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izax1 (Mechanical)
8 Jan 11 9:14
I just found the following on CNN.

And I wonder: Why has the demand for engineers declined??

And I wonder because everymans demand for engineering gadgets are still present in an ever increasing complexity. (Computers, Kitchen utilities, TV and Home video etc) but I think the most demanding and most complex engineered utilities must be the "tools" we use to get as far as possible and as fast as possible from A to B. And at the same time without failure and accidents. We still need ever more advanced cars, trains, aeroplanes and ships. Wher to they come from if not from clever engineers? And you dont get from A to B with a computer if you do not have the car with and engine.
I am a mechanical (aerospace) engineer myself from Europe and love my job, and have been privileged with working with advanced automobiles, aeroplanes and spacecrafts. This survey from CNN is not unique, and not specific for the US. What will transport the dentists, the doctors, the accountants, the teachers, the politicians from A to B if there are no engineers to design and develop the transporters.

I just wonder?
Helpful Member!  TheTick (Mechanical)
8 Jan 11 12:23
The education field seems to demand post-graduate education of some sort.  In many places it is statutory.

I think one reason more engineers don't get masters degrees is because they are more employable than liberal arts BAs.  Many people resort to grad school (or worse, law school) because their employment or promotion prospects with there current BA degrees are not good.
owg (Chemical)
8 Jan 11 15:39
TheTick has nailed it. The CNN report missed that point completely.


msquared48 (Structural)
9 Jan 11 0:35

Could it be that the construction industry has tanked?

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering
Motto:  KISS
Motivation:  Don't ask

HVACJACK (Mechanical)
9 Jan 11 0:38
I want whatever degree the hot chick is getting, screw money I would rather have the girl.
FeX32 (Mechanical)
9 Jan 11 3:29
[B.Eng] >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>*10^100   [BA]


FeX32 (Mechanical)
9 Jan 11 3:30
As for the gorgeous, you can have her too, she comes with the money thumbsup2


TheTick (Mechanical)
9 Jan 11 11:21
...she comes with the money, and then leaves with the money.
cotelecom (Civil/Environmental)
9 Jan 11 20:15
Izax1, why are you assuming all engineers NEED a graduate degree? The undergraduate degree is almost all that's needed for landing your first engineering job out of college, and then it's the experience that's gained from that point on that matters most. If a masters degree in engineering helps with your current job, or you're trying to completely switch industries, then it might be a good idea. Otherwise it's really up to the individual to determine whether it's needed or not.

As per that CNN study, more than half of the graduate degrees were in either education or business. Many schools and universities require a masters degree as part of their teacher requirememts, so that explains the popularity of the program. And since a whole lot of those BA degrees out there are completely worthless, it's safe to say that many of these same people are pursuing masters degrees in business to make themselves more marketable and employable. An engineer could easily work themselves up into management, whereas a political science major in a dead end won't have that luxury unless they go back to school.

This CNN study is a bit odd though. It breaks down the percentage of graduate degrees awarded in each broad discipline, but then lists a top 15 list of the fastest growing careers for the next decade. And yet, most of those careers don't require a masters degree, let alone an undergraduate one. Would a home health aid, veterinary tech, athletic trainer or physical therapist need an MS at the end of the their name? Unfortunately, what this article doesn't talk about, is the often prohibitive cost of graduate school, which is what discourages a lot of people from pursuing in the first place.  
izax1 (Mechanical)
10 Jan 11 3:13
Yes, many valuable comments. But...

I'm thinking of the manufacturers. Especiallay the Automotive makers. (Ford, GM, Chrysler.) Can'they see they are loosing ground?  The Japaneese and Koreans are grabbing more and more of the market. And as far as I know (And I know to s certain extent the Japanese) the demand for mechanical engineers (MSc and PhD)are increasing in Asia. And when China and India wakes up, Europe and US will be struggling even more. China is today one of the worlds largest Automotive suppliers, but they have had more than enough to supply their home market. When will the west wake up???
Helpful Member!(2)  moltenmetal (Chemical)
10 Jan 11 7:46
Ten of the top 15 growth "careers" listed in that article had something directly or indirectly to do with healthcare.  That's no surprise to me at all.

Don't assume that because engineers are important to industry and society and the economy, that educating MORE engineers will lead to thriving industries and a booming economy!  That would only follow if the ONLY thing holding back industry and our economies was a shortage of engineers.

In Canada, 1/3 of people with engineering degrees per the 2006 census were employed as engineers or managers of engineers.  Until that stat rises from 1/3 to say 2/3 or better still 9/10, nobody can tell me there's a shortage of engineering grads.  Developed nations long ago built the capability to educate more engineers than their economy could possibly use.  It's not the 1950s and never will be again.

As to the usefulness of grad school to an engineer- that depends on what you want to do, and where you want to do it.  The 2/3 of eng grads who remain outside the profession at any given time aren't there because of a lack of an advanced degree, that's for sure.   
Helpful Member!  GregLocock (Automotive)
10 Jan 11 18:42
Perhaps the truth is that manufacturing is best performed in up and coming economies. In that case it might make more sense to colocate the engineers with the manufacturing plants, rather than trying to design at a distance.

If the above is true then there seems little point in stamping your feet and saying that it should not be so.



Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Forum Policies

izax1 (Mechanical)
11 Jan 11 3:39
Well, I really shouldn't care. I'm just wondering.... I have a good and challenging job, and enjoy every day of it. And I am escpecially interested in the transportation sector. I guess any of you employed in that sector have felt the decline in activity over the last couple of years. Escpesially in the West. (If this is wrong, please educate me)The car marked has shifted from European and US cars to more and more Japanese (I'm driving one myself) and Korean. So why is it that they have increased their marked share, and the West have not increased to the same extent? I assume this has something to do with technlogy, price and quality. Furthermore I assume all this has something to do with clever engineering.

