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Are these trends happening anywhere else?20

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Are these trends happening anywhere else?

(OP)
I am noticing some trends that are making my head scratch. Maybe it’s just my region but I’m curious if others are seeing similar trends. First off I’m a structural engineer with 12 years experience in the US. I am happy where I’m currently employed (hasn’t anyways been the case). That being said I know they are trying to hire other structural engineers (entry, mid and senior) and it has been tough. Really hurting for some mid-level engineers. I have talked to the few colleagues that are still in the profession and it’s the same situation at their current employers. I looked online and the local job listings are flooded with job after job in structural engineering (mainly mid level and senior). Also, all I see are good structural engineers, that I know, either retiring or leaving the profession after 5-10 years. The ratio of people leaving to coming in is not adding up. From everything I have seen the ranks are getting thin. At the same time I’m not seeing pay go up to really incentive people to stick with the profession. In addition, I know of certain employers just forcing more work on their already overloaded staff. Also, every effort of offshoring I have seen has gone horrible due to poor design and coordination (not on my projects). Maybe I’m in some weird bubble but this seems like red flag after red flag. Is anyone else noticing these same trends? Or is the rest for the US more stable?

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

It does not surprise me. Middle and upper management has been overtaken by those who judge the quality of projects based on profit margin and not on anything else. I don't see any process that can change that trend.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

I’m based in Ireland and it sounds exactly the same as that. There’s a problem coming down the line and no one seems to have the answer

