Engineering employment outlook

The longstanding lament among engineers for many years, especially in the U.S., has been that jobs for engineers are disappearing at an alarming rate. I have personally heard many engineers say that they would do whatever they could to discourage their children from following in their engineering footsteps.

By David Greenfield, Editorial Director March 1, 2010

The longstanding lament among engineers for many years, especially in the U.S., has been that jobs for engineers are disappearing at an alarming rate. I have personally heard many engineers say that they would do whatever they could to discourage their children from following in their engineering footsteps. It’s undeniable that job contraction among engineers has certainly been evident, and the consolidation of manufacturing companies in North America during the past two decades, as well the growth in offshoring of production activities, hasn’t helped. Still, the reality appears to be that things are not all that bad for engineering employment prospects.

I was led to look into this situation based on the regular high levels of activity evident on the Automation & Control Engineering job board on LinkedIn ( https://tinyurl.com/y8tckah ). This site regularly has more than 30 jobs posted at any given time and, although some are global, most are based in the U.S. Some of the more recent posts were seeking an electrical field engineer in Illinois, a process controls engineer in North Carolina, a PLC/HMI/SCADA project leader in California, and an electrical controls engineering in the Southeast U.S., just to name a few.

Checking Bureau of Labor Statistics data for 2010-2011 ( https://tinyurl.com/ycpqx7z ) shows that engineering employment is “projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations, and that overall job opportunities for engineers are expected to be good.” BLS also confirms that starting salaries for engineers remain among the highest of all college graduates.

Other data on the BLS site indicate that overall engineering employment is expected to grow by 11% between 2008 and 2018. The fastest growing engineering occupations are expected to be found in biomedical, environmental, industrial, mining/geological, nuclear, and petroleum areas.

The BLS site does acknowledge that although “engineers traditionally have been concentrated in slower growing or declining manufacturing industries,” it says that most of the increasing employment for engineers in the next decade will be in engineering, R&D, and consulting services—a large amount of which will be tied to the manufacturing industries.

“Competitive pressures and advancing technology will force companies to improve and update product designs and to optimize their manufacturing processes. Employers will rely on engineers to increase productivity and expand output of goods and services,” says the BLS report.

Control Engineering will be conducting its own research this year on career and salary issues for mechanical and process engineers as well as system integrators. Look for the results from the mechanical engineering survey in April, the integrator survey in July, and the process engineering survey in September.

david.greenfield@reedbusiness.com