Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What's wrong with engineering?

  1. Jun 8, 2010 #1
    Hi everyone! I'm new to the forum :) i'm currently an undergraduate who is studying mechanical engineering in a singapore university. for your information, singapore is in south east asia, if anyone of you is wondering where it is haha.

    Recently, there have been lots of problems about engineering that have been bothering me.

    Engineering is not an easy course, i believe there are lots of others who feel so too. I have not been able to cope very well and i always feel that i am underperforming.

    Moreover, i get to realise that engineering as a whole has been on a decline since many years ago. Countries and companies always complain that there is a 'lack' of engineers and scientist worldwide. However, i have read through many articles that debate about this 'shortage'.

    some people say there is actually no shortage, it is just that companies are trying to come up with excuses to get more cheaper foreigners, such as those in the china and india. As we all know, china and india have been producing so much more engineers in the last decade, till the extent that there are not enough jobs for all these engineers. Companies worldwide decided to employ these large, available pool of engineers from china and india instead, because those engineers will be willing to work for much lesser pay since there are so many of them fighting for a limited number of jobs in their own country. In singapore, the situation is not different from the US, since our country is very dependent on the US economy. Many of my seniors who graduated couldnt find a job as there is a fierce competition with the foreigners and the pay offered is very pathetic. In fact in recent years, singapore allowed and encouraged foreigners to come to our country to fight for jobs. Till date, one third of our population is made up of foreigners, mostly holding work pass similar to the US h-1b visa.

    singapore is becoming like UK, transforming and emphasizing more on banking and finance rather than manufacturing where the latter creates more jobs. but we all know banking and finance doesnt create more wealth and there is no value add to the economy, it only shifts assests around to make some people richer. after looking at what happen to wall street, i dont dare to think what will happen to my country economy if we all rely just on finance.

    I feel very helpless.

    As compared to the peers who studied law, medicine and finance, those who studied engineering and science in my country have been deemed to be inferior to the others.

    However, some people also say that the decline in engineering and science is due to fact that young people lack the interest in science and engineering. they see lawyers, finance and doctors as more glamorous job. For less work done probably too. Lawyers and managers are one of the most overpaid jobs, while you can certainly never hear anyone mentioning that an engineer is overpaid.

    I know i might be over emphasizing on monetary rewards in the career. some may argue that passion for the subject and career might be more important than money. However, i feel that money itself does represent how valuable are engineers and scientist to the industry and the world. if people only bother to pay us peanuts and sack us first when it comes to retrenchment, what will people think?

    moreover, most of the companies dont recognise and reward work done by engineers and scientists. most of the money will go to those who can sell the product made. some argue that it is the consumer culture that has lead to all these problems. it's a matter of whether you can sell, not a matter of whether you can make.

    there has not been much changes in engineering education either i feel. we learn so many theories and get very little hands on. but the market and industry demand us to be innovative and creative. i feel that the current education will be able to produce lots of people who can study, but doesnt know how to apply. i dont know how true is this for the rest of you, but i can assure that this is mostly true in asia(maybe except japan) and the US. Most countries in europe i believe promote apprenticeship, so one could still learn while on the job. but for the rest of us, we are more or less EXPECTED to know every single thing without training. the school didnt prepare us for all these too.

    perhaps it is difficult for the school to be able to meet the many different demands in the market, but we dont get many chances to learn either, especially when we have to fight with others for the jobs.

    and yea, how do others look at engineers? the dilbert comic says a lot.

    I am still very interested in engineering. It has always been my childhood dream to build things out of my own hands. But i have come to realise, read and heard about so many negative things about engineering. so, how in the heck am i supposed to feel motivated?

    i know i could no longer follow blindly, hoping that getting into college, study hard will eventually land me into a good career that will last me till retirement. This set of stupid mindset has been in our asian culture for too long, that is why you see asian study so hard in schools, but you dont see them coming up with extraordinary achievement in life.

    i really like to know what are our fellow engineers, scientists and students stand on this issue. feel free to comment.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 8, 2010 #2
    Hello and welcome Justin.

    You are, however, too perceptive for your own good.

    One possible glimmer of hope is that in the UK at least Mechanical Engineering is coming back into fashion, have suffered a decline in the last 30 years. It is now one of the few, or even the only, expanding branch of engineering in the UK.

    Good luck in the future.
  4. Jun 8, 2010 #3
    To answer the main question I think you asked: "how to feel motivated"--concern yourself with your studies. Don't even think about the end-game in industry if engineering is what you want to do. Know what keeps me motivated? Genuine interest in the subject material. Personally at my university, in my experience the first two years were easier sort of filler material and general stuff, and now almost every class I'm taking is an advanced engineering elective with extensive amounts of either hands on labwork or computational labwork. The professors stress that theory is developed to MODEL physical phenomena and is a tool available to us, which is incredibly important.

