the US Navy and discovered that while the passion was there, the inclination for day to day work as engineer wasn't (single handedly with a soldering gun I set us back five years vs. the XSSR in the field of radio communications, good thing we won the Cold War anyway), and my math ability plateaued at about the end of first year calculus.
I've spent subsequent periods of my life in the social sciences, academia, the arts, and business and it's wound up being very satisfying to be able to move across boundaries and partake of different experiences.
|By Bellevueteen (Bellevueteen) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 03:20 pm: Edit|
"And BTW a lot of them don't bother with soap or deodorant because thats the way things are in their country. If you're in a building you can tell when you're close to the section where the farm of cubicals for engineers is just by the odor. Yeah, you'll see people jump on this claim, but like they say in court, truth is a defense to libel."
|By Baltodad (Baltodad) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 03:31 pm: Edit|
What the heck is wrong with being middle class? Note I was referring to "the upper end of middle class", which I see as in the $80,000 - $100,000 range. Are you thinking "middle class atitudes"? I'm talking about compensation for one's work. Those people you know who don't expect to become rich -- what class do they expect to be?
Lots of high school kids would say, if you asked them about their job aspirations, that they want to make lots of money. The more mature and realistic answer is "I want to have a job that I do well and enjoy, and which pays me enough to live comfortably and retire securely."
You can be an engineer and still get rich. An engineer with aspirations of wealth can go out on a limb and start a company, or get an MBA and go into management. But frankly, most engineers have psychological makeups that aren't comfortable with either risk-taking or with the particular set of stresses inherent to corporate management.
BTW, 95% of all Americans self-identify as "middle class" according to a survey I read. Of course, that doesn't mean they all are; some are "upper" and more are "lower"... but it makes me wonder why you would be so repelled by the idea of aspiring to being middle class.
|By Jonw222 (Jonw222) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 04:00 pm: Edit|
I haven't posted a while in this board but this posting was very appropriate. If you follow my postings, you'll know that I was applying to college as an engineering major, thinking that I would be secure in my career, doing something that I found enjoyable. Plus, my Dad was an engineer and was employed with the same company (which changed names constantly) for about thirty years.
My Dad gave me the "straight-talk" about engineering which included the constant fear of lay-offs and the overall bad treatment of engineers. My Dad had to explain how rare it is to spend thirty years in the same job with a variety of fortuitous factors allowing him to keep the same job. However, three years ago, my Dad was forced into "early retirement" at the age of 58, losing his job of thirty years.
When I asked to change my career path to music, he had absolutely no problem with it, knowing that if I worked hard, I could scrape together a life with that. Now, I'm in graduate school, earning my Ph.D. in musicology and very happy I decided to choose music rather than engineering.
So if you have a passion for engineering, I definitely don't disagree with going into the field. However, if you are doing it because you think it will be easy and you'll make a lot of money, you should try to reevaluate your career options.
|By Annieivy (Annieivy) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 04:08 pm: Edit|
Baltodad, as you say, you can be an engineer, anything really, and still become rich. I think that most kids, realistic or not, wish to be rich and in fact, are planning to be! It's the American dream. We had this discussion in a sociology class I take at a local college. People with all different majors expressed their desire to make a lot of money. The teacher talked of a study that came out recently which showed that those who make more money are more satisified with life. We discussed that satisfaction is not the same as happiness, but that people do think money will make them happy. Isn't it a part of youth to dream about having that big house on the watter or hot sports car?
|By Baltodad (Baltodad) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 04:18 pm: Edit|
"Most kids, realistic or not, wish to be rich and in fact, are planning to be."
Very few of them, I imagine, expect to do it by getting engineering degrees... and those few probably figure on making their fortune as inventors. Most high school football players wish (as in "fantasize") they could be in the NFL, but very few are planning on it.
|By Marleys_Ghost (Marleys_Ghost) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 05:47 pm: Edit|
Actually I am quite pleasantly surprised by the reaction so far.
As I expected, those actually familiar with engineering (such as having a parent in the industry) generally say, "yep, you're right".
