Don't go to an Engineering College !!

<p>(fixing posts that got out of order)</p>

<p>There are a number of threads seeking advice on engineering, so its time to post a warning about engineering for those who are just now coming to this board. Like Marley's ghost in "A Christmas Carol" I'm here to show you what your future will be like unless you make some changes. Let me tell you right now, so you can say you were warned -- ENGINEERING IS A TERRIBLE CAREER CHOICE!! </p>

<p>I've posted this for a few years now and it's always controversial, but you need to hear this advice more than ever. With the downturn in the economy there is a push to major in something "practical" instead of perhaps following your heart into a major in the humanities or social sciences. The public is constantly told there is a "shortage" of engineers, and you may be hearing this from your parents or at school. At yet as an article this month in the NY Times notes
If the United States really has a critical shortage of scientists and engineers, why didn’t this year’s graduates get showered with lucrative job offers and signing bonuses?</p>

<p>... employers don’t have to throw around that kind of money because there’s no shortage of workers — and they won’t be increasing their offers if the federal government artificially inflates the labor supply with an extra 100,000 graduates. As Daniel S. Greenberg wrote in the Scientist magazine in 2003: “Despite the alarms, no current or impending shortage exists, and never did. Instead, we’re glutted with scientists and engineers in many fields, as numerous job seekers with respectable credentials can attest.”<br>
What</a> Shortage of Scientists and Engineers? - TierneyLab Blog -


<p>If you don't believe my post, just show it to anyone who ACTUALLY works in engineering. It's a little longer than most posts, I know, but we're talking about your future here, and I can't give you enough info in 3 sweet paragraphs. It's your future; spend a little time following the links I give to see that what I'm telling you can be independently verified.</p>

<p>And when you read replies filled with venom and mud-slinging worthy of a Palin campaign speech, be sure to ask yourself if they address the actual points I make or are just meant to distract you from the real issues. I post links and give info you can easily verify; you won't waste time following links in arguments opposing me because there won't be any. BTW I am an engineer with a decade+ experience who has worked at several companies that are household hi-tech names; I just wish there had been someone there to warn me when I was 18 what I was really getting into.</p>

<p>So who are you, the prospective engineer? Maybe you have a knack for math and science courses so well-meaning parents/teachers are steering you into engineering. Maybe you like the cool toys you have -- the PC, the iPhone, video games, and think it would be fun to take part in making things like them. Maybe the attractive starting salary (among the highest for college grads, BTW) sounds great. Or perhaps you dislike uncertainty and ambiguitity, and finding a job after college worries you -- how DO English and History majors find jobs anyway? Everyone knows the "want fries with that?" joke, and you figure if you major in engineering at least that won't be your fate. </p>

<p>But make no mistake about it. If you go into engineering, odds are you will regret the choice a few years down the line. I'm going to spell out exactly why. </p>

<p>As an engineer
1) you will miss out on a lot of fun in college, forsaking some of the best years of your life.
2) you will miss the best chance you'll have to explore academic areas
3) you will be limited to working in a few major cities.
4) the hours will be excessively long
5) you will be surrounded primarily by men at work
6) many if not most of your coworkers are going to be foreigners
7) your salary will top out early and those liberal-arts majors will catch and pass you
8) by the time you're in your 30's you will be worried about keeping a job
9) you're NOT going to get into management
10) the long-term outlook for engineers grows more dismal each year</p>

<p>1) Missing out on fun in College -- as an engineering major you will be loaded down with labs and problem sets. You'll know the library better than your dorm room since you will spend more time there, working late most nites and on the weekend. Your buddies are going hiking and skiing, visiting friends at other colleges, going to bars and pizza places in town, surfing the web, going to the concerts and events on campus, and so on; YOU, by and large, will be studying.</p>

<p>Even the industry press acknowledges this; recently in EETimes they wrote "There's a sense among students of, 'Why should I stay? My friends are studying half as long as me and having a better time,' " said Ray Almgren, vice president of product strategy for National Instruments. See</a> The outcome is that on average 1 out of every 2 people who start in engineering switch out before graduating. For EE it is 2 out of 3!! BTW keep these stats in mind if you're considering a college focused mainly on engineering; with the odds at least 50:50 you'll leave the major, what are your alternatives going to be?</p>

