Power Electronics

Is Engineering Underappreciated?

We received more responses to the April editorial on “What's Wrong With Engineering?” than any editorial in recent memory. Here are excerpts from e-mails received on the subject.

  1. “My theory about engineering in general is that it's a woefully underappreciated profession. So, we need the very best engineers out of an already shallow talent pool. Finally, there is no glory. If you are going to live day to day under appreciated as an engineer, yet you are the cream-of-the-cream, why not go somewhere where there is glory? Stock options?

  2. “The European comparison is significant. Education isn't held in regard in the States. We have always rewarded individual initiative, which can be good when it allows an individual to show his worth without a formal education. However it has allowed business to have the advantage of keeping rewards held in check. The current market has reduced the need for formal education. The measure has become what the employee can do now.”

  3. “From a career engineer with experience from one-person projects to large teams, big military/industrial projects to small commercial tasks, individual contributor to middle management: It's a perception, frequently justified, of being overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated.

    We see people in administrative and nontechnical support positions, who seldom work uncompensated overtime, getting ‘equal pay for equivalent work,’ but ‘equivalent work’ is defined by somebody who couldn't begin to do an engineer's work whereas most engineers are qualified to do the nontechnical jobs such as human relations or security officer.”

  4. “Technical advances in recent years have greatly reduced the amount of engineering required to design or modify a product. CAD/CAM software has eliminated countless good paying engineering and drafting jobs. Analysis programs like PSPICE have likewise reduced the number of electrical, mechanical, and systems engineers needed to perform analysis and simulations. ERP and expert software programs have helped management reduce process and manufacturing costs as well as eliminate engineering jobs.

    These increases in efficiency have surely benefited both corporate profits and the consumer, but the impact on engineers has not been good. The engineering supply/demand ratio is larger than it would be without these advances. Since supply and demand determine wages and prices, engineering salaries are lower than they would be had it not been for these increases in efficiency. From a purely selfish point of view, declining engineering enrollment is good for engineers. Anything that decreases the engineering supply/demand ratio should serve to drive salaries higher.

  5. “Easy money — $100K starting salary would flood the engineering schools; $200K after 10 years; $500K after 30 years. Try it.”

  6. GAIUS PETRONIUS ARBITER, ca. 60 AD: “We trained hard but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing. And what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.”

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