There are always those in denial because they are already committed, "baltodad" being a prime example since his son is an engineering student. Sure, I don't discuss opportunities for every single engineer, and he trots out the automotive example. So what? That entire sector employs 38,000 engineers out of the about 1.5 million engineers, an insignificant drop in the bucket. (See http://www.bls.gov/oco/cg/cgs012.htm) Or is everyone suppose to go work for the auto trade when their other job disappears? And if he thinks "I'm bitter because I didn't get rich during the dot-com boom", well, lets just hope his son's analytical abilities exceed that of his dad (which admittedly is a darn low bar). What I was hoping to point out, baltodad, since this evidently sailed right over your head, is that if you are hoping for a long career in engineering the chances are slim, and barring that your other option of making enough for the short career not to matter has evaportated. Was it that hard to glean that from my post? He goes on to bleat "What's wrong with working at a job you are good at ...". Evidently baltodad is unable to comprehend that the career just ain't going to last a lifetime for most engineers, as short as 6 years in some cases (once again, read http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/1226/p02s01-usec.html since he apparently missed this the first time thru the post).
Here's what I want from my post. Its easy for a HS student to be enthusiastic about some career, be it law, medicine, engineering, whatever. Teachers are often encouraging, but then again few of them have much experience with the career world. I don't know about law, medicine, accounting, whatever, but I do want HS students to know what is down the road if they choose engineering.
The time to investigate is NOW, because once you're "in" then you're vulnerable to the same denial baltodad so obligingly displays for us. I remember on the PR board a grad student in engineering who denied Intel was doing design overseas, so I posted a link that showed they were. Ok, he replied, but nothing important. Again, another link (this one a press release from Intel itself) about microprocessor design they were doing in India.
If you love engineering, if you know what you're getting into and you want to do it anyway, then more power to you! My concern are the students who don't really know what the engineering field is like and are drawn into it based on there misconceptions.
|By Digmedia (Digmedia) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 06:15 pm: Edit|
The OP is both right (for many people) and wrong (for many people). Obviously, he is in the former group. I began college as an engineering major and luckily became a co-op student. I found out quickly that it was not the life for me (even though I've continued to work with engineers all my life). I changed to a major that allowed me to continue my math and science skills, but that also allowed me electives to explore many other things.
Some people are engineers through and through and would be very unhappy at any other career. HOWEVER, for those students who approach a degree in engineering solely because they see high starting salaries, there will be some severe disappointments ahead....
|By Thedilettante (Thedilettante) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 07:06 pm: Edit|
"6) mostly foreigners -- out here in CA I'd say the hi-tech workforce is 1/3 chinese, 1/3 indian, 1/3 white. If you've ever wanted to feel like a minority in your own country, engineering is the job for you. And BTW a lot of them don't bother with soap or deodorant because thats the way things are in their country. If you're in a building you can tell when you're close to the section where the farm of cubicals for engineers is just by the odor. Yeah, you'll see people jump on this claim, but like they say in court, truth is a defense to libel. As the well-known leftist magazine "Mother Jones" wrote in an article about foreigners moving here, "Ravi's boss actually took him shopping for deodorant" (see "High-Tech Melting Pot" in August 4, 1998 issue). "
don't you think that particular line about "a lot of them [indians and chinese] don't bother with soap or deodorant because thats the way things are in their country." is an overly offenisve and unsubstantiated statement?...
|By Bettina (Bettina) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 07:35 pm: Edit|
I wonder what the OP's agenda is? My frend who graduated in engineering 3 years ago has a great job in sales (technical) is making the big comissions, dines out on expense accounts and just bought his first home. He is very happy to have majored in engineering and will likely get an MBA next. Likewise my neighbor who is also electrical engineer is enjoying her second year of home ownership with her fabulous job. While 2 are not an accurate sample, they would really be surprised to see this post.
|By Pamvanw (Pamvanw) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 08:49 pm: Edit|
So, Marley, what do you suggest for a kid who loves everything mechanical; gets 100% on all calculus, physics & engineering tests in high school; & & has to be dragged out of engineering labs on campus tours? He's lived the layoff phenomena as his Dad is an engineer in a company that is in perpetual layoff mode. There is NOTHING else this kid wants to do...oh except maybe own a junk yard full of cars he can dismantle & sell parts !
|By Rtkysg (Rtkysg) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 09:21 pm: Edit|
"Electrical engineers - What was the last thing EE's even invented? They are in no-mans territory, because the CS guys are better than them for software, all real research is done by physicists, all hands-on work is done by blue-collar technicians, and anything to do with solid-state is done by mat-scis. "
WTF ??? This person must be an idiot !!!
