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Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?


In your experience, what US city would you say has the best engineering market? I don't live there, but it seems like Atlanta and Houston constantly have demand for our services. Where I live [Greenville, South Carolina], the local companies are highly unstable and constantly flooding the market with people. Of course, that can be the case in other cities, but the companies based here seem to have a "job shop" mentality when it comes to personnel. I'd be surprised if some of them are open 20 years from now [due to the demographics at some of them (i.e. only a handful of people under 50)].


RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

The transportation and municipal markets in Atlanta seem nearly dead. The state , counties and cities are all out of money. It common to have thirty or more firms submit proposals for projects that would have been considered chicken feed just a few years ago. I'm not sure about other structural work. We hear regular rumors of massive layoffs, reduced hours and reduced salaries at many of the transportation, architectural and engineering firms around town. North Carolina seems to be an engineering hot spot these days.  

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

I have received a few "head hunter" calls from Houston looking for Engineers.  When I explained I was mostly structural and not piping and process - they said that was OK - we will train you.

A few years ago - I was about 52 at the time - the US Army called loolking for sanitation engineers - guess where I would have been headed??.  Again - "We will train you" but I needed to be 47 or less!!!

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?


RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

I'd say Houston for all catagories.

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

The private sector market in Atlanta is essentially dead, with most engineering firms laying off staff.  The only private sector work seems to be churches and small municipal projects through private sector contractors.  The local firms appear to be bidding these jobs near cost just to have work.  I've received a lot of inquiries from headhunters about jobs in Dallas and Houston.

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

While the unemployment rate is quite high in Charlotte due Bank downsizing, a number of Engineering firms have opened or expanded offices there. At least it's close to your home State.  

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

Yeah, I've thought about Charlotte, but monster.com doesn't have many listings. I need to start buying the Charlotte Observer on Sundays.


RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?


For several years now my wife has wanted us to move to the Greenville area as she has a brother in the area and is hoping that if we move there she can convince her parents to join us.

I was hoping that the number of large engineering companies in town would make obtaining permanent employment as a structural engineer relatively easy. I take it from your post that that is not the case.

If you don't mind, I be interested in knowing how long you've lived in Greenville and how far along are you in your career. I understand that employment is down everywhere but my impression from your post is that things were bad in Greenville even prior to the financial bust. Is your assessment of the professional employment situation there shared by the majority of the engineering community?

I hate to be so inquisitive but need some definitive answers to give my mate if I intend to shut down her hopes.

Thanks in advance,


RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?


Unless you have an extremely stable job waiting on you here: I wouldn't even consider it. The local large firms seem to be set on self-destruct and are not of good quality (more on that in a moment). All told, they have spit nearly 500 people out on the street over the last year (and 300 more are coming from what I hear). I had lunch with my former boss the other day and he told me he furloughed himself for the month of July. [He laid me off at the beginning of May, and I haven't worked since. The only reason I haven't relocated is because I'm taking a shot at the SE II next month.]

As for my background, I have lived/worked in Greenville for 12 years (as a structural engineer). I was a (discipline) lead engineer at my previous company, I have an MS & BS and am registered in 7 states. And even with all that: I couldn't get arrested at an engineering firm in this town right now.

But it runs even deeper than that (i.e. my reason for wanting to relocate). Even if things were roaring: I'm still deeply disturbed by what I have seen at some of these [local] companies. [In fact, I felt this way before the recession.] There seems to be a lack of a commitment to quality (and quality people). Let me give you a couple of examples. There is this guy I know [we'll call him Mr.X for the sake of conversation]. Mr. X graduated Magna cum laude (with both his MS & BS degrees, if I remember correctly) and he was an SE [registered in Illinois, et al] before he was even 30 years old (and in this area, meeting someone with those credentials is right up there with seeing Bigfoot). He's really not even a close friend of mine (we're friendly but we don't talk that much) and I have made it a point to mention him to every department head everywhere I've worked. Their reaction? Disinterest. Incredible. What kind of idiot would let that kind of talent pass them by? They could have gotten him but it's too late now (as he is a partner at a small firm at this point). An example on the other end: Mrs. Y. This lady has to be one of the most pathetic engineers I have ever met in my life. Mrs. Y is nearly 30 years into her career and isn't even registered, has no technical prowess to speak of, and can't even do CAD. I remember I had a big confrontation with her [when I worked with her] because of a STAAD model she did for me of a cast in place, R/C frame where she didn't even use cracked section properties or member offsets (as well as a myriad of other errors). And she seems to have no problem hanging on to her job. What I suspect is happening here is 2 things: the desire for low-cost people (bereft of creds/skills), and nepotism gone wild (as Mrs. Y has a husband that is a heavy hitter where she works). At some point the issue has to become: can this guy/gal execute the work that is in front of them? And that starts with a commitment to good people. The management of these companies have the idea that people are a dime a dozen. GOOD people are not.

Granted you could probably find organizations like that anywhere. But this town is packed with them. And I have had department heads (and other higher ups) admit to me that as far as the company's management is concerned: the Greenville office(s) is a standalone job shop (i.e. it will stay open as long as they can find work to sustain themselves, and there is no long-term plan as far as personnel goes (which explains why I have been one of the few people under the age of 50 working at these places)).