Or I might be wrong.......
csd72 (Structural)
11 Jan 11 8:43
I do understand the fact that engineering enrolements are in decline:

I dont know much about the other industries so I will speak about mine.

It is easier to get a business type degree that gives you an easier job with less responsibility that is more respected and that pays more money.

The percieved requirement of Civil engineers has gone down with many local authorities not having a qualified engineer on staff.

Society has been putting less and less emphasis on maintenance, particularly that of things like highway infrastructure. Therefore engineers that previously worked on these things have less work.

When things needed to be calculated by hand it was obvious that a qualified engineer was required to do the calculations, but now that we have automated analysis and design programs there is the perception that less qualified personnel can achieve the same result.

A large amount of the engineering has followed the manufacturing offshore and it is mostly the bespoke design that is left.

Twoballcane (Mechanical)
11 Jan 11 11:11
"It is easier to get a business type degree that gives you an easier job with less responsibility that is more respected and that pays more money."

Unless your talking about MBAs, BA in Business still does not beat the BS in Engineering...

"If you avoid failure, you also avoid success."  

FeX32 (Mechanical)
11 Jan 11 14:17
Twoballcane thumbsup. I can vouch for that as well...
Do I have to say it again for the others ...
[B.Eng] >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>*10^100   [BA]   in every way.


SiliconeAurora (Materials)
11 Jan 11 16:04
Re: izax1's comment of "I'm thinking of the manufacturers. Especiallay the Automotive makers. (Ford, GM, Chrysler.) Can'they see they are loosing ground?"

I graduated in the summer of '08 with a BS in rubber engineering and spent weeks calling Ford and Goodyear and applying for all relevant jobs they were posting, even ones that were probably below my level of education, just trying to get any sort of in. I was pretty darn persistant. After the normal methods of application failed me, I found some midlevel managers and called them directly for an introduction. Got nothin'. I know that was at the height of the recession and all, but still. I'm happily employed now but I still apply at both those companies off and on and haven't gotten anything in return in the slightest.

So it's not just that there are no engineers out there. I was one step away from banging on the doors for a job. For me, at least, I see working non-auto as more job security than auto, which is depressing really.
Murec (Mechanical)
11 Jan 11 16:16
The CNN article is quite clear about the realtion between master's degrees and job opportunities (or lack of thereof):

"While the large number of master's degree earners in business and education is definitely a testament to the popularity of those professions -- it doesn't necessarily attest to the growth of these particular industries and vice versa.

Despite the fact that only 4 percent of master's degrees were awarded in math or computer science in 2009, for example, many of today's fastest growing professions are in these disciplines.

The same goes for health science and engineering -- though these graduate programs may not be as popular as those in business and education, job opportunities are expected to abound."
GregLocock (Automotive)
11 Jan 11 17:27
" I am escpecially interested in the transportation sector. I guess any of you employed in that sector have felt the decline in activity over the last couple of years."

Shrugs. The two main automotive companies in Australia are hiring right now. The company I work for had a small engineeering headcount reduction in the depths of the GFC mainly, I think, so that we could be seen to sharing the pain, but the reality is that SE Asia and the Pacific region is desperately short of automotive product development expertise, and the Australian companies are well placed to provide it. Our designs are built in South Africa, India, China and Thailand and will be exported worldwide real soon now. Bear in mind that the Japanese are getting out of building cars in Japan, it really seems to me that automotive assembly is moving to low cost labor markets, like it or not.

So you can do the King Canute thing, or figure out how to make a career out of the inevitable.


Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Forum Policies

csd72 (Structural)
12 Jan 11 12:31

As I said, I was referring to my industry which incidentally does not appear on that list.

Love the pictures that they put with the job titles:

Computer engineer - shows a guy repairing computers
Chemical engineer - appears to ahow a chemist
Mining engineer - looks like part of a fun park!

Just goes to prove that the media has no idea what engineers do.
owg (Chemical)
12 Jan 11 16:47
csd72 - Thanks for pointing out those pictures that match the job titles, very amusing. I sure would like to know about that mine. It does look like a ride in an amusement park. The rock face looks suspiciously like plaster.


Twoballcane (Mechanical)
12 Jan 11 21:12
LOL yeah I agree. However, I'm sure they got them from some generic photo shop library somewhere on the web.  I used a few of them for posters for some seminars that use to do.  It's just random pics of people doing stuff.

"If you avoid failure, you also avoid success."  

csd72 (Structural)
13 Jan 11 12:54
Yes, but why are there not pictures of actual engineers in that photo library.

Is it a global conspiracy to keeep engineers down and..........sorry I was a bit late with my tablets!
moltenmetal (Chemical)
14 Jan 11 10:40
If there were photos of actual engineers out there, how would you know?

Perhaps close-ups of the working hands of some of the Canadian engineers might give a clue.  But otherwise I don't think we have a distinctive "look", uniform or smell for that matter!
Helpful Member!(2)  cranky108 (Electrical)
14 Jan 11 14:35
If they took a picture of me this morning, it would look like some guy in an office talking on the phone.

Hardly sounds exciting.

After all they need to make a person want to sell themselves into this profession (or become a slave to it).
redraidereng (Structural)
2 Feb 11 11:06
The decline in engineers is country specific. Places like Japan and India have very high enrollments.

In the U.S. the problem is two-fold: 1.  Engineers don't self-promote and 2. Parents don't push their kids into engineering.

Engineers don't self-promote
I work in a large office with a lot of senior engineers. When they explain their jobs to other people they say things like "I work on a computer all day, or I stare at drawings all day".  Instead they could say, " I analyze structures to make sure that they are safe for the public/can be built faster to save clients money/etc".  You never hear stock broker or insurance agent describe their job as "staring at the computer", so why do engineers?