Anti-engineers are normally people who are not good with number, not rational, and rather stupid!
|By Baltodad (Baltodad) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 09:33 pm: Edit|
Gee, Mr. Ghost... so much bitterness!
I don't think I imagined you writing: "The dot-com bust meant your chances of striking it rich and getting out in a few years have evaporated." How many people were immature enough to honestly expect get rich a few years out of college and quit their jobs? The fact that some computer engineers did in the 90s was a major abberation. Sorry you're still grieving about not being one of them.
I'd love to see your source for the statement of yours I quoted above: "Engineering employers are concentrated in a few large cities; Austin, Silicon Valley, LA, Boston." Was I wrong in assuming that you're talking just about computer engineers, rather than engineers as a whole?
As for my son, he's a freshman who hasn't even declared a major, but he's wanted to be an engineer since he as 11 or 12. He'll start a co-op this summer and find out for himself whether he likes the reality of engineering. In the meantime, he's doing exactly what he wants, with a lot more focus than most of his liberal arts peers.
|By Annieivy (Annieivy) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 09:37 pm: Edit|
pamvanw, I would suggest the kid combines the engineering degree with an MBA, a law degree or a graduate engineering degree on a specialized area. That's my plan.
Bettina, I honestly believe the OP wants to warn us to changing realitied. Your friends sound lucky so far, but my Dad, who runs a technology company gave me a report on the future for engineers with only undergrad degrees. It's dismal. And there are already huge numbers of unemployed engineers all over the country. We should be thanking the OP for taking the time to let us all know.
|By Donomom (Donomom) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 09:48 pm: Edit|
I know many more people in medicine who are unhappy in their career than engineers. . . The constant threat of malpractice suits, the cost of malpractice insurance, healthcare dictated by health insurance drones. . . . .At least in our state, MDs are retiring early, leaving the state, some are switching from direct care practices like OB/GYN to areas like skin care.
No career field is safe from layoffs or downturns...no career offers thirty years of job security, lots of $$$, and total personal satisfaction. If anyone is as bitter and disappointed in their field as Mr. Ghost, it's better to find something else even if the pay is less. Life is too short to be so unhappy.
|By Idontknow236 (Idontknow236) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 11:23 pm: Edit|
why would/should u warn us? why do u care??
who are we to u?
why should we believe u?
|By Monydad (Monydad) on Sunday, September 26, 2004 - 06:17 pm: Edit|
Interesting thread. Good posts, Baltodad, Thedad, & others. OPs slant is a good caution, but overstated I believe. The outsourcing trend is a valid concern though.
I actually know some engineers who got rich. Worked for small companies at the right time & got stock options. Mostly though people going in just expect to be decently payed salarymen for large corporations, like accountants, etc. Nothing to sneeze at. A lot of these people are 8 to 5'ers, and don't put in nearly the hours that the I-Bankers do. The tradeoff is they usually see their families at night.
MBA, JD, other stuff: good plan if you think you'll be a great MBA, JD, etc. On the other hand, if your skills & interests lead you clearly towards an engineering career, to some extent you have to play the cards you've been dealt. Within limits, of course.
I wouldn't suggest enrolling in engineering school if you don't want to be an engineer. The curriculum the last two years gets highly technical and specialized.
Engineering jobs are all over the country, but do tend to concentrate in the areas where particular industries are concentrated . The gloomiest people above seem to be describing silicon valley & computer type industries. I know engineers working in: Oil & gas work (Houston) Pharmaceuticals (New Jersey), Power Plant Design (San Francisco, Chicago, Kansas City, Boston),& others. The same pattern of concentration can be found in other specialized fields of work, not just engineering. Like Banking/ finance in NYC.
Most of the engineers I know who started 30 years ago are still engineers.A lot aren't though. But that's also true for many others in various other areas of business. The average person has what, three careers over their working lfe? Four?
As others said, layoffs, etc, are part of corporate life in general, not limited to engineers. It's tough out there.
I found an engineer's job to be not particularly boring if you like that sort of work in the first place. There are frequently new gizmos that have to be incorporated into a design. New types of projects come up with different design challenges.There was a revolution in design methods over the years, with the implementation of CAD/CAM; who knows what's next. It's probably very tough to stay current.
I left long ago because I didn't have a passion for the work. At some point many years later I worked in a mathematically-oriented area of finance, and my colleagues there had the same ethnic makeup as when I was an engineer.
