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?"
The problem with engineering is the reward vs. benefit ratio.
You have to be highly skilled, intelligent and educated to be a good engineer. This means you could also do a lot of other better paying jobs and you have high expectations.
In top of this you have the schedule. The long working hours, short vacations etc are the main problems in this job, IMO. At least in the US. Loving your job does not mean you are not allowed to love anything.
I believe one problem with the survey is the word "completely". Engineers being engineers are very literal people and completely means 100%... there are very few who are 100% satisfied with their job. The question should have been worded "Very Content"
I think that in engineering (and any other professional field, except finance) there is a huge gap between engineering (professional) activities, knowledge, application and experience, and those of the layman. The engineer or professional, however, necessarily does non-engineering and non-professional functions - and the more you have to do, the less happy you are in your job.
The problem is engineering jobs don't last and you have to be concerned about your future. With the current economic situation even Cop make as much as engineers.
Employers want to to sacrifice for the company but there is no capitulation. While engineering can be fun there are fewer and fewer job that or. I would not recommend engineering field to any one unless they have a green card. Yes the engineer field use to be good years ago.
I still believe that the opportunity to innovate and be successful is there and big breakthroughs (start-ups/venture $) will return as the economy comes out of this slower period. I find many engineers working at smallish firms who are excited about their role in creating/innovating and hopefully, looking for that big IPO/bonus in the near future….
Technical Marketing Manager
Any field is not that rosy when you don't have a passion for it. And about sacrificing life for the job and not happy at the end, my heart goes for you man. Engineering is still an interesting since you always solve problems which aren't really going to affect anyone much if you don't solve them.
Patrick, here's the short answer: The results are fairly aligned.
In the 2010 Salary and Opinion Survey we asked in question #20:
"20. How would you describe yourself in terms of your engineering career?"
The choices (and North American results) were:
1. Satisfied with career and employer (64%)
2. Actively seeking employer change (17%)
3. Actively seeking career change (5%)
4. Not satisfied with career (14%)
The question's phrasing is different and the choices are different, but i think the distribution is roughly the same. If you take results one and two of the happiness survey, you get 60% in the positive zone. People seeking a new career were 9% compared with 5% for the Salary Survey.
I'm interested in how we can take an admittedly spongey happiness thread (which we all care about but struggle to quantify) and build a survey that can yield data that enables us to write stories that might (just might) affect some cultural change in electronics companies.
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