Parents don't encourage their kids into engineering
With all the senior engineers in my office, you would think that there would be a lot of their kids going into engineering. Quite the opposite.  They encourage them away from it.  Another example comes from a family member.  My cousin started in engineering against the advice of his father.  Eventually his father's pressure won out and my cousin switched to business.

I do think that this decline can be reversed.  If engineers promoted their profession and communicated what they do, then the general public would have a greater appreciation for the profession.  Start with your friends and family and be a little more descriptive in describing your job.

These are just my experiences and observations.  
cranky108 (Electrical)
2 Feb 11 23:00
Why promote the profession when truck drivers make an almost simular take home.

I can always say "I solve technical problems, that my coworkers can't figgure out". But I don't. It's easer to say "it dosen't matter, because I get free electricty" (and people believe it).
izax1 (Mechanical)
3 Feb 11 4:25
Yeah, point on redraidereng. My concern is: where are the decicion makers? People that can turn the current? Of course you can never force anyone into engineering (That would be a useless engineer)But it is possible to promote the need for engineers to make the society turn. (Ref my original post.)
moltenmetal (Chemical)
3 Feb 11 8:12
redraidereng: our profession may or may not need promotion, but what it does NOT need is recruitment!  Many engineers confuse these two VERY different things.

What benefit would there POSSIBLY be to graduating even more engineers, such that only 1/4 of the grads end up working as engineers instead of the 1/3 of them who currently do?

Again, this isn't region- or discipline specific, but the general stats tell us that enrollments in engineering SHOULD decline, because our ability to generate engineering grads already outstrips the labour force demand for them by a WIDE margin.  That may not be your personal experience, but it IS what the stats tell us.
Helpful Member!(3)  HornTootinEE (Electrical)
3 Feb 11 9:51
Being recently out of college (4 yrs), and seeing stats that moltenmetal mentions, makes me think the problem is how engineering is billed by high school career/guidance counselors and college admin people.  "Engineers make big money"  Well, yeah, we make decent money.  Better than most school teachers, janitors, warehouse people, etc.  But do we make better money than most electricians, linemen, plumbers, HVAC techs, truck drivers?  The answer is NO.  Seems the only way to make the "big money" that these counselors talk about is to leverage your engineering degree to get into a management position at Company X, Y, or Z.  Or work for 20 yrs for "the man" making your 2% increase a year and generating contacts until you can make a go on your own, then you work many, many, many hours for that pay day.  Maybe my company is different, but I don't know a upper level manager that truly puts in more than 40 hrs. a week.  The company "owns" them to some extent, so they may have to check email on vacation or make a decision on a weekend, but thats about it.  My point being:  most engineers (who are still engineers) that I know do it because they like the work and the technical problem solving, and they have found other ways to bring home more income if it is money they are looking for i.e. property rentals, etc.  Only 1/3 of engineers work in the field because thats the only ones that truly went to school to be engineers and didn't probably have their sites set on being the CEO of their company, or some upper level money crunching puke that tells engineers they have to cheapen their product...

Hope I'm wrong with most of my statement, those of you who have moved into management, do you manage engineers or are you strictly a business manager?  I see a HUGE difference in the two.
cksh (Mechanical)
3 Feb 11 10:36
Trade workers making more money than an engineer is not always true.  You need to compare years of xp, type of work, location, company, overtime etc.

I work in Automotive, and although there are line workers making more than me (My uncle made 100k+), their hourly rate is maxed, less than mine, and the only reason they make more is because of overtime.  I surpassed their max hourly rate years ago and am only mid career.  

Sure, there are many electricians, plumbers etc making much more because they get to keep what they charge, but they usually own their own company.  And they didn't come right out of training making that money either.  As with most careers they paid their dues.

Every Engineering field has different pay scales, but I don't know many other careers, short of medical or law, that pay what my coworkers got paid straight out of school.  And my salary shows no signs of a cap.

I would never push somebody to become an engineer, or into any other field for that matter, but if they had the interest, I might encourage them.
csd72 (Structural)
4 Feb 11 7:51
The question is not whether an engineer makes more momey but do they make enough more money to justify the years out of the workforce and the education debt at the end. My feeling is that the answer is 'no' in the uk, the US and Australia.

Also comparing yourself to the average lineworker or truck driver really gives a skewed picture. If the average professional engineer was to spend 4 or 5 years dedicating their energy and intelligence into coming up with the best way of making money than they probably would be considerably better off than the average line worker or truck worker.

As for the comments regarding decision makers, I really think that we should be more outspoken about the lack of technical competence of the government and of people in the media.

When that architect said that the world trade centre would not have fallen down if it was made of reinforced concrete, where were the engineers telling him that he didnt know what he was talking about and he should leave those sorts of statements to those who do.

We need to make ourselves heard in the media.
Twoballcane (Mechanical)
4 Feb 11 16:03
"But do we make better money than most electricians, linemen, plumbers, HVAC techs, truck drivers?  The answer is NO."

Hmmmm ok...from the United States Department of Labor (

Plumbers (Building equipment contractors) $21.86/Hr ($45,469/Yr)

Electrician (Nonresidential building construction) $22.21/Hr ($46,197/Yr)

HVAC Techs (Building equipment contractors) $ 18.26/Hr ($37,981/Yr)

Median hourly wages of heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers were $17.92/Hr ($37,274)

Ahhhhh... yes we do...

Mechanical Engineering $74,920/year, (I'm actually between the highest 25% and 10%) so the delta from say an electrician is $28,723 per year.  Let's say the same ratio over 40 years, so that is a delta of $1,149,000 by retirement.  Not too bad.

Also new grad engineers start salaries rank the highest compared to other degrees:


"If you avoid failure, you also avoid success."
"Luck is where preparation meets opportunity"  

cranky108 (Electrical)
5 Feb 11 0:06
Location, location, location. Many engineers who live in the midwest don't earn that much. Until I got out of that, I wasen't paid that much.

On the other hand, there are still places I could earn more, but I don't want to live there. So balance of location is the key to here.

