Engineering is one of the most popular degrees Australian school leavers opt to go into. Engineers have traditionally been in high demand, but as the field becomes saturated with graduates some are finding it difficult to get the high paying job they were promised with such a prestigious degree. In Australia, universities are pumping out more graduates in all areas than ever before. Whether you’re a structural engineer Brisbane, a civil engineer in Sydney or an electrical engineer in Melbourne, the job market can be a scary thing to consider.
With this in mind, we take a look at whether or not engineering is really the coveted profession we believe it to be.
What Does an Engineer Do?
“Engineer” is a pretty broad term. Someone who calls themselves an engineer could design bridges, build rockets, study the environment, or do virtually anything else in between. As long as it involves science, maths and problem solving, it’s probably a facet of engineering.
Because engineering is such a broad profession, there are a lot of jobs which fall within its classification.
When answering the question, what does an engineer do, the easiest answer to give is: everything.
Engineers, in some capacity, are responsible for more or less every modern facility we enjoy. Most everything you use in a day, from paper coffee cups to toasters to cars, owe their existence to an engineer. Engineers concern themselves with solving problems and filling unfilled niches.
Why Engineering is Overrated
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons people give for why engineering is an overrated profession. Before you write an angry comment, keep in mind we’re just outlining some arguments: we’re not saying they’re right or not. We’ll discuss the merits of these arguments later in the article.
- There’s too many: Some people say engineering is an oversaturated industry with few job prospects for new graduates.
- The standard is lowering: With more graduates, naturally, more people who don’t deserve to be at uni are going into engineering. Why should we respect an industry that’s dumbing down?
- There aren’t any jobs: Too many graduates equals not enough jobs to go round.
- It’s too difficult: Unless you’re a maths genius, there’s no point even trying. Engineering is just too hard for the average person.
Is Engineering Oversaturated?
Okay, let’s take a look at that first point. Are there too many engineers about? Yes and no. There are an awful lot of engineering graduates being churned out by our universities, and some of them struggle to find work. However, that isn’t really an issue with engineering itself as it is an issue with higher education in general.
More people, vastly more, are going on to university from school these days. However, jobs haven’t changed nearly so much. While there are more jobs that require degrees than in the past, the fact is there are more people going to university than there are jobs in the fields they’re studying for.
With such a large baby boomer population still working, many freshly minted graduates have to occupy themselves with waiting tables or brewing coffee until a position opens up in their field.
Having a degree is no longer the ticket to a job or the symbol of elitism it once was, but it’s more essential than ever before. Since so many people are getting a degree these days, not having one puts you at a greater disadvantage than in the past. Your grade point average is often more important than the degree itself.
With more graduates than ever before, there is something of an oversaturation within the engineering industry. However, compared to some industries, it isn’t too bad. In fact, there is actually quite a severe shortage of engineers with 5 or more years’ experience. If you can graduate with a high GPA, or if you have the experience, then there will likely be great clamour for you services.
Is Engineering Dumbing Down?
his is an easy one to answer. No! There may be more engineering graduates around than before, but that’s just because there are more people going to uni than before.
Engineering has the same standards that it always did, and the fact remains that over half of people who start an engineering degree, never even graduate. That shows the standards the industry holds.
Are There Too Few Jobs?
Hang on, didn’t we cover this when we talked about oversaturation? Sort of, but there’s a bit more to it. The idea that there isn’t enough jobs to go around is partly true, for the reasons we talked about before. However, there’s another aspect to take into account, and that’s job security.
Engineering, unlike many jobs in business or the arts, is largely recession proof. Civil engineers especially enjoy very high job security. Why? Because people always need infrastructure. Bridges, roads, skyscrapers, houses: all these projects require a civil engineer to construct and the technology they use is designed by mechanical engineers.
With the mining boom Australia has been enjoying, engineers have been in very high demand. As the boom slows, the government will look to infrastructure to stimulate the economy, which will bring engineering jobs with it. As other industries rise and fall, engineers will always be required, as their skills are transferred from niche to niche.
The great advantage of being an engineer is that you’re always needed.
Is Engineering Just Too Hard?
There’s no doubt about it, engineering is difficult. No-one should go into engineering without being fully aware that doing so will require full time commitment. Over half of first years who begin the degree will drop out or change majors before they get the little slip of paper. Why would you throw money away on a degree you’ll never finish?
Deciding whether or not you’re cut out for engineering requires an understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses. While a tertiary entrance score is a good indicator on whether you’ve got what it takes, it isn’t the be all and end all.
There are plenty of people out there who have got into engineering by the skin of their teeth and gone on to be fantastic at it, and plenty who have breezed in on a high entrance score and promptly dropped out. More important than your academic record is whether or not you have an inventive flair and a willingness to put in hours of work. If you don’t, you should probably look elsewhere.
Why Engineering Isn’t Overrated
For every argument against engineering as a profession, there’s one on the opposite side of the fence. Now that we’ve taken a thorough look at some of the reasons you might want to be wary of an engineering degree, let’s take a look at why you might want to jump right in.
- Engineering pays well: Engineering is difficult, but it pays off with a great paycheck. Engineers are rich.
- Engineers are important: By becoming an engineer, you’d be joining an illustrious profession with an impressive history of innovation.
- Engineering is rewarding: When you’re working to solve mankind’s problems, job satisfaction must be through the roof!
Engineering Pays Well
This isn’t a myth, engineering is certainly a high paying job. The average engineer in Australia earns a very respectable $129,000. Some, such as a structural engineer in Brisbane will earn more than the mean salary, while others such as an automotive engineer in Rockhampton will earn less.
Of course, starting wages for graduates aren’t nearly as impressive, but they are still generally much higher than starting wages in other industries. However, engineers certainly study and work hard for their money: it isn’t an easy job. There is no doubt though that the financial rewards can be very good.
Engineers are Important
This is the biggest thing to keep in mind when asking whether or not engineering is overrated. Virtually every invention in existence was designed, built, or at least improved by an engineer. And even if it wasn’t, its construction and design still would have involved engineering principles.
Engineers built the modern world, and their contributions surround every facet of our existence. Not every engineer will be responsible for an incredible innovation, but every incredible innovation owes its existence to an engineer in some capacity.
Engineering is Rewarding
Engineering can be one of the most rewarding careers out there, especially if you see your ideas and designs come to fruition. On a list of the top 7 rewarding careers, two engineering disciplines featured. That’s pretty impressive!
However, though the work may be rewarding, job satisfaction is not quite so through the roof. This list implies that mechanical engineers only enjoy a job satisfaction rate of 62.8%. That’s better than many other jobs, but it’s lower than quite a few as well. Still, engineering is still extremely rewarding and relatively satisfying when compared to most careers.
So… Is Engineering Overrated or Not?
The facts seem to show that engineering really isn’t an overrated degree to pursue. As long as you have the ability and willingness to understand high mathematics and the drive to get good grades, engineering could very likely be for you. Engineering isn’t overrated as it still offers one of the highest starting salaries, excellent room for growth, high job satisfaction and a relatively high recent graduate hire rate.
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