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More employment opportunities for engineers?

More employment opportunities for engineers?

More employment opportunities for engineers?

Just curious, but do people feel like the job outlook for engineers is improving with the larger economy? We've technically been in a recovery for a while now, but the engineering jobs being advertised seem few and far between, if there are any at all. Am I missing something, or is this a jobless recovery for engineers as well? The only jobs I see being advertised are so specific with their requirements that over 90% of the engineers that apply probably aren't considered qualified. Your thoughts?

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

This is a jobless recovery for many professions, with the unemployment rate upwards of 10%.  I've been out of work for about 6 months and things aren't looking up.
There are two people I know with 15+ years of experience who are taking jobs with a $25,000 pay cut.
It doesn't seem to be getting any better.

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

I am a structural engineer in the commercial/industrial realm.  Commercial buildings such as retail and office buildings is extremely slow and appears that it will be for sometime.  The vacancy rates of buildings is quite high right now and as such rental rates are dropping.  It would take a significant uptick in the economy to start to fill the vacant space in order for companies to take on the cost of new construction.

Industrial clients seem a little more inclined to spend money, but much of that is for long over due projects, not from a need for expansion.  

The latest number from AIA Billing index is still less than 50 which represents a precieved decline in future billings.  I think that your perception is correct.

I do know engineers that are extermely busy right now.  This is largely due to layoffs and the lack of confidence by management that the workload is anything other than a temporary uptick.    

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

Who said the larger economy was improving?

No, the outlook isn't improving.  In fact, I think it's getting worse unless you're willing to relocate.

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

Google "John Mauldin muddle through economy"

Read. Ponder. Learn.

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

Over here in the UK it is the construction industry that is helping to push the economy back out of the recession.

With the olympics and some very large infrastructure projects there is lots of work around for the right people.  

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

I think engineering, in most disciplines, is very limiting for long term career change.  If you design widgets form company A for 10 years then for whatever reason have to switch jobs you are most likely going to find yourself designing similar widgets at company B.  

An engineer's skill set is not as transferable between industries as say a computer programmer, and the job postings cotelecom mentions are evidence of it.  Companies are posting job ads that could really only be filled by poaching a competitor's employees or laid off workers.  This doesn't mean you shouldn't apply though since companies often put up such "wishlists" just to see what hits they get when in fact they are willing to accept less.


RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

I heard that job oportunities unfortunately do not increase with the larger economy in the USA. As csd72 wrote it seems to be better here in Europe. In Germany mechanical and electrical engineers are again in great demand.

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

Quote (GregTirevold):

An engineer's skill set is not as transferable between industries as say a computer programmer...

You mean "A mediocre engineer's skill set".

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

It is just like selling a product (yourself) If you are selling a general product, there are lots of compedetors. If you are selling in a nitch market, then you are limited in a different way.

Said another way I can find another job, if I am willing to move to the places the job is. If I were a generalist, I may not have to move, but I might have to take a pay cut.

When you enter the engineering field, you in a way choose which path you take. That's life.

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

oftentimes a finely crafted employment ad with unusually distinct job qualifications are in fact designed to apply only to a single, known , applicant, who happens to be working with an immigrant visa. Such jobs usually need to be advertised so that if a citizen engineer has the correct qualifications then they would get the job ahead of the immigrant, but by crafting the qualifications so that only the known individual qualifies, he gets the job.

Sometimes the same process occurs with scholarships,; this process with scholarships may be viewed as a tricky way to steeer money to a known applicant .

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

In my experience many employers state their ideal list of qualifications as if they were mandatory.  Smart applicants show in their cover letters how their experience matches most of what is required, and how quickly they've learned new stuff in past (as a means to cover the requirements not currently on their resume).

As to the argument about transferrability of skills, perhaps the best way to say this is that a specialist engineer's skillset is not easily transferred to a new specialty.  While it is possible, employers don't feel they have the time for it.  A specialist's transition from one INDUSTRY to another is far easier, provided you can get by the HR folks who only look for XXX on your resume.     

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

When employers can afford to cherry pick then they will be fussy.

Before the downturn I was interviewing for jobs in things like petroleum that I had no experience in, afterwards I was struggling to get an interview even when I ticked all the boxes.

Accept what you can.


I disagree that engineering is limiting, I think the only time it is limiting is if you spend 10 years doing a very narrow range of tasks. I have had jobs of very different parts of the industry in specialist sign, telecoms, temporary works and industrial companies all of which are very different from each other.

