I am telling my 3 kids not to go in EE simply because the next 20 years won't be easy. It's not really possible to compete with engineers that are paid 3 to 5 times less in China and India. We do have owesome schools but India and China are improving rapidly in this area. Being 3 to 5 times better will be difficult. Until EE salaries are within reasonable range which will take 1 to 2 decades, off-shoring of EE jobs I'm afraid will continue. So why not Civil Engineering? they haven't found yet a way to build bridges in China and ship them to the US.
It is a double edge sword. We want to be well paid, but that in turn has made our profession a target for outsourcing. Our numbers entering the field in the US have been in perpetual decline, thus helping the law of supply and demand. Assuming for this argument that demand for US engineering is relatively constant, falling supply of engineers leads to rising prices (wages) of engineers. But... enter in a new lower cost supply of labor to satisfy the demand and wages overall will fall. We see it every downturn, each round puts more downward pressure on wages through outsourcing to lower cost labor markets. We in the high cost labor market must compete with low cost labor to satisfy the demand for engineering.
I think most of us would agree that if our kid has the engineer bug, we won't stop them from pursuing it. What's more in line with the article theme is, if your kid is undecided, do you steer them towards or away from engineering?
@Rich mentioned the "Festivals" meant to sell kids on the tech field. Fact is, we are well paid compared to all professions, and the only barrier to entry into the field is your ability. There's no glass ceiling or discrimination or anything keeping boys and girls from getting in engineering. They just don't want to do the work, and our culture doesn't glorify engineering and the tech field, despite how successful it has made some of our public figures.
I've said this many times, "People are like electrons. They take the path of least resistance."
From what I see in general, they'd rather try their shot at American Idol than even see if they're smarter than a 12th grader, let alone even a 5th grader.
Wow, there are a lot of comments. Should anyone read this far down, I offer a different suggestion. I think the fastest growing field of engineering for high paid engineers is the creation of standards (bio, nano, wireless, cellular, safety, security, and many more). I find almost no US engineering curriculum address the subject. Of course, my bias shows, I have taught such a course at the University of Colorado, Boulder with good student feedback.
I must agree with JDT's comment -- engineering has been very good to me, and I really can't imagine myself doing any other profession. I also have a daughter in college studying engineering (but not EE), and I certainly have not discouraged her in that choice.
George also asked a question that nobody has yet answered: "what areas of electronics engineering hold the most promise for the next generation of engineers? For example, does the real creativity in electronic design reside in software rather than hardware?"
I think we can all see several challenging areas coming soon in electronics engineering, or in other fields that will require a lot of support from electronics:
1. The need to reduce our dependence of fossil fuels has accelerated the development of hybrid and all-electric vehicles, and there will be countless innovations in those areas in the coming decades.
2. Energy storage, both is support of the above, and also for all our mobile devices. The level of innovation in batteries in the last decade or so has been astounding, and by no means is it finished.
3. Biomedical devices.
4. Even in my own field, IC design, it is mind-boggling to imagine what kinds of chips will be designed as Moore's Law takes us down toward single digit nanometers. Managing those projects, verifying those designs and making working products will require a very talented new generation of EEs.
5. EDA software to accomplish the above doesn't exist yet. Somebody will have to write it and debug it.
I could go on and on, but I'm sure other readers have ideas of the fantastic future that awaits our industry.
And by the way George, regarding the creativity of hardware vs. software design, at least for us IC designers, I have often said that "hardware design IS software design...but our compile times are 6 weeks long and cost a fortune."
SmokeNoMore: is this reply serious? Do you really believe that professional educators have no concern beyond the tuition payment? In the main, I believe that you are mistaken. I think that one of the hallmarks of the professional engineering or science instructor is to see some of his students excel his own level of expertise. I have seen several of my students eventually stride past me: I know therefore that I did my educational job correctly.
Great topic... I agree with the statement that engineering is a calling and a noble profession. I am proud to be an engineer. If you have a passion for it and are good at it, you will earn a good living. If not then you probably will have a tough time keeping a job. Thats just the reality of it. Regardless, the engineering degree and problem solving skills you learned will be usefull in whatever other profession you might eventually gravitate towards.
Our local high school has a 4 year engineering program which has become extremely popular (Yes I said high school). We also have a booster organization to encourage our kids towards the engineering profession. www.chsengineeringboosters.com
I am a mentor for some of their projects and these kids for the most part have the passion for creating things that I had at their age. I have noticed that there is not the same passion for electronics like I had, perhaps because our electronics these days is so integrated and throw away that there is no way to make it a hobby. In any case it would be a shame to discourage these kind of kids from the engineering profession. On the flipside, encouraging kids who don't have the passion would not be wise.
Having spent about 45 years making my living in Engineering, I afree that it is a calling. Finacially, job security, etc. Forget about it. We are the migrant laborers of technology. When we have solved the problem or designed the product of the day, they no longer need us. Now, with "globalization", they certainly don't need us here.
I have always had the "bug", during times in my life when I wasn't designing stuff for a living, I did it at home.
However, I was blessed/cursed with a wide range of interests. I could have done a lot of different things. Here I am now, mid 60's, and nearly unemployable. I can work for entry level wages and do some of that. If I had been a lawyer, Dr. nearly anything else and put in the time and effort I put into Engr, I would have a stable practice for as long as I wanted to work.
So--young man, if you HAVE to do it--go for it. I understand. But--you will work harder, longer hours for a compensation that will keep you in beans, but less than almost else anything you could do should you put the same effort into.
To JDT--where did you find this 40-50 hour work week? I live in CA--law enforcement, firemen, etc. are far, far from underpaid. Look at the half mile long line for every opening.
Actually I heard hedge fund managers have a pretty good life. :)
Totally agree with what you have said. Your neighbor's grass is greener. Here is an interesting blog about what the author called the "circle of envy", http://bostonvcblog.typepad.com/vc/2006/01/the_grass_is_al.html.