<p>I'll note in passing that some guys choose engineering precisely to avoid the social life most kids are seeking. I was surprised how many guys majoring in engineering had NEVER gone on a date in HS. In college instead of admitting they don't want to go to a party because they're scared to talk to girls or don't know how, the easy excuse is "need to study". </p>

<p>And I say "guys" deliberately because thats who the studens are; these days only about 1/6 of the students getting engineering degrees are women (and thats considered an improvement over the past!). </p>

<p>2) missing out on a chance to explore academic areas -- For most students college is a golden time to explore other areas as well as their major. Take an art class, learn about history, perhaps your college has a famous scholar who's class you can take. Spend a semester overseas and build memories for a lifetime. Most students can do this. To pick Michigan as a random example, if you are a history major you have 10 required classes for the major; see History</a> Dept - University of Michigan The rest of your classes include some required breadth classes, but by and large you can pursue your cultural and intellectual interests. </p>

<p>And then there is engineering. Engineering is different. There is just so much to learn that you will be loaded down every semester with lots of required courses. Engineering programs are similar at almost every college since they're standardized by a group known as ABET. So lets take a look at Ohio State. If you choose EE, for example, during your 4 years of college you will get to choose exactly 7 courses outside of science & engineering!! And BTW they must be on an approved list, not too many in any one area since they are your distribution requirements. See <a href=""&gt;;/a> Choose wisely... And forget about studying overseas if you're planning on graduating in 4 years since you won't be able to get the required courses there.</p>

<p>Actually if you are going into engineering anyway and take only one thing away from this post, it would be this heartfelt advice. If you major in engineering, plan from the start to take 5 years to get your undergrad degree so you have some time to experience and explore something in college besides endless classes in math and engineering.</p>

<p><a href="to%20be%20continued%20because%20of%20the%20post%20length%20limit">i</a>*</p>

<p>3) Engineering employers are concentrated in a few large areas Austin, Silicon Valley, LA, Boston, and some others. Sure there are engineers working many other places, but when there are just a few shops in town the salary is going to be lower because they know you don't have many options. Even during the boom salaries in San Diego were 25-35% lower than Silicon Valley just because the employers weren't bidding that hard against one another. And you have to put up with more cr*p because where are you going to go if you don't like it? Right now it may be hard for this to seem like a realistic concern because everything you own probably fits into a few boxes and you don't have kids, but imagine your life a 10-15 years out. To put it another way, how easy would it be for your parents to drop everything and move to a new city? Add to that concerns about layoffs. If you lose your job in a town with few engineering employers you're basically going to have to move to get another one. The upshot is that the engineer seeking stability chooses to live in a place with more hi-tech employers, meaning he only has the choice of a handful of major cities. </p>

<p>4) long hours -- EETimes reported "In an open letter to Congress this past week, IEEE-USA president Bryant said that long hours, stressful job conditions and other factors are converging to 'make careers in engineering less attractive,' " </p>

<p>Why? Coming out of school you might expect to work long hours to "prove" yourself. However as a working engineer these long hours are going to be the norm for your career. For example, suppose a project with 45 people working on it just took 18 months from start to customer ship, and now they are launching the successor. A good estimate is 18 months, but some manager who wants a big bonus will step up and say he can do it in 14. What the secret? Simple. He simply brings in the deadlines for various steps by 4 months. You get to work late into the night and on weekends to make up those 4 missing months, he gets praise from his bosses and a big end-of-the-year check for "his" accomplishement. When you go home at 8:30pm every nite you can't do much more than chow down, pay the bills, and go to sleep just to do it all over again the next day. </p>

<p>So why don't people just change jobs? If you're in a smaller town, see issue (3). And in general it's hard to leave. During good times you'll learn from experience the grass isn't much greener over the fence. The next employer will have a manager just as aggressive to look good by pulling in schedules. During bad times, well nobody's hiring. In short, good times or bad, its hard to leave. </p>

