Engineering: It keeps you off the streets
Readers believe that if you can make it through engineering college, odds are you won't end up unemployed, at least not for long. In fact, current unemployment rates for those with college degrees is about 4%, much lower than that of the general populace. For those with engineering degrees, it is even lower.
Engineering school: A hard-knock life
You are dead-on regarding the life, and realities, of an engineering student (“ Tough Engineering Courses Now Make Headlines,” Dec. 8). For me, graduating and moving onto a “real job” was a welcome relief. No longer did I have to study for 16 hours a day, and often past midnight. Persistence and patience earned me a degree, not my limited 2.9GPA or retaking three classes because I initially got Ds in them. After graduation, working 10 to 12hours a day and going home with nothing to do was a wonderful break in life. And I could eat normal food. (You forgot to mention that engineering students are dirt poor because they don’t have time to work. As a result, the diet during college was less than healthy.)
Great editorial. I couldn’t help but smirk when I read “She switched her major to psychology and policy management from electrical and computer engineering after a particularly tough assignment that ‘kept her and her partner in the lab well past midnight for several days.’” Several days? Getting a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois kept me in the lab or engineering library well past midnight almost every single night. Sure, thoughts of self-defenestration from the third-floor library window came to mind several times a semester out of sheer frustration. But who doesn’t love failing 80% of their exams after spending hundreds of hours preparing for them?
At the end of the day, I’m glad I stuck with it. I somehow managed to graduate with a 2.999GPA, find a satisfying job, and have been enjoying going home at the end of the work day instead of the library for the past seven years.
Steven D. Springer
I could not agree more with your editorial. I found engineering college difficult and completed my degrees only through sheer stubbornness. During my first year I took two accounting courses during which the head of the accounting department asked if I would consider switching majors. I was doing well and his impression was I had a gift for it but I politely declined. I wanted to be an engineer. I couldn’t imagine really doing anything else.
I, too, put in many late nights, and getting my BS degree was arguably the hardest accomplishment in my life, but it has made me happy, successful, and I continue to learn. It’s unfortunate that students would change majors to improve their grades rather than pursue their passion. Perhaps they weren’t quite so sure why they started in engineering in the first place.
That passion began for me at an early age. I think it stems from the freedom given me by my parents to take things apart to see how they worked (without overconcern for the consequences) and my desire to invent, refine, and make things through trial and error. This included everything from my bicycle to kitchen appliances to model rockets, even my parents cars. My parents were not technically minded, so they gave me the support where they could, mostly by giving me the freedom to try.
My fourth-grade daughter is currently a victim of the modern school system in which so much emphasis is put on the metrics of mastering tests — reading, writing, math. It leaves no time for science. In contrast, I recall having a biology textbook in fourth grade. So I don’t see the support from our school system needed to grow that interest and passion for science. Therefore, I do what I can to interest my children in science.
Adrian van der Kroef
Advice to those listening I couldn’t agree more regarding your advice for our job seekers and “occupy wall streeters” (“Advice for Occupy Wall Streeters,” Nov. 17.) Whoever thought they would be well suited for employment with a liberal arts or history degree, even 20 years ago, was dreaming all the way through college!
I have to admit I haven’t kept up with the news on this, and more specifically, on their complaints. But I have heard people chastise them for wanting handouts and freebies. I can more than sympathize with the movement in strict regard to the prevalent, in-situ greed on Wall Street and rampant corruption in our government. I wish we could send most of the guilty parties to jail, but there’s not enough room as we have to make way for some of the politicians and federal workers who egregiously helped create the quagmire we now find ourselves in.
My son has just started high school and you can bet I’m going to give him the same advice as you advocate, not just for his own future, but for the future health and prosperity of the good old USA as well. I appreciate the candor and succinct advice your editorial so eloquently provides.
Scott J. Sanders
I read your editorial this morning and smiled. I graduated 10 years ago from Western Michigan University with a Liberal Arts degree in music and Spanish linguistics. My first job out of school was cutting steel and drilling holes in a machine shop owned by my friend’s dad.
Thanks to that experience, I now work for an engineering firm in Tennessee. I also own a machine shop that supplies prototypes to our company. It’s a whirlwind, but it’s allowed me to provide for a growing family and let my wife stay home with our children since the birth of our first child. (She graduated with a bio-chem degree from WMU.)
You are wise to suggest that young graduates learn how to weld or run a CNC machine. I’d hire them.
I had a couple of other letters from liberal arts degree holders who took what I said the wrong way. Regardless of what your degree happens to be in, I’d say learning a skill at a community college, if necessary, is a good way to get a foot in the door. — Leland Teschler