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

In Canada there is kind of a surplus of Engineers but at the same time always jobs available. Lots of Engineers from other countries actually come here to work, for better or worse. The typical engineering office is run very inefficiently so the amount of hours spent on each project is quite high (while, ironically, overall quality is relatively low). What I'm getting as is that engineering firms aren't very competitive yet are still able to pay decent wages and not only stay in business, but grow. If you're good at interviews and have work experience that will catch an employers eye, I would say landing a job that pays $60,000 -$75,000 CND is achievable, and even higher if the skill set is right. A smaller firm in my city was recently looking for a new Partner and offering $100,000 CND (+ incentives hopefully). ~multiply these numbers by 0.80 to convert to USD~ Some firms even offer wages as low as$45,000 CND for new grads or the types of engineers who make absolutely zero progress and aren't even worth the $45,000 (it makes me feel mean to type that but in reality such people would be better off in a profession they are more skilled at). In a nutshell, basically every and any role can be filled but the quality of candidate will vary. There are lots of jobs and also lots of candidates. Lots of turn-over as well. I was told that one office has turn-over of 50% of their staff per year. Job quality itself is usually pretty low but that's not a given. One trend I noticed in Western Canada is that many engineers also have licenses for other provinces and states. They seem to take on additional work from other jurisdictions (again... for better or worse, as we have a few firms that are pretty bad here). The opposite is rarely true, but would be a welcome change as I'd like to compare both the quality and approach of engineers in those jurisdictions. RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else? DayRooster - sounds about right. I'm on the east coast, and there are quite a few ads out for licensed structural engineers with 5-15 years of experience. I get contacted pretty frequently on LinkedIn by recruiters looking to fill positions. Assuming you went the traditional route of 4 years of college and straight to work, we're about the same age but you're a few years ahead of me as I did a stint in the military first. I was lucky - most of my friends who graduated college in '09 couldn't get work in any field and were forced into grad school. Several junior engineers at the time were laid off. So right in the sweet spot of enough experience/maturity to function on a quasi-independent basis but still not too expensive is a large body of engineers who were effectively lost to the '08 financial crisis. Combine that with 'lean staffing' trends in the past decade and retirement of the older generations of engineers and we have a significant staffing problem. Let's hope we can leverage it into higher fees and pay eventually (these things rarely happen quickly). RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else? The worker shortage extends beyond the structural engineering realm......restaurant workers, assembly line workers, you name it. Heck, even my weekly garbage collection is delayed up to a week sometimes. Everyone is looking for help, be it due to a decline of interest in the field or Covid related (but that's another topic with plenty of threads). RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else? (OP) Thanks everyone for the feedback. I wouldn’t say it changes anything for me. Just more of a curiously thing, is all. Also MotorCity, I agree that other industries are feeling similar pains. I was once a restaurant worker in my past so I could see how the struggles are real there too. That being said, let’s say restaurant workers find some way to incentivize people back to the industry. I could see the industry rebounding relatively quickly. From what I’m seeing in the structural engineering field seems to allude to longer lasting effects. Even if employers try to incentivize people more, has too much damage been done? Would a large wave of new graduate structural engineers even be enough to help out when you consider the time to licensure. Also, last I checked students aren’t lining up for engineering and if they are, it doesn’t seem to be for structural engineering. I don’t have any answers about it. Just more observations is all. Side note: while I was typing this a recruiter just tried to connect with me online (lol). This is the second one just for today. I’ll be telling them the same thing I tell all the other ones. Currently not interested… RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else? (OP) structuralCADspecialist - I am not familiar with the Canada market but reading what you posted is very interested. In comparison, most US offices I have seen are very lean with little “fat”. Forces high productivity without wages too much higher than Canada. Also add to the factor that cost of healthcare is high and education will cost you a kidney to payoff :) Overall, it seems like Canada is better off to weather a storm though. Seems like the workers are there is they need to staff up. RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else? Quote: In addition, I know of certain employers just forcing more work on their already overloaded staff. I think that's an example of poor management. There is an easy solution. Don't bid on jobs that will over-stretch your work force. Granted, it's sometimes feast or famine. Management wants to keep the clients you already have and not encourage them to find other engineers. So, they accept work that they shouldn't. RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else? I've been seeing what you are talking about for years. Another thing I've been seeing is a lack of good designers.....and/or people who will ask them to do something besides pick up red lines. RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else? WARose, the mid level to senior years of experience range you mention somewhat coincide with the great recession. I would assume there was a substantial lack of recent graduates around that time frame hired and likely many engineers that were laid off that went into other ventures. Anecdotally I graduated with a Bachelors in 2011 and couldn't find any public job postings in my region for structural engineering. I stuck around at my internship and doubled down with my masters and got the single job in my area that was advertising publicly for structural engineering in 2013. The sector in my region has not seen a slow down since. Public job postings are now frequently posted and I have more recruiter connections on Linkedin than actual colleagues. Construction costs have balloned over this past decade or so, but design fees have maintained constant with deliverable expectations increasing substantially. RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else? I think you are right EZBuilding. I had a recruiter with a local job shop tell me once that I was the only structural engineer in my age bracket [15-25 years] that he knew of (i.e. that was ever available for contract work). That may something about the business, or possibly me (or both ). RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else? It is likely due to peak in the building construction cycle brought about by lower cost of borrowing or due to the cash being pumped into the financial system, not necessarily a shortage. I would only see this as a real shortage when actual engineering fees go up, at the moment they are pretty much stagnant. RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else? (OP) Enhineyero, Maybe it’s not a shortage and just what I’m seeing in my bubble. Last two weeks: recruiters have been wild, a senior engineer retired from my company, and a close structural engineer friend of mine (12 years) said he was hanging up his hat. RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else? For what it is worth here are the Australian salaries for engineers.$1AUD = $0.75USD (The extra of total package includes social security and other perks such as a company car.) Structural engineers are at the bottom of this list. However I don't think that is particularly a reflection of the reality. As many of the other job categories the such as Mechanical/Mechatronics/Aeronautic are much less common. Sure you might have a Mechanical Engineering degree but good luck getting a job here AS a mechanical engineer! Graduate salaries are all pretty similar. That said I do get the feeling that in many large firms they get the younger staff to do all the grunt work and only a few rise break though the ceiling into the higher levels. So it wouldn't surprise me if a fair few get sick of the mundane work and move onto other roles such as site engineer, project engineer or project management. I'm out of the loop of mainstream structural engineers as I'm cutting my own path which is working okay for me at the moment. RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else? A long time ago in university i was torn between civil & electrical. I went civil>structural. If I could do it over again, I would have done electrical and gone into tech. It seems most kids these days feel the same. I talk to my friend who teaches in the high schools, kids these days arent interested in woodworking or metal shop, they are all into programming. I talk to my professor friend in the university, he says civil doesnt attract the brightest of the bunch, it attracts the ones who cant score well on their maths and physics and want to go through engineering school with the least of both they can do (civil is seen as the "easy" topic). Not enough experienced people in the construction industry, not enough people at all, just means projects running with skeleton crews and the buck being passed to any party willing to carry it. I see it all the time. projects where the engineer is going well outside his role. and usually for free. RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else? Structural Engineering isn't a dead end by any means. I think things will improve. You'll see me on here often preaching about more efficient designs and working more closely with Architects/builders/blah blah blah... I think there's actually lots of money left on the table. Much of it being lost in the vicious cycle of owners paying the lowest possible fees, getting the lowest quality work, and losing value through inefficiencies throughout the building process. The owner/developer simply budgets the same way on the next project and the cycle begins again. Call me a sadist but I was actually excited to see high lumber prices. The more 'risky' structural engineering pays much better (usually). That being temporary works. I believe that most schooling pretty much ignores temporary works, cranes, rigging, etc... Much of that is encroaching into mechanical stuff but much of it's structural. Many of the most talented designers end up chasing the$ and going into management. As a structural engineer you'll have a really good idea of how things go together (well 'should'... many engineers have proven me wrong on that). A talented site supervisor in my area will earn far more than the typical designer. Having to stick around for the finishing work and deficiencies is a big hair pulling but being able to watch every floor of a high rise go up can be a lot of fun.

