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September 08, 2010

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Exactly. This has been going on forever, or at least since I was an engineering student in the early 60s. Every year about half the BS graduates go into something other than engineering per se: technical sales, med school, law school, etc. I saw this with many students when I was teaching engineering, too.

This is not a problem. Undergraduate engineering education is fairly rigorous, and it is a good preparation for many kinds of jobs. Anyway, CAD/CAM has had a major impact on the number of engineers required.

I once was told by a couple of engineering recruiters that they did not care where a student earned his degree, what the engineering degree was or what his grades were. They were using the BS engineering degree as a psychological test: degree holders were reasonably intelligent and worked hard. Whatever the graduate needed to know in his new job, the company would teach him.

Just curious - how many of those graduates are foreign born? Plenty of foreigners attend US colleges and universities.

I would recommend students interested in engineering take a look at the civil/environmental field.

I recently graduated with a degree in environmental engineering and currently work in stormwater mitigation and wastewater conveyance. Hardly glamorous, but it pays decently and is secure...for the time being...

Also, if this post brings out legions of aggrieved Asians...'How dare you think that American engineer deserve jobs, Chinese do it better, do it cheaper'...

For all HR managers love to slam Gen Y for being lazy and unmotivated, we have nothing on FOB Asians; the vast majority act like disoriented eusocial insects cut off from the queen.


I can attest to this. I have a BS in Electrical Engineering and it hasn't done much for me. I make more money loan sharking than I do being an engineer...But hey, at least the math skills come in handy working out the interest rate I charge.

I can attest to this. I have a BS in Electrical Engineering and it hasn't done much for me. I make more money loan sharking than I do being an engineer...But hey, at least the math skills come in handy working out the interest rate I charge.

If this is true, why are engineering majors by far the best-paid college graduates?

Half Sigma,

I'm an undergraduate engineering student going to a USNews Top 15 university. What field would you suggest trying to get into? I've thought about Patent Law, but law school is expensive and I've heard that law firms work you very hard. How hard is it to get into consulting or IBanking?

The very high starting salaries of engineering grads are some indication that there aren't enough of them. For example, starting salaries for Mech E's at my company are in the $70k range, which is double what I started at a mere 15 years ago.

I hear that Chinese engineers are more in the $10k range, but that Indian civil engineers can be as well paid in India as the US, which is amazing when you think about the cost of living over there. Well, at least, that was the story before the Great Recession started.

@bob :
'I once was told by a couple of engineering recruiters that they did not care where a student earned his degree, what the engineering degree was or what his grades were. They were using the BS engineering degree as a psychological test: degree holders were reasonably intelligent and worked hard. Whatever the graduate needed to know in his new job, the company would teach him.'

They again don't have any idea about a program from say MIT, Purdue/GIT or ITT/Devry. Tier 1,2,4 school respectfully I can assure you that an average purdue grad would end up being above average in ITT and likewise a average MIT person would end up being an Above Average Purdue graduate. If this is what those recruiters think then those who graduate at the top of their class would think they would make more then say ITT grad plus they spent more in education if the company is willing to pay for a grad from ITT say 50-60k and not willing to pay say 80-90k for the MIT. You can see why they are not taking jobs in engineering or science. Simple economics kids.

@HS
'The concept of a shortage of American engineers is a fiction created by companies that want more immigration so they can get cheaper foreign labor. '

Wrong they still have a pool of inferior educated americans with inflated grades to fill those positions not only foreign labor. Quite possible the india education may be better than many of our inferior schools in america so you may be correct but not totally.

I went to engineering school and was employed in software design and development for several years until I realized that the real money was in sales in a field (insurance) that I didn't need a degree for and would never have chosen after high school. Now, years later, I earn substantially more than any engineer (although I don't like my occupation) and have complete control over my time. The whole idea of believing at the age of 18 that you can know what is right for your future is bogus. As half sigma has pointed out before, they don't pay you for how smart you are. The key seems to be to select a field that is distasteful and can't be outsourced and rewards hard work.

Still, starting salaries for US engineering grads look pretty good - especially in petroleum, chemical, mining and nuclear engineering.

http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos027.htm

Seeitnow: Problem with your scenario is that you have to talk to customers, while the engineer does not have to. Before I'm tagged as "anti-social", let me make it clear that there's a difference between "customers" and "people".

Arnold:

Correct you are, I did note that I don't like what I do, but the money is great not to mention that for the last several years my business has been all internet based which allows me a lot of free time away from the customers while still having full access to them via the internet.

" went to engineering school and was employed in software design and development for several years until I realized that the real money was in sales in a field (insurance)"

What type of insurance? I really wouldn't mind a single payer health insurance,since we are payng for everybody anyway. Insurance is a big waste in that area. It pays a lot of salaries for doing nothing. I might try it with auto insurance too.

