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where are the real engineering jobs
4

where are the real engineering jobs

where are the real engineering jobs

(OP)
It seems to me that technically challenging jobs requiring math and applied physics are becoming rarer each day. Is this a globalization thing or a factor of technology saturation. It is becoming more the norm for engineering jobs to be bureaucratic paperwork shuffling positions. But somewhere, somebody has to be doing the science. I speak from an Electrical Engineering viewpoint so maybe the downturn in that sector fuels my inquiry.
I know there are many who can vouch for the availability of good jobs but these reported here are are taken from a very small subgroup of the engineers. The reason to care is to know what the trends portray even for those who are satisfied now. I have watched the engineering expectation decrease in my part of the country for years now. Many positions are posted for technical degree or just experience and a high school degree with preference for a college degree but not required. I think it very unlikely that a self taught high school graduate will have real engineering analytical skill on average. This indicates to me that the jobs available don't offer challenge and the profession is in decline.

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

I think that's the perspective of a system integrator. Somebody somewhere is still doing the hard yards of ensuring that each subsystem satisfies its interface requirements and performance specs. Somebody somewhere is writing the microcode so that when I chuck a couple of sensor boards onto an Arduino the thing actually works. I'm not disagreeing, those jobs are hard to find, and probably more geographically diffuse than they used to be.

Cheers

Greg Locock


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

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

Pure science is mostly done at universities these days; most corporate science R&D has gone by the wayside. Nevertheless, product R&D still goes on. Certainly, as with many industries, high tech companies were tending to congregate where other, similar companies reside, like Silicon Valley, but there are alternatives, like Silicon Beach.

You don't say what specific subdisciplines you're looking for, which would help narrow things down. And, it's likely that you'd ultimately have to give up on your part of the country for what you want.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

Many engineering roles have always been largely bureaucratic simply due to industry being operations and maintenance focused. Many others are quasi-bureaucratic, more of a technician repetitively implementing and selling the results of well-established undergrad engineering principles and formulas. Where a specific role falls is largely a matter of opinion. In the EE world I'd suggest an example of the first being power generation, the second being CE/SE design and the various EE, ME, etc support roles. If you want to find a truly challenging role developing the science behind new tech then I'd look for a position within a major OEM's research department, usually they have the most resources and are the furthest ahead of today. Having been on the research side of the auto industry I'd add a cautionary note however that it tends to simultaneously be both highly technical and highly political, not a combination most engineers do well with.

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

I have thought this as well. Coming from the Civil Engineering perspective most of the traditional engineering is now essentially following code referenced formulas and requirements. There are instances where unique engineering come into play with custom support systems and alternative materials but they still need to go through the rigorous ASTM testing protocols.

Though with new technology such as AI, 3D printing, robotics, quantum computing, etc will require the elementary back to basics calculations and engineering to utilize these technologies in different ways. Imagine the applications of the quantum (having the 3rd maybe on maybe off option as opposed to only on/off) for electrical and micro processing applications. These will require some some serious engineering. I would say some of these new startups might have those type of opportunities.

Its an exciting world for us in the coming years, the status quo will be changing soon. At least I hope.

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

(OP)
The trouble with new technology is that its development with be centralized to a very few who are the best in the field. I am very worried that many work tasks that need intelligence and understanding now are going to give way to "modules" so to speak designed and refined by others. I just want a job that rewards my slightly higher intelligence and curiosity about the non human world ( math and physics ). All the other crap has no carryover value outside your present job.

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

In structural engineering those code equations are the basics - lateral torsional buckling might look like a complicated formula but it's just as basic as the stress strain relationship.

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

Long ago PPG Industries outsourced the bulk of its R&D to foreign countries. I think Poland was one. The researchers at the R&D center were furious about it because they were highly educated, very experienced, and highly motivated to do research. But, they were too expensive so it was outsourced. Surely, snorgy will agree that an MBA made that decision.

About 10 years ago, the local utility company instituted an exercise for all engineers to justify their existence. What happened was the loss of all of the Professional Engineers. I was getting that from a former friend, who was an unlicensed engineer working there.

Many people do learn by the school of hard knocks in the instrumentation and process control world. They operate under the guise of system integrators. However, you cannot do that work without doing engineering work. Those are the people I compete against and it is very old. The parameters were laid out for me more than 30 years ago and with the encouragement and guidance from more senior engineers I wound up as a Professional Engineer. But, I have to compete against companies that do not meet that standard.