But for so many unfilled positions, we are not seeing rising saleries, like you would see in other professions.

True so many grads don't stay in engineering, but how does that compare to other professions? But without experence why would anyone want to hire a grad? They want to grow an engineer (Which seems to be rare).
FeX32 (Mechanical)
6 Feb 11 11:13
As for hourly rates.
I made $36.50/hr as a teaching assistant at uni.  


HornTootinEE (Electrical)
7 Feb 11 9:47

In reference to cranky, Location.  I'm in the midwest, and in our state Electricians, Plumbers, Lineman, etc. make much higher than the median wage you have shown.  So I guess my understanding is skewed. Thanks for the national average stats though, it's an interesting look.

csd72 (Structural)
7 Feb 11 12:26

You missed my point entirely on that one.

If you add up the cost of university to the salary you could potentially have been earning at that time you get about 70k a year. Over 4 years that gives you a total of about 240k that you are behind before you even start working.

It is a good ten years before you start getting anywhere near even with a salary in the upper quadrant. Those are the ten years when most people buy a house, start a family, contribute the most important part of their pension e.t.c. most of the most expensive things tend to happen in those years.
HornTootinEE (Electrical)
7 Feb 11 13:52

You are talking to exactly my perceptions... I know in my current situation, our Lineman average $72,000 per year.  It will be at least another 3 yrs until I reach that level, on my current pace anyway at this company.  I will be 7-8 years out of college, with a 4 yr degree that took me 5 yrs and a final school bill of roughly $60,000.  So we're talking 12 yrs out of high school. Those guys had one year of school (post high school) with a bill of roughly $10,000 and had that $72,000 wage just 3 yrs after trade school when they reached journeyman status.  So as you say, by age 30 I have the same wage they had at 23.  And I got married, have a little one, bought a house, etc.  I can tell you my house and vehicles are much more modest than several of the lineman, who happen to be 3-5 yrs younger than myself.
owg (Chemical)
7 Feb 11 17:10
MoltenMetal - Attached is the best I can do for an "engineer at work". This one is a chemical (process) engineer trying to figure out how to get oil out of sand. Note the oil sands mine face in the background.


Twoballcane (Mechanical)
7 Feb 11 17:24
csd72, so $1,149,000 - $240,000 = 909,000 left, still not too bad and you still have all of your body parts.  However, lets speak in averages.  Other factors that other people may be doing better (or worst) is that person's own doing (i.e overtime, initiative, economy...etc).  So please supply data that shows your argument, if not, it is just hearsay.  Please do not take my statements being mean, I guess my writing style on this board come from my NYC roots.

However, in my case, I went to a public college and today's tuition is around $3,000 per semester (and yes it is an ABET school, with a Bachelors in Engineering to boot).  When I graduated back in 1995 it was $700 per semester.  It was a commuting college too so I stayed with my parents.  I do have to say it took me about 12 years after graduating to break the six figure mark.  I do have alums in my company who are doing much better than I and one day hope to reach their level of pay and especially engineering prowess.


"If you avoid failure, you also avoid success."
"Luck is where preparation meets opportunity"  

moltenmetal (Chemical)
7 Feb 11 20:06
Twoballcane must not have studied the time value of money in engineering economics...that early money versus early debt is worth a lot, presuming you have the wisdom not to p*ss it away...

For the engineers who get jobs as engineers right out of school, I don't think they're too badly off relative to the trades.  But if my classmates and those of some of my colleagues are any indication, the ones who graduate and get jobs outside of engineering, in the general business world out there, do even better.

If we did a better job of controlling supply into our profession, like all the REAL professions do, all the people who actually work as engineers would be better off.  Instead, we're out there recruiting kids to become engineers as if we're in short supply.  I guess more than a few of us don't understand basic economics!

Engineering is still a good gig if you're in the top 10% of your profession.  Trouble is, it was once a good gig if you were in it at all...I don't personally call that progress.
HornTootinEE (Electrical)
8 Feb 11 9:08
IF we required licensure to even be called an Engineer, that would change things immensly.  
Technically, that is the base.  But I work with many engineers with engineering degrees who are not licensed engineers.  So to our company, engineers are a dime a dozen.  Licensed engineers, on the other hand, are few and far between.  If law required everyone, even private extempt companies to have licensed PEs heading their work, engineering would certainly become ALOT more valuable, as would licensure.
GregLocock (Automotive)
13 Feb 11 2:57
Yes, we've noticed that requiring all drivers to pass driving tests ensures a consistently high standard of driving.

If you make licensing compulsory, schools will aim at teaching for the license. Be careful what you wish for.



Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Forum Policies

ScottyUK (Electrical)
13 Feb 11 6:15
The CNN study looked at percentage change in numbers recruited, not absolute numbers. Some of those fields are pretty narrow and specialised, so a few extra positions make a big difference. If you don't want to tell the truth you can always hide it behind statistics.

If we learn from our mistakes I'm getting a great education!

brandonbw (Civil/Environmental)
1 Mar 11 8:54
Yikes, CNN and percentages.  Anyone who took some math classes knows how pointless those two go together.

Reminds me of when I was in Jury Duty and made my deliberation understand the math they were thinking, which is just insane to begin with, and they finally agreed they were willing to give the winner in the trial unlimited money.

B+W Engineering and Design
Los Angeles Civil and Structural Engineering

flash3780 (Mechanical)
10 Mar 11 22:38

Quote (moltenmetal):

IF we required licensure to even be called an Engineer, that would change things immensly.
Ehhhhhh... it just sounds like more bureaucracy, fees and paperwork for everyone to deal with to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm working on getting licensed. But, what is gained by getting the government involved further? Do products fall apart because they were designed by unlicensed engineers? We fly in aircraft and drive in cars that were by-and-large designed by unlicensed engineers.
moltenmetal (Chemical)
11 Mar 11 9:26
Ask yourself this:  who is better qualified to judge the competence of an engineer:  another engineer, or a non engineer working for an insurance company?