What you need to do is highlight transferrable skillsets.

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?


Just curious, but do people feel like the job outlook for engineers is improving with the larger economy? We've technically been in a recovery for a while now, but the engineering jobs being advertised seem few and far between, if there are any at all.

If you're posting from the US, I'm not sure from where this opening statement originates.  We've had negative GDP growth for the entire year, and only a temporary decrease in joblessness (driven largely by the census).  The economy shed another 50,000+ jobs in August.

The outlook is not bright, and it's driven mostly by uncertainty caused by Washington DC.

-TJ Orlowski

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

Civil/struc. engineering is not trend-based like most of the thriving industries of today.  Sizing a beam or a sewer pipe requires nothing new that it did 50 years ago.  Civil engineers that make green products like water treatment technologies will come out ahead in the new market, because they are the rare breed of engineers that innovate.  A civil engineering bachelors alone is worthless, deservedly so, in today's market.  A non-ABET accredited degree in environmental engineering from a community college will give you more coursework and focus than an ABET degree in civil engineering.

The ONLY marketable thing about civil engineering is government regulations and the fact that the gov't requires a PE stamp.  That's it.  In fact, the only civil engineers I know that are busy work  directly or indirectly for the government.  The profession is such that innovation is frowned upon, unless you consider your minority status or political maneuvering innovation:)   

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

Atlengpe, you sound like an advertisement for an environmental engineering degree program. I'm not sure where you get the idea that a civil engineering degree is worthless. Most 'engineering' degrees are in fact far more valuable than nearly every other program offered at most universities (with the exception of maybe business/accounting and medicine). One would only need to look at the BLS projections for growing industries and even careers that are in-demand as we speak. Engineering is almost always at the top. No doubt that everything is slow at the moment, but that will change in the future......

If I were to list the top three most 'worthless' (your word, not mine) engineering BACHELORS degrees, I would probably put environmental engineering at the top of that list, with geotech and structural civil immediately following. Nearly 100% of environmental consulting companies require a masters degree, and the same could probably be said for geotech and structural as well - simply check the help wanted ads if you don't believe me. If you want an engineering job in any of those 3 niches, you'll amost have to stay in school for a masters degree. Unfortunately, I'm not sure taking on that much additional student debt makes much sense since people in those industries don't seem to make much more money than other civil engineers in other disciplines, not to mention less than nearly every single other non-civil engineering discipline too. One could probably validly argue now that the financial and mental hardship one must endure to pursue and complete any difficult engineering degree, as they all are at good universities, simply isn't worth it anymore. For example, I know several nurses and accountants that make far more than every engineering acquaintance I can speak of, with the same level of experience or less. Yet the aptitude required and difficulty of these school programs is infinitely less than that of engineering. Why study engineering then, unless one is determined to be become an 'engineer'?  

I think I'll have to refrain from putting up these non-technical threads on here from now on. I've gotten everything from people blaming Obama for the recession, claiming the economy is better in Europe (I only recently worked there, so believe me when I say it isn't), and now calling civil engineering degrees worthless and selling non-ABET environmental programs at community colleges instead.
I had originally thought putting up such a thread my elicit some intelligent and insightful responses, given that this site is primarily used by 'engineers' or people claiming to be. I guess I was wrong. Sorry for wasting everyone's time.......

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?


I had originally thought putting up such a thread my elicit some intelligent and insightful responses, given that this site is primarily used by 'engineers' or people claiming to be. I guess I was wrong. Sorry for wasting everyone's time.......

Given that the entire premise of your OP was based a fallacy, I would agree that your thread was a waste of everyone's time.  I wouldn't say it was because of all the dopplegangers posing as thoughtful engineers on this forum.

-TJ Orlowski

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

On the other hand, this is cotelecom's thread. It generated some interesting comments. Especially his recommendation not to study engineering unless one is determined to become an engineer. That advice is helpful to all of us. We should have a group touring universities dissuading potential engineers.

HAZOP at www.curryhydrocarbons.ca

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

Pretty much what you would expect really.

Whilst there has been a slight upturn at least in official figures many companies are still running at below full capacity and many have downsized and laid off staff and have one person doing two half jobs.

The initial upturn will be taken up with slack that is still within companies and any new hires will be for more specific roles rather than general positions that can be covered.

