Best Engineering Jobs for the Future: Part II

Part II: Miniseries About The Future of Cybersecurity, Engineering and IT jobs.

The situation in the engineering industry is very similar to the cybersecurity field – too many job openings and not enough professionals with desirable skills. On top of that, the engineering workforce is among the oldest – 23 % of the experts are 55 years or older. The older generation of baby boomers, those born born between the WW2 and 1964, is aging and preparing to retire from various industries, such as engineering. There are fewer younger people to fill their positions. So who will replace 262,170 experts/baby boomers currently working in civil engineering, 168,100 electrical engineers, 258, 630 mechanical engineers, and 230,580 industrial engineers in the not-so-far-away-future? These three kind of jobs together with electrical and electronics engineers constitute two-thirds of the American engineering force.

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This article by Adecco about how STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills drive innovation, but the US colleges are producing only 30 % of graduate students needed to fill the vacancies. Additionally, only about 10 % of all graduates with majors in these fields goes to work in STEM. Even though the output of engineering graduates increased by 33 % since 2007, from 108,000 to 144,000 – 80 % of them men, there are not enough graduates with Bachelor’s degree in the engineering field.

However, the prospects in the engineering field are not as grim as some predict. The “end of the world” scenarios might not happen anytime soon. As a whole industry, engineering will keep growing. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ projections for new engineering jobs until 2024 predicts 4 % growth for the whole industry, which is slower than the US average. It is partly caused by the fact that some engineering occupations are predicted to decline with the future technological developments, but others have very positive projections. More specifically, the highest employment growth by 2024 is expected for biomedical engineers (23.1 %), environmental engineers (12.4 %), petroleum engineers (9.1 %), marine engineers (8.9 %), or civil engineers (8.4 %). To put it simply, some engineering professions will be in higher demand than others and demand for others may decline.

There are 29 engineering occupations listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The best paying among them based on the 2015 median pay are: Petroleum Engineers – $129,990, Computer Hardware Engineers – $111,730, Aerospace Engineers – $107,830, Nuclear Engineers – $102,950. The annual median pay for the whole industry was $76,80 in May 2015, while the annual national average for all occupations in the economy was $36,200. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metropolitan has one of the highest employment level , in engineering with the hourly wage nationwide of $60.64 and also the highest annual mean wage of $126,130. Other top paying metropolitan areas for this occupations are San Francisco, CA, Houston, TX, San Jose, CA or Boulder, CO. Unsurprisingly, the biggest metropolitan hub for engineers is concentrated around the NASA flight center and other military facilities – Huntsville, Alabama has over 5 times more engineers per capita than the national average.

All engineering jobs will be changing and evolving while facing new problems in the future. In order to prepare for these future challenges, the The National Academy of Engineering has recommended a few changes a few changes in education to address future needs of engineers and the high pace of technological innovations. For example, the master’s degree should become the recognized engineering professional degree instead of the bachelor’s degree. The engineers of 2020 should be able to better define and solve problems, while becoming lifelong learners, and being able to utilize failures from case studies as a learning tool.

Overall, the good news for younger job seekers is that there will be many openings once the older generation retires. The bad news for the engineering field is that the younger generation is not producing enough graduates with engineering degrees; also many other industries will have problems replacing the aging work force. But one thing is sure: choosing an engineering degree will most likely bring the desired outcomes – job security with advancement opportunities combined with a competitive salary.