Expectations for a Satisfying Engineering Career

Expectations for a Satisfying Engineering Career
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What factors set career expectations and drive job satisfaction for engineers?  In 2017, the National Science Foundation surveyed 9,348 engineers from various disciplines on what aspects of engineering jobs they rated as most important. Their responses were broken down by their highest level of degree, which illustrates some interesting differences in viewpoint based on level of education.

% OF RESPONDENTS RATING
ELEMENT AS VERY IMPORTANT
Element Bachelors Masters Ph.D.
Job Benefits 74 71 65
Salary 70 68 62
Job Security 67 65 64
Location 59 60 54
Intellectual Challenge 56 66 74
Degree of Independence 53 58 61
Opportunities for Advancement 45 51 53
Level of Responsibility 37 44 44
Contribution to Society 33 41 51
Data Source:  National Science Foundation, 2017 National Survey of College Graduates, accessible at: https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvygrads/

Clearly, salary, benefits, and job security are key expectation drivers, along with opportunities for intellectual challenge.  The degree of job independence is also very important to a majority of working engineers, along with job location.

Somewhat surprising is that the level of responsibility and ability to contribute to society were of relatively lower importance, although the more advanced the degree, the more satisfaction was derived from serving society.

The survey also looked at the comparative levels of satisfaction with each element. Not surprising, the respondents were less satisfied with their salary, benefits and opportunities for advancement across all three degree levels. The characteristics generating the highest levels of satisfaction were their degree of independence, job location, and for Ph.D. engineers, intellectual challenge and contributions to society.

The data suggests IEEE can best serve its members (at least in the United States) by focusing on driving improvements to salary and job benefits, and providing access to training and information that will enhance job security and reinforce intellectual challenge.


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