Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rising Tide and thoughts about being halfway to taking the PE

Great to see everyone out and about last night. I even got to shake Ceresoli's hand (3 times, no less). If you haven't seen Gambit's wrap up of last night's events, check it out.

I've slacked on my posting a bit lately and various and sundry individuals suggested I get back to it, so here's one post I've been kicking around in my head for a while.

To become a licensed Professional Engineer you need to get a Bachelor's in Engineering, pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam, spend 4-5 years (depending on the state, LA=4) working under a licensed engineer, and then finally take the Principals and Practices in Engineering (PE) Exam. There are some minor details that vary by state, but all states follow that basic formula.

I passed the FE and I'm a little over halfway to taking the PE. That makes me an EI/EIT (term varies by state - Engineer Intern/ Engineer In Training). I have a few observations about the current state of engineering:

This is the best job market for engineers in 30+ years. Oil & Gas, mining, heavy industry, alternative energy, nuclear, it doesn't matter; they are all booming. There are very few young engineers and lots of experienced engineers are retiring now and within next 2 years. Companies that never used to hire recent grads are hiring them in bulk. Engineers always used to make decent money, but there was always a glass ceiling at around $100,000 or so in 2000 dollars. A friend's dad took 30 years to reach that level. That glass ceiling has been blown away.

As a result of the shortage of engineers, minor engineering work is being taken over by non-engineers. I wouldn't be surprised if a specialty engineering assistant (non EI's/EIT's) emerged similar to lawyers/paralegals.

The other thing that has saved us from a real crunch in engineering has been lots of productivity improvements. AutoCAD and processes of taking real life data and digitizing it into computer models have saved millions of man hours of labor. Research is now done on computers. Engineering libraries are now unlimited in size. That being said, gains in productivity are limited by management. All you have to do to know what I mean is read Dilbert or watch Office Space.

That's all for now. In a few more months, I'll start studying for the PE. And then we'll see what happens after that. Right now, I'm fortunate to work for a consulting firm that does very diverse work, so I've been exposed to a broad range of fields. No pidgeonholing for me (at least, not yet).

1 comment:

Tim said...

Thanks for blogging about what it takes to become a Registered Professional Engineer. Seems a lot of people think it's a four-year degree and that's it. The general public needs to know the difference between a gadfly scientist and a PE.

And I am very confident you'll do well on the exam. Especially if you get questions about how to set the timing on an old pick-up truck. 8-)