A Snapshot of the Next Generation of Engineers
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Today’s engineers, particularly those from US universities, are considered highly educated professionals who love to think outside the box and engage themselves in innovation and creativity. But which sectors do these professionals work in, what makes them a critical part of the workforce and economy, and where are they being employed? This article will explore these topics as well as highlight why continuing education is fundamental in maintaining Continuing Professional Competency (CPC).
Which Engineering Discipline Has the Most Graduates?
An average of 195,000 engineers graduate from US universities each year. Of these, 17 to 18% are female. Mechanical engineering is the most popular of engineering disciplines (30,000 students in 2015), followed by electrical, then civil engineering. The number of students studying the three most popular engineering disciplines (mechanical, electrical, and civil) was more than in all other engineering sectors.
However, many US graduates do not choose engineering as their final profession and work in finance or consulting, where wages seem more lucrative. And although the total number of engineering graduates has risen over the last decade, almost half of students are from abroad. In addition, good quality graduate engineering professionals from other countries come in large numbers to the US to work across all the industrial sectors.
Which Industry Employs the Most Engineers?
Employment by industry is a key indicator of the types of engineering activities currently in demand. The manufacturing sector employs the largest number of engineers, followed by engineering services, government jobs, and scientific research, respectively. By 2036, 140,000 new engineering jobs are expected to be created, 23% of which will be in the civil engineering sector.
In 2016, an impressive 1.68 million registered engineers were employed across the country, in the following disciplines:
- Civil engineers 303,500
- Mechanical engineers 288,800
- Industrial engineers 257,900
- Electrical engineers 188,300
And in that same year, 6.9 million people were employed as scientists and engineers, accounting for 4.9% of the total workforce.
As mentioned, manufacturing is the most important industrial sector for the engineering in the US, employing a total number of 578,000 graduates. This includes the production of; computers, electronic equipment, transportation, and machinery. The majority of mechanical engineering graduates find employment in this industry (although they are also employed in various other sectors).
How Much Can Engineers Expect to Earn?
The median annual wage in 2016 of registered professional engineers was $91,000, double that earned by all other workers put together. Petroleum engineers earned the highest median annual wage at $128230, followed by computer hardware ($115,080), nuclear ($102,220), and electronic engineers ($ 99,210, not including computer engineering). The profession as a whole is therefore rightly regarded as highly rewarding.
Where do Most Engineers Live & Work in the US?
As one of the world’s most industrialized nations, the US attracts the brightest engineering talents from around the globe. Traditional hubs of engineering activities are located evenly across the American landscape. In fact, if the 10 cities recording the most employed engineers in the US are plotted geographically on a map, they form a chain, linking industrial activities around the country.
The state of Texas (Houston, Dallas & Austin) hosts the highest number of engineers, then California (San Jose, San Diego & Irvine), Illinois (Chicago), Michigan (Auburn Hills), and New York (New York) respectively. The most engineers in specific cities are, in descending order:
- Los Angeles
- Washington DC
- San Jose
- New York
Understanding which cities host the maximum number of engineers can identify specific engineering-friendly centers. These can be the best places for an engineer to relocate to. Calculating salaries offered in these cities can further assist in informed decision making. In fact a simple comparison by city of the following factors makes it easy for an engineer to identify the best career destination:
- Total employment of engineers
- Median salaries
- Engineering discipline
For example, Seattle is a better city in terms of employment for an aerospace engineer than New York. In 1987, Los Angeles accounted for 10% of total aerospace engineers, much less than that of Seattle, home of Boeing. And as we know, Silicon Valley is renowned for its software companies and start-ups. The Valley attracts a large number of its engineering workforce from abroad.
Why is Continuing Education Vital for Engineers?
Related to the above, during the last decade, an animated debate arose regarding the perceived shortage of engineers in the US. As per some reports, China produced 600,000 engineers annually and India 360,000, compared to an estimated 70,000 engineers in the US. Analysts raised concerns that the US could lose its competitiveness in innovation and technology to China and India.
However, a more detailed study brought forth some interesting, contradictory, facts. One was that in 2005 the US actually produced more engineers (140,000) than India (120,000). In addition, the Chinese definition of “engineering” did not conform to US standards. In China, even diploma holders and simple mechanics were called engineers and Indian engineers did not have adequate skills and exposure. This highlighted the importance of the US engineering skills base to maintain its high standards. By engaging in, and completing Continuing Education Units (CEUs) and Professional Development Hours (PDH), graduate engineers can ensure that they are up to date with current practices, can continuously improve their level of competency and expertise in their given field, and importantly, stay one step ahead of their global competitors.
In conclusion, the engineers of today are highly skilled and take a keen interest in exploration and innovation. They play a constructive role in the development of this country, and their contribution to the US economy and other fields of research is highly impressive. Well remunerated positions are available in a variety of cities, and in a range of disciplines for ambitious, hardworking and creative graduate engineers.