The state of the engineering profession has always been relatively stable. Engineers are as essential to the job market as doctors are to medicine. Even in the face of automation and the fear many have of losing their jobs to robots, engineers are still in high demand.
Our Annual Salary & Career Report collected information and opinions from more than 2,000 Machine Design readers. The employee outlook is good as 33% are staying with their current jobs and 36% of employers are focusing on job retention, up 15% from 2016. Among our readers, the average reported salary for engineers across the country was $99,922, and 57.9% reported a salary increase while only 9.7% reported a salary decrease. The top three earning industries with the largest work forces were industrial controls systems and equipment, research & development, and medical products. Among these industries, the average salary was $104,193. The West Coast looks like the best place for engineers to earn a living. The average salary in the states of California, Washington, and Oregon was $116,684.
Profile of an Engineer
As is the ongoing trend in engineering, the profession is dominated by male engineers, with 71% of them being over 50 years of age. However, our report shows an uptick of young engineers. There was an increase in engineers in the age range of less than 25 to 35 from 5.6% to 9.2%. And the percentage of people entering the profession increased as well, with engineers with less than 14 years of experience increasing 5% from last year.
Many engineers seem satisfied with their jobs. More than a third reported being satisfied and 54% reported being very satisfied with their jobs. Out of our readers surveyed, 57% feel sufficiently challenged. Among the top concerns for engineers are the challenges that accompany a new design, and the fear of a lack of resources or design compromises. Even with all the challenges of engineering, 92% would still recommend the engineering profession. One engineer responds, “In fact, wherever I’ll go, I always will have an engineer’s point of view. Trying to understand how things work, and how to improve them.”
Engineering Society and the Future
The engineering labor force has gone through many changes in the past year. With the new U.S. administration and society’s increased focus on automation, labor force, self-driving cars, and energy resources, engineers can expect many more changes ahead. When asked about foreign labor forces, 54% believe H1-B visas hurt engineering employment opportunities and 61% support measures to reform the system. In terms of outsourcing, 52% reported their companies outsource work—the main reason being lack of in-house talent (42%). However, 73% of the outsourced work is toward other U.S. locations.
When discussing the future job force, 55% of engineers believe there is a job shortage, specifically in the skilled labor force area. An overwhelming 87% believe that we lack a skilled labor force. According to our readers, the strongest place for job growth is in automation at 45% and the strongest place to look for skilled laborers is in vocational schools at 32%. The future of engineering is dependent on the new engineers not only in school today, but also in younger people just starting their young science, technology, engineering, and mathematic (STEM) interests. With the average engineer being 50 years or old, the future of engineering will rely heavily on new engineers willing to carry the torch—87% of our engineers believe there needs to be more focus on STEM at an earlier age to make sure the future of engineering is secure.