Want to outsourceproof your career? Don't be a commodity.

April 26, 2007
The best way to protect your salary is to develop your career.

Want to outsourceproof your career? Don't be a commodity.

The best way to protect your salary is to develop your career.

Contributing Editor

Average salaries by degree

Average salaries by industry

Average salaries by years of experience

Average salaries by region

We asked over 1,500 engineers what they thought about their careers, what keeps them in their jobs, and what the future of engineering will look like. Sixty-four percent of them feel secure or very secure in their current positions, and 24% say engineers have been laid off from their companies in the last year. And best of all, salaries are up. The average annual wage is $76,900, up from $73,300 last year. (See MD, 04/27/06, pg. 66.) For 65% of survey takers this was an increase of 1 to 5% over last year.

Sixty-two percent received a bonus, overtime, or special incentive compensation, based mainly on company profit sharing and personal performance. About 40% received 1 to 5% of their annual pay as bonus.

Most respondents, 78%, would recommend engineering as a career to friends and family, and 61% believe the job has gotten better during their careers. Of the 71% whose companies outsource, 78% farm out manufacturing, 44% outsource mechanical design, and 30% contract CAD work.

Many survey takers expressed concern about the future of technology and innovation in the U.S., feeling that as more manufacturing jobs head overseas, there will be less demand for technical skills. But experts say just the opposite. "There is a high, unmet demand for engineering talent," says Scott Kingdom, a senior client partner and global managing director at Korn/Ferry International. Kingdom oversees recruiting at the executive search firm. "Employers I talk to say they would hire more engineers if they could find them." He also adds, "Because engineering skills are in such demand, other countries are busy training citizens to fill these roles."

Why the shortage of talent? "One reason might be that our educational system doesn't foster and promote science and engineering," Kingdom adds. "Another is that the economy is moving more and more into the service sector. Some of our best minds get pulled into service-related organizations such as banking and consulting, that might otherwise have gone into engineering."

What can you do to ensure a successful career? "Sharp, intelligent engineers with leadership and business skills can just about write their own career path," says Kingdom. "Make sure your technical skills are cutting edge and develop management skills. Get involved in jobs that put you in leadership roles," he adds. Also, consider accepting projects and responsibilities outside the U.S.

Innovation is the key to keeping technical jobs in the U.S., according to Kingdom. Businesses that manufacture commodities will likely go offshore, "and probably should go offshore. But where there is real innovation, there is real demand for engineering services and skills."

The same can be said of your career. If your skills and talent are a commodity, you're easily replaced. Make sure you add value and innovation. "There's no one in this economy that can sit still and decide they don't want to change. The world is evolving around us so fast, you'll be irrelevant quickly."

What do you think?
Is there an engineering shortage? What is the situation at your company? Let us know by logging on to forums.machinedesign.comand scrolling down to Vicki Reitz's blog. Click on the post called "Not enough engineers" and give us your opinion.

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