Friday, January 11, 2013

Top 7 Hardest Degrees for Undergrads… Is yours on the list?

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Global Engineering Jobs blog.

Engineering has developed a tough reputation as an undergraduate degree. This reputation is unlikely to be contributing to desperately needed intake into the industry at ground level. So what’s the story and do these accounts really convey the reality of university programs in engineering related subjects?

The recent National Survey of Student Engagement took 416,000 full-time and first-year students and also seniors at a total of 670 universities across the USA to find out which majors offer the hardest ride.
They produced a Top 7:

1.       Engineering
2.       Physical sciences
3.       Biological sciences
4.       Arts and humanities
5.       Education
6.       Social sciences
7.       Business

It’s not the first time engineering has been thrown under this particular bus. And let’s make no mistake about it – this is not good news. While those who have completed the programs may get a glow of satisfaction that they have come through American college’s toughest test (with the possible exception of a football scholarship to Alabama) the bottom line is that this is a terrible PR issue for the engineering industry. Who is going to fill engineering jobs in the future if we’re scaring away perfectly capable undergraduates to other degree programs? When you were eighteen, did you want to take on the toughest challenge available? I know I didn’t. There was beer to be drunk and girls to be chased, and that’s all perfectly natural. If you’re going to dive into engineering for four years, the stats suggest that you are going to spend less time socializing and more time preparing for class than any other degree program. What you just heard in the distance is the sound of 17.5m Americans picking up the brochure for a Business degree.

The Global engineering job industry has been plagued by skill shortages ever since computer science grew legs and walked off by itself. The minds that would have been applied to structures, mechanics and electronics to engineer the planet for a generation have proved far more interested in developing software products and designing cool packaging for Apple, Microsoft and any other new technology company you care to name. Engineering has started to look like the bow-tie wearing old man in the moth eaten sport coat, trying to find his glasses while the iProfessional snowboards past him with a light beer and the captain of the cheerleading squad.

In a world where twenty-somethings are looking for somewhere to retire, it’s easy to understand why they see greater possibilities in business and IT. Take a look at the youngest billionaires and you’ll see the trend.
The question is, how do we – the engineering industry – sell young minds on the many possibilities that engineering could offer them?

Learnhub offers ten reasons to study engineering:

Flexibility and Choice
Intellectual Development
Helping Society

I’m not sure they’re selling the right list for Generation Y, who are looking for travel (where we can offer a great deal of opportunity), variety (also a strong suit for an engineering degree) and a chance to be part of something that creates a lasting legacy. (I’m not an engineer myself, but I worked on the UK’s first high speed rail link and it’s one of my proudest accomplishments – I feel part of it and when I catch a train to Paris, I really do feel like I helped to build it. I can only imagine how the engineers who really designed and built it feel.)

We need a rebrand. Engineering is going to have to do a better PR job if we’re going to ask young people to take on the toughest degree program on the market. Private industry needs to take the lead in presenting engineering to the market in the right way. We need to take to social media on mass and share the stories that people will respond to. Everyone loves a good human interest narrative, and all over our industry there are fantastic stories about projects and accomplishments, of friends made and good times had.

Let’s take off the old sport coat and get out on the slopes with the cool kids. There is every reason to take on the tough challenge of an engineering degree. But those considering it need our support and encouragement. Less PC and more Mac.

A very exciting world awaits our undergraduates. It’s our responsibility to show them their future.

Richard Spragg writes about a number of issues related to engineering jobs. Find out more about Talascend, about electrical engineeringabout civil engineering and about mechanical engineering jobs from Our Website.