Working on the ownership side and going into finance could have you driving a nicer car and living in a nicer neighborhood than that "geological" engineer.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

They always post the median salaries... best they post the average... better picture. I enjoy the stuff I do, and have fun with it... but, I would never recommend that someone go into engineering.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

Quote (dik)

They always post the median salaries... best they post the average... better picture.

Not really. Salaries tend to follow a pareto distribution, so the median is better than the average.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

The more 'risky' structural engineering pays much better (usually). That being temporary works. I believe that most schooling pretty much ignores temporary works, cranes, rigging, etc... Much of that is encroaching into mechanical stuff but much of it's structural.
Agreed. It is also more interesting too. I've fallen into this area of structural engineering. A jack of all trades in some ways. Though I'm still careful where I step because I still need to build my experience, I have far less experience than most of the regular people posting here.

I know one engineer who is in the business of doing jobs that nobody else wants to touch. Temporary works, forensic engineer, expert witness at trials. I'm sure he could retire if he wanted to, I doubt money is an object for him. But he just loves what he does.

I must say, I'd like to get myself into that sort of position.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

Quote:

The more 'risky' structural engineering pays much better (usually)
It may marginally be better but not near enough to what I consider is 'fair'. Don't think we will ever reach that level of fairness with capitalism as fairness doesn't drive capitalism, money-making does. Industries like real estate, investments, and banking do this quite well. If you are in this profession for the money, you will probably be very disappointed.

However, most structural engineers are probably in it for the job not for the pay. Like a true artist.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

During my undergrad I realised a lot of people didn't like structural engineering. Out of +150 students, we had only about 25-30 students taking structural electives. Almost everyone took transportation/highway and others. I remember months within my first job after my undergrad (around 2017/2018), my boss mentioned structural engineering jobs doesn't really pay despite it being involving so if you want more money think of something else. I completed my master's this Summer (concentration in structural engineering) and again had the least number of students compared to transportation, environmental, and water resources. I have met a couple of senior structural engineers who have switched to other professions such as project management and others and tell me it's very easy and more rewarding.

Another thing about lack of good designers is something I see running through the industry for long even for young and mid-level engineers. [From my own observation] Some people see structural engineering as an easy and quick route to make quick cash with the notion to use spreadsheets and available software to run designs and just submit without proper understanding of mechanics and design concepts. As an immigrant who was/is more familiar with European code of design, I started reading the American design codes and I am kind surprised to see some mid and senior engineers aren't aware of certain basic things in the code which shows they haven't read the code themselves (so I ask myself how they do designs, the answer? spreadsheets and quick software tools. Don't get me wrong, I have met excellent structural engineers as well that I often have chit-chat with regarding design.

