01 February 2004
New year in gear for engineers
By Ellen Fussell
As the economy picks up manufacturing usually trails other employment, said Cincinnati-based Radin Associates president Bill Radin.
Having said that, "everybody I'm talking to is expecting this to be a good year because the economy is improving, and new dollars are going back into start-up companies," he said. The increased activity in terms of initial public offerings means there's "more venture capital out there—more investment capital, an increase in the amount of orders, and a decrease in the amount of inventory."
Software engineering is rated the number one growth career in the nation according to Laura Lyjak in the Winter 2004 edition of Washtenaw Community College's CareerFocus newsletter. "Biomedical and environmental engineering are small but high-growth engineering fields. In contrast, jobs for mining and geological engineers are becoming scarce," she said. "Currently the top five largest engineering fields are electrical, civil, mechanical, industrial, and computer hardware. Together these account for 65% of the engineering jobs in the U.S."
In IEEE Spectrum's second annual technology opinion survey, which covers 2004–2014, IEEE Fellows—a group of engineering professionals—overall expect a boost in their job prospects and technology investment. Of those surveyed, 57% working in computers said the job market would improve this year, 67% expected that improvement to continue in 2014, and 63% thought their country would see greater tech investment. Those in telecommunications were not as confident about their near future, but almost two-thirds said job prospects would improve over the next decade. Among those in semiconductors, 57% predicted improvement in 2004. Others predicted the strongest job growth in the developing world—India and China, where labor is cheaper. Some Fellows predicted a growing demand for highly skilled professionals in wireless and optical communications, information theory, education, and security.
Although Radin said the industry hasn't seen anything concrete yet, biotech should be "very strong. Companies are funded and shipping product and cannot find people. But overall, the general tide is lifting the boats," he said.
Take a look at the industry view from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
ELECTRICAL & COMPUTER
Computer and electrical engineers are more in demand than any other type of engineer. Knowledge of electrical engineering, for instance, is essential for anyone who wants to pursue telecommunications and wireless technology. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that computer software engineering will be the fastest growing of all occupations between 2000 and 2010.
Rising defense spending—and an aging workforce—mean greater opportunities for aerospace engineers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for aerospace engineers is expected to grow through 2010. Aerospace engineers may also see opportunities in the automotive industries, where they can improve the aerodynamics of vehicles.
Environmental concerns are growing with new building designs. The private sector now consults engineers on how to clean up hazardous materials and meet environmental regulations. With that in mind, the Bureau of Labor statistics predicts faster-than-average growth for environmental engineers through 2010.
In the next few years chemical engineering graduates might see fewer openings, thus greater competition. The number of graduates is predicted to grow at a steady average rate, as opposed to the number of jobs that is going to increase at a slower rate. Although overall employment in chemicals is slowing, engineers still research and develop new products. Continued emphasis on the ongoing need to improve environmental protection and solve pollution problems will create multiple job openings for the newly graduated engineers. The constant development in the fields of bioengineering and microelectronics will continue to open up new opportunities. The current trend toward service industries will also affect the chemical engineering field. Research and testing services could become a major source of finding jobs for the chemical engineers.
Despite industrial growth and more complex business operations, analysts expect slow growth in overall employment of industrial and systems engineers. Yet increased pressure to reduce costs and improve productivity levels will ensure industrial engineers' demand overall. More emphasis on information technologies will also create some openings for industrial engineers. Most industrial engineers work in some kind of manufacturing setting, but they can also transfer these skills later to sales and marketing, financial services, information systems, personnel, airlines, banks, and social services. IT
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