Computer and mechanical engineers are in high demand across the country. New college graduates with degrees in electrical engineering also share in this fortune. However, it takes some special skills and effective communication to find the right job. Geography also plays a role in job searches across all fields. Employers are moving to the South and out West, leaving places such as the Northeast and Midwest as tax incentives expire. Here is a look at the jobs most in demand, where they are located, which industries are seeking to expand their engineering workforce and why, and some tips on landing the right job.
Job listings for computer software engineers and systems engineers are projected to soar through 2014 across most of the country, according to a study published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections. The study claimed that companies in Arkansas, for example, are projected to increase the number of new job openings for software engineers by 77%. Mechanical engineering is one of the top 50 careers expected to have the most job openings through 2014. Companies in Wyoming and Colorado, for instance, expect to increase their hires of mechanical engineers by 43% and 40%, respectively. Additionally, Nevada is a hot spot for engineers. It is projected to increase job offerings for computer engineers by 88% and mechanical engineers by 42%. For electrical engineers, Nevada promises to offer an additional 47% in new jobs by 2014.
In its 2007 report, the National Association of College and Employers (NACE), reported that demand for new college graduates in mechanical and electrical engineering is high in the southern states, where employers plan to increase their entry-level workforce by 26%. Recruiters on college campuses are also looking to increase by 23% the number of salary offers to bachelors candidates in electrical and computer engineering for companies loacted in the West. While employers plan to increase college hiring by 17% in the Northeast and 9% in the Midwest, electrical and mechanical engineers remain in the top five most targeted undergraduate majors in these regions.
The war in Iraq, as well as the aging population, is prompting more research into medical device design, and increased industrial R&D funding promises more jobs for engineers with software development and process modeling experience. Additionally, the US government has recently proposed a $15.5 billion budget request for space operations. And the U. N.’s recent world climate report has initiated a “green” movement, which is hitting the automotive, appliance, and manufacturing industries.
The green movement
Cleaner air is on the global agenda, since the U. N. released its statement earlier this year on the condition of the environment. In December, the U. S. will begin negotiating a set of standards, set in 1991, to follow the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. It calls for power plants, automobile fleets, and buildings to shift to low-carbon technologies. This green movement has already begun throughout the world. In Europe, Shell Hydrogen and Total France partnered with BMW, Ford, GM Europe, and Volkswagen to develop hydrogen-powered vehicles and fueling stations. Honda has already sold its first hydrogen-powered vehicle. Other emerging technologies include: hybrid cars that can be plugged-in, extending battery life; biodiesel fuel, and Partial ZeroVehicle Emission Vehicles (PZEV).
In fact, the automotive industry is showing more research and development initiative now than it has since the early 1900’s when the first cars made their appearance in the marketplace. And most of it is dedicated to low-carbon, green technologies.
Several major cities, including San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, and Scottsdale, Arizona now require new public buildings to be green, which means they must meet a set level of energy-efficiency and indoor air quality standards. Engineers are needed to look at new ways of heating and cooling buildings to fulfill these regulations.
Until alternative energy technology is better developed, coal-based energy will dominate the market for the next few decades. However, significant growth is occurring in alternative energy R&D. Since the price of producing high-efficiency photovoltaic systems is coming down, companies and governmental agencies are investing in research programs to design even more cost-efficient solar panel production lines.
Orthopedics and medical devices
Orthopedics is a growing field, and engineers with knowledge of orthopedic devices are in high demand. Workplace injury is a common problem, with most cases involving injury to the back. Engineers are improving upon existing spinal implant devices, spinal fusion products for motion preservation, and other related devices. Additionally, as the baby-boomers age, surgeons are performing more hip and knee replacements. The procedures are becoming more complex, so the devices they use require more precision.
The conflict in Iraq has created a need for improved prosthetic devices. Soldiers are returning with multiple amputations, outnumbering those from any prior war. The Veterans Association is financing research into a variety of new, computerized prosthetic devices to help amputees. Private companies are investing as well. The iLimb, for example, receives myoelectric signals from transplanted nerves. A distributed microprocessor control system manages multiple joints on a single bus. Advanced software controls movements needed to operate a PC, telephone, or pick-up small, delicate objects.
Engineers with robotics’ experience are also likely to find many openings, especially if their experience is related to medical devices. As procedures become more precise, surgeons are looking to steady-hand robots for microsurgery and to snakelike robots for navigating instruments inside narrow passageways.
Efforts to explore space have picked up. The 2007 federal budget calls for a $16.8 billion request for NASA, $15.5 of which will fund space operations, science, and exploration systems. Only $1.3 billion will go towards funding aviation safety, new propulsion systems, and cross-agency support. NASA plans to build a space shuttle that will carry astronauts to the moon and other equipment to take them, eventually, to Mars. NASA will likely employ more engineers as it carries out its expected human travel through space. By 2011, space exploration is expected to grow to more than 40% of NASA’s budget.
For established engineers, employers are looking for experience directly related to the targeted job. An engineer working with medical devices, for example, may have a better chance of being hired if she has experience working closely with surgeons and knowledge of the FDA approval process.
Job outlook by technology indicates that engineers with experience in software development, process modeling, and nanotechnology are in demand. What’s more, as applications for FEA become more widespread and software becomes increasingly important in fine-tuning motion control systems, engineers who are familiar with software and systems will be in high demand. Already, mechanical engineers with design and software experience are especially wanted.
Employers may be eager to hire, but engineering expertise is not all they want. Communication skills are high on the list of criteria. Employers report that engineers, in particular, are notorious for their trouble with writing, grammar, and lack of presentation skills. This information comes across in the interview. Engineers often are unable to explain how their experiences will best serve them in the job they are seeking. Interpersonal communication is key to explaining ideas to other members of a design team. Very few engineers work solo.
The U. S. is a technical society, one in which simply being an engineer, regardless of the field, most likely means employment. To find a good job, however, geography, diverse experience, especially some knowledge of software, and written and oral communication skills must also match-up.
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