Quote (NorthCivil)

I talk to my friend who teaches in the high schools, kids these days arent interested in woodworking or metal shop, they are all into programming. I talk to my professor friend in the university, he says civil doesnt attract the brightest of the bunch, it attracts the ones who cant score well on their maths and physics and want to go through engineering school with the least of both they can do (civil is seen as the "easy" topic)
I did my research in topology optimization which involved coding and programming. Even though it involves mechanics and structures, it way fun and interesting than structural engineering itself and you can make lots of money. I still do the research along side my current industrial work as a volunteer but if I do get sponsorship (to fund the research) or a company mainly into it, I'd wish switch without thinking twice.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

3
Trends I have observed:

Young engineers taking on greater responsibilities earlier in their careers. (This puts an increased burden on experienced engineers to catch their mistakes. It has always been this way, but younger inexperienced engineers today can crank out designs ten time faster using computers than was possible 40 years ago. This puts a greater burden on experienced engineers who oversee the young engineers.)

Over-reliance on software. (Some engineers seem to assume that using software negates the need to use engineering judgement in interpreting the computer results.)

Compressed schedules, fee competition and a perception (by others) that the standard of care is perfection makes our job harder. (Get it done faster, more economical, and for a lower fee - and there better not be any change orders.

Increasingly complex and ever-changing codes and design standards. (Compare the 8 pages of wind load provisions in ANSI A58.1-82 (about 8 pages?) to the 145 pages of wind load provisions in ASCE 7-16.)

Deteriorating communication skills. (We have all of these great tools for enhancing communication - but many people continue to be horrible communicators. (I wonder when mechanical engineers will start using the telephone to call and alert us that they will need beam web penetrations, etc...) Poor communication has contributed to structural failures - such as the tragic Kansas City Hyatt Regency skywalk collapse that killed 114. Poor communication has always been a problem with engineers, but I think it's getting worse.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

Median will likely provide a higher salary... the average may better reflect how underpaid engineers are.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

Quote:

The more 'risky' structural engineering pays much better (usually).

Agreed. What has amazed me is how little commercial work pays. Super tight budgets, ridiculous schedules, working with architects, a lot of different materials, etc, etc.

I had a A&E firm chase me when I was working at a big EPC outfit some years back. And I was at lunch with the partners and I just told them straight out: "Hey, why would I take a 30k/year pay cut to have even tighter schedules than what I have now?" They had no clue what I was making.

So yeah, I tip my hat to the people who last at those companies.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

The average is actually higher than median in that chart. What I want to see is the mode just for the heck of it.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

don't know why... it's not usual... maybe the sample or because it's a commencing salary. I dunno...

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

The more 'risky' structural engineering pays much better (usually). That being temporary works. I believe that most schooling pretty much ignores temporary works, cranes, rigging, etc... Much of that is encroaching into mechanical stuff but much of it's structural.

I agree that it pays better but I am unsure if I agree with it being more "risky" at least in how I perceive risk. There are more unknowns and items that are hard to quantify as compared to say when one is designing a building. However, cost is usually less of a concern so large safety factors are acceptable and as long as you have experience in designing whatever it is you are designing, those large factors of ignorance provide good cover. In addition, temporary works usually involves only a few items so one can put the appropriate amount of attention to the details. On the other hand, when designing buildings you have soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many connections, schedules, members, etc and if any one of those items is subpar it doesn't matter how beautiful the rest of the design is you will have the bus backed up over you. Add to that you are constantly under pressure for faster schedules, lower fees, etc.

I much prefer being able to focus on smaller components with relative intensity even if loading is unknown (because I trust I can bound it well enough) than design an entire building where I need to know 1000s of components and how they interact. It's an impossible task for any mortal to do perfectly and I salute those that try. But to me that's a hell of a lot riskier.

That said, it is true more accidents do happen on my side of the fence so maybe it's a wash. I still prefer it.

