Why don’t more young engineers pursue careers in Automation and Control Engineering? We could all probably make some general assumptions.
- there is a perception that it’s dirty factory work
- there is a perception that all of these jobs moved overseas
- high school grads lack preparation to pursue engineering degree
- too expensive to pursue engineering degree
- engineers aren’t fairly compensated
There is a long discussion thread in the Automation and Control Engineering Group on LinkedIn on this very topic. This thread started three months ago and is still getting regular comments. The amount of commentary is surprising to me.
A large portion of the comments are not US-based. I don’t know if you can infer this supports a perception that manufacturing left the US. But I can certainly surmise from the comments that more young foreign engineers are outspoken and passionate about automation and controls. They see their biggest obstacle as an inability to get started in the industry and gain some experience.
I did a little research on some of the other topics to satisfy my own curiosity.
The average tuition for a US-based 4-year public university has increased pretty substantially over the past decade. The investment is still valuable if a graduate can find and retain employment.
Electrical Engineers are compensated well. The chart below displays the average compensation for an Electrical Engineer with 10 years experience (taken from the IEEE.org site) compared to the average cost of a gallon of gas and the Consumer Price Index over the same period. I multiplied the cost of gas and CPI by 1,000 to make the graph more compact and to emphasize the trends.
The growth in compensation is somewhat flat over the last ten years but still quite strong compared to most fields. I couldn’t find much historical data specific to the Automation and Control field. The data I did find on the Automation.com site was similar to the average Electrical Engineer compensation.
The fact that Electrical Engineers saw a decrease in compensation growth over the last decade made me curious if that is common across multiple job types and industries. I found that most jobs are similarly flat as far as wage growth goes. There were a few exceptions though such as Chemical Engineers and Petroleum industry jobs. Two other exceptions were also quite noticeable.
U.S Senators maintained a steeper compensation growth trend than Electrical Engineers over the last decade.
The average compensation growth for Fortune 500 CEOs also maintained an impressive trend over the last ten years.
So I say that tuition is an obstacle but not insurmountable and compensation should be viewed as a reason for becoming an engineer. Engineers in the Automation and Controls field are quite handsomely compensated. If you have an opportunity to be a Fortune 500 CEO though, do it instead because you can write yourself an obscene check. While Senators make more than us, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to follow that path because they get less work done than Dilbert’s partner Wally. Most of the people I know with an engineering mindset also like to get things done.
I don’t know the solution to increasing the number of engineers that specialize in the automation and control fields but I’m open to your thoughts.