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Is the reported demand for Engineers inflated?

  1. Nov 30, 2013 #1
    Since high school, I've read on yahoo front page and similar sites about how the nation has a major shortage of engineers and other STEM workers. However, if there is a shortage, we would see the salaries of engineers go up instead of stagnating or going down. Most engineers make less than $60k.

    Many say that the reports about the shortage of engineers is to get more young people to become engineers, so they could replace older and more well paid engineers. Why pay an old engineer whose skills are obsolete when a kid fresh out of school could do the same things for half of the pay? Others say that they report the shortage to get congress to pass more H1B visas, who would work for even less than young native engineers.

    interesting article: http://electronicdesign.com/blog/there-really-shortage-engineers

    What do you think?

    Do you know any engineers who are unemployed?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 30, 2013 #2
    I'm an unemployed engineer. Although, I just recently graduated. I have an aerospace eng. degree. I can assure you that their are plenty of jobs out there, and most of them pay really well. If you're just getting out of school (like me), you can't possibly expect to get more than $60k; you're just not worth it. I'm applying to any jobs that give me working experience (like EIT positions, contract work, entry-level) even if its not in my field. As a new graduate, experience is more valuable than money. If you're a highly skilled engineer with a lot of experience and mastery, than most times companies think you're indispensable, and will pay you a competitive salary.

    But besides all of that, the best thing about an engineering degree is that it teaches you how to think critically. I know it's been said before, but it's absolutely true. Once you have a good knowledge base that engineering provides you, than you could literally branch out into anything else and all the skills you've acquired will be useful. One more thing, we need more woman in engineering. Goodluck.
  4. Nov 30, 2013 #3


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    That's just laughable. Newly minted engineers know so little about real world problems that they are next to useless, but they are hired because they have great potential to become good engineers. Like most professions, undergraduate studies don't really teach you much, they just teach you the basics and as Gibsons77 said, that prepares you for learning about the real world problems.
  5. Nov 30, 2013 #4
    It is more about expectations, not just for pay, but for the types of jobs. I have been discussing with universities and engineering managers lately. The schools want to teach and be able to grade students, the employers want people that can actually "do" something - constructive, valuable etc. When presented with jobs requiring travel, field work, field service etc - new graduates walk away form the job - these jobs are beneath them. Yet the best way to learn is this practical experience. Engineering is the application of science to the real world... so the students know the science, but not the real world. Also an engineering degree can probably transition best to the greatest number of other fields - like finance, manufacturing, and management. It does not happen as much here in the USA, but in Europe technical companies prefer to hire technical people for many of their non-technical positions - they want employees capable of understanding the products.
  6. Nov 30, 2013 #5


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    That is also nowhere close to true. You should do some Google research on engineer salaries.
  7. Dec 3, 2013 #6


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    To elaborate on what has already been mentioned, and to throw further wrenches into your assumptions...

    My starting salary is 1.66 times the national average for my degree type and almost 50% of the workforce where I will work is eligible to retire in the next 5 years. I'll qualify that I'm 30 and have 5 years of directly related technical experience, before I graduate this coming May. There are also other exceptional ~22 year olds graduating with me who will be similarly compensated. All of us will be working in the oil & gas/petrochemical industry.

    It is definitely a significant hurdle to replace half of a workforce in a short period of time. The best way to prevent a shortage is to be proactive about it. Salaries ARE increasing, and companies ARE hiring significant amounts of engineers (more than in the past 10 years and sometimes more than they immediately need). No matter how talented the replacements, huge amounts of experience will be lost. I can tell you that even though I have always been the exception, done better than anyone could imagine without prior experience, that at some point that experience is invaluable. It's much easier to bounce ideas around with those that have played the game for a long time than it is to play both sides yourself.
  8. Dec 9, 2013 #7
    'Cause the old timers remember "we tried that already and it doesn't work. Here, let me show you why not..."
  9. Jan 4, 2014 #8
    This is a bit off-topic, but i would say engineering is one of the very few majors that are training you for a profession (perhaps the other would be accounting). Engineers also take wayyyyy more units in wayyy more rigorous courses than most majors, so do engineering majors really learn little in undergrad? I would think they learn quite a lot more than most, if not all, majors.
  10. Jan 4, 2014 #9
    Learning provides you with the mental tools to do the job.

    Just because you have a shiny new hammer doesn't mean you can hit a nail straight.
  11. Jan 4, 2014 #10
    Everyone who says that experience is important in engineering is right. I agree with you 100%. perhaps i should have phrased my question better: is experience valued by employers? How do they justify paying more for an engineer experienced in obsolete technology versus a younger, less experienced but less well paid engineer who could do about the same things? Even having to give one or two years of training to the younger engineer, the employer would save a lot this way. They would price themselves out of the market otherwise.
  12. Jan 4, 2014 #11


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    You make a valid point. Also, one of the things I was struck by in school was that mech. engineers got to take "electrical engineering for dummies" whereas elec. engineers took the same rigorous thermodynamics course as the mech. majors, so it may vary somewhat by major. I don't know that EE students take more course work in their major than other students, but I can confirm that the course are very rigorous. They still don't do as much to ready a student for the real world of engineering as you might think; they are more about learning to learn.
  13. Jan 4, 2014 #12


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    No, that is not NECESSARILY true. Engineering is an evolving field. When I was in school, the transition was from vacum tubes to transistors. Later the transistion was from transistors to integrated circuits. Later still, the transition was to ASIC's and computer-based methods.