The argument that engineers don't need licensure because people aren't being killed daily (as they once were) as a result of engineering errors is missing the point.  Protecting the public is different than, and superior to, merely compensating the victims after the fact.
flash3780 (Mechanical)
11 Mar 11 12:19

Quote (moltenmetal):

Ask yourself this:  who is better qualified to judge the competence of an engineer:  another engineer, or a non engineer working for an insurance company?
You're presenting a false choice. Insurance companies employ consulting engineers and have a huge monetary stake in designs working vs not.

I would argue that many government engineers are more involved in project management than engineering (in general) and also rely heavily on consulting engineers.

As was mentioned earlier, just because the government gives you a piece of paper saying that you're an engineer doesn't mean that you're a good one.

Also, there is the issue of overseas competition. If companies cannot find engineers in country, it's easy enough to go out of country for many products. There's nothing that says one country's engineers are better than another. The same can't be said for other professions like doctors, lawyers or plumbers - all who have strict licensure requirements to maintain high pay.
rmw (Mechanical)
12 Mar 11 22:40
Let's see...

I have a CDL (Commercial Drivers License) in my pocket good for tractor-trailers and/or buses and it is said that I can make more with it than as an engineer?  Then why am I working as an engineer?

Because it is not true that I can make more.  I can gross more (maybe), but I can't make more.  By the time I pay road expenses and a lot of other hidden "etc" I would make a lot less.  Many truck driver's families live on about $10-15K/yr after all the bread winner's expenses are paid.

Now to the OP topic.

Engineering is the "stealth" profession.  If engineers as a whole did what Doctors and Lawyers do with respect to promoting their profession, when someone says in that house lives a Doctor and over there is a Lawyer, they would also point out where the engineers live too.

Doctors control what and who gets into their profession and control the numbers.  Interestingly they too in these times area having to fill their ranks with non-citizens.  They do have one thing in common with us in that their education is rigorous too.

Lawyers on the other hand have a racket.  They have discovered that those that make the laws can benefit from those laws so they all go into lawmaking.

If we could get a lot of engineers to get interested in politics and get elected and start making laws that benefited engineers like Lawyers do for Lawyers, we'd swap places with them.

In general we do what we do because we like what we do, not because it is a money making racket.  That has been pointed out in this forum several times before.

Because what we do is technical and difficult we tend to attract the nerdy types (yes that would be me too and proud of it.)  I'd rather design and build a power plant any day than invest in one.  But then again, I am not going to bitch when the finance guy down the street makes more money trading the power than I made generating it.  The choice was mine.

davefitz (Mechanical)
22 Mar 11 7:44
Back to the CNN  article:

A decrease in US engineering advanced degrees is likely tied to the increased difficulty in obtaining a visa for overseas students post 9/11- they  had traditionally made up the majority of US engineering grad students.

A US engineer that has just graduated has to make a choice- accept a job at $50K plus benefits and start paying back their college loans, or spend another 1-2-3 yrs in grad school , accumulate another $20-60K in debt , and possibly be overqualified for whatever jobs are out there. For most , it is not a difficult decision.

Teachers /educators usually qualify for a higher pay grade if they obtain  an advanced degree, so that is a rational choice that explains that increase in MA's. It is not so clear cut with engineering- assuming you can land a job.
cranky108 (Electrical)
22 Mar 11 14:49
If we could get a lot of engineers to get interested in politics and get elected and start making laws that benefited engineers like Lawyers do for Lawyers, we'd swap places with them.

Jimmy Carter was an engineer, and that fact made things worse for engineers.
thinkfree09 (Electrical)
22 Apr 11 13:31
I think people are definitely choosing to go in the direction of choosing an Master Degrees that will increase an individuals earning potential.  Especially, if he or she has worked as an engineer for quite some time and do not feel that there is room for taking on more leadership roles within ones establishment.  However, making the choice to obtain a non-engineering degree can also be of some benefit to those who are the few who do (increase pay).  Perhaps, one of the major reasons why our schools are not generating more engineers are simply because people do not have the interest or encouragement to proceed in an engineering curriculum.  
Helpful Member!(2)  lacajun (Electrical)
26 Apr 11 10:51
I've read and heard for many years engineering enrollment in the US declined because it is difficult.  They want to party in college and engineering school is not "that" conducive to partying.

Former colleagues, who are now retired, could not get their kids to pursue engineering because their kids saw the way they were treated by the company and wanted no part of it.  They also resented their father's being away from home so much.  They wanted to be home for their kids to be an integral part of their lives and deduced that an engineering career would not allow that.
izax1 (Mechanical)
27 Apr 11 3:08
Hmmm. Interesting comments. Although I'm not from the US, I think we can see the same pattern in Europe. Maybe we have to wait until AirForce One and the limousines are not working anymore, and no replacenments are to be found. Then maybe someone will start thinking.....

Where have all the engineers gone??????
Jafka (Chemical)
27 Apr 11 10:34
A lot of jobs will be phased out over the next 10-20 years as "workshare" (the new word for "outsourcing") starts to really kick in at the larger design firms.

Operations engineering will also generally go overseas to follow the exodus of manufacturing jobs.  This is excepting domestic industries like natural gas processing, which will stay in the US.
Twoballcane (Mechanical)
27 Apr 11 11:11
Interesting article:


"A vast amount of "stuff' is still made in the USA, albeit not the inexpensive consumer goods that fill the shelves in Target or Walgreens. American factories make fighter jets and air conditioners, automobiles and pharmaceuticals, industrial lathes and semiconductors. Not the sort of things on your weekly shopping list? Maybe not. But that doesn't change economic reality. They may have "clos[ed] down the textile mill across the railroad tracks.' But America's manufacturing glory is far from a thing of the past."