So in short: no, I wouldn't recommend this area to anyone (engineering wise). I've lived here my whole life (I grew up in a neighboring county), love the weather and am close to my family (who live here as well) and have pretty much washed my hands of this whole deal.

My 2 cents.  

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

The financial mess has created high unemployment in Engineering; no incoming work/no funding for incoming projects. Presently we are bidding numerous jobs (the good news) which appear to be "real"; i.e., there is real funding. Unfortunately for additional hiring of Engineers, they won't start until 2010. I don't foresee a big upturn in hiring until mid 2010.       

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?


I really appreciated your thorough review of the situation there in Greenville. I'll do my mid-term career planning accordingly.

The situations you described pertaining to the lack of respect for the profession seem to be endemic to both large private and public sector entitites. My take on this is that either 1. the management has become so removed from the actual work that they lose sight of the need for excellence in engineering. They begin to see it as a commodity that can be aquired at will instead of a resourse that must be, for lack of a better term, cultivated. Or 2. management skipped the technical track altogether and rose to a position that sees budget, schedule, and short-term profit as the sole purpose of the organization. They deal exclusively in people management and not physical universe management and do not have the competence to be appreciative of the skills necessary to provide engineered designs. It has been well said that it takes a certain degree of competence in order to know that you're incompetent. But without much in the way of technical experience, they can't know what they don't know.

Thanks again and best to you in your job search.

-Jack Trades

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?


You are welcome. Just wanted you to look before you leap. A lot of people look at this area on the surface/outside and think: Hey, they've got big companies, they've got prestressed manufacturers....let's go! And they get here and it's like You know where you are?! You in the Jungle baby.....  [Speaking of precast manufacturers (another little story to illustrate the situation here): Me and a friend interviewed with one of them locally (for one position) some years ago; and they wound up taking my buddy instead of me (which didn't bother me at all). One of the deciding factors was that I [God forgive me] have actually been with more than one company. So they valued loyalty. Well that turned out to be a train load of fertilizer as they laid my buddy off the minute things got slow. You got to love loyalty when it's a one-way street. wink]

I think you are correct about the attitude that management has that engineering can be obtained at will. The other thing you said about "cultivation" couldn't be more accurate either. Of the few young engineers I have run into at these companies: virtually none of them have been mentored. I wasn't mentored at all either (it was a trial and error process). That's a crazy way to develop your up and coming group (if you actually want one).

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

To answer your question:

In the USA, it's Houston that has the best engineering market.


This is normally the space where people post something insightful.

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

Other US cities that have or have had strong Engineering employment are: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City area, San Francisco Bay area, Seattle and Washington D.C. area. But don't expect any major hiring in any of them at present.  

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

Houston is tough right now. The market is flooded - mass layoffs from O&G has put a lot of very talented folks on the street. If you have a P.E. makes a big difference because most O&G Engineers don't. For a long time most of them mocked the whole idea of a professional license - not any more.

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

Philadelphia area isn't too bad.  Boeing IDS is doing quite well here.

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?


RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

its NOT Pittsburgh............


RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

Try Australia

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

Couldn't help but notice that most of those here were structural and mechanical.

Forget Florida.  First residential slowed down big time.  Us structural engineers hardly took a hit.  Then commercial started to slow and now governments are cash strapped.   Its been a slow bleed.  I keep hearing that things are picking up when talking to various trades and even a surveyor.  But I'm not seeing it.  The large architecture firms have already gone through a few rounds of lay offs from what I hear.  NOW the small and medium sized firms are beginning to lay off people.  

On the plus side renovations have been picking up a bit.  Perhaps things will pick up.  But don't move to Florida thinking your going to get a job unless its something highly specialized.


John Southard, M.S., P.E.

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

Not Phoenix, Arizona.

Mechanical Designer/Drafter

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?


i own my own business in FL. 120 employees 2 years ago. 10 today. None by jan 2010.  

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

Just responding to some of the Charlotte posts...we're hurting as well.  The larger firms seem to be surviving but the smaller firms and the firms specializing in land development are really struggling.

Robert Billings

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

I don't see a "turn-around" either. The small firms have gone bust. The big firms have been surviving off backlog which is quickly drying up. Houston is aweful now - top to bottom, PE or no PE. If there is a market that is doing well - it aint here in the states.

Downhill from here. It is ugly.

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

things are starting to look better here in New Orleans. Corps of Engineers are keeping everybody busy and I don't see a slow down in the next 5-10 years. My 2 cents !

"Does the man make the journey or does the journey make the man" - Mark Twain

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?


I disagree.  While the Corps does have significant work here in New Orleans, there isn't much else. There have been recent weeks with 0 ads in the Sunday paper for engineers.  Typically, New Orleans and Louisiana are behind the curve of the U.S.  I'd suggest things may not have hit bottom here, but I hope I'm wrong.

RE: Best engineering market (i.e. city for it)?

I had been working for a New Orleans- based supplier to the oil patch.  ... until a couple weeks ago.  

Their business is way down, so I'm back in SoFla looking for work.


Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

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