CWB (W47.1) Div 1 Fabricator
Temporary Works Design
https://www.enable-inc.com/

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

Median salary is usually below average salary. A handful of people on very good salaries pull up the average.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

(OP)
I do agree that the field has its challenges. I would be ignorant to say it does not. I guess I have kept my head down moving forward for so long that I haven't stopped to look around at the other engineers. I guess my main point is regardless of whether I feel others grievances are legitimate; there seems to be more structural engineers going out the door then coming in. I was just thinking back to my graduating class (from a major state university) and out of the 24 some people that showed some interest in structural design engineering, I can only name 4 that are still practicing (including myself). I can name at least 12 that I know for sure went a different direction. I am sure there has to be certain people I missed but even so. In addition, the first firm I worked at (over ten years ago) had about 12 Structural Engineers. Out of the 12, there are only 3 (maybe 4, not sure if he retired yet) that are still practicing structural engineering. About half retired and the other half left the profession (5-15 year engineers). Now maybe these numbers aren't shocking and this is how it has always been since before my time. But it definitely gave me pause; especially considering everything happening recently. Now what does this all mean? Nothing really...I can't do anything to change anyone's mind that is retiring or leaving the profession. It is more of an observation that I was curious if it was only within my circle. I guess if there isn't some scarcity of structural engineering services out there then it doesn't really matter at all.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

A few realities from one who's been around a while....

1. Salary compression is and always will be an issue. It's not a bad thing, just something to be aware of and you have to speak up to get through it when you are reviewed for salary purposes.
2. Engineering firms are increasingly being run by accountants (or "business executives") and attorneys, not engineers. This has led to a tendency to place "project managers" in positions above the engineering professionals to ensure profitability on each and every project, without appropriate regard to the engineering decisions necessary and the ethical requirements of engineering. For this reason, I left the corporate engineering world 16 years ago and have no regrets. ALL decisions in my company are made by engineers....not accountants or lawyers.

For many years, I worked for a large company that was founded by engineers and run by engineers for the first 40+ years of its existence. It was both profitable and reputable....internationally. Then it became increasingly focused on profits above engineering. The accountants prevailed because of the projected return of investment if they listened to them. The ROI went down. The reputation tanked. The company was eventually sold. I left before that.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

2
Just a heads up, there's not only a net negative flux of engineers in the small to big company arenas, there is also a net negative flux of sole proprietor engineers. The older guys that worked out of their house, they are almost all gone now. They are disappearing in my state, off to retirement. There is so much work out there, it's like a faucet. The challenge is not taking on too much work.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

Quote (Enable)

I agree that it pays better but I am unsure if I agree with it being more "risky"...

You're correct in most cases, depending on how you define risk. When something does go wrong it can be really hard to prove it was the temporary works engineer's fault. It usually doesn't cost a heck of a lot extra to simply increase the factor of safety. And since many components are of very incremental design, they are usually much stronger than the loads they see.
Stuff breaks all the time but it's usually due to things like using damaged formwork, filling wall/column forms too fast (almost every contractor does it) or simply not building to spec. And per most standard contracts the engineer is only required to perform a general conformity inspection; the won't likely be blamed if they didn't see that one shore was missing. More stuff does go wrong which can be hard on some people, whether related to their work performance or not.
I guess what I should have focused on is the fact that not many engineers go into, or know about temporary works. Only a couple firms in my area specialize in temporary works and in general they aren't great at it. There's definitely lots of room for competition to enter the market.

Quote (Enable)

On the other hand, when designing buildings you have soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many connections, schedules, members, etc and if any one of those items is subpar it doesn't matter how beautiful the rest of the design is you will have the bus backed up over you. Add to that you are constantly under pressure for faster schedules, lower fees, etc.

I deal with mostly multi-residential that being Concrete and Wood Frame. We'll deal with steel connections for things like ground floor canopies and roof top wind screens. Engineers rely heavily on their typical details (which oddly, and somehow, have gotten worse in recent years). When they have to design a unique connection it gets pretty ugly. In fact they don't really design the most complicated connections as that will be done by the steel supplier. The standard drawing set in my area is a very vague representation of what most engineers on this forum would consider to be a complete structural drawing set. In fact one reason I peruse still these forums (not being a structural engineer nor working in the field anymore) is to gain a general consensus on whether or not this is okay. The structural drawings seem to be degraded in quality and correctness more and more every year.