Many electrical engineers have very interesting jobs. They design things all the time. Maybe there's a problem in the particular field the OP is familiar with, I can't say.
|By Rtkysg (Rtkysg) on Sunday, September 26, 2004 - 07:15 pm: Edit|
Most of the employees of the companies listed under NASDAQ are all engineers. Enuff said !!!
|By Pamvanw (Pamvanw) on Monday, September 27, 2004 - 08:10 am: Edit|
My engineer turned manager husband is fond of saying, "You can make a manager out of an engineer, but you can't make an engineer out of a manger."
|By Annieivy (Annieivy) on Monday, September 27, 2004 - 09:51 am: Edit|
It's totally untrue that most employees of NASDAQ companies are engineers!
There was a story in my local newspaper yesterday, mostly praising Kerry, but saying that his position in wanting to stop the off shoring of jobs would be certain to cause a big trade war. The article pointed out that companies are stepping up the outsourcing of engineering and programming jobs to India and that our generation will suffer because of it.
|By Reasonabledad (Reasonabledad) on Monday, September 27, 2004 - 10:06 am: Edit|
I'm an engineer (BS/MS) with an MBA who has started companies and also worked in big firms around the country. I married a female engineer (a foreigner), and have also run an enginerring firm with hundreds of technical and engineering employees.
Both of my children are currently in high school and are planning careers in CS, engineering or science.
In each of Marleys Ghost's points there is some truth. But overall, the post does not do justice to the potential of a career in engineering. I suggest re-reading TheDad's post, which makes the key point, in my opinion.
In the future, a new engineer will probably have many jobs, many different career twists and turns. An understanding of applied science (which is what engineering is) is helpful, often critical, in many jobs including managing people, managing projects, sales and marketing, financial investments, and even law and medicine. By not choosing either a science or engineering field, a student is shrinking his/her chances of high-wage employment later on in life by limiting their apparent skill sets to non-technical areas. To do this in order to maximize 4 years of beer and pizza parties strikes me as extremely short-sighted. The engineer, on the other hand, has an almost unlimited vista of new skills that he/she can add to an engineering degree, qualifying them for many of the most exciting business careers out there.
Since almost no one knows what their life path will be, and many career changes are likely (and desireable from my point of view), engineering makes a great place to start.
But just a BS in one field of engineering is not going to give most people a varied and fulfilling career: it will however give one good work, leading to a satisfying middle-class life. This is not to be discounted...
One of the best aspects of having an engineering degree (particularly in combination with another degree, like an MBA) is that twenty years later, a potential employer is still impressed by an engineering BS (including for non-engineering jobs). But the same employer was never impressed with a degree in history, or literature, or sociology or art, and still isn't. Most jobs are gained by demonstrating hard work and competency at previous positions, and in this the engineering degree gives an advantage at the start which cannot be matched by humanities degrees in most cases.
|By Rtkysg (Rtkysg) on Monday, September 27, 2004 - 02:28 pm: Edit|
You mean that Intel and Microsoft employ mostly liberal arts students ?????
Nasdaq, unlike DowJones which is Wall-Street based, is a product of Silicon Valley.
|By Marleys_Ghost (Marleys_Ghost) on Monday, September 27, 2004 - 04:48 pm: Edit|
Pamvanw writes "what do you suggest for a kid who loves everything mechanical ..." Well, if its that strong a fit and what he loves then he should enter it. Forewarned, of course, that the career may not last much into his 30's. So even in his first few years he should be exploring alternatives, either in the tech field or something else entirely.
BTW my prediction is that the offshoring phenomenom is going to accelerate as companies get experience in it with smaller projects and decide to send more development offshore. And as it builds a track record it will enter new areas of engineering since it will be less of a gamble to those companies. Wipro (a big indian offshore house) can always hire engineers in these new fields; take a look at what they offer *today* at http://www.wipro.com/prodesign/services.htm and see if you should be worried ...