Talking about immigration--Piers Morgan was hired to replace Larry King. Can't we hire an American even for that? The Scot on late night on CBS is terrible. Newsweek's White House correspondent is also a Brit. Not one person in this country could write nonsense for Newsweek?

"Just curious - how many of those graduates are foreign born? Plenty of foreigners attend US colleges and universities."

High school and undergraduates are > 80% domestic, though I guess quite a few of them are of 2nd generation. My differential equations class (which represents a pretty large cross-section of majors), for instance, was pretty white at UTexas-Austin.

My graduate program in physics was 50% foreign easy and that's the norm. UVa once took a full class of Chinese students, because they decided to move to an objective criteria based mostly on test scores (of course they ignored the mass cheating, mainly in the form of access of to old tests that American students do not have and whatever they do to pass the TOEFL without being able to speak English, that goes on in the PRC and India.)

"Wrong they still have a pool of inferior educated americans with inflated grades to fill those positions not only foreign labor. Quite possible the india education may be better than many of our inferior schools in america so you may be correct but not totally."

There are some very, very bright foreign students and there are many completely worthless foreign students. The school systems in China and India are very test-oriented so its hard to tell until you get them in a lab. Whether the bright ones are worth polluting the system with the bad ones is a good question no one ever, ever, ever asks.

I went to a big state school where the grades were deflated if anything. I got a much better education than any foreign student would have received. The Chinese and Indians succeed because of the glory of raw IQ, not because of their schools. Their schools are crap.

Sales jobs are some of the worst jobs to have. The turn over is massive, most people just cannot go it, and for most people the pay is just not that good.

At least with Civil engineering, you can live where you want. Nuclear and Chemical Engineers have the problem of where the jobs are. Nuclear engineering is growing because most of the current engineers are old. The power companies want to build more plans and improve existing plants.

The reason engineers are paid well is that it is hard to do. Most freshmen who start out as engineers never finish because it is hard. People who want to be drunken frat rats do not succeed in schools of engineering.

If you look up all of the beltway bandits in DC, they always have openings for engineers. They almost never have openings in HR, accouting, or sales.

"Still, starting salaries for US engineering grads look pretty good"

The stats are bogus. Try finding actual jobs paying these ridiculously high starting salaries. Actually, try finding entry-level jobs for engineers at all right now. The few I've seen posted online usually pay a starting salary of around $35k, and even then usually want a few years of experience.

Another reason why science and engineering majors totally suck: grades. Where I went to school, the average GPA for science and engineering majors was around 2.7-2.8, whereas the average GPA for humanities and social science majors was around 3.3. Virtually all graduate programs worth anything have a 3.0 GPA minimum. Meaning, the average poli sci major has plenty of grad school options available to him, but the average engineering major (and we are talking about a group of people mostly in 1300+ recentered SAT territory here) has worked much harder to effectively screw himself over.

Could it be that the reasons for high starting salaries for engineering majors are
a) Engineering majors tend to be smarter and harder working in general (and hence are more likely to succeed in anything they do)
and
b) Ppl who major in engineering are more likely to prioritize finding high paying jobs (which is why they chose engineering to begin with)?

"I went to engineering school and was employed in software design and development for several years until I realized that the real money was in sales in a field (insurance) that I didn't need a degree for and would never have chosen after high school. Now, years later, I earn substantially more than any engineer (although I don't like my occupation) and have complete control over my time."

I'm in insurance sales myself, and while it can be a lucrative occupation (though not always, there can be dry spells too), you have to deal with a steady stream of nonsense from customers. I mean, does it *really* take six months to decide whether a $15-per-month policy (which can be canceled at any time) is a worthwhile deal? Who would have thought that the words "I want to think it over" is one of the worst things in the world? And finally, until I got into this field I never realized that voice mail is a passive-aggressive weapon for cowards.

Peter

"UVa once took a full class of Chinese students, because they decided to move to an objective criteria based mostly on test scores "

Why would they let Chinese students into UVA? Do they pay taxes? Another example of this country being run by idiots.Let's see,there are 1.3 billion people in China.Based on test scores they could take up maybe 40% of all our college spots,since they have 4 times the people. Let's pay taxes in this stupid country,so we can subsidize Chinese students education? Even if they pay full tuition,they are getting subsidized. I think it was Hitchens who said he feels ill everyday about the world. Well,I feel like puking everyday about the state of this country and the morons who run it.

Mech E Grad, you may be seeing the effects of the recession. Those of us who graduated during the last recession had that problem.

But it doesn't change the fact that, at least in the very recent past, and probably the near future, engineering starting salaries have been very high.

In fact, it's happened to me twice in my short career that my employer unilaterally RAISED my salary to keep pace with what they were paying new grads. Happened in '96 and '07.

I sell primarily (98 %) casualty (auto, home, business) insurance. It does take several years to build a substantial book of business, but when it is built the renewals take care of you. You must of course put up with a lot of nonsense from customers, but it is worth it in the long run. I do miss the creativity of software development but try to make high 6 figures doing that.

