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Recruiting Blog

EE In High Demand | Electrical Engineering Less Satisfying

EE or electrical and electronic engineer remains in high recruiting demand with many recruitment managers trying to recruit electrical engineers for staffing job openings

EE or Electrical and electronic engineer job opening demands have far outstripped the current supply of candidates. EE Recruiters at Strategic Search Corporation as well as many other engineering recruiter colleagues agree with the findings of Electronic Design’s 2018 Electronic Design Salary Survey.

Most electrical engineering recruiters and engineer recruitment firms we have polled over the past 18 months have found that EE candidates remain very satisfied with their pay and benefits and are optimistic about their profession. This was confirmed by Electronic Design’s survey, which concluded that 90% of respondents enjoy their current jobs.

This annual survey of 1350 electrical engineers also found that the pace of engineering is getting faster. Additionally, most electrical engineers are working harder to teach themselves the latest engineering technology and integrating those innovations into new products.

But everything is not rosy per the survey. There are downsides in some EE fields and job satisfaction is not necessarily universal. The female population of electrical and electronic engineers is also lagging. Engineers are frequently changing companies or feel the field is becoming less exciting.

Electrical Engineer Job Recruiting Increasing At Rapid Pace

The number of available EE jobs is expanding. In the United States, around 318,300 people are employed in electrical and electronics engineering, excluding more than 66,000 computer hardware engineers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The profession is projected to grow 7% to about 347,000 over the next decade, ending several years of stagnation.

But at the same time, two-thirds of EE respondents say that their companies are having trouble filling open engineering positions—a relentless issue in recent years. More than one-third of respondents with hiring troubles are struggling to recruit analog-circuit engineers, while another 39% are fighting over systems engineers. Software and embedded engineers are also in short supply, respondents say.

Increased Engineer Recruiter Calls And Staffing Needs

Electronic Design’s survey also found that despite the challenges and sacrifices of an engineering career, more than two-thirds of respondents said that at least one headhunter has approached them within the last year.

This confirms the mounting ‘War For Talent’ for engineering expertise that I shared during a recent appearance on Chicago CBS Radio affiliate WBBM News Radio 780. Please click on this link and DOUBLE CLICK on the folder that comes up to hear the tape of the broadcast.

Rewarding Pay and Benefits for Engineers

According to the 2018 Electronic Design Salary Survey, nearly two-thirds of engineers indicate employers pay them what they deserve. Additionally, employers are slowly boosting compensation and improving health benefits, retention bonuses and other incentives to fill open engineering positions with more than journeymen and contractors.

The money is pretty much guaranteed—although you won't get rich as just an engineer—and the employment prospects are always pretty good compared to other professions,” said a survey respondent. “I have never been out of work for more than a couple of weeks.” Another response was typical: “Other professions are likely to be more adversely affected by violent fluctuations in the labor market.”

Engineers Mainly Find Working Conditions Satisfying

90% of electrical engineers say they take pleasure in the challenges that accompany new product design. Respondents generally say that persistent concerns about working conditions, outsourcing and shortsighted management have done little to diminish their job satisfaction.

One Electronic Design survey respondent said that electronics engineers can “work on things that can directly impact the way people live, so it is rewarding both financially and from the standpoint of helping out society in general.” Another respondent noted, “The problems to solve are constant and continuously changing, which makes for productive days that don't always blur together out of boredom.”

This corroborates the overall sense of optimism many engineer recruitment firms have shared with us. Furthermore, when an engineering company is not very generous to their engineers, many other technology employers are ready to swoop in like vultures to recruit that talent!

Some Electrical Engineers (EE) Find There Are Downsides

Other Electronic Design respondents felt that engineers must take the good with the bad, including the long hours with the intellectual challenges and high turnover with abundant jobs. Their concerns include shortsighted management and inadequate support by employers for continuous education, which is vital to staying ahead of the latest technology. Outsourcing and offshoring are also feeding fears of layoffs and job losses, respondents say.

Engineers possess a strong skillset that keeps demand for engineers high and therefore it provides stable employment,” said a survey respondent. “I have found engineering to be challenging in a way that is stimulating and satisfying. The downside is that this constant level of challenge and the need for maintaining and enhancing my skillset can be stressful and fatiguing.”

Engineer Job Satisfaction Not Universal

Job satisfaction can vary significantly depending on where respondents fall on the organizational chart according to the survey. Almost 12% of staff engineers feel unsatisfied in their current positions, while only 6% of engineering management and 7% of executives feel the same way. Regardless of their position, around 90% of respondents would recommend engineering to young people looking to choose a profession.