Quote (GregLocock)

" a job that pays $60,000 -$75,000 CND is achievable"
I should hope so as that is what my employer pays fresh grads.

The lowest paying job I can find in my area for structural engineering is $50k per year; ironically from a temporary works outfit (who shoots themselves in the feet by way of trying to pay people as little as possible none the less). I know of one company that will try to convince fresh grads that they're only worth$45k per year. Commercial/multi-residential construction tends to pay a lot lower than other sectors. It's probably both the worst and most likely sector that a new grad will end up in.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

(OP)
Question for all the sole proprietor engineers out there… Are you sensing a shift in the industry and charging more for your work? I would imagine if there is a feeling of “plenty of work” then I would bid projects more aggressively. Unless there was a client I was fond of, then maybe hold for them.

I only see the difficulties of company work. Just curious if profit margins are increasing within the sole proprietor sector. I do agree with StructPatholgst that I do see less and less of these engineers. And I know of plenty of companies that are no bidding (or aggressively bidding) on certain projects due to a lack of engineers…

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

Dayrooster, my situation is unique. I have a day job with a medium size firm that sticks strictly to commercial and industrial work, and lets me do residential side work on my own time. My employer is hiring like crazy (or trying to). My side work went from $30k a year to$100k a year in the last 3 years, and hasn't let up. I have not raised side-work prices significantly, since most of the work is with steady clients. It will be interesting to see if the side work ever slows up. It's been pretty steady since fall of 2019.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

(OP)
StrucPatholgst,

That’s awesome to hear. It sounds like you are satisfied doing what your doing so keep on doing you. I know so many structural engineers that feel like they are losing the fight. Also, it almost sounds like your side job is more lucrative than your 9-5 too!

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

Quote (dik)

don't know why... it's not usual... maybe the sample or because it's a commencing salary. I dunno...

It would be very unusual for the average to be below the median.

Oops.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

I already fixed it.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

3

Quote (DayRooster)

I would imagine if there is a feeling of “plenty of work” then I would bid projects more aggressively.

Stop bidding on work! We're not contractors. Give them a proposal of services, take it or leave it. Yes, I'm well aware that clients might get more than one proposal for services and treat it as a "bid" situation. Educate the client that their selection should be qualifications based, not price based.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

DayRooster - yes, I've been pushing my prices up slowly, particularly on my smaller inspection and assessment work. But also on larger designs. Now I haven't been on my own all that long, and I did set my initial pricing a little low to get myself in front of a few clients I really wanted to work with, so it's a combination of easing it back up to where it should be anyway and responding to market pressures to raise prices.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

I did have an interesting conversation yesterday with another structural engineer in the later stages of his career. He was lamenting that in Australia (I'd expect this is similar in many at least English speaking places) structural engineers get no professional respect. Structural engineers are just a necessary evil in the construction process. If the construction goes well and is robust then the builder or possible the architect gets the credit and the positive comments from the client.

Whereas apparently in continental Europe engineers are held in much higher regard professionally and in society.

(I honestly don't have much context to assess the veracity of such statements. Though my father (formally a chemical engineer) had previously expressed exactly the same sentiments.)

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

human909 - I'd say there's some truth to that. But I've also found that it depends a lot on the type of work you're doing. When it's a lot of boiler plate stuff like tract homes or a really basic shopping center that's when a lot of people see us as an obstruction to their profitability. But I've found a handful of clients that understand there's value in what we do and also understand that it takes collaboration and communication to realize it in the final structure. That's architects and contractors. As much as possible I'm shifting to working with them almost exclusively. If I get the feeling somebody just wants me to rubber stamp their problems, I might try to convince them otherwise or I just won't take any more work from them.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

(OP)
Ron - Agreed.

Pham - It sounds like you have a good gauge on your work and you are already noticing these trends. Like I said before, I like seeing fellow Structural Engineering doing good for themselves.

Human - That is the sad truth too often. I don’t get to tied up in praise for work. But I guess praise sometimes comes with more money if it is perceived that the architect is of great value compared to the structural engineer.