Once one company in an area does it the others are forced to follow since they can't stay in business long if their costs are significantly higher than a competitor. Even Warren Buffet, "sage of Omaha" and head of Berkshire-Hathaway, was unable to keep the namesake company operating because it was a New-England textile company in business at a time when those jobs were moving to the South (later to flee overseas). Few if any CEOs of US hi-tech companies are the equal of Buffet, so I doubt they will do any better when their competitors send the work overseas.
|By Annieivy (Annieivy) on Monday, September 27, 2004 - 05:29 pm: Edit|
Rtkysq, my Dad is a NASDAQ company CEO. About 7% of his employees are engineers, with an increasing number in China and India. Engineers are certainly key to tech companies, but they don't make up anywhere near the majority of employees. Another thing to note is that there are many non tech NASDAQ companies, too.
|By Monydad (Monydad) on Monday, September 27, 2004 - 08:09 pm: Edit|
" .. twenty years later, a potential employer is still impressed by an engineering BS (including for non-engineering jobs). But the same employer was never impressed with a degree in history, or literature, or sociology or art, and still isn't. "
Depends a bit on the employer, and what he wants the empoyee to do, don't ya think?
I'm not sure an advertising exec, or a newspaper editor, is necessarily impressed. First impression is likely to be that the applicant has more poorly developed writing skills than the liberal arts majors they typically hire. And for good reason, IMO. Interpersonal skills may also be suspect.
True that few liberal arts majors qualify for jobs at engineering firms. But they're not really interested in them anyway,in many cases.
|By Reasonabledad (Reasonabledad) on Monday, September 27, 2004 - 09:36 pm: Edit|
Monydad, it does indeed depend on the employer. I don't suggest engineering as the be-all and end -all of education. But, society is more and more technical. For those who write, for those who lead, for those who manufacture, for those who sell, and for those who manage others who do these things techncial education is useful. The perceived lack of technical education is not helpful.
It is now quite common for engineers to "go back" to business or other schools to polish their non-technical talents. It is quite rare for a worker with a liberal arts degree to "top up" with an electrical engineering degree.
For whatever reasons, most of those who are going to do both sides of the educational system start with the technical side.
Most people find some sort of committment to lifelong learning to be helpful in their careers. It's just my opinion, not some revealed higher truth, but I expect this trend to continue. This gives an advantage to students who start with demonstrable technical competency and then add to this the writing, leadership, and managerial talents they need.
|By 3togo (3togo) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 10:50 am: Edit|
I was going to let this fly by ... but I can't
There are a bunch of interesting points in this "letter".
* It is true that engineering jobs tend to be geographically concentrated ... and that is true for lots of types of jobs such as consulting jobs, investment jobs, auto industry jobs. There are job categories that are pretty geographic independent (teaching, nursing, doctor, lawyer, accoutannt, etc) as long as you don't get too specialized. This is point to consider when considering careers (and engineering is far from alone with this issue)
* Engineers do tend to have heavy work loads. In my experience liberal arts undergrads trying to get into top medical, law, b-school, and vet schools for example are working very hard also .. and they all (engineers and LA-types) have time to enjoy their social lives. For those focussed on achieving at the high end they seem to work harder than the average student whatever their major is.
* Engineers are mostly male ... this one is true ... the percentage got a lot higher in the late 70s / early 80s but still is pretty heavily male. That is one reason I went to a bigger school with lots of different types of students. At work this is not as much as an issue (among other reasons ... a common piece of advice is to not date people who work close to you).
* Lots of engineers are not from the US ... true, why is this bad? ... and in my opinion this is a huge pro ... the engineers you work with will be an interesting eclectic set of folks.
* engineers do have to worry about layoffs but I'd be interested to know what profession the OP thinks does not have to worry about layoffs in the 21st century?
* The coment on pay. If you become an engineer your pay will start relatively high and then, if you stay an engineer, flatten out relative to some other folks. That is true in virtually every other filed also. Those other folks that catch the engineers are often continuing their development ... going back to b-school, going to law-school, starting their own business. Last time I checked that was not a disclaimer on a b-school or law school application saying engineering undergrad are not allowed to apply ... this same opportuniites exist for engineers. I think what does happen is a lot of engineers like what they are doing and solving problems and designing things and choose to stay in engineering and to not pursue other possibly higher paying paths.
Punch line to the OP ... there are a couple nuggets in there about things to consider when deciding a major ... but it was, in my opinion, so over-the-top against engineering that it doesn't ring true.
|By Rtkysg (Rtkysg) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 01:31 pm: Edit|
Your Dad is a Nasdaq company CEO? What is the name of the company (So that I will not buy its stock :p)? without a majority of engineers, your dad's company's stock option will waver severely in today's tech competition!!! I've just had on-campus interview with Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, Google and a few DowJones company like GE and Lockheed. What are you talking about?