I've tutored many people who thought they were engineers only to find large gaps in their knowledge base and thinking abilities. It's always interesting to see their great desire to be an engineer, call themselves an engineer, but have no idea how to solve one equation with one unknown. There is no understanding of angular frequency vs Hertz. They have no idea about phasors, complex numbers and their relations to modeling inductors and capacitors, etc. If you cannot solve one equation with one unknown, how can you understand anything more complex? That's a rhetorial question.

In my 29 years of engineering, I have come to believe in licensure and believe that the industrial exemption needs to be eliminated. That will protect the profession of engineering. I would encourage you to read David B. Steinman's writings, which you can find on NSPE's website and are available without membership. I agree with Mr. Steinman's original intent. I believe we are far from it. We owe it to ourselves and succeeding generations to leave the profession in better shape than we find it. In that way, we will also enjoy a better standard of living.

And, if you think I'm crazy, so be it. Read about Schlitterbohn's problems of late and realize the consequences of arrogant, uneducated people thinking engineering is no big deal compared to making an exciting ride.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

Oh, and never underestimate the need and power of all that other crap. I was like you for many years but finally began to see a need to change and become interested in the human side of the profession.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

I was recently at a talk by John Cleese. One of the things he talked about was his discovery/conviction that roughly 10% of professionals in pretty much any discipline know what they're doing (are proficient). He gained this opinion for experience and from asking professionals in various fields. I'm sure that, just as everyone thinks they're a good driver and it's the "other guys" that are the problem, everyone interviewed thought they were in the 10% !?

My field has seen a lot of this out-sourcing with the ensuing decline in local talent and ability I think it stems from Jack Walsh (back in the 90s ?) outsouring engineering to cheaper sources. Personally, I'd like to out-source the CEO jobs since I think that few (maybe 10% ?) are worth it ... no doubt much like they think that engineers aren't worth it !?

another day in paradise, or is paradise one day closer ?

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

Of the tasks that I am asked to do, they range from 1 to 10. 1 through about 4 I can ask our admin person to do. For tasks 4 through about 6 I can ask our CADD people to do. Items 6 through 8 our junior engineers can do. I don't think we can outsource 9 and 10, as most consultants just don't understand those.

Outsourcing is always risky in that, a mis-statement of the problem leads to the wrong answer.

So yes it maybe true that 10% know what is going on, but those junior engineers learning their way up are important as they reach for being part of that 10%.

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

"I'm sure that, just as everyone thinks they're a good driver and it's the "other guys" that are the problem, everyone interviewed thought they were in the 10% !?"

"They" have a name for that, the Dunning Kruger Effect, or more commonly, the illusion of confidence, or competence, or knowledge. see: https://www.avaresearch.com/files/UnskilledAndUnaw...

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

The other guy is the problem, because if he were not on the road, I can't hit them, and he can't hit me.

But you are right, no one wants to be wrong, or at fault.

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

I think part of it is a "division of labour" problem. Once upon a time, there were teams of support staff- admin people, drafters, checkers, estimators, etc. In some firms, some of them still exist. But in the companies I've worked for, they've always been absent. That can tend to make a job into a series of tasks that don't require an engineering education to accomplish.

There was also once a progression for technical people- there were junior, intermediate and senior engineers whose progression wasn't necessarily a purely administrative/managerial one, but one of increasing complexity and specialization- you graduated into solving the less routine problems. And in some companies, that progression still exists. In many, the chain is broken- there are too few junior engineers, or progression is always one of people management or project management rather than a progression of a more technical nature.

For my practice, one of the things that has made engineering a hell of a lot less fun is codification. We generated a series of codes and standards which are, at their core, not primarily a set of design guidance for use by competent engineers, but rather a set of prescriptive rules which permit people without an engineering education to do engineering of limited scope without killing people in the process. But these tools, which we built for others, are now being used to stymie and prevent professional engineers from using their engineering judgment. In my opinion, we need two separate documents: one being design guidance rules for engineers, and the other being the prescriptive standard for use by non-engineers. That would go a long way toward making engineering a rewarding profession again, and would eliminate a tremendous amount of waste and redundancy which results from the codes' tendency to smash a fly with a sledgehammer just to make sure.