These recommendations often come with an asterisk. An electrical engineer's pay is higher than many other professions. However, many survey respondents feel it makes more sense financially to shift into management roles for the second half of their careers. “Your time would be better spent understanding accounting and finance,” said a survey respondent. “Personal satisfaction and self-development don't always pay off.”

Two out of every five survey respondents admit that they have considered walking away from the profession altogether. Around one-third of these respondents say they would follow through to do something more fulfilling or satisfying, while another third would consider switching careers to make more money. Others have contemplated doing something less stressful or starting a new business venture.

If you are more interested in solving problems than running the show, you want engineering. If you want to be in control, you probably don’t,” said a survey respondent. “The compensation is not on par with the required education, talent, effort, and time commitment,” another noted. “I would only recommend it to those who can find a way to be self-employed.”

Number of Female Engineers Lagging

Companies are also facing challenges recruiting, hiring and promoting women in engineering positions, as was indicated by one-third of respondents. Despite efforts to make the technology workforce less male-dominated, only around 17% of electrical engineers in the United States are women, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics. And while almost two-thirds of men say they have not considered leaving the profession, two-thirds of women revealed that they have contemplated it.

Over the last year, the number of survey respondents that believe an engineering shortage exists has jumped from 51% to 63%. Some respondents say that employers are unwilling to train new engineering hires. Others argue that the qualifications for many new jobs are unreasonably broad, giving companies ground to hire workers from other countries at lower salaries or contractors based in the United States.

EE or Electrical Engineer Job Churn Also Increasing Rapidly

Electrical engineers are changing jobs more often. The Electronic Design survey showed that the number of respondents who have worked for their current company less than four years has increased from 26% to 38% over the last five years. Only one-tenth of respondents are actively looking for new jobs, while 30% say they would follow up if they heard about an interesting opportunity. Nearly 32% indicate they would listen if personally offered a position.

Dealing with staff reductions is a serious headache for around one-fifth of survey respondents. But they seem to be less concerned about major layoffs—40% of respondents said that their company was going to increase engineering staff over the next year, 50% said that staffing would stay the same and the remainder foresee cuts—and more about replacing employees with specific engineering chops.

Some respondents expressed that they are engineering themselves out of jobs: “New engineers can be replaced with off-the-shelf components, so there is little chance for advancement unless you are working at a company that makes the electronic subsystems.” Other respondents echoed that shift: “The engineering profession is becoming more and more commoditized. Upper management views engineering as an easily replaceable resource.”

More than one-third of respondents feel that their employers are shortchanging them. The consensus among these respondents is that 20% higher pay on average would bring them to market value. Many say that what they put into the profession—respondents report working an average of 50 hours per week, not including time on call—are not worth what employers are paying them.

Has The EE Luster Worn Off?

For some, engineering is losing its luster: “Engineers no longer, by and large, run technology companies the way they used to. Technology used to be exciting, now it's everywhere and engineers have been reduced to worker bees.” Another noted: “Engineering opportunities are changing. It is slowly becoming more craft than profession. More importance will be given to those who can create novel applications than engineer novel solutions.”

Still, many respondents describe engineering as an occupation that you don’t choose as much as it chooses you. “It is a challenging and emotionally rewarding field. But if someone is not a natural engineer, there are other fields that require less work and pay much better,” a respondent explained. Another respondent, who advised young people to stay away from an engineering career, warned: “It's a job you cannot leave at the office.”

Engineering, technical, R&D recruiting experts


20 Comments

Lohitha W

August 22, 2018 at 7:41 pm

Great article Scott! It is very interesting and eye opening about Electrical Engineering job prospects in the current market.

    Scott

    August 23, 2018 at 12:58 am

    Lohitha,
    I greatly appreciate your comments on my EE (Electrical Engineering) job prospects blog. Only the best to you.

    -Scott

Faiz A. Ikramulla

August 23, 2018 at 10:43 am

great article. i think there are several mixed points of view, which is great. My opinion is that while the future is unknown, present day reality is that research in EE that was done 20 years ago is turning into actual products and services that benefit society. In ways that were and were not imagined back then. An important projection from this article: “The profession is projected to grow 7% to about 347,000 over the next decade, ending several years of stagnation.” That is a significant statistic for USA only,, and I believe the global growth opportunity is way more. Send your kids to EE school!

