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Engineering Jobs Hard To Fill

By CityTownInfo.com Staff

June 24, 2009

Despite reports of countless numbers of laid off workers searching for jobs, many employers are still looking for qualified applicants to fill engineering positions.

"Not newly graduated civil engineers," clarified Larry Jacobson, executive director of the National Society of Professional Engineers, who was quoted in The New York Times. "What's missing are enough licensed professionals who have worked at least five years under experienced engineers before taking the licensing exam."

Dave Scott, executive director of the Iowa Engineering Society, spoke to Radio Iowa News [from an article originally located at http://www.radioiowa.com/gestalt/go.cfm?objectid=8C9CB1C3-5056-B82A-37F2B7A79FD83FEC] about the same problem. "When you come out of college as an engineer, you're an engineering graduate, you're not a professional engineer," he explained. "You have to first take a fundamental exam, then you have to have four years of experience, then you take a profession exam after that. So, in order to really have somebody to sort of hit the ground running and put their signature on a project, they're going to (need) about five years of experience."

A recent survey of 2,019 employers conducted by Manpower indicated that engineering jobs are the most difficult to fill. Scott noted that there are nearly 150 engineering firms in Iowa, and the ones located in small towns have an especially tough time finding qualified employees.

Jacobson predicted in Forbes that there would very likely be a shortage of engineers in the near future. Some reasons for the increased demand include the rebuilding of the nation's highways, bridges and tunnels though the federal stimulus plan, and the move toward new green energy sources such as wind farms. Additionally, the shortage will be exacerbated because many experienced engineers are on the verge of retiring.

"Companies are looking to replace more than half of their engineers over the next eight years, because baby boomers are retiring," Jacobson explained. "When you have 80,000 engineers working for you, as Lockheed Martin does, that's a lot of jobs."

He pointed out that the nation's engineering schools provide 75,000 slots, which won't be nearly adequate for replenishing the shortage--even if all of the slots are filled.

Forbes reports that those beginning in engineering need only an undergraduate diploma, and salaries vary based on specialty and degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average starting salary for a civil engineer with a bachelor's in 2007 was $48,509; for environmental engineers, $47,960; for petroleum engineers, $60,718; and mechanical engineers, $54,128. Graduates of the nation's top engineering schools, such as Princeton, Stanford or Caltech, are likely to receive at least six job offers when they leave school.

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