"If you avoid failure, you also avoid success."
"Luck is where preparation meets opportunity"  

Helpful Member!  KENAT (Mechanical)
27 Apr 11 11:27
How many semiconductors are really made in the US?

We sell into that market and most of the instruments we sell go to asia.

Similar goes with other items in that list.  

With all the off set requirements etc. many components for aircraft and vehicles at least are imported, and we're teaching the 'customers' how to do it their selves next time (well, maybe, easier said than done for some of the items).

Even a lot of high tech stuff is already being made in China or similar places.

Don't misunderstand me though, US is doing better than US last I saw.  However, I fear they're maybe on the same track, except the UK is further along it.

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KENAT (Mechanical)
27 Apr 11 12:47
"US is doing better than UK last I saw"

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Jafka (Chemical)
29 Apr 11 10:36

I think it's misleading to take the total dollars of manufacturing output and present that as a sign American industry is actually doing better than anyone else in the world.

What I like is Perry's original blog post concedes the loss of over 7 million manufacturing jobs since 1970 but still concludes with "Americans should take more pride and celebrate our status as the world's leading manufacturer." Hurray!
StoneCold (Chemical)
29 Apr 11 13:26
I think the thing that would benifit engineers the most is if all engineers worked as consultants, like most lawyers and doctors.

In house engineering drives down the "value" of engineering.  Engineers are put in compromising positions when they work directly for the end user.  You also get swallowed up in the company, and your voice becomes that of an individual, not "The Firm".  
That being said I have worked the last 10 years as an
inhouse engineer.   

Stone Cold
cranky108 (Electrical)
29 Apr 11 14:53
I can't believe there is "the firm" and consultants. Many times working for "not exactly the firm", I have found consultants making really bad design errors, so I believe there needs to be some "the firm" engineers, as well as consultants to fill in where required.

The "not exactly the firm" that I work for also employes lawyers and doctors (in very different departments), and so many of us consider ourselfs as gardians of stupid ideas (take that one of two ways).

We all bring something to the table of ideas, and bad buckets of ideas always seem to leak away.
moltenmetal (Chemical)
29 Apr 11 15:21
StoneCold:  couldn't disagree with you more!

We've permitted ourselves to be separated from the value we create such that we've ended up as commodified service-providers (i.e. servants).

Too many of us are consultants, whose only product is paper.  Too few of us are true participants in the value chain we create or enable.  That participation comes with risk as well as reward.  By avoiding the former, we've lost quite a lot of the latter.

lacajun (Electrical)
29 Apr 11 19:59
Engineers are commodities.  We've done it to ourselves, which is my personal opinion.  Many of us don't ask for more.  As a profession, we don't take care of it the way doctors and lawyers care for theirs.  It isn't for lack of smarts.  I know doctors and lawyers, who couldn't cut engineering, that aren't too smart in their chosen profession.  They have great memories but can't translate or correlate knowledge and ideas too good.  Yet, they've made a lot more than I have.  Part of the reason is licensing.  They have to be licensed to practice.  Very few US engineers get the license, which indicates to many that our profession is easy, unregulated, and not to be taken seriously.  Years ago I heard the stat that roughly 2% of all engineering graduates get the license.  I doubt that has changed.  I've met young and not so young graduates that have never heard of the FE or the PE.

Many technicians and technologists are quite happy to denigrate the engineer because engineering is easy.  Anyone can understand it and EE is the easiest of all.  I've heard it many times.  One maintenance hand criticized me greatly for one of my solutions.  I had budget constraints and unsuccessfully lobbied to get more money to spend.  A solution was not worth more money than they had budgeted.  The maintenance hand convinced the Process Engineer to spend more money.  He had greater access to him and they were buds.  He then exclaimed loudly to anyone who would listen that he could do EE and much better than I ever could.  I let him go on and kept silent.  He enrolled in engineering and dropped out the first semester because he couldn't handle math.  He had the courtesy and grace to apologize to me for his criticisms.  I had the courtesy and grace to accept.

But that, ladies and gentlemen, is how our profession is viewed by too many people.  They cannot see the value we bring through building materials and products, transportation, fuel, computers, appliances, food products, medications, medical equipment, entertainment, etc.  We, collectively and individually, do a very poor job of educating the public in all the ways we touch their lives.

I doubt too many people with mental illness, cancer, depression, epilepsy, etc. would want to do without their medications.  Without engineers, their medications would not be possible.  I doubt they ever consider this throughout all the years they pop those pills, take those injections, etc.

One of the fundamental problems is that people are so entertainment oriented today they don't want to be bothered with how products are made and reach their periphery.  But, I digress......
Helpful Member!(4)  SNORGY (Mechanical)
30 Apr 11 11:37
The change required to restore appropriate dignity and respect for our profession needs to come with, and be driven by, regulation.  Where I come from, the governing association is actually "self governing" and, accordingly, self-regulated.  That governing body has historically become very hands-off and non-participating with respect to supporting this cause on behalf of its membership, and has contributed towards what is now nothing more than a cut-throat market of commodity providers.  Engineers - particularly those in EPC firms ("consultants") are no longer applied scientists or professionals; rather, they have allowed themselves to become nothing more than vendors.  With all vendors, faster and cheaper is better.  Here is my own mathematical take on the subject.

Let Q = Quality
Let F = Faster
Let C = Cheaper
Let B = Better

According to what has now become the prevalent business model in EPC (where P.Eng.'s are ruled by MBA's):

Q = F + C + B

However, it is difficult to tangibly quantify "B", so the following substitution is typically made:

B = F + C


Q = F + C + (F + C)

Q = 2(F + C)


F + C = (Q/2)

Put another way:

Q = F + C + B

(F + C) = (Q - B)

(F + C) = [2(F + C) - (F + C)]

(F + C) = (F + C)

From which, one concludes two things:

(1) When considered only in terms of speed and cost, quality is halved.
(2) "Faster and Cheaper" is exactly equal to "Faster and Cheaper", and "Quality" is eliminated from consideration altogether.