<p>5) mostly men -- these days only about 1/6 of the students getting engineering degrees are women (and thats considered an improvement over the past!). The women you meet at work are going to primarily be the admin for the group and the ladies working in the cafeteria. So if you think that will be meeting women socially on the job, think again. Its easy to pooh-pooh this when you're in HS or college, but once you start on your career most of the people you meet during your waking hours are going to be coworkers. A lot of guys find dates/spouses among women they work with and the friends of those women; much less likely in engineering.</p>

<p>6) mostly foreigners -- out here in CA I'd say the hi-tech workforce is 1/3 chinese, 1/3 indian, 1/3 white. Of those from overseas, many are here on temporary visas; they grew up overseas, they plan on moving back. American culture and activities are just distractions. If you've ever wanted to feel like a foreigner in your own country, engineering is the job for you. And BTW many don't bother with soap or deodorant because that's the way things are back home. Mother Jones, a leftist magazine that can scarcely manage a word of criticism of any non-white culture, noted in an article about the adjustments foreigners make when coming here -- "Ravi's boss actually took him shopping for deodorant" (see "High-Tech Melting Pot" in August 4, 1998 issue).</p>

<p>7) your salary will top out early. Many HS students are attracted by the high starting salaries for engineers. However don't be misled by the number that applies at one point in your life. You will be working for 30+ years and you need to consider what happens over that span. Liberal arts majors may start out in relatively low-paying jobs but as they prove themselves and become more valuable they rise in salary. Now if you already expect that you won't be able to prove yourself in business maybe tech is right for you; but for those who have faith in themselves after a dozen years or so those engineers will be working for you! </p>

<p>It turns out that salaries in engineering rise rapidly for 6 or 7 years and then plateau. Why is that? Because the ideal engineering employee is someone with 3-5 years experience. After you've been around the block once or twice you know what needs to get done on a project, you know how to run the tools, work with the vendor, debug the product in the lab, etc. After this its just turning the crank again. Unlike doctors or lawyers or other professionals who become more valued as they get older, the most valued engineers are 25-30 or so. They seldom have families so they don't complain about the long hours, and they can be plugged right into the project. </p>

<p>Another source of the salary cap is the H1B program. Your friends in Congress let hi-tech employers bring in 65K workers from overseas each year (thats where the Chinese and Indians come from). And it's communist China, BTW. Think about that. Do they say "well, lawyers are making too much so lets bring in 100,000 each year to help keep the cost of legal advice down?" No. Same with doctors, accountants, other professions. But even though the limit was pushed down to 65K for a few years after the dot-com bust, Congress has been busy listening to it's corporate donors and is considering lifting it to 165,000. The beauty of this program to employers is the visa is for 5 years and is non-renewable. In other words they can get a worker at low cost, have him work his ass off for a couple of years, and then US Immigration boots him out of the country before he starts demanding more! </p>

<p>And BTW search on the web and you'll find out that even though this program is supposed to address the "shortage" of workers, there is no requirement that H1B visa holders be laid off before American workers! So since they make less, many companies have been doing just that; firing the Americans and keeping the cheaper foreigners. All perfectly legal. </p>

<p><a href="to%20be%20continued%20because%20of%20the%20post%20length%20limit">i</a>*</p>

<p>fixing posts that got out of order ...</p>

<p>8) By the time your only in your 30's you'll be worried about your job. That's right! The ideal employee is 25-30, so by the time you get a little older you might not be as willing to work the insane hours. And since your salary goes up a little each year (2-4%), after a few more years all of a sudden you are making 20% more than people doing essentially the same work. So you're first out the door and the last one in. </p>

<p>IF YOU FOLLOW NO OTHER LINK IN THIS POSTING, you have to read "Debunking the Myth of a Desperate Software Labor Shortage" at Prof</a>. Norm Matloff It's from a UC Davis professor and it spells out in great detail exactly why you are going to have trouble finding work by the time you are in your late 30's. The article is aimed primarily at software people since the professor teaches CS, but it applies to all the other engineering disciplines as well. </p>

<p>As he points out, "An InformationWeek survey of hiring managers found that only 2% of them would prefer to hire an applicant with more than 10 years of experience." 2%!!! See how many of the rebuttal posts bother to address that. He also notes that "Twenty years after graduation from college, only 19% of computer science majors are still employed as programmers". </p>

