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future prospects of different engineering fields

pillowtoppillowtop Posts: 29Registered User New Member
edited June 2010 in Engineering Majors
"I think when you actually start working and people begin to finally realize that most engineering jobs are not THAT exciting or interesting, people will become a bit more open. During college, people still have optimistic views of being someone who will design the spacecraft to send a man to Mars or something along those lines. While some will do interesting things, a vast majority will not."

is this true?

would you guys say that you have a much smaller chance of doing groundbreaking and innovational stuff working in something like mechanical/aerospace/civil engineering than working in some rapidly growing field like bioengineering? BLS projected growth for biomedical engineering through 2018 is 72% or something ridiculous, as opposed to 6% for mechanical -- lots of baby boomers getting old and demanding medicine. source: Engineers

there are companies like Blue Origin or SpaceX or Virgin Galactic doing cool new space exploration stuff, but far fewer in number than the companies doing biomed engineering, creating GMOs and stuff like that.

i really would love to work on sending people to Mars, but i sort of prioritize doing important and significant stuff in general over that. i would prefer doing something like bioengineering (which i also like but a little less so than aerospace) and working on cool and innovative new stuff over doing aerospace and working a relatively boring desk job.
Post edited by pillowtop on

Replies to: future prospects of different engineering fields

  • EnginoxEnginox Posts: 828Registered User Member
    Consider the following. If you are a brand new engineer the chances of you working on the "cool" aspects of a project are very low. Most likely you will be assigned an aspect of the project that meets your current level of expertise and knowledge. As you gain more experience, you will receive more responsibilities and interesting assignments. At some point, you will gain enough experience, knowledge, and seniority that will allow you to choose what you want to work on and perhaps assign other people to less glamorous tasks. This applies not only to the engineering field but to any professional field. When will you reach the point where you get to pick? Who knows and is highly dependent on you, your workplace, co-workers, etc.

    Regarding space exploration or sending people to Mars, these will be activities that only national governments will be able to undertake for a long while. Not many people can afford to pay a trip to LEO much less a round-trip to the moon. Mars? There's no profit in sending people to Mars therefore that's something only national governments will be able to afford for the next decades.

    Something very important I'd like to add: the worst thing you can do is to base your decision on what the future may look like 10 years down the road. It's nearly impossible to do. Even on a shorter timescale, like 5 years, predicting what the future would look like is very difficult. Yes, those predictions are based on available data but one thing that data is missing is exactly the future. Here's an example of the 2000-2001 report and judge for yourself: http://www.umsl.edu/services/govdocs/ooh20002001/220.htm

    I'd recommend picking a set of tools that will allow you to adapt to changing conditions as you go along. Choosing to specialize in swords when everyone is switching to rifles is a bad career move (and potentially dangerous to your health!).
  • PurdueEEPurdueEE Posts: 705Registered User Member
    The growth rate of BME is solely because the field is very small. 5,000 new jobs in BME will result in a large growth rate while 5,000 new job in ME will barely be a dent, in terms of percentages. BME is fine if you want to get a graduate degree, preferably a PhD. The undergraduate BME degree is largely a waste of time compared to the other engineering majors.

    Also, as has been mentioned... expect to work a "boring desk job" kind of job in the beginning. It's extremely unlikely that you will be in a position of great responsibility doing something like sending people to Mars
  • pillowtoppillowtop Posts: 29Registered User New Member
    yeah of course any entry-level job will be uncool and not all that exciting -- i'm not worried about that. what concerns me more is the existence of "cool" and interesting and significant projects in these fields. I know there are probably many interesting things in mechanical and aerospace engineering yet to be solved and new projects to do, but compared to projects in bioengineering like discovering how to grow organs or understanding how the brain works or enhancing our human abilities they sort of pale in importance. it also seems like all the buzz and excitement nowadays is in the computer/software and biotech industries. this might be a matter of perspective, but i feel like the age of innovation in mech/aero is over and that of biotech is just arriving. i know this is a broad generalization but I think there's truth in it.
  • EnginoxEnginox Posts: 828Registered User Member
    One word: money.

    Most things are developed because someone stands to make a profit off them. Most of the things we use today exist because some government stood to benefit from them and later on private companies. Airplanes, highways, internet, GPS, canned food, electrification, etc.

    Most scientific progress has been driven by the hand of government. Current innovation is being driven by profits. Very few things are developed for altruistic purposes. Ironically, if you want to work on something for the good of humanity, government provides the best opportunities: cancer research, nuclear fusion research, etc. But generally, if no profit is to be made, the chances of it being developed are low.

    There's actually interesting research being done in mechanical engineering: fuel cell research, geothermal, tidal, cell and tissue mechanics, etc. Biotech is just a "buzzword" and many engineering fields participate in it.
  • pillowtoppillowtop Posts: 29Registered User New Member
    that's exactly what I mean; there's loads of money to be made off biotech and for that reason it will likely grow very quickly, unlike "cool" projects in other fields like space exploration -- there's little money in space as of now and as a result it'll probably be relatively stagnant (which makes me sad because it's really what i've always wanted to do).

    I don't think biotech is just a buzzword though; I think the goal of helping people maintain their health and cure diseases will stay nearly invariant. not for purely altruistic purposes, obviously; there is a lot of money in this.
  • EnginoxEnginox Posts: 828Registered User Member
    We agree space exploration is cool. The people holding the purse probably think it's cool but they also understand it's not practical nor profitable. Columbus didn't sail west in 1492 in "search of new lands" but looking for a faster way east to India and China for economic reasons. The USSR and USA didn't enter a space race for scientific reasons but to prove to the other they could put a ballistic missile in orbit, fly it around the globe, and land it in each other's capital city. Those moon rocks were a bonus. Wonder what Newton would think about that one. SpaceX exists because some bored, rich people are willing to pay millions to see LEO. Going to Mars? The "Mars Direct" plan puts the cost at approx. $55 billion; Maybe you can get it cheaper if you book it one-way and lodge over there?

    Scientists and engineers will generally be at the mercy of the people holding the $. Always have been, always will be. Pick a field that interests you and go with the flow.
  • platypodesplatypodes Posts: 124Registered User Junior Member
    I might study EE and get a graduate degree in BME and go into that then; I would enjoy that. My first choice would be mechanical/aero, but primarily because of space exploration -- I really like learning about mechanical/aero engineering, but I feel like actually working in that industry without doing space-related work might be boring and unfulfilling after a while.
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