Why do we become engineers? I would say likely a troubled childhood, being poor, and early exposure to several problems that need "fixed" (several meanings) to make life better. Then being cursed by creativity and curiosity helps. The spiral downward started In First grade, I had already drawn an automobile piston that would clean up pollution (1969) that was very impractical. In Second grade, a cut away view of space helmet with a rebreather system inside. In Third grade, I was drawing reel tape storage/computers in my lunar walker's legs (1972). In Jr. High, I "designed", hard shell space suits, tried to block diagram an AI (late 1970's). In high school (early 80's), I was drafting, nuclear subs, nuclear tanks, nuclear cities, nuclear this, and nuclear that. Closed cycle recycling systems both ecological and rebreathers for space stations, space capsules, space shuttle experiments (sent one to a NASA HS competition), biological batteries (this worked), solid fueled rockets (from scratch, some worked, some hard starts), prosthetic limbs , computer language recognition and a lot of other garbage I can't remember. Then I fell in with a bad bunch of people in HS when I took math, drafting, and programming classes. I was so full of it (AKA ideas) and after high school I thought I should learn something to make my ideas obtainable so I went to a few engineering schools and held several jobs in engineering. This career path quickly cured me of the curiosity and creativity bug. It seems that finding the "best" solutions to problems that others have deliberately made or find profitable in their present state is a skill not in great demand and can be very unprofitable for engineers. If I had listened to my teachers in elementary to high school and stopped drawing "those pictures" during class, I could have spent a lot more time playing and socializing with people, instead of now sitting in a sparse office alone for years designing embedded hardware and software "solving" other people's problems caused by other people's problems without the means or the time. I would talk about the pay, lack of benefits, and only one paid vacation in 2008, but I do not want to depress the nubees or cast a disparaging light on high tech engineering. Instead, I will talk of the good times. Like, once in a while something will work as expected; you'll get paid, and then you are rewarded a nice long unpaid vacation (i.e. unemployment, consulting, startup) until you are needed to fix another "problem". So why do we become engineers?
According to statistics the professions with the greatest amount of millionares is as follows:
1. Managers with 17% probably not surprising, as that is a broad ranging title.
2. Educators: who would have known
3. Financiers: no surprise here, Wall street anyone.
6. Software entrepreneurs
7. Movie Actors
10. Airline pilots
If you consider that a fair percentage of managers may also be engineers I think we do fairly well on the list, but then again this doesn't take into account the number of people in each of these professions. I certainly think as a percentage of those in the profession, that are in this club, as you said doctors and lawyers would come out much higher.
I think engineering can be a lucrative field. It is not necessarily why we go into it, but if you have some entreprenuer mentallity along with engineering background you can do very well. I have helped start and sell companies and it can be very rewarding both financially and emotionally. The profession has served me well, after learning to value the work and ideas. Living here in Silicon Valley can change the mindset of how you look at engineering and the value chain. There have been many engineers that have joined the ranks of the millionare club and will continue to be, but it does involve both luck and the right mindset.
The vehicles to start and stop companies are not always avaialble nor financially viable, but new funding engines like Kickstarter are openning up the field to more engineers and other creative individuals. Other than that it is a fairly high paying and stable profession with the adding perk of being rewarding from a professional standing.
I didn't think I had the grades to get into medicine. I thought that law and business where uninteresting and elitist. So I chose the next hardest program: Applied sciences -> Electrical Engineering. I thought the math would be challenging.
An interesting career trajectory to be sure, but not overlylucrative.
I feel ya, MeasurementBlues! I believe the trade-off from the older English units to the metric system could have been taught much more easily and perhaps successfully had the units been presented as a rational system with a human scale. There isn't really much about the traditional system that is rational, e.g., there are 12 inches in a foot and three feet in a yard, and so on. But, we still relate to them as being to human scale: at one time, the adult male's foot was about a foot long, and inch was about the length of one's thumb from tip to the first knuckle, etc.
I think educators missed that particular boat here in the USA. Nevertheless, engineers now work more and more in the metric systems, and many times the responsibility rests with us to "translate" for American craftsmen. Of what use is a "1.3 ft" dimension, for example? How many inches and 16ths of an inch is ".3 ft," anyway?
You are being an idealistic @mr-bandit despite your nickname
(A bandit is "one who is proscribed or outlawed; hence, a lawless desperate marauder, a brigand: usually applied to members of the organized gangs which infest the mountainous districts of Italy, Sicily, Spain, Greece, and Turkey.")
most engineers I know want more if they can get it