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

"I am very worried that many work tasks that need intelligence and understanding now are going to give way to "modules" so to speak designed and refined by others. "

Why are you worried about this NOW? This has been the trend of all technology since the development of specialization, and had certainly been the hallmark of electrical engineering development over the past 60 years. Just as most of us don't all program in assembly language, or even machine code, most of us no longer design logic circuits at the transistor level. But, by the same token, you, as a single designer, can now contemplate and execute the design of an entire microprocessor in an FPGA, if you were stubborn enough to not use the existing IP. PCBs no longer need a truckload of TTL MSI chips; that's a good thing, not a bad thing. We no longer forge our own knives, either, so we've lost the individual expertise to know the metallurgy and heat treatments for making good knives, but I don't see many engineers lamenting that.

We now have more computing power in our toy drones than was in the navigation computer on Apollo 11. It's essentially impossible for the average EE to design a logic gate in 14nm technology, since it's almost entirely dominated by parasitics, but it's freaking 14nm dude! When I graduated from college, a reasonably smart guy wrote a long paper explaining why sub-micron MOS wasn't feasible or possible; hah! If you really want cutting edge, you can find it, just has your forebears did. We're at the point, finally, where Moore's Law is starting to go wonky, and the next generation of electronics is being developed in other technologies around the world. This is probably the most exciting era in human history, where, in one's lifetime, you can see MASSIVE changes in technology, to the point where there are multiple generations of technology going extinct and by the wayside: RTL,I2L, TTL, ECL, NMOS, etc. Ditto in a number of other fields. 100 yrs ago, radio was just getting started, and TV wasn't even contemplated, but now, we carry TVs in our pockets and embed them in doorbells. We have tools for slicing and dicing DNA at will; the understanding of DNA didn't even get going until about 70 years ago.

Did you read the sentence about the drones above? You, or I, can design our own navigation system for about $150 worth of hardware! Kalman filtering is no longer for the navigation specialists, we can program and modify open source navigation programs for our own edification or whims.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

(OP)
Ir

I do my own interesting work purely for my benefit. However it is very difficult to get that to put food on the table. I guess my gripe is that engineering is still being sold as "technical" work when 99% of the jobs out there are pegs in holes stuff. Kinda like the old Navy recruitment ads on TV. Everyone is flying jets and watching radar screens, no mention of those swabbing the deck so to speak.

And yes I am living in a manufacturing area of the country and I am not willing to move. So there's that.
I love engineering and math, I recently got my MSEE with emphasis on signal processing and controls. But that appears to be about as useful as a lib arts degree around here.

I am not alone. I see a lot of disillusionment in the new hires when they see just what engineering work is in this part of the country.
Prospective students beware !!

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

I don't know that watching radar screens in a dark room for a full shift is that much more fulfilling than swabbing the deck. Nevertheless, all engineering jobs are going to entail some level of paperwork, if for no other reason than to keep certain engineers honest.

Your profile pings you in KY, which in my experience, has never been touted as a hotbed of electronics development. Given the level of engineering development going on elsewhere in the country and the world, I'd say "Go West, young man!" Blue Origin just had a successful launch and flight, so that's on the cutting edge of both space and electronics development.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

I would advise go to higher voltage, and quit with the small stuff. Anything less than 5 amps is too small.

RE: where are the real engineering jobs

I've always believed that engineering like everything else in life is what you make of it. If you're not being challenged then maybe its time for a new employer or possibly even a break from engineering altogether, many companies have engineering'esque non-technical roles in product definition, marketing, etc that make for good breaks from the usual processes while still having your toe in the puddle of overall design. Some of those roles also may give you a bit of leverage to steer an employer toward new technologies.

JME but there's always ways to challenge yourself whether its developing technology, tools, or process, its simply a matter of finding something to improve. Yes, any decently competent engineering department will promote specialization and break work into smaller and smaller niches. Doing so drives quality, efficiency, and deep expertise not found in the jack of all trades, master of none. Its also the reason why smaller companies and consultants are commonly far behind the proverbial power curve with new technology, bc they simply dont have the resources to allow specialization the way larger companies do. You can read academic papers all day long, be a certified jack of all trades PE, but unless you're actively pushing yourself into a tiny niche and finding the resources to stay there then you probably aren't even aware of the latest technology.

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