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Reasons to choose engineering

A flexible career path and positive job outlook are among the benefits of pursuing job in engineering. Reported in an article in “Consulting – Specifying Engineer Magazine”.

Sonny K. Siu, PE, PMP, Jacobs-Kling Stubbins, San Francisco


A major milestone in every young person’s life is choosing how to spend the rest of his or her professional life. Based on personal experience, here are five reasons I think high school students should apply to engineering programs.

  1. Large selection of engineering paths gives career flexibility.

Entering an engineering program opens the door to multiple branches of engineering. Many schools require the student to complete a general first-year curriculum (math, science, English, and computer skills) before moving forward in an engineering specialty. This allows the student to explore and firm up his or her engineering interest. A typical college may have the following engineering majors: aeronautics and astronautics, agricultural, biological and food processing, biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, construction, electrical, environmental and ecological, materials, mechanical, and nuclear.

All engineering majors lead to careers in sub-disciplines. The IEEE lists 38 technical societies related to electrical engineering alone.

  1. Engineering occupations are high-paying.

In a recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) The Editor’s Desk (TED) report, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) occupations were classified as high-paying. The mean annual wage for all STEM occupations was $77,880; only 4 of the 97 STEM occupations were below the U.S. average of $43,460. The highest paying STEM occupations of $100,000 include managerial, petroleum engineers, and physicists. The BLS reports that civil engineers made $77,506/year (2010) or $37.29/hour, mechanical engineers made $77,560/year (2012) or $38.74/hour, and electrical engineers made $87,920/year (2012) or $42.27/hour. The Bachelor of Science degree is the entry-level education requirement.

The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)’s 2013 Engineering Income and Salary Survey reported that the average income of respondents was $95,420. The range from engineer level I through VIII was $55,500 to $156,000.

  1. Engineers’ job outlook is positive.

The BLS’s June 15, 2011, TED report indicated that technical jobs in STEM represented approximately 6% of U.S. employment (nearly 8 million jobs). The largest STEM occupations were computer support specialists, computer systems analysts, and computer software engineers; each had employment of approximately 500,000.

The BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook projects positive job growth from 2010 to 2020. Employment for civil engineers is expected to grow 19% from 262,800 to 313,900; mechanical engineers is expected to grow 9% from 243,000 to 264,500; and electrical engineers is expected to grow 6% from 294,000 to 311,600.

  1. Engineers’ work is fun.

Civil engineers plan, design, construct, and manage physical infrastructure such as buildings, bridges, tunnels, transportation systems, wastewater treatment systems, coastal and ocean facilities, and public works. Mechanical engineers apply principles of mechanics, dynamics, and energy transfer to the design and analysis of complex buildings and to the testing and manufacture of machines, engines, power generating equipment, vehicles, artificial components for the human body, and other products. Electrical engineers apply engineering concepts to power generation, transmission, and distribution of power. At the building infrastructure level this includes standby generators, transformers, switchgear, protective devices, and uninterruptible power supplies.

  1. Engineering work is challenging.

Engineers work in a professional environment where there is an opportunity to learn and grow through on-the-job and formal training using the most up-to-date technologies. There will never be a shortage of new challenges, as engineers are constantly faced with having to adapt solutions and change technology to move with the trends and needs.

Based on the above reasons, if any young person has strong STEM aptitudes, has completed the STEM coursework, and has a desire to work in problem solving and help the world, entering the engineering program is the right choice as a means to a better life economically, job satisfaction, and a good career.

Sonny K. Siu is a senior electrical engineer at Jacobs-KlingStubbins. He has been in the engineering business for more than 30 years. His elder son received his PhD in mechanical engineering controls (robotics) from UC Berkeley in May 2013, and his younger son just began at UCLA in electrical engineering.

The Engineer’s Resource extrapolated available data and adjusted for inflation and offers the following 2015 estimate in US Dollars:

SPECIALTY   ENTRY  5-10 Yrs.  10-20 Yrs.  20 + Yrs.
Electrical Engineers $64,000 $94,000 $126,000 $154,000
Mechanical Engineers $62,000 $90,000 $121,000 $148,000
Civil Engineers $55,000 $81,000 $108,000 $131,000

For more about consulting engineering see The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING © 2015 John D. Gaskell. Order at Use discount code “paperback” and save.


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Consulting Engineering Salaries in Canada


 Engineering Legacies reported that starting salaries for engineers and technologists in the consulting engineering industry vary from province to province and will also depend on the state of the economy in each province at the time.

There are also variances between urban and rural locations, and between firms that specialize in different types of work.  Some of the provincial consulting engineering associations and professional engineering registration bodies carry out salary surveys, and you may be able to access information by contacting them directly.

For the most part, well-qualified professional engineers or certified technologists in the consulting engineering sector are compensated equally well as, and often better than, other professions, particularly if they have:

  • achieved a reputation for their specialized knowledge;
  • risen to a senior management role;
  • invested in an ownership position in the firm for which they work; or
  • if they are prepared to relocate to work on projects in remote locations, domestically or internationally.

As an engineering or technologist student considering a career in consulting engineering, or as a graduate engineer who might be weighing the options between entering consulting engineering and taking a second degree, you should take many factors into consideration, but salary should not be one of them. It might be true that a graduate engineer entering the workforce typically earns less than a graduate lawyer. However, by the time a law student graduates, the engineer already has several years’ working experience, and will often be earning as much or more than the graduate lawyer.  Firms that offer consulting engineering services contribute to the social, environmental and economic quality of life in Canada and around the world, and offer the kind of challenges and rewards, financial and otherwise, that other professions cannot.

The Engineer’s Resource extrapolated available data and adjusted for inflation and offers the following 2015 estimate in Canadian Dollars:

SPECIALTY   ENTRY  5 10 Yrs.  10-20 Yrs.  20 + Yrs.
Electrical Engineers $76,000 $110,000 $148,000 $181,000
Mechanical Engineers $70,000 $102,000 $137,000 $167,000
Civil Engineers $60,000 $88,000 $118,000 $143,000

For more about consulting engineering see The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING © 2015 John D. Gaskell. Order at Use discount code “paperback” and save.