1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Engineering Civil Engineering is hazardous to your job prospects

  1. Feb 8, 2010 #1
    This has already been posted in another thread (https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=375948), but I thought it would be more appropriate if it were here. Anyway, here's the article I got from my friend's school newspaper. Is there any truth in it? I'm a civil engineering major and am very worried now.

    Civil Engineering One of the Hardest Hit Majors, Job Prospects Poor.

    For the class of 2010, a degree provides no expectations of jobs. While this is true for almost any major, it is an incredibly apt statement for dozens of civil engineering students graduating this spring.

    Both anecdotal and empirical evidence paint a gloomy picture of job prospects for civil engineering majors. The construction industry has been the hardest hit during the downturn, and some analysts believe that there is enough housing to last for over a decade even if all new construction ground to a halt. While the national unemployment rate hovers around 10%, the unemployment rate in the construction industry is 19.4%. Moreover, this decline shows no signs of stopping even though other sectors of the economy have slowly been recovering. According to the BLS, the construction jobless rate was 18.7% in October 09, but it shot up to 19.4% just one month later.

    Amanda Gordon, a recent graduate, is feeling the pain. "I've been looking for engineering jobs since the beginning of my senior year two years ago. Despite sending out almost a hundred resumes so far, I've only gotten six interviews and no job offers." Those who dismiss her difficulties by assuming she was a slacker in college would be sorely mistaken. Her GPA is a stellar 3.5, and she has half a year of internship experience.

    Things have gotten so bad that the campus culture appears to be changing. "It's always easy to differentiate the upperclassmen from everyone else", junior Henry Clayton joked. "The seniors and some juniors nervously watch Bloomberg in the cafe, while the freshmen and sophomores sitting next to them talk about things like partying, playing basketball, or watching Avatar."

    Recently, a disturbing trend has emerged. More and more students are postponing graduation in hopes of waiting out the recession, and their numbers have been exponentially increasing. The numbers are especially high among civil engineering majors. Three years ago, it was almost unheard of for students to deliberately delay graduation, but an informal student poll estimated that the percentage of CE students who could have graduated in 2008 but chose not to was 3-5%. That number reached 8-10% last year, and it is expected to top 15% this spring. Some students are taking minors or are attempting a second bachelor's degree, while others are simply taking a lighter course load and enjoying their time on campus.

    Despite these trends, advisors have sought to allay student fears and concerns. "Civil engineering is a very broad field", one of them said. "Our graduates who do not want to pursue construction go into other fields such as water resources and transportation. One of them was even hired by an oil company." Many prospective students aren't buying it.

    "Advisors, professors, and everyone else working in the civil engineering department have a conflict of interest" undeclared freshman Jeffrey Lee said. "They want more students taking civil engineering because more students mean more funding. Regarding their claims, it's true that some civil engineers work in fields outside the construction industry, but the large majority of civil engineering jobs are construction related."

    Other CE students have been resigned to a state of despair and desperation. "I'm sorry to say this, but there are often times when I fantasize about the city being destroyed by earthquakes, hurricanes, or tornadoes. At least the rebuilding process will give us some jobs." one student said. "It's too late for me to change my major, so that's all I can hope for."

    For the rest of us, we hope that his wish for a natural disaster may never come true.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 8, 2010 #2
    The same people applying for a job during the recession will still be applying for jobs when it goes away. It doesn't make sense to wait out the recession before applying for the job.

    Have no worries - if you want a job, you can get it (if you want it bad enough). Maybe a particular industry is hit (be it construction or otherwise), but if you allow yourself to look at other places using your skills learned from civil engineering, you can find a job.

    Another thing to realize is that it's hard to rely on any one source. Where did the person get their data? You can manipulate statistics to get what you want. Here I found another place that talked about the prospects of Civil Engineering for 2010-2011, from the Bureau Labor of Statistics:

    "Civil engineers are expected to have employment growth of 24 percent over the projections decade, much faster than the average for all occupations. Spurred by general population growth and the related need to improve the Nation's infrastructure, more civil engineers will be needed to design and construct or expand transportation, water supply, and pollution control systems, and buildings and building complexes. They also will be needed to repair or replace existing roads, bridges, and other public structures. Because construction industries and architectural, engineering, and related services employ many civil engineers, employment opportunities will vary by geographic area and may decrease during economic slowdowns, when construction is often curtailed."
  4. Feb 9, 2010 #3
    True, but I think companies would rather hire recent grads than hire people who graduated many years ago. But that is their decision, not mine.

    In regards to the data, I think the author got it from this site (found by a simple google search):


    "Construction's unemployment rate continued to to rise in November, climbing to 19.4% from October's 18.7%, while the nation's overall jobless rate declined slightly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported."
  5. Feb 9, 2010 #4
    To be honest I haven't been on the hiring end so I don't have experience. Maybe these are reasons employers higher recent grads: their skills are sharp, and graduates are itching for a first job = will work crazy hours. Regarding the first reason, it might be true the longer you stay out the more you rust. But the second reason still applies to the ones searching.

    If you wanted to spend the time in school during the recession to stock up on education and invest in yourself, then that's different. But it doesn't help your chances because you're idly waiting in school for the recession to be over. It's better to take your chances now, and try hard to get something. Eventually, you will, and your job search experience will have been worth it too. You could spend all that time networking.

    If everyone stayed in school, the supply would increase, demand would fall, and there you are again - having a hard time getting a job when everyone starts applying for one again.

    I think it's rather a gamble, and based on personal circumstances. It matters immensely if you're on a loan, for instance, and your debt is piling up. Also, it depends when you think the economy will get better. If you think it should get better in 2 years, how long are you willing to spend in school if you were already in your last year?
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2010
  6. Feb 28, 2010 #5
    I have to agree that Odd and Ends has perfectly depicted the state of civil engineering for recent/upcoming graduates on all topics. The only people getting hired as of right now are the people with lots of experience who got laid off for large pay cuts. I would switch my major to another engineering discipline if you have the opportunity, unless you attend the prestigious CE programs like GaTech, Berkeley, UCSD etc. If not, you better make sure you work 100 times as hard as everybody else at networking and experience building because that is also the ratio of CE graduates to entry level positions requiring 0-1 year experience.

    -Recent MSCE graduate working in web development due to recession
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook