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Engineering Which has a better job security, electrical or civil engineering?

  1. Dec 17, 2011 #1
    I don't mind doing either. I think both of them are interesting and would be enjoyable but which one has a better chance of getting a job in the future?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 17, 2011 #2
    I don't know anything about civil engineering. I can tell you if you go into EE, be prepare to work long hours, high pressure, always learning or risk obsoleted. That's the main reason I am not working even though I have the passion in electronics. I don't like the environment of EE work anymore. You are working all the time, you live it. Job is unstable at best. If you work in one job for ten years, you are risking of being totally obsoleted and you might not be able to find a job if you loss one.

    I know people working for the government as civil engineer and have good benefits and stability. And you know government work, you work a little and rest a lot and get good pay now a days.

    On the flip side, EE jobs can be exciting and I think there are much more jobs in EE. I had a good career, I still studying two to three hours a day since I stop working six years ago. I found EE very rewarding and challenging.

    So you have to decide for yourself, which one you are more interested, to me that is really the bottom line. Live is too short to work full time in a job that you just want to get by. I don't think I can stand working for stable jobs like in the government. But at the same time, not too many people can still want to learn when you are in your middle age, having kids and family if you are working in EE field.
  4. Dec 17, 2011 #3
    I saw on BLS that civil engineering is expected to have job growth of 24% over the next 10 years or something. Electrical engineers are easily outsourced, you can't outsource a civil engineer because they need to be there at the building site.

  5. Dec 17, 2011 #4
    I like Yungman am also an EE but my sister was a civil engineer.

    Once when unemployed I applied for a job designing pneumatic controls. The chief engineer told me that their experience in hiring EEs for doing pneumatic controls was better than with other types of engineers because EEs tended to be more flexible in their thinking.

    I also worked for a printing company designing custom electronic controls. I was also able to help the mechanical engineers solve mechanical problems simply because they were accustomed to doing the same type of design over and over again, it was hard for them to come up with new solutions.

    My sister told me in the civil engineering departments she worked in, the different engineers did one type of design over and over again. Each engineer had his own specialty. That would be too boring for me.
  6. Dec 18, 2011 #5


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    My undergraduate degree was EE. In my career I have done mechanical, nuclear, chemical,
    instrumentation and controls, electrical, and even a little civil/structural projects. I have a PE, but I have never had to limit my participation due to the degree I hold. As long as you keep learning, being an engineer is not a boring career.
  7. Dec 18, 2011 #6


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    There will always be equal opportunity for both. Electrical is harder, but which do you prefer? The fields are quite different.
  8. Dec 18, 2011 #7
    If I had the kind of clairvoyance that could give you a straight answer for questions like that, I'd be a very rich man. In general, unemployment rates for most engineers are pretty low. The endeavors where there are more variability include research projects, consumer products, aerospace, and so forth.

    On the other hand, infrastructure engineering tends to be very stable.

    However, things change over the span of a career. I won't make any predictions of what you will find when you graduate and start working.
  9. Dec 18, 2011 #8


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    Have you totally ruled out mechanical? :shy:
  10. Dec 19, 2011 #9
    Both are very large fields, so it is hard to talk about them in general terms since there are so many exceptions.

    I can't speak much about civil engineering, but I am young and have been able to get EE jobs twice now, both were the first/best job I applied for and got them immediately after interviews - even in the bad economy.

    Also, I believe that EE is a more rigorous and challenging study. I was accepted into a physics graduate program with an EE undergrad, and I think it would be much harder for a civil engineer to do the same. EE training gives you much more flexibility in jobs and skills you can do than civil engineering. For example, most civil engineers never have to study differential equations courses, and this next level in math is important for understanding many dynamic physical processes that usually a mechanical engineer has to take care of for them, but EEs learn this same math too. Also, an EE can become a software engineer, IT person, and other less technical fields quite naturally.

    It is true that the technology business is more volatile, and the first company I worked for layed off a lot of people with the recession (I was not, but I left for grad school shortly after), but actually all of the layoffs were in finance/project management/accounting, and our engineering group was never hit with layoffs. EEs are considered valuable, and my current employer even offers money to employees who can help them recruit new engineers to work for them because there is a demand for them. I think that civil engineering demand is more dependent on governmental projects, and when construction slows, so does the demand for civil engineers. And like yungman said, a lot of these construction type jobs are huge, slow projects with more regulations and bureaucracy to worry about, which means you will spend less time doing fun design work.

    Lastly, I have read that enrollment in EE programs has been very low for quite a few years, and combine that with so many old people retiring soon, and you will see a larger demand for EEs in the near future.
  11. Dec 19, 2011 #10
    Here is an interesting document with lots of stats:

    http://www.asee.org/papers-and-publications/publications/college-profiles/2010-profile-engineering-statistics.pdf [Broken]

    If you go to page 27, you can see that EE enrollment stopped growing and began dropping quite a bit since 2005, while CE enrollment has been growing consistantly and has a lot more than EE now.

    You can look at it both ways: this either says that there is a big demand for CEs and people are going to get a lot of CE jobs and keep growing, and EE demand has dwindled, or you can think of it that CE jobs will probably be saturating while EE will have a shortage of graduates in the future.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  12. Dec 19, 2011 #11
    EE jobs are very volatile, it goes up and down, I have seen quite a few cycles. When times were good, they hire any Joe Blow and pay high wages, when times are bad, they just layoff people. Most students only look at the jobs situation and pay at the time and decided to go in the field. Job market has been tough for EE in the 2000s so far, so the number of students drop off drastically.

    CE is more stable but you can look at the job situation also. I don't know about CE, but with the stimulus money in the last 3 years on building infrastructures, I am sure there are more jobs in CE in the last few years. Problem might be the same in the future. As stimulus money dry up, those temporary jobs disappeared. CE and construction jobs will disappear, then the cycle might repeat!!!

    That's the reason my first question is which one the op like more..........Not whether he can "go either way". Go with his heart, not with the job situation. If you have to spend the next 30 years, 8+ hours a day of your life doing, you better find the one that you have the passion in. Money is nothing if you are miserable.

    You might have a lot of EE from the booming days, but be real, a lot of the EEs are not really EE material.......no offense. They went in because of the money. They have no place in the EE field. With the public education system, you really don't need much to get an EE degree. For those of you that do hiring, don't you notice so many candidates has no clue of electronics and they shouldn't even be in the field?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  13. Dec 19, 2011 #12
    Thanks for replying guys!!! I have another question. I am a very visual person and like to draw, but I also like math because I'm good at it. Which one matches me the most?
  14. Dec 19, 2011 #13

    jim hardy

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    in the last fifty years there has been so much progress in electronics that EE has become a wide field. you can have a career just programming computers......

    i spent a lifetime in industrial maintenance which was interesting because you encounter a smogasboard of different designs and your knowledge becomes wide if not deep.

    In your lifetime progress with exotic materials will probably change civil a lot.

    as Yungman said, in times of rapid change it is the learners who inherit the future.. the learned find themselves beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists.

    if you need the excitement of constant change go into computing side of EE.
    If you really enjoy machinery try power side of EE. Things there move a bit slower, for good reason.
    If you like Math, take Automatic Controls for industry desperately needs people who understand the science of feedback and it is relatively independent of discipline..

    The few Civil engineers i knew had good stable jobs and were solid family men.
  15. Dec 19, 2011 #14
    Just a question,
    I know that I might be thinking a bit far ahead, but do you think that we reached the limit of computer programming/electrical engineering?
    may be the field will digress and may be new technology might come out?
  16. Dec 20, 2011 #15


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    Interesting points from everyone.

    I will add my experience now.

    Studying for an electrical engineering degree is difficult...but that's what makes it worthwhile.

    I would admit that getting your foot in the door can be tricky....but once you find that desperate enough company to hire a new college grad....ur in assuming you can perform.

    Also, I would recommend getting some field experience before landing your dream job. Do some construction work....do some wiring....whatever. If you've never dealt with this stuff in the field....it makes it that much tougher. I was fortunate enough to have 10 years constuction experience before I even went to college.

    I graduated school in 2003 at the age of 33. Been a long rode since then. There were no jobs in '03 due to the 911 crisis. I was forced to take a job as a construction superintendent....for roughly 4 years. Now that's a high stress job!!!! I would say that engineering is a piece of cake next to running job sites!!!

    I did eventually land a engineering job in '08....was a relative newbie to engineering but learned fairly quick. Was with a company for two years until the great recession kicked in. I got layed off from that job and but one of the luckiest things ever....I get hired 3 days later by a high end downtown firm.

    I've been at this job for two years now and love it. I would say it is relatively low stress....and as for long hours....if I wish to do them....I get paid overtime anything above 40 hours. I am on the power side of things and I find most of the work I do relatively easy. The hardest part is finding the device you are trying to wire....and its accompanying spec sheet. Once those things are found...it's a relative cake walk. I think electrical is the easiest once you have your information. Most of the time finding these items requires me to speak with our mechanical or civil department....simple as that.

    Interestingly enough....our electrical department makes the most money out of all the departments. We get a lot of "benefits" and money that the other departments do not get.

    Regardless of what you do...it will likely not go as planned. That's life. Also, It is typically recommended to get your P.E. as well. Job security and pay will tend to be higher with this feather in your cap.

    Good luck....

    Furthermore....we have 2 gigantic clients. One is a big Tire company....the other is a big lighting company. These companies are always going to need electrical and civil engineering...not to mention mechanical and structural. These companies are world wide and pretty much always have work. Well....except for the "great recessions". In those cases...even these giants halt their work. I guess what I'm saying is....make sure the company you work for.....works for big players.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2011
  17. Dec 22, 2011 #16
    It seems most of the repsonses are from Electrical Engineerers. Does anybody here have direct experience with civil engineering?
  18. Dec 23, 2011 #17
    Disclaimer: I got my degree in Electrical Engineering and my PE is in Control Engineering. However, I work with many Civil and Structural Engineers.

    First, if you choose Civil Engineering, it is probably worth your time and money to get the Masters degree.

    Second, the difficulty of the degree is almost irrelevant. On the job, being good with applying and solving all sorts of weird differential equations (This is most of what makes the Electrical Engineering degree more difficult) doesn't usually help you very much. In fact, one of my mentors told me in no uncertain terms: if you're messing around with that kind of math, you're probably re-inventing the wheel. The probability of a major screw-up is much higher. Don't do this unless you have no other choice.

    In my entire career so far of 25 years, I have used such mathematics in just a handful of places.

    My point for bringing up this issue is this: While it is useful to understand the foundations of what makes your field of engineering practical, you should also seek the work of others and build upon it. Your design success rate, the time spent on a job, and your ultimate customer satisfaction will be much higher.

    Another thing: If you choose Civil Engineering, please do the world a favor and take the full year of fluid statics and dynamics. I can't tell you how many times I have seen PE stamped drawings with virtually no attention paid to the fluid dynamics. I am employed by a water company. You'd think we, of all people, would know how to install a flow meter. But sadly, I still find newly constructed installations with Venturi meters bolted directly to valves or elbows, or junction boxes where somebody forgot to do a weir head calculation, or flumes that get backwatered...

    Do the world a favor and take both semesters of fluids for the CE. You won't regret it.
  19. Dec 23, 2011 #18


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    I agree with Jake on several points. First of all, the amount of knowledge and math you use from school are very small. The most complicated electrical engineering I have done has been maybe the usage of parallel and series circuits. The most complicated math I have used is multiplying 3 numbers together. Usually 1.73 X 480 X amps. The most tricky thing in power electrical is that a lot of the things you've learned don't work on motors. Resistive circuits yes, motors....ahhh nope. Almost everything you learn on the job....you learn on the job. Sure, your basics from school are in place, but you probably could have taken 1 year of school and been fine had that one semester been actually filled with the appropriate information. I can think of 3 years of wasted time in school....other than the fact that maybe it taught you how to think.

    How many EE's have you seen come out of school that don't even know what a breaker panel is, what it looks like, or how it works? How many EE's or engineers come out of school and don't know what a crescent wrench is? BTW...that is often an interview question....what's a crescent wrench!!! Here's another great interview question often asked....why are manhole covers round? Simply google the questions for answers if you don't know....

    As far as master's degree.....at my company for example...they could care less if you have a masters degree. Now a P.E...whole different ball game. They will lay out the red carpet for you to get that. Why is that? Simple, they can bill you out for more money as a P.E.....masters degree...not so much. As far as a masters for Civil....I have no idea...I'll take Jake's word for it.

    Also, look at it like this. Would you enjoy wiring and designing a complete factory electrical layout.....or would you enjoy building roads and bridges....or more likely placing shrubbery, lighting, sidewalks, ponds etc... Liking your job is going to be the most important thing in the end.

    Interestingly enough, there are roughly 30 EE's at my firm, 30 ME's, 15 structural engineers...and 5 civil engineers.

    Not saying I am correct or even right on these topics....just sharing what I've seen from my experience....and sharing my opinion.
  20. Dec 24, 2011 #19
    No job is ever secure.
  21. Dec 24, 2011 #20


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    That being said....

    We are all born dead men.

    Merry Xmas everyone!!!
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