    Engineers (in EE at least) are always playing catchup on technology. It's a matter of how well they are doing at that. I would MUCH rather hire an older engineer who has been through one of those transitions successfully than hire a novice who has book learning on the latest technology.

    The older person might make 50% more, but would likely be WORTH 200% more.
  14. Jan 6, 2014 #13
    I suspect the " Older obsolete Engineer" comes from the Software Engineering side of the house. The fact of the matter is that there is a shortage of "older" engineers but a surplus of entry engineers. In my case of EE maybe older programers are getting pushed out but RF engineer,Controls Engineer,Digital/Analog Design Engineer, Power Systems engineer. None of these professions lends themselves to the "out with the old in with new" mantra.

    My point is made by Engineering salaries going up substantially after 5 years exp.
  15. Jan 6, 2014 #14

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    And also in other domains where technology is changing quickly.

    Where technology isn't changing so quickly, someone who knows about economics of various techniques, the risks associated with them, and how to talk with customers is much more valuable than the new skills that someone fresh out of college adds to the mix. In those fields where yesterday's technology is obsolete, the fact that the more experienced engineer knows those technologies inside and out doesn't count as much.
  16. Jan 9, 2014 #15


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    Reading that there's a shortage on Yahoo isn't a good reason to get into any field in the first place, but as general rule engineering degrees have some of the highest starting incomes [link] and the lowest unemployment rates [link]. Generally speaking technical engineering (as distinct from engineering management, [link]) is a pretty safe bet for finding a job out of school.

    Still, nothing is a sure thing and as with any profession there is always someone out there better than you... I do sympathize with new-grad engineers as it can be difficult to land that first job, once the 5-year experience hits it gets much easier.

    Can you provide proof of this claim? This site listed above shows median starting salaries above that, which is a lot different than "most make less than." Dependent on field salaries for engineers might range from the $50's to the $150's and more, and depends on your experience and employer. As a general rule I would say engineering is a good-paying field, although I wouldn't mind making more for my efforts ;-)

    Who says that? Sounds like a conspiracy theory to me...

    Experience is worth a LOT in engineering (as has been yelled at you by a few individuals now). Yes students learn how to solve basic problems in school, but that's just the beginning. Experience to an employer means you've worked on a team, had successes and failures, applied your skills, and hopefully have developed your interpersonal skills. I learned just as much if not more about engineering "street smarts" in my first 3 or 4 years of employment as my degree taught me.

    The career path for an engineer can take many routes, but as a general rule more experienced engineers gain more and more responsibility as they prove capabilities and gain experience working with people of varying disciplines and backgrounds. You may work on a single component or sub-assembly when you're a new grad, design larger assemblies a year or two later, by 5 years you're designing complex systems, by 10 years you're writing proposals and leading a team of engineers designing multiple systems, etc.

    No new grad is going to replace an "overpaid old engineer," despite how much a new grad thinks they know. Sure there might be an outlier lethargic guy getting ready to retire once in a while (I've worked with them too), but that's the exception not the norm.

    Also conspiracy fear-mongering. Can you provide proof that H1B visas are lowering average engineering salaries?

    Sure I've known a few, but I know a lot more psychology and history majors that are working at Starbucks...
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
  17. Jan 10, 2014 #16
    What newer technologies? In many cases of EE the "older engineers" are the ones who do the innovation. It's not like there any "Zuckerbergs" on the hardware side of EE. My point is the "Out with the old" mentality usually applies to CS degrees not EE. Sure your Facebook and Twitter can compete with google but where are the new "hot shots" that compete with Intel,Cisco etc.
  18. Jan 10, 2014 #17


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    Agreed, and with EE's experience matters just as much as with any major. An experienced senior Electrical Engineer can solve in a couple of hours what a new grad engineer might spend weeks researching. Doubly so for analog design, the "black magic" of the EE world. An engineer right out of school typically hasn't developed the intuitive understanding of how apply the skills they read about in a book; intuition and judgement count for a lot in engineering and can't be fully developed in school.

    With regard to software engineering, any software engineer worth his salt is constantly staying up on the latest programming trends and considers specific languages to be just tools. The best software engineers I've worked with have skills in laying out software regardless of language, and take a training or two every year to keep up in the latest trends and the hardware to use.

    Computer engineering may be the fastest-changing engineering field right now (that pesky Moore's Law is still keeping up), but also one of the most lucrative. A computer engineer that hasn't worked in the field in 5 or 10 years might have trouble finding a job in that exact field unless they've kept up to date on the latest hardware trends, but fortunately for them there's also a lot of cross over between computer engineering and electrical engineering.
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