Random side note: Today alone I received another 4 recruiter calls. This is getting laughable. Didn’t entertain any of them because I’m happy where I’m current at. Regardless, none of them sounded remotely interesting (company, position or pay range). My favorite is “we are looking for a structural engineer to tackle challenging and fast turn around projects where you will be a structural engineer and project manager.” How about no, I’m not doing two jobs for a salary likely less than my current company. Has me thinking that real winners of this structural engineer hunt are the recruiters. When they steal an engineer from a company then they can go back to that company to get more work!

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

Quote (Ron)

Stop bidding on work! We're not contractors. Give them a proposal of services, take it or leave it. Yes, I'm well aware that clients might get more than one proposal for services and treat it as a "bid" situation. Educate the client that their selection should be qualifications based, not price based.

x2; that is one reason our salaries are slow to increase and do not equate to our level of accountability.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

This is a capitalistic economy, so not everyone has the same costs and not everyone can, or wants to, come up with the same pricing, and a fixed pricing scheme does not account for market realities.

This strikes me as more a reflection of supply exceeding demand; if there were fewer engineers, the median rate would go up, regardless, simply because there would be less competition for jobs.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
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RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

IRstuff - I think that's the point. Right now we're caught in the lag as the 'invisible hands' do their thing. Salaries don't go up until there's upward pressure from the market. That pressure doesn't come unless demand begins to grow in relation to supply. The more of a delta there is, the more pressure. We're starting to feel the pressure build now, and we all want it to build a little faster to start pushing the prices higher, sooner. Our clients need to get used to the idea that for the price you paid last year you're going to have trouble finding somebody willing to sacrifice other work to do it. Once they do, they'll start agreeing to pay more.

I've been considering 'surge pricing'. Requesting a schedule before providing a proposal and if they need it in the next 3 months it's $X, if they need it in the next 3 weeks it's 2x$X. That sort of thing.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

Quote:

I've been considering 'surge pricing'. Requesting a schedule before providing a proposal and if they need it in the next 3 months it's $X, if they need it in the next 3 weeks it's 2x$X. That sort of thing.

I've been flat out punting jobs based on schedule lately. I had one guy call me last month with a job that would take 8 weeks min. (on my end).....but to meet his schedule I'd have to send drawings to the fabricator the second he called.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

(OP)
Pham - That’s a very interesting concept. And if you have the workload then it doesn’t seem like it would make things worse. If you are open that you are busy hence the reason for the surge pricing then it seems logical. Contractor could take offense but, on the flip side, the idea that you are that busy likely means you are a sought after engineer. Heck, I don’t get angry at a Uber driver for surge pricing. I understand it’s supply and demand. If I don’t want to pay it then I’m walking home or waiting until the surge event stops…

WARose - A wise engineer I know would call that “punting on first down!”. Sometimes you just have to do it.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

5

Quote:

WARose - A wise engineer I know would call that “punting on first down!”. Sometimes you just have to do it.

If there isn't even a remote chance of meeting someone's schedule.....why take it? I've seen plenty of lawsuits from schedule failures.

It also alerts me to something else: if someone doesn't have a clue as to schedule.....it gets me wondering: what else do they not know and what other problems are going to appear working with these people?

Working with amateurs has gotten old.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

I give myself a mental pep talk every day to not hang it up and find a new profession. It shouldn’t be that way because I really think I found my calling with structural engineering.I told my wife I can hang on for another 2 years max at this rate before I have to change course. I’m 36.

I could probably get myself a substantial raise because of the current market conditions, but at some point no amount of money is worth relentless suffocating stress.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

Quote (bone206)

I give myself a mental pep talk every day to not hang it up and find a new profession. It shouldn’t be that way because I really think I found my calling with structural engineering.I told my wife I can hang on for another 2 years max at this rate before I have to change course. I’m 36.

I could probably get myself a substantial raise because of the current market conditions, but at some point no amount of money is worth relentless suffocating stress.

Hey man. That doesn't sound good or healthy. It sounds like you have already been strong and resolute for a while. Life is too short to spent half you waking hours doing something that destroys your mental health. While many of us have expressed numerous gripes in this thread, I would also suggest that most people here are happy (enough) in their work.

What is the suffocating stress that you are talking about? Is it the responsibility? Unrealistic expectations? Bad work environment? All of these? These can usually be changed without changing careers.