<p>In most other professions, those with experience are valued. You want your lawyer to have seen a bunch of similar cases, your doctor to have experience, your accountant, your professor, and so on. But to be honest engineering is blue-collar assembly-line work done with the mind instead of the hands. So sure, it's indoor work with no heavy lifting, but all they want is a couple of years experience and then you're as good as you're going to get as far as industry is concerned. </p>

<p>Think about this quote from another online article: 'I spent seven years in school, and it resulted in a six-year career,' says Mr. Porter, who feels his master's degree in engineering is little more than 'a base.' From the same article: "Many engineers are facing a challenge of a different sort. Graying engineers who have decades of work experience are as rare as a black and white TV. Even those under 40 are often considered old". See the article "A Short Circuit for US Engineering Careers" at A</a> short circuit for US engineering careers | </p>

<p>9) You won't be a manager. If you share this post with your teachers or counselor, they might not object too strongly to the 8 points above. But they have an ace left up their sleeve. They'll smile wanly and say "The age discrimination might be real, and maybe most people aren't actually doing what they slaved over learning in college, but it doesn't matter to you. See, you'll be a manager". If only it were true! Sure, in a growing field there's room for advancement. But other than the phony numbers the industry manufactures to justify the H1B programs, there's not a huge amount of growth left in engineering. Actually it's already shrinking in some areas due to offshoring. So do the math. The average 1st-line manager has 10 employees. Since hi-tech is barely growing or is actually shrinking, less than 1/10 of those starting in hi-tech will become managers. </p>

<p>10) long term the outlook is bleak for engineers. Its easy to ignore slow changes until they are pervasive. Global warming, for instance. But here's a fun one. Ask your parents or teachers (if they're old enough) what the perception was of Japanese quality back in the 60's. You aren't going to believe the answer!!! Today manufacturers like Lexus and Japanese electronics companies set the standard, but back then the stuff was seen as junk, low quality stuff nobody wanted. And yet today they dominate. The change was gradual but sure, people were able to ignore what was happening right under their noses, and then all of a sudden the american manufacturers were dead. </p>

<p>The same inexorable change is dooming engineering in the US. Employers just want low costs and their search to find them is going to make even that high starting salary go away. Most major hi-tech companies already have engineering efforts overseas. going to happen in engineering. Recently Microsoft announced it is investing $400 million in India, and they've probably spent more since then (see <a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;) In October 2005 Cisco announced it's investing over 1 billion dollars in India (see <a href=""&gt;;/a>. And in 2006 IBM said they were going to spend 6 billion dollars in India. Think what this all means for your career prospects when you graduate college a few years from now ...</p>

<p>Here's what's going on. American employers are capping salaries today by bringing in hundreds of thousands of cheap workers. And after a couple of years they go home where they continue working for tech employers, but now at 1/4 or less of what an american makes. It takes a while to get the critical mass going. At first they start with sustaining engineering (eg supporting existing products), then they will move to having the overseas workers cost-reduce existing products. Next they will be used to add improvements to existing products, at which point they are poised for the final blow. New product development will go to Shanghai and Bangalore, and then who needs those overpaid Americans anymore? </p>

<p>Update: The news was bad when I first started posting this column a few years back, its now even worse. Major employers have been making big investments in China and India. My guess is the forthcoming recession will be the tipping point. As the economy shrinks they'll cut back US jobs, when the recovery comes it will be in the overseas centers. Here's a sample article for you to ponder :
Cisco is widely reported that it was to have 20% of its top management to be based in India and that the headcount there will grow to 10,000 by 2010. Cisco continually sends top managers to work stints in its Bangalore globalization center and it has been reported that strategic decisions in the future could come out of Bangalore rather than Silicon Valley.
Cisco's</a> heavy investment in India raises the question of why do business in the U.S.?


