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2010 Job Prospects for Engineers

Survey of over 800 engineers in Sept 2010

  • How secure are engineering jobs?
  • Has engineering pay gone up or down since 2009?
  • Would engineers recommend an engineering career to their children?

These are a few of the questions that we asked engineers in our September survey, They responded in large numbers – over 800 engineers gave us their opinions of the economy and the job prospects for engineers. Their answers may surprise you.

Our cross section of engineers was global. The geographic breakdown of respondents reflects the North American bias of our membership. There were:

 

 

Job prospects by region
American engineers were the most concerned about their employment prospects. Only 30% of the respondents said that they were very secure in their jobs. A full 15% of American engineers said that layoffs were imminent.

This result is the worst of any region. By comparison, 42% of engineers in India/Pakistan/China/Middle East felt very secure in their jobs.

 

Are any industries more secure?
Engineers in the automotive, engineering design services, semiconductors and other manufacturing industries were the most pessimistic about their job prospects. In all of these industries less than 25% of engineers felt their jobs were secure. The places to be if you want a secure job seem to be in education and government where more than half felt that they had job security.

It’s easy to interpret these results as depressing, but fully 87% said it was easy or at least possible for them to find relevant engineering work. And if we filter those results to only the engineers who are currently employed, that metric rose to 90%.

 

 

Are engineers getting paid more?
Most engineers found their pay did change in 2010 compared to 2009, but not all of the changes were increases. When we asked engineers whether their base pay increased, decreased or stayed the same in 2010 compared to 2009, 47% reported no change and 37% reported increases. However, 16% of engineers who are currently employed reported that their base pay declined in 2010 compared to 2009.

 

Profile: Mark Brethen
One engineer who represents the main stream of respondents is Mark Brethen a contract engineer at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Mark has had a great career, and thoroughly enjoys what he does. Like most engineers, he is analytically-minded and so derives great satisfaction in solving the most difficult design problems. Included in those challenges was a role on the Ares 1 rocket team, where he got to provide insight during development of the reaction control systems.

But careers don’t go in straight lines upwards, and Mark’s is no different. Right now he counts himself among engineers who see layoffs as imminent. Thankfully, he is well prepared for a change, having demonstrated a history of lateral moves when industry or economic times required. His keys to maintaining an interesting and upward path - continuing education and an open mind.

 

 

Do engineers like their jobs?
While engineers may not love their pay or their job prospects, they do love their work. Around the world and in every discipline, engineers overwhelmingly state that they find their work interesting and rewarding. Less than 4% hate their jobs. So if students are wondering whether their education is worthwhile, consider what percentage of Walmart or McDonald’s employees love their work!

 

How to get the big bucks
We analyzed the top earners, those engineers making more than $125,000 per year, to see how they felt about their careers. We found that the average engineer making more than $125,000 looks like this:

He is an electrical or aerospace engineer working in the consulting services or aerospace industry. He has a Master of Engineering degree and has been working as an engineer for over 15 years. He doesn’t work any more hours than the average engineer, but he sure likes what he does. Nobody in this pool hates their job, and 88% say they find it interesting and rewarding. So when our Moms told us to do what we love and the rest will follow, I guess these guys were listening.

 

This says it all
And consider this. Regardless of their industry or role, engineers overwhelmingly would advise their sons and daughters to go into engineering as a career choice. 84% said they would recommend an engineering career to their child or to a friend’s child.