Who wants to be an Engineer? I do!
By Chelse Benham
What do Neil Armstrong, Jimmy Carter and Alfred Hitchock have in common? Though
they eventually chose very different careers – an astronaut, a president and a filmmaker
– they all started with an engineering education.
What does science and engineering have to do with life? Everything! Studies show that,
by far, the number one cause of unhappiness among people in the United States is job
dissatisfaction. Consider the prospect of working for 40 or more years, 50 weeks a year,
five days a week and eight hours a day at a job you hate. A job that may comprise of
manual labor or menial jobs based on your education or the lack there of. Now envision
having a distinguished job in the sciences that provides a comfortable lifestyle and
prestigious standing in your community. The latter situation lends itself to job
satisfaction and it’s a great reason to deliberate a career in the sciences.
There are also a variety of career opportunities with a degree in the sciences. The
analytical skills and technological expertise you develop as a scientist or engineer can
be put to use in many other fields. For example, as an engineering graduate, you could
go on to study of medicine or law; you could become a politician and use your
knowledge of technology and science to set national policy; or you could become an
entrepreneur in a related field such as construction, manufacturing or consulting. The
possibilities are endless and the work challenging.
Solving problems is criteria one for a scientist or an engineer. Critical problem solving
skills are essential to successfully mastering challenges. Devising a solution and being
able to persuade others that your solution is the best one is tantamount to affecting
relevant and immediate change in your work place and your community. Some
technologies developed at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
by scientists and engineers, known as space spinoffs, have continuously enhanced the
American lifestyle and strengthened the U.S. economy. According to NASA, these
technologies developed to meet the challenges of space exploration have found more
than 30,000 secondary commercial uses in products ranging from tennis shoes to
medical equipment, bar codes, pacemakers and sunglasses. Problem solving is vital to
technological advancement and personal growth. It strengthens cognitive skills and
About everything that scientists and engineers do benefit society. They develop
systems of infrastructure that support and sustain the lives of people across the world.
The next time you reset the smoke detector in your home, imagine it as part of the
caution and warning system of a spacecraft. Because before they saved lives on Earth,
that’s where smoke detectors were found – on spacecraft designed and built by NASA.
As an engineer or scientist you might work on projects that help to clean up the
environment, develop prosthetic aids for disabled persons, create clean and efficient
transportation systems or find new sources of energy. These contributions to society
make an excellent reason for choosing a career in science and engineering, and the
financial security is definitely a plus.
Monthly Mean Income
What’s so great about engineering? by Educational Attainment
• Engineering is fun!
• Engineers solve important problems. Doctorate
• Engineers make the top starting salaries Masters
for college graduates. Associates
Humanities and Social Sciences 2400 Not H.S. Grad
Business 3143 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000
Engineering anc Computer Science 4014
0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 4000 4500 MONTHLY INCOME
Monthly Starting Income
Source:2001 Annual Demographic Survey, Bureau of the Census
The average monthly starting income among the fields of education, humanities, social
sciences, business, engineering and computer science puts engineering and computer
science in the highest income bracket with an average of $4,000.00 monthly, as cited in
the Annual Demographic Survey by the Census Bureau. Engineering graduates receive
the highest starting salary of any discipline. While financial security should not be the
only reason for choosing a career in engineering, if you decide to become an engineer
you will be paid well. In 2000, 20.2 percent of all degrees given in engineering went to
women and 6.4 percent of all degrees were given to Hispanics as reported by the
Engineering Workforce Commission. There is a great need and opportunity for women
and minorities to enter the field of science and engineering. The demographic trends
indicate that by the year 2005, 62 percent of the new entrants into the U.S. labor force
will be women and 51 percent will be minorities as reported from the study: Workforce
2020: Work and Workers in the 21st Century by the Hudson Institute. Although those
numbers sound encouraging, the National Science and Technology Council reported in
2000 that the calculated percentage of 22 year-olds who would earn a science or
engineering bachelor degree has been dropping from 11.1 percent in 1995 to an
estimated10.2 percent by 2050. This disparity creates a need for scientist and
engineers in the workforce especially women and minorities.
“This shortage of scientist and engineers is of the utmost importance and one
concerning national security. We see it as a national problem. There is a crisis in this
country. We do not have enough engineers, scientist and technicians to fill the national
need for them,” said Adena Williams Loston, Ph.D., associate administrator for
Education at NASA, who addressed 200 middle school students in May at The
University of Texas-Pan American. “You (students) all are our national treasures and to
ensure that we at NASA have more students in the sciences, NASA will pay for your
entire school tuition in return for you working at NASA for the same length of time.”
Engineers and scientists play a primary role in sustaining our nation’s international
competitiveness, maintaining our standard of living, ensuring a strong national security
and protecting public safety. Therefore, their role in society is highly valued and
regarded. Furthermore, most people know that engineering requires hard work and
strong technical skills and being a member of such a respected profession is another
reason for entering the profession: prestige.
The prestige comes with some work perks. The professional environment allows a
certain amount of freedom in choosing your work. It provides a position of influence
within a company to affect change. As a professional, you will receive liberal benefits,
which typically include a retirement plan, life insurance, health insurance, sick leave,
paid vacation, holidays, savings or profit sharing plans and job security.
To join the ranks of scientists and engineers is to gain the understanding of
technological and scientific discovery. Understanding technology provides a better
assessment of the issues facing our society. It helps form the right questions to
scrutinize why things have come to be and what things need to change. For example:
Why don’t we have zero-emission electric vehicles rather than high polluting cars
powered by internal combustion engines? Should we stop building nuclear reactors? Do
high-voltage power lines cause cancer in people who live near them? An engineering
education can help you understand how these and many other things in the world work.
How the world works and how it can work entertains the thoughts of scientists and
engineers. Engineering is by its very nature a creative profession and problem solving
activity. Although the ability to problem solve overlaps the ability to think creatively, they
are not the same. To create means to evolve from a person’s own thought or
imagination, as a work of art, an invention. –The Random House College Dictionary.
The sciences foster creative thought that expands the horizons of intellectual,
technological, mechanical and operational thinking. This creative thinking serves as the
final reason to investigate and pursue a career in science or engineering. It empowers a
person to achieve what resides in the imagination by making it a reality.
“Progress always involves risk. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot
on first.” – Frederick B. Wilcox