At least in the UK there is an increase in VAT just around the corner and huge cut backs in the public sector, confidence is still low with the people I know. Companies are still wary to take on new hires when many have lost money over the last two years and may have to lay new hires off again before they can see a return.

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

The response to my post sums up the attitude of today's engineers.  They are incapable of understanding or adapting to changing markets and only think in terms of "I deserve respect because I went to XYZ ABET accredited school and I have a license" or "traditionally employers hire XYZ during Q economic cycles and it will rebound".  Guess what folks?  You're in for a shocker on this one.  The jobs WON'T be returning this time (for the better).  

BTW, this forum is called "where is engineering going in the next 5 years".  I offered my insight that env. engineering and water/wastewater treatment technologies sectors will boom. Instead of narrowly asking the question "where are the jobs??? wah wah wah", he should be asking where is the market going and how can I educate myself, get involved, and jump onto being an innovator and CREATE something, instead of waiting around for people to hand you some math problem on a silver platter like you've been taught to think should happen.

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

back to the original post.

some well established industries have greyed-out , and are filled with baby boomers ready to retire and to be replaced by a new crop. Electric power generation ( electric utilities and their suppliers of boilers, turbines, etc) is one such industry ready for complete regeneration. Nuclear power industries ( and its gov't regulators ) as well.

A recent US law passsed 2 weeks ago may accelerate early reitirement, to make room for the next generation- gov't to pay for the health benefits of those early retirees ( 55-64 yrs old) that make way for the next gen.

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

atlengpe- your prediction that "environmental and water/wastewater treatment technologies will boom" was on the lips of everybody 20 years ago when I graduated.  I spent 5 years inventing new treatment technologies and STARVING in these pseudo-industries- before I voted with my feet.

An industry only exists when it has a true value proposition, not just an imagined one based on people's wishful thinking!  And innovation is only useful in a business sense when it solves problems in such a way to generate a value proposition.

Environmental and water/wastewater technologies will only boom when we make water and waste disposal more expensive.  The market is incapable of making that happen on its own- governments need to intervene with regulation and taxation.  20 years into my career  I'm still waiting for this to happen, but I've long ago stopped holding my breath.

My suggestion to young engineers is to not buy the hype about ANY "up and coming" industry.  Engineers wishing to remain employed as engineers should pick a discipline based on what fascinates them most, then build good generalist skills in that discipline.  Engineers wishing to be compensated properly for their efforts should go into business for themselves or with partners, when and to the extent that is possible in one's specialty- preferrably capturing more of the value chain rather than settling for hourly fees alone.  Engineers unable to remain employed or in business should leave the profession.  And engineers should stop flogging the profession of engineering to kids as if it were "the next big thing"- that advice is at least 60 years out of date. 2/3s of people with engineering degrees in Canada have jobs not associated with engineering.  I don't see any likelihood of that situation improving any time soon.  That doesn't make an engineering education a waste of time- no education is a waste of time if you're of the right mindset.  But an engineering education is no longer  professional training (ie. with a high probability of leading to a job IN the profession) in the same way that medical school is.   

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?


An industry only exists when it has a true value proposition

Or when the government subsidizes an industry on the backs of taxpayers.  :)

-TJ Orlowski

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

Thanks Moltenmetal, that was probably one of the best responses on here so far.

In lieu of Atlengpe's postings, apparently we all need to start adapting to and planning for future engineering careers, rather than waiting around for our old silver platter jobs to come back that have forever gone with the wind.

So, with that in mind, maybe we should change the direction of this discussion, more along the lines of what engineering careers look the most promising over the next decade. The most obvious reference would be the BLS's growth projections through 2018:


Some of their projections are quite surprising, and probably debatable. But how they come to these growth estimates is anyone's guess.

Here's a few examples of their assumed growth rates:

Biomedical engineering - 72%
Chemical engineering - 2%
Civil engineering - 24%
Computer engineering - 4%
Electrical engineering - 2%
Environmental engineering - 31%
Mechanical engineering - 6%
Petroleum engineering - 18%

So, some engineering disciplines will experience growth far above average, while others will grow less than nearly every other industry. Would anyone like to dispute these numbers or add some more insight into where these BLS projections come from?

I for one don't believe environmental engineering will ever experience a growth rate of 31%. Unless local counties start building water/waste water treatment plants in every single neighborhood (but everyone in this country already has access to clean water), and companies start polluting heavily again, how could we possibly need that many environmental engineers? This career was being flogged as the 'next big thing' while I was in college ten years ago, as it was 20 years as Moltenmetal can attest to. Yet it still isn't!

