I’ve come across yet another article on how academia needs to be overhauled. I find these articles interesting because, from the perspective of a scientist, I definitely see where the problem is. On the other hand, I don’t see this as often in engineering.
Most of the arguments against the current academic system of training PhDs involves the law of numbers – there are simply too many PhDs and not enough academic jobs to support them. Be that as it may, this doesn’t seem to be as horrible in engineering.
I think there are a couple things that make getting a PhD in engineering an easier choice. (Keep in mind that I’m making sweeping generalizations based on my observations and comments from various professors over the years.) First, I think very few engineers actually want to get a PhD. Most see the path to higher marketability as coming through an MBA. Second, I think that engineers who go through a PhD program don’t feel the same kind of pressure to go into academia. It’s perfectly acceptable for students to earn PhDs and then go into industry. Probably more importantly, there are a lot of professors and programs in engineering that have no problem with master’s students. In the sciences, the emphasis is definitely on PhD students, with many professors saying that MS students are a waste of time. Finally, there is (or was? maybe it’s changing now) a significant market for engineers outside of academia. Going into academia isn’t as a big a deal simply because a lot of engineers can make more money in industry.
That isn’t to say that competition for academic positions in engineering isn’t fierce. However, I think that the academic model, as it stands, seems to work a lot better for engineers based on factors outside of academia.
For those of you who’ve watched the industry, what have you observed?