I call it "MBA Algebra".

Not that I am in any way bitter.



lacajun (Electrical)
30 Apr 11 15:55
SNORGY, I agree.  An old friend, probably in his 70's by now, got an MBA in the 60's and watched what it did to Corporate America over the decades.  He believes it is one of the most ruinous things to happen in this country.
HEC (Mechanical)
2 May 11 1:58
Got my star fot that derivation. Mind if I circulate it to a few friends in the EPC business?

Mark Hutton


SNORGY (Mechanical)
2 May 11 9:52
No worries Mark, it's public domain.

Caution, though.  I presented it to management at my former place of employment.  They were not overwhelmingly amused.



TPL (Mechanical)
2 May 11 22:46
Here's another 'less mathematical' version:


You can only ever have two of these qualities applied to a project. Select the two you want and you automatically get the opposite of the one that is left
KENAT (Mechanical)
2 May 11 22:51
At best you can get 2 of the 3, often only 1, and on some dog projects 'none of the above'.

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lacajun (Electrical)
3 May 11 9:45


Caution, though.  I presented it to management at my former place of employment.  They were not overwhelmingly amused.

SNORGY, over the years I've found management to become decreasingly humorous and increasingly sensitive.  They cannot admit to making a mistake, which makes them exceptionally uptight.  In 2005, I interviewed with an engineering manager who had nothing personal in his office.  It was stark and cold as was the interview.  He began as an instrument engineer and was known for doing projects with excellence.  As the engineering manager, he finally "understood" why excellence was not required.  He moved back to engineering in 2009.
SomptingGuy (Automotive)
3 May 11 9:58
Where did: Q = F + C + B come from?  I though trying to define Q would make you lose your marbles.

- Steve

SNORGY (Mechanical)
3 May 11 10:06

"Q = F + C + B" was a model developed by management...MBAs...



SomptingGuy (Automotive)
3 May 11 10:24
And I thought "Q" was connected with motorcycle maintenance.

- Steve

looslib (Mechanical)
3 May 11 11:24
'Q' invents all sorts of tools of the trade for Sir James Bond.

"Wildfires are dangerous, hard to control, and economically catastrophic."

Ben Loosli

SNORGY (Mechanical)
3 May 11 11:46
I am quite involved in dog agility.

Accordingly, "Q" often eludes me as well, if it exists at all.



cranky108 (Electrical)
3 May 11 12:51
I am afraid that what managment wants dosen't involve fase, good, or cheep. Whay they want is something that makes them look good, and involves there promotion.

My perspective is we as working class engineers, need to be good at our jobs, no matter what managment puts in our way.

Said another way, managers are like "vars", they provide no useful work, but are required to get work done.
SNORGY (Mechanical)
3 May 11 14:10
This is a direct quote from the leadership (management) of a hypothetical (let's call it that) place:

"We will be the best in the business if we are faster, cheaper and better than anyone else."

While, arguably, that may have been true, the problem was in the ensuing definition of "better".

Thus, it came to pass that there was a Management Brainstorming Assessment (MBA) event, wherein all of the managers and senior leaders concluded that, with respect to "Quality" and "Quality Management", the firm was "...well ahead of schedule..." and "...exceeding expectations..." relative to the baseline plan.  An unidentified individual then asked:

"So...what is "Quality", exactly?"

Nobody knew.

" there a corporate definition of "Quality", at least?"

There wasn't.

" do we know what great shape we're in with respect to it, when we don't even know what it is?"

He immediately became an unpopular individual who went on to deriving random algebraic expressions.

In any event, to me, "Quality" means meeting or coming closest to optimally meeting, the following, in descending order of importance:

(1) Safety.
(2) Suitability for intended function.
(3) Reliability throughout intended design life.
(4) Can be professionally endorsed proudly rather than begrudgingly or apprehensively.
(5) Cost.
(6) Schedule.

But, *STAR* for Cranky108 for saying (paraphrasing) that no matter whatever else management throws our way, we are obliged to do what we do (engineering) well.



SomptingGuy (Automotive)
3 May 11 16:20

Take a week off, read "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance".  It's been 20 years since I read my copy, but it's still in the bookshelf, a definite keeper.

- Steve

SNORGY (Mechanical)
3 May 11 19:43
Thanks Steve.

I will probably have my wife purchase and download the e-book onto her Ipad.  I will read it at our next agility trial.




cranky108 (Electrical)
3 May 11 23:04
Without a guide post, how do you know where you are? If you look back then you could trip and fall. If you only look forward, then you may not see you are alone, and on the wrong path.
moltenmetal (Chemical)
4 May 11 8:58
From where I sit, it seems to me that most engineers have removed themselves from the value chain in an effort to avoid the risk involved in what they do.

Many who find themselves completely outside the value chain except for the value of their fees (a commodity for which supply and demand sets the price), tend to look with disdain upon engineers who remain involved in that value chain, calling our participation in it as somehow a conflict of interest.

Engineers who wish to be compensated properly should put their money where their mouths are.  If they feel that their solutions will give lower installed costs over the service life of what they're designing, they should find a way to be paid on that basis rather than merely for fees provided for "advice", or to prepare drawings and specifications.  

Engineers need to be involved in the game on the financial side, such that there is a motivation for them to take technical risk in return for financial reward, and to invest in engineering solutions as a means to improve financial performance rather than merely to solve interesting problems.  Otherwise, excessive conservatism to protect reputation, or an avoidance of engineering altogether in favour of a reliance on the rote following of codes and standards, is a natural and expected result.

