Everyone wants to be an “Engineer,” even if they aren’t one. Garbagemen are now “Sanitation Engineers”. Stay-at-home parents are apparently now “Domestic Engineers.” The “Engineer” title is starting to lose its meaning.
And actual engineer positions, like mechanical engineers and electrical engineers, are hitting a saturation point. The amount of jobs is decreasing and the number of new college graduates is increasing. So, the seemingly rare instance of an unemployed engineering major will likely become more and more common in the next few years.
Here’s my 2 cents on this trend, and job titles in general.
Case in point, my Engineering Technician job. The job wasn’t engineering-related at all. It was something that any reasonably competent high-school grad could do. The job had long, unpredictable hours (13 hour days, an entire week of night work followed by days starting as early as 4 AM) and long commutes (5 hours round trip). Easily among the worst jobs you could have. The company’s practice of hiring engineering majors for that position is downright insulting.
Some of the staff at that company have earned Professional Engineer (P.E.) licenses, even though they basically do the same shit I did.
The fact that they’re able to hire engineering majors for intern/contract roles so easily and consistently year after year shows that majoring in an engineering field isn’t the instant get-a-great-job card that we’ve all been lead to believe.
The fact that many of the staff take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and later go on to earn P.E. licenses shows me that the FE exam and P.E. license have become meaningless, and anyone who earns a degree with “engineering” in it and/or calls themselves an engineer can take the exam and earn the license.
The title of Engineer holds great value and esteem in our society. And some sad saps derive all their self-esteem and sense of worth from their jobs. They NEED to be an “engineer” to feel good about themselves. Companies, like the fucktarded one I worked for right out of college, hand out the engineer job title to stroke their employees’ egos and make them feel smart and valued.
There are two reasons I personally think for the prestige and mysticism behind the engineer job title. The first reason is because people think it’s an automatic pass to a well-paying job with great job security; they see it as a get-a-great-job-for-free card. As previously mentioned, that’s bullshit.
The second reason is because engineers fulfill a vital role in society.
What do I mean? Let’s take doctors for example. They fulfill a vital role in society. But, a lot of them, intentionally or not, abuse this necessity.
Whenever you go to the doctor, they make you wait like an hour before they see you for less than 10 minutes. If you try to reschedule or cancel too closely to an appointment, the doctor’s office usually charges you a fee. Health insurance costs skyrocket if you have a pre-existing condition. Doctors put you through a laundry list of tests that they KNOW are unnecessary. This lets the doctor charge your health insurance for each test, and they’re essentially trying to squeeze as much money out of your visit/routine physical as possible. They waste your time, they make your overall health insurance costs higher, and worst case, they could actually be HURTING your health by putting you though so many tests.
I once scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist for a growth on my neck that I thought might be skin cancer. The dermatologist cancelled A FEW HOURS before the appointment.
Now let’s look at engineers. Products that engineers design almost always work well. If they don’t, they immediately get fixed, and the customers who bought the faulty product are reimbursed and/or given the new-and-improved product for free.
Also, engineers’ fuck ups are generally made public knowledge. Engineering disasters are on the news whenever they happen. There’s a TV show called Engineering Disasters, a spin-off of the History Channel show Modern Marvels, that’s all about major engineering fuck-ups throughout history.
Unlike doctors, engineers generally appear to have a commitment to excellence, quality, and service to people. There’s transparency and forthrightness behind engineers and their mistakes.
The reality is that being an engineer is just like any other job, with all the downsides. Engineers have a boss, who will more often than not be a complete tool-loser who views the boss-employee relationship like master-slave, and who only got their position through brown-nosing and playing climb-the-corporate-ladder really well. You have all kinds of red tape that’ll get in the way of project progress. The purchasing process for most companies is way too complex, has lots of restrictions, and is (probably) made to arbitrarily create jobs that aren’t actually needed (like account manager, purchasing manager, etc.).
You’ll likely spend more time doing non-engineering work, like creating and giving presentations, writing reports, following an asinine purchasing process so you can get the tools and materials you need to do your job, and going to meetings that you’ll more than likely fall asleep in the middle of.
And one of the biggest myths of engineering is the job opportunities and job security. Sure, compared to a lot of other jobs, engineering has more job opportunities and better job security. But, it’s really exaggerated, and a lot of people seem to believe that an engineering major guarantees a job after graduating.
So, this entire blog post was about how the engineer job title, and job titles in general, mean jack shit. Now I’m saying that job titles are important? What the hell, right? Well, just bear with me.
Let’s start with Junior Engineer. This title is usually given to rookie engineers fresh out of college in some companies. At other companies, the title is given to people who only have Bachelor’s Degrees. Maybe both. Associate Engineer usually means the same thing, just sounds more legit and prestigious.
What about Staff Engineer? That’s probably reserved for people who are a few years older and experienced at some companies. Or, it’s given to people who have Master’s Degrees at other companies. Again, maybe both.
Senior Engineer could be a title reserved for people who have PhD’s, people who are old and experienced, people who are managers or lead projects, or some combination of the three.
Then, there are major-based job titles like mechanical, electrical, chemical, etc. engineer. Even though these job titles sound prestigious, they may not be. I once got a Mechanical Engineer job offer that was a contract/temp position for a meat-packing equipment manufacturer and paid less than $25 per hour.
The job requirements for these positions can vary wildly. A Mechanical Engineer position might only involve CAD, or it can require knowledge of electrical systems and controls/automation concepts as well as CAD. Electrical Engineer positions can require experience with programming and using micro-controllers, or they might involve sustainable energy sources, or both.
THEN, there’s Senior (Mechanical, Electrical, Chemical, etc.) Engineer, which could be any combination of the Senior Engineer and major-based engineer job titles.
The only things that matter about a job are the pay, what you’ll be doing, and the overall implied job security of the position based on the job description and what the interviewer tells you.
Associate/Staff Engineer basically sounds more legit than Junior Engineer, even if the Associate/Staff Engineer at Company A does the same things and is as competent as the Junior Engineer at Company B. The Associate/Staff Engineer is much more likely to get better job offers than the Junior Engineer. A major-based job title like Chemical Engineer and Senior Engineer usually sounds more legit than Junior, Associate, or Staff Engineer, and this means greater likelihood of better job offers. Senior (insert major here) Engineer sounds more prestigious than both of those.
There’s no such thing as unlimited job security. Even engineers can get fired or laid off. Winter is coming, so you better get a warm coat.
Also, it’s generally not too difficult to get a cool-sounding job title since it doesn’t cost your company anything. Try to emphasize this fact as much as possible.
All right, that’s the end. I hope I didn’t piss you off too badly. If I did, let me know down in the Comments how much of an ignorant jackass-tool I am. And while you’re at it, subscribe to my free newsletter so you can keep up with my crazy, demented rantings/continue to be entertained.
Until next time,