Engineers are nearly four times less likely than the average American to be completely satisfied with their jobs, according to an informal EE Life poll you’ve filled out in recent days.
The anonymous online poll received 1,035 responses from March 23-28. Just 13 percent of you responded that you were “completely content” in your job. A Gallup poll conducted last summer found that 48 percent of Americans were completely satisfied with their jobs, with much higher satisfaction rates for particular aspects of their jobs, such as safety and coworker relations.
At the other end of the response spectrum, 9 percent of you are so unhappy with your jobs you’re contemplating a career switch. The bell curve in the middle shows that 47 percent of respondents “mostly” are content with their career and 31 percent are “not really” content but consider it “a living.”
The results, sought as part of the post "Are you happy?" can be taken in a more positive light: 60 percent of engineers are somewhat or very content with their jobs. But the 40 percent who aren’t is disconcerting in a profession that’s undeniably vital to virtually any culture or economy.
A vast majority of you (90 percent) are employed fulltime; 6 percent are consulting and 4 percent are unemployed, under half the national average but again perhaps skewed by the universe of respondents.
This is an unscientific poll designed to get a top-line notion of engineers’ feelings about work; defining “happiness” is subjective. The poll was done only online, required no names or email addresses, and, as reader Rich Krajewski points out in the comments of the earlier post, it may not include unemployed engineers who are busy trying to find work and don’t have time to read EE Times and take polls. In addition, the comparison to Gallup is intended in general sense, since the methodology and phrased questions are different (Gallup's for instance counted responses from only fully employed or part-time employed workers and asks about job "satisfaction").
But consider it a data point in our continuing conversation about the nature of engineering work:
Why do engineers feel unappreciated?
Why do revere entertainers and sports stars and not engineers? And so on.
You’ve inked in the color on this painting in comments in that earlier post, which itself was based on the post “Why can’t you get hired?”
“I would advise anyone entering college to definitely NOT study to become an Electrical or Computer Engineer… I sacrificed too much of my personal life for my profession and I now very much regret it. You lose valuable experiences with your family and your employer doesn't appreciate any sacrifice you make for your job or the company.”
"The golden age of engineering is over. Engineers once were content to take home smaller saleries than other professionals because the work was interesting and you felt you were appreciated. Not any more. Engineers are expected to put in long hours and get no recognition for what they design. Reporters, writers, actors, and other artists get recognition for their work. With engineers, you can't even place your name on a paper you wrote any more!"
Still others rose to the defense of the profession and the career choice. Wrote Joshxdr:
“To say that electrical engineering is a dead field is just plain wrong. If you get a charge out of computers, radios, guitar amps, teeny tiny accelerometers, etc. then EE is the field for you.”
Readers gave trenchant advise to the new generation as well:
Be open to change, learn a breadth of engineering skills,
Be prepared for and don’t fear layoffs—you’ll experience at least four of them in your career.
Start your own company
Understand that good engineers will always be in demand
Here are the answers to the question: "Are you happy in your engineering work?"
Wow. It's interesting to hear directly from one of those who entered engineering as a tactical decision, not a passionate decision.
I remember when I was about 8 years old.. my mother had thrown a clock radio in the trash (the old kind with the numbers that flipped over while keeping time). I took it apart and was fascinated by the mechanical parts, mystified by the electronics. I remember twisting a ceramic capacitor back and forth until the leads broke. That when I decided that, someday, I would understand how it all worked. Fate. Sealed.
I came here to say what gkidwell said. A real engineer (in it to reward the passion, not just the pocketbook) would almost always find something that could be "tweaked", so I'm sure that particular word attracted the "some things could be tweaked" response.
I am one of the 31%. I just went into EE so I could come and live in US - this was 85. I have been working since 94 but am no more content now (2011) then I was back in 94.
I do think EE is an awesome field - esp digitally communications. The thing is I am not an engineer mentally and this gets to be eventually frustrating. A second factor is engineering education - I think my university could have done a better job balancing the theoretical and practical - to this day I don't have a good feel on how to find an impulse system response !!
Bottom line- don't enter a field if you don't have a passion for it
Again, everything is relative. I have friends that are legal secretaries and paralegals who work for real tyrants under extremely high stress. Most mid-level managers are frantically trying to justify their existence because they are even more vulnerable to cost-cutting than billing engineers. Anyone in the service industries has increasingly had to deal with a public which is willing to vent stress at them at every opportunity. Compared to what I am seeing around me I'm actually feeling pretty good.
This unhappiness which people are whining about is not because the managers are paying them poorly or giving them dirt jobs but because the rosy picture of engineering as a destination to aim for is no longer rosy. This is not very different from the dotcom bubble. The bubble burst when the companies found out that there are engineers in other parts if the world who would work with same passion for much less $$. So, yeah the leveling off is taking it's toll but I think it will find an equilibrium in about 5-10 years.
Why are young American engineers so unadventurous, why are they so reluctant to travel the world, work in different countries and get to be a part of the churn.
It's all about the "comfort zone".
I'd be interested in seeing the results of this survey sorted by years on the job. From my experience, the newer engineers are treated very differently and probably have higher satisfaction than those with a few decades of experience. New engineers are still getting good raises because their salaries have not yet approached the asymptotic ceiling.