    I'm an ME undergrad graduating next year. Yeah, it's a tough curriculum, but it's the thing I want to do because it's awesome. Personally (from an american student), I find it hard to believe engineering is 'looked down on' by other countries. Maybe you're just reading silly articles or something. The practical application of science and mathematics to get things done is engineering, and that will ALWAYS be one of the most useful skills in the world, no matter what anyone thinks. Modern technology is founded on engineering and innovation (which needs engineering, in turn, to come to fruition).

    Actually, maybe it's just my own ignorance, but personally I've held the belief that is the financial and law oriented fields that will be suffering in the future because they have little to no practical skills other than dealing with money and words. Never used a goddamn calculator or a wrench to get something important done; just fund other people to do it for them. Again, that's just my opinion, and I don't want it to sound like I have less respect for individuals in the fields of law or finance or what have you-- I just have spent many-a-sleepless night on laboratory reports >50 or 100 pages while hearing about how much of a breeze my friends who transferred into school of business from engineering in my university are having.

    I guess I'm probably ranting by now. What I wanted to say was: If you want to do engineering and recognize that it's hard, then man up and do it. If you do it, you'll be able to handle whatever gets thrown at you in the future. If you don't want to do it, then do something you want to do with your life.

    P.S. becoming a doctor (or biomedical engineer [for that matter] is what I'm more familiar with in my university's programs) is not an easy thing to do. I don't know why you define 'glamorous' in this context, but I have the sincerest respect for any individual who dedicates him/herself to an undergrad followed immediately by a CHANCE to get into med school (pending amazing grades) to be able to have a skill to help people.

    I simply don't believe individuals pursuing a career like engineering or medicine for money will go anywhere in that career if they are not genuinely interested in it.
  5. Jun 9, 2010 #4


    User Avatar

    There is a clear decline in the need for engineers mostly due to CAD ( which enables one person to do the work of 10) and Internet which mostly offers all the information one needs in most domains, with scientific calculators etc. Even trained engineers look up the internet for new tech designs and materials, anyone can do it, and 4-5 years of university are no must.

    The decline is in discordance with the actual need of the market which would benefit from 10 engineers imaginative and creative thinking vs. one with fast CAD designing.
  6. Jun 9, 2010 #5
    hey thanks a lot guys for sharing your views so far :)

    i know that studies is very important and i shld be focusing more on that rather than thinking too far. but i hope to have a clearer vision to work towards to so that i can motivate myself more.

    i am having my summer vacation now, so i am thinking what could i work on or learn on my own so that i could stand out from the rest? i still believe the school wont be able to teach us all that we need to know to be a good and outstanding engineer.
  7. Jun 9, 2010 #6


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I'm not sure about engineers specifically, but here is a graph of unemployment by education level: http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm

    At the very least, it puts to bed the "too many people are going to college" refrain we often hear these days.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  8. Jun 9, 2010 #7
    I'd like to know who's making 761 dollars a week with an associate degree...
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  9. Jun 9, 2010 #8
    You raised many good points, and said them well.

    The only thing I can say is even though much of what you say (perhaps even all of it) is true, I've never been bothered by any of it. I'm 46 now and have studied engineering, math and physics since age 15. During this time, I've been fortunate to have the resources to educate myself, both formally and informally. I've enjoyed studying and applying what I've learned, always. I've never been without a job. I've never not enjoyed my job. I've never been unable to earn a good living. I've always been happy, and I expect all this to be true until the day I die.

    My wish is that you are one day able to say the same.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2010
  10. Jun 9, 2010 #9


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Half of them are making more. That really shouldn't be all that surprising: $761 a week is decent but not spectacular.

    I think what may be tripping you up is not considering age. For a 20 or 30-something, most certainly do make much less than $761 a week, but there are also a lot of 40 and 50-somethings out there who make a lot more.
  11. Jun 9, 2010 #10
    actually, i am more worried that i would lose out on many, many opportunites to grow and learn as an engineer.

    the reason is with so many of our work being outsourced to china and india, we are not only outsourcing our jobs, but at the same time we are providing them with ample opportunites and knowledge. the dangerous thing is that young people like me are constantly losing out on many opportunities to learn.

    i feel deprived, as companies will rather hire other engineers just because they are cheap. i feel that in no way i will lose out to them in terms of quality, as far as i could say for now. if i am already deprived of opportunities right from the start, how could i possibly go further into the field?
  12. Jun 10, 2010 #11
    I think that you have a very pessimistic view of the engineering world. Yes, demand for engineers in some areas is fading, however, it is increasing in many others, for example, nuclear. Try to see where you might be needed and then look for a related area of interest.

    Doctors and lawyers are highly educated people. In most countries they take significantly more schooling than engineers so it is not surprising that they make more money. The finance people have designed the money system, it isn't surprising that they have positioned themselves to make the most of it. Besides, engineers wouldn't have jobs if people didn't finance and run companies to make and sell products/services. Finance people seem to be a necessary evil...
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook