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?"
I realize it doesn't make as good a headline, but my take-away is that just 13% of the engineers willing to take an online poll are completely happy.
I theorize that those who are happy don't take as many online polls, because they're not as likely to be looking for a break from their job.
The poll results don't surprise me. For 40+ years I have seen too many people enticed to enter the electronics profession with promises of an exciting career, yet having no real interest or passion for it. And should have picked some other career.
I will bet you the majority of the unhappy poll respondents were never amateur radio operators, never built their own stereo, alarm system or guitar amplifier, don't have a bench of test equipment at home, and probably wouldn't know which end of a soldering iron to hold.
If it isn't in your blood from the start, you're probably better off doing something else.
Well said and I agree! It seems that those who get an EE degree and do not have a passion for electronics are either complaining or are now in technical sales/marketing positions. Nothing wrong with the latter by the way, that degree still paid off for them.
I resigned a six figure R&D scientist job because an incredibly bad manager just about a year ago. In the interim, I've been lucky enough to get some consulting work including a lucrative expert technologist position with a law firm that lasted a few months.
I am not sure whether I will ever be fully employed again as I am 59 and live in a smaller west coast city with limited employment in my field.
I do not regret leaving my previous position as I was unable to sleep most nights. I keep in touch with my previous colleagues who tell my how bad the working conditions continue to be at my previous employers.
I would rate my stress level now as minimal. I was careful with my earnings and have no bills, a house that's paid off, and a very understanding wife who is a senior-level manager (and still working). You only live once and continuing in a stressful position is simply not worth it. I made the right decision.
I would be happy to be working part time just to earn some additional money, but I will take opportunities as they come.
It is the nature under "GAS" (geek answer syndrome) to want to make things better. In the case of those who solve problems most problems are there to be solved and... well nothing is perfect for an engineer.
That is not inherently representative of discontent. It is the most common response I get from engineers. I'd like to tweek it a bit.
Normally all engineers are motivated towards creativity. However, when the management focus is penny wise and pound foolish, in the hands of non-engineers, then all hell breaks loose. That is the part I would like to tweak.
Another question I have is why engineers do not have the same status in society as lawyers and doctors? Why are engineers treated as second class citizens, when the fact of the matter is that society would not have been at the current state of the art without engineers?
Go to any engineering school in the Sillicon Valley area, and look at how many native born studendts are enrolled in engineering programs.
Is the lack of native born students because:
1. They are lazy and don't want to study? Only the neive and racist believe that.
2. They don't have the inherent talent? Same as above.
3. They have caught on to the fact that this is not where the rewards are and recent immigrants haven't? Most likely
This article is right on the money. It's all about the incentives baby. Bust your ass, and end up having to report to an Art or Bus major? Only one person in a family does that 'once'!
Good question about other cultures - I find it an interesting comparison that while in the USA the leaders are mainly lawyers, in China they seem to be generally scientists and engineers. I fear that the social culture in the USA has drifted such that it is no longer "cool" to be a techie.