And how many people are going to pursue an MS/PhD in biomedical engineering for only $77K per year? That too doesn't seem very realistic.....

Your thoughts on the matter?

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

One of the problem is that the terms used above overlap and don't necessarily mean the same thing to all folks or directly correspond to a common degree type etc.

Lots of mechanical & electrical engineers will work in Biomedical fields without specialist bio mechanical degrees.

My job, or at least my employers market, overlaps hi tech nanotechnology and biomedical.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

Those numbers all look reasonable not withstanding special events like presidential orders/subsidies/disasters/etc..  The civil/env. engineering disciplines are right on par with the population growth of the past decade.  

The population of most metro areas grew by around that much, so really 30% is not high at all for me.

All those numbers look like they represent what would happen if bush had 4 terms.


RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

If you work in a profession you love, you will never have to work a day in your life.

But within any profession there are many avenues that can be choosen.

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

Thinking through some drawings I was reviewing for a water plant. And I can't believe these numbers because of the premise of growing need for waste water plants.

Water engineers just don't seem to do so well in the electrical area. Or at least the drawings I've seen don't reflect that.


RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

Biomedical engineering is a niche market.  It may grow a lot, but that will still provide employment for precious few engineers.

My university has canned the environmental/chemical engineering program it offered for the past 10+ years because of lack of marketplace interest in the graduates.  An environmental/civil program is still offered.

I don't see any engineering discipline growing in the developed world beyond a small multiple of base economic growth.  International trade in services is growing in a huge way, and the lure of lower cost labour markets will be enormous.

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

cotelecom, I'm just here to talk about what I know about the industry I work in and communicate this to you in plain English.  Feel free to ignore me if you would rather talk about statistics.

I can't speak for other engineers, but for civil engineers, I would expect that many graduates are moving to growing cities like Atlanta, Austin, Raleigh, Seattle, Minneapolis, etc. for civil engineering jobs in the development industry.  All these towns above are I believe in the top 10 for growth.  Atlanta grew 30% and Raleigh did better at 42%.  I would imagine that many civil engineers already left many rustbelt cities a decade ago.

Then you have the more specialized civil engineers working on more complex large-scale government projects in all the big cities like Boston, Miami, LA, Seattle etc. etc. and they are usually working for large international companies with big pockets and political power.  

There are so many niches, levels, project types, and complexities in this profession, I think that you should assume that I'm going to have a limited viewpoint based on my particular niche.  

It seems like you are just trying to have a very generalized discussion here?  If so, I apologize for wasting your time.  It seems to me like this forum is more valuable if people are more specific about their niches and try and find other with the same background, if you want any good responses.


RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

I'm an electrical engineer with a large utility in the UK and the outlook is very uncertain at the moment.  We're in the middle of a major redundancy consultation as a lot of major outages and new projects have been cancelled/deferred. So the next couple of years are going to be a rough ride.  Most of the most experienced engineers are likely to go leaving the mid-level engineers to train the graduates.

Looking ahead 5 years and I think there will be a shortage of experienced electrical engineers in the UK.


RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

The Federal Reserve Regional Banks have reported an increase in manufacturing activity in the central states.  They also reported that states that were affected the worse by the housing bust are still having trouble and some states are even in danger of going back into a recession (eg. Nevada).  We are recovering piecemeal, and it is very slow.  The recovery will be fueled by demand, both consumer and industrial, from Asian countries.  If you want to work on military, industrial or consumer electronics design; your best bet is to relocate to another country.  On the other hand if you want to work on technical or industrial systems or technical or industrial projects/processes; I believe there is still a need for that type of engineering here in America.  There is plenty of traditional civil and environmental engineering work in other countries where the government has money to fund such projects.  I don't see that kind of work coming here soon.  One thing that has failed to be mentioned here is that environmental engineering encompasses a whole lot more than building water and sewage plants.  In the future it is going to encompass doing air and water quality testing when the carbon tax goes into effect.  Not only governments, but   every company will need to have a team of environmental engineers on their staff to calculate, reduce, and trade their carbon emissions.  In summation, I agree with those who think that engineering as we have known it here in America is pretty much dead and therefore there is no use in students going into the traditional 5 core engineering disciplines expecting to land a job in engineering in the US once they graduate.  Many of our university's curriculums are severely outdated and the top ones (MIT, Georgia Tech) are struggling to keep their curriculums up to date and their students employed.  Which brings to mind another burgeoning field being taught in Engineering Colleges not mentioned in the BLS study, Financial Engineering.           