For what it is worth I changed careers around the age of 30, going back to university to study engineering. While it took several years to manoeuvre my career into a position I was happy with I'm now on a track that is suitable. Still not sure where it is leading in 4 years, but I'm happy doing what I'm doing and I have autonomy without onerous expectations.

My point is it sounds like you do need to change course sooner rather than later. But that course may just be structural engineering in a different capacity or a different firm.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

(OP)
Bones206,

I feel you. I was once at a high stress firm with big name clients. PMs were toxic and could care less about you. Clients were often unreasonable and the PMs would only add fuel to the fire. I would think about leaving the profession every day too. I ended up leaving the company and was not the only one to leave. One of the best decisions I made. That being said I did take a very small step backward to go to my current company. Not as much pay but when I went there I told them I wanted work-life balance. I wanted to work a solid 40 hours and enjoy my weekends. Now do I still work overtime? Yes, but it is not soul crushing and I feel it is manageable for me. I completely agree that no amount of money is worth the relentless suffocating stress. I sleep better now and my overall health has increased.

And for what it’s worth if it’s something deeper that ales you then I know of plenty of very smart structural engineers that have become project managers, civil engineers, water engineers, traffic engineers, project engineers, project estimators, lawyers (construction law), city engineers, field engineers, inspectors, CAD staff, doctors, financial agents, IT support, etc… I am sure I could think of more if I tried harder. All of them did it after years of school and some after many years of structural engineering. I am pretty sure almost all took a step back in pay but it seems like most were happy after years of finally being in their new industry industry. Never heard of any of them that have told me that they regret their decision.

Self reflection is important. Understanding the bigger picture of life and work. Do what is right for you first. Any good employer wants you to be healthy and happy so they get the most out of you (and yes a few do exist). The toxic ones will only think of you as a tool.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

Sorry if my post came off as more dire than I intended. Probably because I had just received an email from my boss saying "we are going to need to load you up some more" first thing this morning and threads like this are too tempting to vent out frustration.

I should clarify that my preferred "change of course" in the near term is to quit and start my own sole-proprietorship. I'm not exactly a natural business-minded person, but I owe it to myself to give it a try before completely abandoning ship and becoming an instragram model

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

(OP)
Glad to hear! I wish you success when you finally decide to step out and take matters into your own hands! IG model or engineer.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

bones - don't rule out TikTok, Twitch, and Patreon. I'm thinking a Twitch stream showing rebar percentage fill calculations might be a winner /s

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

Quote (OP)

I feel you. I was once at a high stress firm with big name clients. PMs were toxic and could care less about you

I briefly worked at a big firm during university, but didn’t like the toxic corporate attitude.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

(OP)
Tomfh - It was an AE firm with roughly 1000 employees. There are bigger firms out there but this was one of the big players. Keep in mind even the small companies can be toxic too. It’s a tough road to navigate. I listen to people a lot and ask for feedback. That’s how I got to where I am today. Even so, my current company could decide to change their ways over night and I would be back at square one.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

I was working in a small office with 5 engineers. It was very educating, I learned a lot. But it was also suffocating, constant pressure, working long hours and on weekends. I quit after 4 years and left proffesion for 2 years. I wanted to try again and started on my own. No way I was ever again working for someone else. Not structural engineering. Its hard enough as it is - I don't need a boss pressuring me. Now I'm 4 years on my own and loaded with work. But I like it.

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

Speaking of possible salary increases due to lack of available Structural Engineers, has anyone looked at the 2016 Pay Report NCSEA SE3 by the Structural Engineers Association?

Here is a link to the report:
https://files.engineering.com/getfile.aspx?folder=...

Would anyone be able to provide information on if the salaries for Structural Engineers, at various stages of their career, still seem valid for 2021? Are the salaries shown lower than the current market?

For example, it shows the following data:

RE: Are these trends happening anywhere else?

(OP)
Well not much has changed since I’m right in the middle ground for a senior engineer still. Now I have to imagine a little bit has change with regards to inflation rates. Curious to see what other say…

Also, I’m over here eyeing up that sole proprietor number range. Just dreaming is all.

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