It's the fact that engineers have the highest employment rate!! and if they don't form a majority in Nasdaq (tech companies), it sounds ridiculous isn't it?
|By Baltodad (Baltodad) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 03:57 pm: Edit|
Are we talking about percentage of the entire company workforce?
I would think that the majority of employees at Intel and other high-tech manufacturers are production workers with high school eductions, not BS or MS engineers. There would also be lots of other job categories that aren't populated by engineers... clerical workers and secretaries, sales, PR, etc.
|By Rtkysg (Rtkysg) on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 11:56 am: Edit|
Ehmm... I think it's obvious that I was comparing the percentage of Engineering grads and Liberal grads in such companies. Needless to say that people working in a bank also comprise of many janitors and high school grads.
For more reference, you may want to read the biographies of Larry Ellison and Jack Welch (I know GE is DJIA not Nasdaq, but it's a tech company nonetheless), and look at the people they're primarily hiring.
|By Madelinemay11 (Madelinemay11) on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 04:13 pm: Edit|
"Electrical engineers - What was the last thing EE's even invented? They are in no-mans territory, because the CS guys are better than them for software, all real research is done by physicists, all hands-on work is done by blue-collar technicians, and anything to do with solid-state is done by mat-scis. "
WTF ??? This person must be an idiot !!! "
WTF??? You're the idiot if you don't even know that much about EE's. Get a clue before you post something you pretend to know
|By Rtkysg (Rtkysg) on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 06:44 pm: Edit|
"WTF??? You're the idiot if you don't even know that much about EE's. Get a clue before you post something you pretend to know "
After spending crazy 4 years for EE at Caltech and still pursuing EE degree at MIT, I think I know something about EE !!. And you're a gal right? How could you say such vulgar words hahahahaha !!
I know you study at Cornell, but undoubtedly not Engineering, so don't bring shame to your school's EE dept, coz without Engineering, Cornell is no better than Penn State
|By Madelinemay11 (Madelinemay11) on Thursday, September 30, 2004 - 11:48 am: Edit|
I don't study at Cornell, FYI. I know several people that do, however.
I think your knowledge of EE is probably strictly book-knowledge. If you haven't worked in the field, you don't know the type of jobs that are out there...I'm sure your contacts have given you the same stories. If you don't end up working on VHLD/Verilog or some other software-utility, what else do you think you'll be doing? What kind of job do you think you'll get, with which company, and at what pay-scale?
|By Rtkysg (Rtkysg) on Thursday, September 30, 2004 - 01:13 pm: Edit|
Oh no no my dear, I have worked for a year at Microsoft as device driver programmer (Yes, EE students often work as programmer), normally EE students do the assembly programming for chips/hardware more than Computer Science student. My pay was not too high, about $79,000 annually. Please don't fool yourself by giving such craps in your post !!!
Let me open your narrow-minded view a little bit: sample prospective jobs for EE students at this moment are as follows:
1. Lockheed Martin: control/analog circuit/software engineering
2. Microsoft: programmer
3. Jet Propulsion Lab (NASA): Control engineer
4. Goldman Sach: Stochastic/Quantitative Financial analyst
5. Cisco: Interface Engineering & Wireless communication engineering (designing parts of protocol if you're in R & D depts.)
6. Micron: Testing engineer or Semiconductor failure analyst or research in semiconductor material
7. GE: Control system engineer
And so many other variations!
If you want to know what the specification of the mentioned jobs is, clear all the required senior classes in EE depts !!
Do you really know what you're talking about kid?? knowing a bit about Verilog/VHDL which is only a sophomore EE class doesn't tell you so much, does it?
|By Piman3141 (Piman3141) on Saturday, October 02, 2004 - 08:42 pm: Edit|
Im still gonna become an engineer regradless of this ignoramus' post.
|By Testertest (Testertest) on Tuesday, October 05, 2004 - 02:39 am: Edit|
There are really two positions in this world plus a transition phase. Always has been and Always will be. Either you are a Leader or a Follower, with the transitional phase being the, Leader-in-training.
Being an engineer can get you up the money ladder faster than other positions and also because you are an engineer, then you can figure the way to getout of being an engineer and becoming the leader.
Agree with marley's ghost. But 'most' of the comments marley makes applies to most if not all jobs. Understand the difference of having a JOB and having WORK.
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