- August 22, 2018
EE In High Demand | Electrical Engineering Less Satisfying
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.”