<p>This change is coming, its already starting. Just like the Japanese change from junk manufacturers to best in the world, it may take a decade or two but its going to happen. And in a decade or two you're barely 30, then what are you going to do? In fact, if the push overseas gathers momentum in the upcoming recession, by the time you finish college as a newly-minted engineer you might struggle just to find work in the field!</p>

<p>I'll close with another quote from the NY Times article I mentioned at the start
the complaints about a shortage are sure to continue — they’ve been sounded for decades. Why? Well, consider who does some of the loudest complaining: administrators of university science and engineering department that stand to get more funds, and corporate executives hoping to have more future workers trained at taxpayer expense.


<p>As a note, the thread title should read something more along the lines of "Don't Do Engineering" more than "Don't go to an Engineering College."</p>

<p>I went to an engineering college for undergrad and absolutely loved my time there. Made tons of friends, did some really hard problem sets, have some exciting labs, and (gasp) even had a ton of fun doing things other than school work with my friends!</p>

9) You won't be a manager.


<p>No sh**! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if there is one manager managing 10-20 people that only 1 in 10-20 will become a manager at best. People who expect to be an engineering for awhile then "go get an MBA/consult" are 9 times out of 10 kidding themselves.</p>

Liberal arts majors may start out in relatively low-paying jobs but as they prove themselves and become more valuable they rise in salary.


<p>What jobs are these that allow liberal arts majors to magically rise through the ranks in salary without weeding out many in the process? Salary hierarchies are always pyramid-shaped.</p>

<p>Hasn't this whole thing been posted before? It all looks very familiar.</p>

<p>I agree. It has been posted a few years back.</p>

<p>If I'm not mistaken, these points were all successfully countered in the first thread. Anybody have a link to that thread handy?</p>

<p>"6) many if not most of your coworkers are going to be foreigners"</p>

<p>WOW. just wow</p>

<p>I believe this guy.</p>

<p>A family member, one of the few graying computer software programmers, with 20 years of experience, is currently working overseas.</p>

<p><a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>Hey Columbia -- you beat me to it! I just found the same thread and was going to post the link. So, same stuff from the same person.</p>

<p>Helpful tips.</p>

<p>How to Avoid Becoming a Chronically Unemployed Older Engineer
<a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

If you've ever wanted to feel like a foreigner in your own country, engineering is the job for you. And BTW many don't bother with soap or deodorant because that's the way things are back home.


<p>Your post has lots of good info but this one is unneccesary and not true and really makes you sound like a bigot, if not an a*s. As someone from Hong Kong, I can tell you we pay as much attention to hygiene as people here. Many Americans don't shower before going to bed. Over there, many shower twice (before bedtime and work)! Japan and Singapore make many places in this country look trashy. You'll almost never smell urine in subways in those places but it's all too common here. You need to stop thinking this is the cleanest place on earth.</p>

<p>Um.. if you go to an Engineering College (Like an LAC?) there won't be much to do anyways..
If you major in engineering, you don't have to become an engineer..</p>

Your post has lots of good info but this one is unneccesary and not true and really makes you sound like a bigot, if not an a*s. As someone from Hong Kong, I can tell you we pay as much attention to hygiene as people here. Many Americans don't shower before going to bed. Over there, many shower twice (before bedtime and work)! Japan and Singapore make many places in this country look trashy. You'll almost never smell urine in subways in those places but it's all too common here. You need to stop thinking this is the cleanest place on earth.


<p>I agree with Sam Lee. The Europeans don't shower that often either, why do you think the French invented perfume in the first place. :D I've worked with a company that had 80-90% foreigners and I have rarely had this problem. But I also think this problem is outdated, no longer relevant. I think most US companies hire overseas engineers to stay and work in overseas. In fact for some VCs, it's one of the requirement in order to get funding.</p>

<p>Engineering graduates make up the largest percentage of Fortune 500 CEOs among all undergraduate majors.</p>

<p>Even if this is has been posted in the past it is still useful for updating new members of CC to this perspective. All points sound valid as reflecting this person's personal experience with multiple links to supporting sources. Of course no one experience or set of facts covers every aspect of a field but given the current economic and political realities this is good food for thought for those thinking of investing expensive years of education and valuable time in a particular career. If it gets one thinking and more thoroughly researching this field and it's true current and future benefits/potential or downsides then it is a good view point to hear.</p>