Is the participation of engineers in the value chain in this way somehow at odds with their responsibility to hold the public safety as paramount?  No, I'm not convinced of that at all.
cranky108 (Electrical)
4 May 11 14:58
I don't hold my breath of recieving a bonis for my work. It's to political from my stand point. And managment also isen't interested in offering it for the same reason.
lacajun (Electrical)
4 May 11 16:02
Quality depends on your customer's specifications and your ability to hit them.  I've had to measure how good processes perform to ensure customer's weren't going to gritch about our products.  Management doesn't like rework, downgraded products, or rejects either.

I wish I had negotiated bonuses better with employers.  I've made employers a heap of money because they had no idea how much they wasted.  I didn't either but I knew it had to be a lot just through observation and I was right.  I've also increased throughput a few times, which is another biggie for ROI.
cranky108 (Electrical)
5 May 11 17:12
Not being in manufacturing, we live in a different world. Our customers believe we should work for peanuts, and we should give our products away.

The truth is the customers are getting a very good deal, but they have been given the idea they should get everything for free.
SNORGY (Mechanical)
5 May 11 19:29
I have always said that the most dangerous thing in this business is the client.



SNORGY (Mechanical)
5 May 11 19:31
But...that's not really true.

The client is the second most dangerous thing in this business.

Right behind...

Not that I am in any way bitter.  



Helpful Member!  Stoker (Mechanical)
24 May 11 0:29
Another issue with the engineering world is that the career progression path in many companies is simply not there.  In many cases the people who make it into engineering management get there because they don't make good engineers.  In my experience, good engineers remain engineers while mediocre engineers get management roles and ironically end up making more money than those who actually excel at this profession.
GregLocock (Automotive)
24 May 11 2:54
Why on earth do you equate management skills with engineering skills?


Greg Locock

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KENAT (Mechanical)
24 May 11 11:01
In fairness to Stoker, some of the folks that seem to find their way from Engineering to Management seem to lack either set of skills in significant quantities.

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cranky108 (Electrical)
24 May 11 13:04
Why would any one in there right mind want to be in middle managment? Just look at the history. If there is a layoff, it isen't the guy mowing the grass. It is middle managment.

Besides, why not promote bad engineers to the land of layoff fodder?

I've heard it said many times that "Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in a way that they look forward to the trip".
KENAT (Mechanical)
24 May 11 13:12
cranky, don't be so sure about middle management always being the first to go.  My experience doesn't back that up.

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HornTootinEE (Electrical)
24 May 11 17:08
We had a round of lay-offs a few years ago, and middle management just got bigger, it was the grunts that got let go.  The next round that is rumored based on company direction will also include grunts but not middle-management.

I will say it seems to me middle management may suck a lot.  Stuck between Company and your employees, powerless to get anything done for either side.
lacajun (Electrical)
24 May 11 18:05
I've seen very few middle managers laid off and lots of grunts laid off or fired.  I've seen some pretty unusual tactics by management to fire people, in my day.  It's hard to respect managers for "going along" with some of those tactics, i.e., gestapo tactics.
cranky108 (Electrical)
25 May 11 15:27
Not being in manufacturing, but more of a service area, which dosen't have sales people (I know unusual). They usually looked to consilidate managment.

Now I'm with a company that prides itself in not having layoff's.

And even with the down turn, we cut back on projects, and contractors, but no layoffs.

Maybe the grunts are just so much harder to find in the utility business.  
Stoker (Mechanical)
26 May 11 2:21
I don't equate management skills with engineering skills, but I do equate management roles with increased pay, status and perks. In many industries, middle management roles are better paying than the vast majority of even senior engineering roles.  

Part of the answer to the question "where have all the engineers gone" could be that they have realized that there simply aren't a lot of opportunities to get upper tier jobs strictly within an engineering role. Although many people are drawn to engineering because it can be a very rewarding career, the reality is that most of the people who are smart enough and hard working enough to get into the engineering field also have the skillset to make more money elsewhere.  Young people today are evaluating careers more closely than kids did in the past and with so much information available, especially in forums such as this, it is pretty easy for kids to find out what they can expect from a career in this field.
GregLocock (Automotive)
26 May 11 4:24
Perhaps management actually deserve the higher salaries than engineers? Perhaps we're the silly ones who the grown-ups let play in the sand pit while they do the tricky stuff.

Incidentally if you really want to know why your boss is paid more than you for less work, check out 'tournament theory'.


Greg Locock

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SnTMan (Mechanical)
26 May 11 10:43
GregLocock has a strong point. The reason I avoid going into management is so I don't have to MANAGE the DAMN PEOPLE:)


lacajun (Electrical)
26 May 11 11:09
Regarding tournament theory,


employees discover that the most efficient way of winning a promotion is by sabotaging the efforts of their rivals. You don't need economic theory to spot that risk.

Sabotage does occur and management often does not see it or do anything about it, if they do see it.


tournament theory also helps to explain why insiders, not outsiders, get cushy jobs. You thought it was all about the old-boy network, but in fact, the logical reason for promoting insiders is clear: These jobs are designed to keep your workforce motivated.

The Good Ol' Boy is alive and well and often does not keep the Ol' Boys motivated.  I've watched this for years.  Men have bragged about how little they have to do to move ahead.

From my observations, I don't think tournament theory works as good as they think.

I took the above quotes from Why Your Boss Is Overpaid.  Tournament theory is a new term for me but I've always known I was in competition with others.  It is one reason I volunteered for jobs others wouldn't touch, i.e., to gain the experience.

Many men will not take assignments they know have a high probability of making them look bad.  It significantly reduces their promotability.  I have heard this from more than one man.  For me, looking bad took a back seat to gaining the knowledge to do my job better and be a stronger competitor.  Gaining knowledge was worth the risk and I thought I would succeed.  As a woman, that was viewed as being too aggressive by the men.  I have been told that more than once.

Some of you are probably thinking I rag on men a lot and must hate them.  That is far from the truth.  I love men and what they have done, are doing, and will do.  At least, the good guys and there are plenty of them around.  smile

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