Twain said, "Even if they pay full tuition,they are getting subsidized."

you're an idiot. international students aren't qualified for financial aid, and, in fact, most colleges require that they pay extra fees on top of full tuition. colleges love international students b/c they are BANK.

Why would they let Chinese students into UVA? Do they pay taxes? Another example of this country being run by idiots.Let's see,there are 1.3 billion people in China.Based on test scores they could take up maybe 40% of all our college spots,since they have 4 times the people. Let's pay taxes in this stupid country,so we can subsidize Chinese students education? Even if they pay full tuition,they are getting subsidized. I think it was Hitchens who said he feels ill everyday about the world. Well,I feel like puking everyday about the state of this country and the morons who run it."

Welcome to America. Grad students in science and engineering get full tuition paid and a stipend.

Chinese students are better than even the best american scientific talent.Just watch how they perform on the IMO,and most international programming contests.Check the list of the best performing guys on Top Coder.Almost 90% asian or European.In fact,if you were to make the putnam a global contest,americans will have a hard time getting to the top 10.

Most engineering post grad programs are so desperate for english as a first language students that they will take people with less than a 3.0 gpa.

Problem being - Grad school for an Eng grad is just not worth it because most eng jobs don't need the post grad degree and the ones that do typically want experience AND generally prefer to send internal employees back to school (on their own dime) rather than hire a post grad with no experience.

I could have my masters by now - I was offered 17K a year + T.A. work to do my masters (funded position) - It still just didn't make economical sense to get it (and I was done with school).

On another note - Companies are interested in hiring engineers. Among my peers anyone having difficulty finding a job is the exception to the rule (and generally the reason is readily apparent... typically that they have incredibly poor social skills). I should note that I live in a part of the country that is considered economically stagnant

It is important to make a distinction between undergrad and graduate students here.

The foreigners mostly show up for graduate programs, where they are offered tuition waivers and annual stipends of $15-20k. For most US students, graduate school does not make financial sense - it is only useful if you a. want to steer clear of jobs with a social component or b. you shoot for a protected ITAR field. On a level playing field, the foreign students simply offer - frequently co-ethnic - professors a more obedient and academically well-prepared workforce. Funding is predominently provided by confused state and federal agencies that like to dump tax money on anything with a buzzword attached to it.

When it comes to the undergrads, the truth is that a large portion of the BS engineers are substandard. There just is no incentive for professors or university administrators to maintain reasonable standards in admission or graduation. Students given A's and homework problems they can get the solutions to online or from their senior frat brothers generate happy students graduating on time. Employers have noted that an "A" student may just barely be able to copy solutions from a solutions manual and a "C" student is likely both lazy and illiterate. The system is really ripping ambitious and intelligent students off. Add the fear of minority failure to the mix and you have a system that breeds mediocracy and dishonesty.

Would it be unreasonable to propose that engineering graduates who go into the engineering field get tax breaks if getting paid under 65k/year?

I think the main problem is that Engineers don't get paid enough. I think a starting Engineer should get paid $70k minimum. I'm a Civil Engineering student and would like to get into Geotechnical Engineering (which truly does have a shortage). But after a MASTERS in GTech I'd get paid maybe high 50s in the industry.

I worked as an Environmental intern this summer for an oil company and got paid equivalent to what someone making $80k would get. As much as I want to follow my interest, I need to think about my future family. 80k sounds nicer.

"Lazy" at 8:20pm, 09/08 said: UVa once took a full class of Chinese students, because they decided to move to an objective criteria based mostly on test scores (of course they ignored the mass cheating, mainly in the form of access of to old tests that American students do not have and whatever they do to pass the TOEFL without being able to speak English, that goes on in the PRC and India.)

This is very true. I did a 5-course concentration in graduate-level pure Computer Science (not fluff MIS) as part of my MBA program. In every CS class, I was the only American student, or one of two (and the only non-CS major in the class). The classes were all Indian and Chinese, with one or two Caribbeans (0 American Blacks or Hispanics). On more than one occasion, an Indian classmate asked me, "so, where are you from?" thinking I was European. It was taken for granted that no Americans would attempt the grad-level CS classes.

In these CS classes and in my MBA classes (35% foreign students), it was shocking at how poorly the Chinese students spoke Englist (or I should say attempted to speak). It was impossible and exhausting to try to have a conversation with them. I have no idea how they made it through the classes. It was fairly common knowledge that the Chinese students bandied together and memorized old tests (how they got their hands on them was inexplicable). By and large, they were mediocre grad students. Horrible partners in group projects, no leadership ability or interest, and poor interviewing ability. I cannot see how any American employer would hire one over the thousands of other American candidates. Though, they would work for anything the employer offered (and would have to be sponsored). By the way, all this was at a large southern state university.

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