Mixed signals

Mixed signals

While I would really have loved the title to be a pun on signal processing, I have to admit that today’s post is not about that esteemed branch of electrical engineering.  Instead, I’m going to talk about mixed messages I’ve been receiving.

I had some colleagues from our university career center come and speak to students last week about the services they offer.  Recently, the career center held a job fair, and one of the speakers said that many of the companies asked her where all the electrical engineers were.  Apparently, the midwest has really had some serious job growth since the economic downturn in 2008, and there just aren’t enough students for internships and maybe even jobs.

While I appreciate that being the perspective from a career counselor, I spent a bit of time looking over the engineering entry in the occupational outlook handbook compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  It says that over the 2008-2018 period, jobs for electrical engineers will grow at only 2% and electronics engineers will see no growth in jobs.  If you compare this to the national average for all jobs, which is 11%, this definitely doesn’t look good.  In fact, the fastest growing engineering fields are petroleum, mining, and environmental.  Comparing electrical engineers with those fields makes the future seem rather bleak.  Even mechanical engineers can only expect to see a 6% growth rate.

All of these look pathetic compared to biomedical engineering: 72% growth rate.

I hope that students will look these things over and take into consideration such statistics.  While I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing something they enjoy, I’ve had several students say they wanted to go into engineering because of the good job prospects and stability.  I think I’m going to start suggesting that more of them think about biomedical engineering.


I’d never bothered to look into the numbers, but I’d say it matches with my experience in the job market and its been getting worse year on year.

… And don’t get me started on how many engineering jobs there are which are probably included in the figures & don’t involve engineering!

I still think students would be better off getting a true ME/EE/ChemE degree and then taking additional bio engineering courses to effectively make a biomedical engineering degree.

Some of the engineering principles I see from biomedical engineering are terrible. For example, some consider correlations of 50% to be “really good agreement with the theory”. For real engineers, 50% correlation means only a marginal correlation. I would prefer students get sound engineering principles and then move towards biomedical than the other way around.

If there is no green card/citizenship issue, I may have jumped into petroleum industry as well….sadly enough…years later…my MS degree turns out to be sort of useless during job hunting..For now, I highly recommend my students to take Australia into consideration, definitely not the US, since mining industry and petroleum ones are rapidly growing and the unemployment rates in these two over AUS is nearly zero, when students ask me about the situation in the US….I am speechless.

Mining and petroleum industry in China is kind of tricky, almost all the companies are owned by the government, not by the private ones…but still..employees could make a huge amount of money (mid career~150-200K US dollar/per year before tax). The other thing is that AUS is part of Asia and is closer to the students’ home,comapred to the US, so it is much easier for the employees to fly back as they need to pay a visit to the families. For the past 1 or 2 decades, AUS government not only provide massive amount of job opportunities,but also make the immigration/visa procedure fast and easy(this means a lot to the foreign employees, I cannot forget those painful days back in the US) This approach has been widely accepted as a way to compete with US and Russia. My cousin is major in gold mining in University of Western Australia (Perth) and he has no problem of finding a job with 90,000 AUD as entry salary (1 AUD is equivalent to 1 USD).

About those University claims about a “lack” of electrical engineers, remember that their aim is to sell University degrees. Those of us in the U.S. job market know that there is no real shortage of engineers, just a shortage of cheap engineers. With companies eager to replace expensive tenured engineers with naive fresh faces, there is demand for new engineering graduates. But a typical engineering career is now shorter than a home mortgage so it has become impractical. Potential engineering students aren’t dumb – they see what’s happening to their predecessors so they’re opting out. Not good for U.S. companies, but they’ve brought it upon themselves.

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