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?"
Today I heard from an engineer at a company we're co-developing a product with. This company cut every engineers salary 50% and had to write to the CEO why they desired their full salary back.
Also the engineers should should be thinking about their jobs 24/7.
This company is doing very well on increasing sales and apparently on profits. What in world is going on in this CEOs mind?
@twk, that's the best analysis I've seen. Follow the rise and fall of civilizations, and you'll see strong parallels to many engineering companies. Maybe it's time for engineers to sail to the Americas and form colonies modeled on their own vision. It may be a struggle at first, but it's certainly easier than overthrowing the empire, eh?
I've already sailed the Atlantic, and I'm back to enjoying life.
The commentary is interesting, having come through the post WWII growth in technology and really having fun with new TV, space exploration, automobile development, communications explosion, exploding recreation industries, and the like to day appears kind of bland with most observable engineering being much like the TV world - working mostly on reruns. I feel I went through the "best of times" and they are gone. I have two sons who are engineers but am surly not recommending engineering to my grandsons. I watched more than one truly innovative and creative business get smaller and less significant as their leadership was taken over by individuals with law, finance, and business degrees and there were no technical people in leaderdhip. I watched one being proud of no longer consulting with their corporate technical council and beginning to consult with their wall street analysts. They are now less than 20% of what they were. When technology makes life easy people begin to concern themselves with social issues and go to work to impose their visions of society on others. Things go down hill rapidly because there is no set of facts (like the laws of physics) with which to test the proposals and it reduces to chaos. I now consult, post retirement. I hope I have enough to survive my tenure on this world but am not sure. (there are so many trying to steal it from me) I truly enjoyed the good times, still live a pretty good life, and watch the whole of society deteriorate. Study a little history and you find we are repeating the past. The Romans rose on technology and declined on social chaos and did not manage to recover. Hope we are good enough to recover!
I've been at this engineering gig for 30 years and still love the challenge of solving interesting problems. Real engineers arenít motivated by money management is. It is their only motivation, and they view engineers as a cost center to be off-shored where, as one HR type said to me, ďI can get three Indian engineers for one American engineer.Ē. So until that mindset goes away real engineers will never be viewed as an asset to a company. Sure, we all want enough money to pay for the house, put bread on the table and put the kids through college. But corporate management sees that as greed on the part of everyone outside of management. Donít get me wrong, put an interesting problem in front of me and Iíll be jumping in both feet and my anger at management types will be shoved to the background only to surface as the solution to that problem takes form and requires less of my brainpower. I remember during the moon shots science was important to us as a nation. Parents told their kids to go into a technical field. This is probably why so many engineers my age are engineers. Now science is scoffed at and basic fundamental principals are called wrong by politicians and media types who know nothing about science or engineering but do know how to count money. So yes these are bad times but letís remember that no matter the damage done by the corporate and political typeís real, working engineers, not managers, will come to clean up the mess. Itís what we do, solve problems.