    Scott

    August 23, 2018 at 11:04 am

    Faiz,
    Your comments are now posted.

    I greatly wonderful insights on my EE (electrical engineering) blog. Please let me know if you hear of anyone who needs my recruiting help for key engineering talent.

    Thanks again,

    -Scott

Pratapbhai Bhatiya

August 23, 2018 at 10:53 am

Good Information Scott. You have included vast details on EE Demand and its up+down side. Great article Scott, keep it up, its very useful.

    Scott

    August 23, 2018 at 11:02 am

    Pratapbhai,
    I greatly appreciate your nice comments on my electrical engineering (EE) post. Please let me know if you hear of anyone who needs my recruiting help for key engineering talent.

    Thanks again,

    -Scott

David K

August 23, 2018 at 11:03 am

Interesting article on the shift in perspective within the field. Engineering talent shortages affect product development efforts of product managers greatly. It can be difficult bringing something new and innovative to market when the engineers don’t have the skills needed to develop the product. Continuous education, funded by the employers, could certainly help the engineer and the organization.

    Scott

    August 23, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    David,
    I greatly appreciate your comments on my engineering article. Please let know when I can be of help recruiting engineer talent for your company or any of your clients.

    Thanks again,

    -Scott

STEVEN M SANDLER

August 24, 2018 at 2:30 pm

Nice article. From the engineers 8 speak with, they are under a lot more stress, are expected to have broader expertise and design cycles are short. On a good day, they really love their job.

    Scott

    August 24, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    Steven,
    I greatly appreciate your insights on my electrical engineering (EE) article. Please feel free to sign up for my blog, which is free. I try to post new information weekly on the worldwide engineering jobs market.

    Thanks again,

    -Scott

Lee Teschler

August 24, 2018 at 2:48 pm

This is welcome news, particularly for EEs in the manufacturing sector. EE jobs there don’t get a lot of respect. That is one reason you read predictions that marijuana-related jobs will outpace manufacturing jobs in the U.S. by 2020. https://www.designworldonline.com/no-respect-manufacturing-jobs/

    Scott

    August 24, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    Lee,
    I greatly appreciate your sharing your thoughts on my EE article. Please feel free to sign up to my blog and get weekly jobs recruiting news especially on the engineer field worldwide.

    Thanks again,

    -Scott

Mark Lefevre

August 24, 2018 at 10:59 pm

Scott,

Well written article and it reminds me of the ups and downs over the years.

Hope you don’t mind me sharing this on LinkedIn.

Mark

    Scott

    August 25, 2018 at 8:03 am

    Mark,
    I greatly appreciate your kind words about my electrical engineering industry article. Please do share it on LinkedIn. Only the best!

    Thanks,

    -Scott

Dale Douglas

August 25, 2018 at 9:04 am

Positions don’t go unfilled if the total compensation offered reflects market realities. Just saying.

    Scott

    August 25, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    Dale,
    I greatly appreciate your commenting on my engineering blog article. Please feel free to join my blog for weekly information on the engineer job market.

    Thanks again,

    -Scott

Percy Chinoy

August 25, 2018 at 1:33 pm

Good balanced perspective Scott. The favorable supply-demand for EEs is encouraging. The issue of being pushed into business roles for career advancement is an old one and some companies do a better job than others of implementing effective dual ladders .

    Scott

    August 25, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    Percy,
    Thanks for your comments on my engineering recruiting blog focusing on the status of EE employment. Please join my blog for future job trends (free).

    -Scott

Joseph Lee

August 27, 2018 at 12:10 am

I read the first paragraph, and I was surprised that 90% of all Electrical Engineers do enjoy their profession. I had one job interview when I came to one company. I looked at everyone’s faces while they stare at their computer screens in their cubicle. They all looked miserable and unhappy. I can’t imagine they ever cracked a smile during the entire day when I was there. For me, I paid off my home and student loans before the age of 40 while I was working at the Samsung company. I would consider a huge failure for any engineer for not saving enough money to buy a home without a loan before that age when the pay is around $70,000 to $100,000 per year. Paying off 3 homes is very doable before retirement of 65 years of age if they really enjoy their job with their high pay salaries. I do wonder whether the people who answered the survey is telling the truth.

    Scott

    August 27, 2018 at 1:37 am

    Joseph,
    I greatly appreciate your contributions to my latest engineering blog. Please feel free to both sign up for free alerts on my next engineer jobs related posting and add your insightful contributions.

    Thanks again,

    -Scott

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