Engineering is not a profession. It is an attitude. And it is very difficult to define who qualifies to be an Engineer, given that engineers are now doing all kind of jobs within the industry which dont involve "designing systems" which is what essentially an engineer should be doing. So, even if one is a problem-solver by nature and likes to create and understand complex systems while applying facts and principles, it is not fair to take away his engineer tag just because, he doesnt work with components for a living and instead spends time selling or managing things! I have seen folks with exceptional engineering potential choose finance for a career and apply the same cunning there. I think what you actually end up doing, is after all a matter of choice. Or the lack of it.
A lot of great comments here. Personally, I let my kids choose themselves - I just made sure that in high school they took the math and science courses they needed to prepare themselves for whatever direction they chose after high school. All three of them wound up with degrees in engineering/technical areas with two of them still making use of those and one drifted away into areas found more interesting. If they enjoy it, they'll find a way to make it a great career. If they don't, then they'll find something they do enjoy to make into a great career. At least if they have been properly prepared earlier.
An interesting observation: A huge percentage of the USA leadership are lawyers and/or are very wealthy people (typ from inheritance). In China and India, most of their leaders are engineers and scientists by training. This gives insight as to how the different cultures value those professions, their priorities and also to the business environment that the leaders create for that country. Sadly, what we are seeing is the natural fallout of decades of poor corporate and government management, and it may take a long time to recover. We americans need to start taking the long view and start doing what is RIGHT vs. what is EASY, and stop giving away jobs to 3rd world countries just because it is cheaper.
I am both an EE and ME, and my opinion is that the health of the ME profession in the USA has declined even more than EE, though neither is good. Soon, the entire infastructure of machine shops, etc. which the ME profession needs will no longer exist.
I have 2 incredibly smart kids and while I would direct them to always try to follow their dreams - job prospects and income potential MUST be a practical consideration. I will definitely be steering them away from engineering and towards medicine, law, business.
Hear, hear, MM. :)))
I think there's a disconnect that's been hinted at here, the difference between engineering (and algebra) as things to be learned and enjoyed and used, and jobs. Jobs are what bites, and they always have and always will. Face it, folks, engineers have it a lot better than most others. My ex was a nurse in New Mexico and she topped out -- working four jobs including two cardiac wards -- at $52K. It is indeed absurd that we only make six times what the guy who opens boxes in the receiving department makes, but what about the triage nurse or the air traffic controller?
People who accept the "security" of jobs accept serfdom, and the long-term effect of unionization is going to be exactly what happened at GM: ossification on both sides and eventual death. That is not the answer, that is the defeat. (And yes, DAMN DC for that bailout!)
The good news is that engineering is a truly creative profession, or at least it can be, and creativity is going to be the only skill of value in the future I see. Even those who can't adapt to business (and I've crashed at least three times!) can join startups and can consult, and can write about engineering, and can make toys in their basements. Very few in this world have so many options that can pay far more than minimum wage.
Luis, I respond tongue-in-cheek at first, then change tone.
Yes, I agree, as long as machines are needed, so will engineers be needed. Likewise, I think the engineering balance will shift with globalization,
To wit, I see the day when our talented children will be mowing lawns as a service (MLaaS) and fixing advanced DOHC gas powered yard machines when they break down. No longer will that monopoly belong to those south of our boarder. I envision the day American engineers successfully capture the lawn market in Mexico.
American engineers are adept at learning new technologies and languages. Hence, Spanish will not be a barrier for engineers that already know C, C++, HMTL etc. Don't speak Spanish? We have an app for that too.
Here we come world! It is a race to the bottom and our aristocracy guarantees we be there first.
Seriously, a new era for engineering unions, and/or strong worker unions in general, is getting nearer. There will be new worker gains made at perilous cost. Industry did not "give" all workers a 5 day, 40 hour work week out of the goodness of their hearts, it was punishingly earned by unions and their leaders over time.
Acid test - tell your boss you no longer wish to work 55-60+ hours a week and answer your cell phone after working hours, nor VPN to your work email at home. Instead, you want to spend more time with your family. How does/would this make you feel?
While it may be the norm in the US and 3rd world countries, civilized countries like Germany succeed without this behavior. The difference?
When people tell you it is not what you think or say trust me, it is exactly what you think. Trust worthy people do not have to say trust me.
You get what you expect, or accept.
Philo, the question now is, who failed her? Was it you, her family, her teacher, her school or the community as a whole? Some have already discovered this, but others will in time, that we are ALL responsible as we will also ALL bare the costs associated with the failing of the next generation. As engineers, as professionals, we need to provide guidance and hope for a better future for the benefit of ALL! I have three kids and I am teaching other kids about math, science and technology as the future depends on a team consisting of the worldly "community". We are ALL connected in one way or another.
Engineering is one of the best ways to move from working class to middle class (most of my graduating class came from blue collar families). Engineering allows us access,understanding, and interaction with science in a tangable form. Engineers actually make something and do something that can be pointed to have some benefit to people or places. Finally ERTW (engineers rule the world) we just don't know it! ;)
One of my sayings I forgot to put in one of my responses above: Gypsy engineer syndrome. In fact my epitaph (already tombstone engraved) says: "This gypsy engineer finally found a home." That will be the only way I can stop travelling to work. Retirement is not in the cards unless I win a lottery.
Unfortunately for we "native" Americans, you are correct. I have noticed the authors names on IEEE papers over the past 15-20 years. They are NOT typically American names - mostly Asian (Indian, Chinese, Russian, mideast. etc). I am dissappointed to learn that American born and raised people find engineering to hard. But same with medicine, and other scientific professions. It seems, at least where I live, most of the Drs are foreign born. But we have an abundance of MBAs and lawyers. They must be driven by math and science avoidance - too hard. Poor babies. I blame parents and the educational system in this country. Too few people want to do the hard things. Better to work on your basketball and football game which may lead to unwarranted riches. Or try out for Americam Idol. Our whole culture needs revamping. That's why the American century ended early.