Salary Survey

How do Engineers Stay So Smart?

In our second chapter of the Salary and Career Survey, let’s examine how our engineering readers stay up to date with their education, and what they think the future of engineering will look like.

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Last month, we kicked off our Salary and Career Survey by highlighting whether or not engineers were satisfied with their jobs. This month, we report will focus on how engineers stay appraised with their jobs. Engineering is a profession where, depending on whether or not you are licensed, you may require continuing education credits. However, engineers need to stay up to date on the latest innovations and how they are changing the engineering industry.

The Required Amount of Education for an Engineer

According to our survey, the majority of our engineers have a Bachelor’s degree at 36%. 26% have a master’s degree and 11% have an Associate’s degree. When asked what the minimum level of education is an engineer should have, an overwhelming majority agree at 71% that all engineers should have a Bachelor’s degree.

Our readers agree that their education was well-balanced. Many agreed that 50 to 54% of their education was theoretical vs. practical. If we take our readers into account, with the average age being 50, this was the education model almost 20 to 30 years ago. As one reader highlights how “A good school needs to prepare a student to enter the job market. The school has no idea what industry the student will choose to work in, or what specialty application the student will focus on. The school just needs to give the student a good foundation to be able to function in many different environments.”

We have discussed here on Machine Design how many employers complain about current young engineers not having enough hands-on experience for the demands of the engineering world. This would indicate that the current education model leans more towards theoretical education rather than hands-on applications. As stated by one reader, “Theoretical is good for research and high-level design but practical knowledge and application of real-world problem solving is the most useful in our company. New equipment not designed in-house that we’ve recently purchased is rarely based on truly new technology.”

However, the majority of our readers agree engineers should be multi-disciplined. The lines of engineering majors are so blurry they no longer exist. According to one reader, “most organizations value engineers that have a multi-discipline background and experience. Our products span many disciplines and require a well-rounded engineer to enhance coverage.”

Mechanical engineers need to know electronics to operate robotics and IoT devices correctly. Electrical engineers need to understand mechanical equipment to program and design network connected devices. Hydraulic engineers need to know about motorized equipment and software engineers need to understand the basics of 3D printing to accurately design CAD software. This is why 92% of our engineering readers agree that an engineer needs to be multi-disciplined and knowledgeable of other engineering verticals.

Maintaining and Starting Your Engineering Education

To stay apprised of the changes occurring in engineering, engineers have a wealth of resources at their disposal. Engineers rely on a mix of white papers, webinars, articles, magazines, and websites to stay informed. When we asked our engineers, they could pick multiple resources to provide a comprehensive picture of the education options. The largest tool is engineering websites at 70%. Magazines were a close second at 68%. The growth of digital education is evident, as 42% rely on e-newsletters as a main access to articles and resources, webinars at 59%, and white papers at 57%. Social media connections are also up sitting at 21%. This includes social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.

When asked, the majority of our engineers agree that an introduction to science and engineering should start as young as possible. Education focused on science, technology, math, and engineering (STEM) fields should be introduced to children as early as grade school. Engineers recognize the lack of engineers currently in the profession and are hoping to foster future engineers.

The majority agree that a balance of hands-on education and fundamental theory is needed for STEM students. The top three responses were math, physics, and shop class, with each receiving at least 75% or higher. When discussing how to motivate more women and minorities into engineering, many agree that providing them role models and fostering their science curiosity at a younger age is essential. One reader advises “focus on gaining interest and exposing them to engineering when they are younger (Elementary School) as by the time college or high school is reached, it is too late.”

Progressing in the Engineering World

Engineers should always be on the road of self-improvement. This why engineers are constantly educating themselves and pushing for degrees. This year, at least 35% of our engineers are professional licensed engineers. Other licenses held by our readers are certifications in specific engineering tools like CAD software and machinery. Several of them also have a level of certification in Six Sigma.

However, when we asked if whether or not their companies help in their progress, the majority said no at 58%. Companies should invest into their engineers and offer education models and tuition compensation to help engineers move forward. Engineers that receive higher level education post bachelor’s degree, whether it is a certification or a higher degree status, will be better educated and higher skilled engineers.

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