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

Well, I see a lot of potential to employ more new engineers in some industries. First, to offset the increased retirements of baby boomers there will be a lot new slots to fill, and these are not counted in the gov't statistics for "growth" .

Second, there are new technologies that  are being implemented and generally better addressed by newly educated  engineers. Much of it is driven by the need to reduce the consumption of fossil based fuels.

For example, the replacement of all conventional concrete components ( portland cement based) with geopolymer based concrete ( using flyash + lye in lieu of portland cement) would require a whole retooling of that industry. A surge in the developement of nuclear power plants is another field that is woefully short of fresh blood .

Water treatment to address the huge developing issue of groundwater pollution, both from hydro fracture drilling of nat gas, as well ans newly recognized pollution from conventional sources ( made visible by improvements in monitorign instrumentation).  

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

I am an automotive engineer in Michigan, and although the engineering jobs have been slowly disappearing for longer than I have been here (1994), there are still jobs and companies are hiring.  Sure, it is no where near as easy to find a job, but I have been able to jump ship 7 times, and have never been without one.  As with any industry, you need to keep your skills, experience, contacts etc up to date.  

I still get constant calls from out of state head hunters trying to get me to move.

There are few carees out there that are still golden (lots of opportunities/has a great outlook).  I can't think of any at the moment.  Even health care has its issues.   

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

cksh, I work in automotve industry too.

Its really bad out there, would professional designation help me ?

Lot of my buddies say that pursuing designation wouldn't make a difference in automotive.

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

I agree with your buddies. So far as I can tell my career would not have been affected one iota if I had not been a member of a professional organisation, and I would be 10000 dollars richer.


Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies  http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

With the devalueing of the dollar, is anyone really going to be better off? Or will we just have a fist full of worthless paper?

I'm more concerned about the slide in our life style. If we keep shiping our manufacturing jobs over there, then that is where our money will go. However I honestly can't buy the products from a company that throws the stock holders under a bridge, and takes goverment money.

So I believe some engineering jobs, like automotive, is in a bad place.  

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

Interested to hear why you think a strong dollar is a good idea if you are trying to retain exporting  industries in your country. Personally I regard a strong currency as a blight. I mean it is quite funny that my pay in US dollars has increased by 50% in 3 years, but in practice there are very few advantages, and the destruction of our export industries is of far greater concern.


Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies  http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

A strong dollar means energy prices are low. A weak dollar means energy prices are high. Which do you think my customers want?

We still export movies, TV shows, software, airplanes, porn, coal, rice, wheat, and if we allowed, our universities would be full. And for this we import money.
Most of these things don't get counted in out GDP.

A strong dollar makes imports cheeper. Things like bananas, cars, oil, and little plastic things from China.

We can make more jobs simply by making taxes cheeper, which would bring more businesses here.

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

Living in Maryland, I suppose I've been somewhat insulated from major job losses and slow down.  Engineer's aren't called to innovate just for the sake of novelty.  We use tried and true methods to ensure safe designs whenever possible, this is the nature of our profession.  Sometime necessity requires a creative solution to a problem leading to innovation.  One thing to mention is that even if population grows less than expected, infrastructure is subject to decay so there should always be a market for repair/renovation.  I do hope that this November brings change politically and spurs some economic growth.   

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

We have had growth in regulations, and mandates, and regulatory fines. That's economic isen't it?

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

From what I have seen in the Engineering news forums there is a great deal of positive buzz coming from the industry.  Obviously growth is very specific and it depends on the location you are thinking of working in.  In particluar, I have found that there are lots of great Engineering Jobs in Scotland.  You can find some very niche roles.



RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

Do Scotish engineers wear boxers or briefs?

RE: More employment opportunities for engineers?

That link to engineering jobs in Scotland only lists 7 of them at the time that I wrote this. However, there are well over 300 accounting/finance/sales jobs listed instead. Clearly Scotland is not the place to go if you're looking for more traditional engineering work. Not a problem if you're an accountant. But if you're an 'engineer' you might be joining the queue at the social welfare office.....and that's assuming you can even tolerate the perpetual bad weather over there. If you don't enjoy grey skies and constant wind and rain, well, Scotland isn't for you!

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