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US:More degrees in “parks & recreation” than in EE

I thought this was important enough to have its own topic...read and weep at what is happening to Engineering education in this country...

Engineering and Education Statistics

United States

Bachelor degrees in engineering in 2001 were 65,195, down from 71,386 in 1988, an 8.6 percent drop.
For the same time period, electrical engineering degrees declined 47 percent, from 24,367 to 12,929.
Only 18 percent of American high school students were proficient in science in 2000.
Approximately 25 percent of all freshmen engineering students need remedial math.
Last year, 46 percent of Chinese students graduated with engineering degrees. In the US, that number was 5 percent.
Europe graduates three times as many engineering students as the US, Asia five times as many.
Less than two percent of U.S. high school graduates will earn an engineering degree.
In 2001, almost 60 percent of those receiving Ph.D.s in Electrical Engineering were foreign born.
Among the more than 1.1 million seniors in the class of 2002 who took the ACT Assessment college entrance exam, fewer than 6 percent planned to study engineering, down from 9 percent in 1992.
Of those who enter engineering school, fewer than 40 percent complete the degree programs.
In a 2001 winter salary survey, electrical engineering BSEE graduates had an average starting salary of $50,850, with offers for hardware design positions starting at $55,000 and higher.
Less than 15 percent of U.S. students have the math and science prerequisites to participate in the new global high-tech economy.
In the US, more students are getting degrees in "parks and recreation" than in electrical engineering.
US high school students who only complete Algebra 2 have a 40 percent chance of receiving a bachelor's degree. The likelihood of receiving a bachelor's jumps to 74 percent with the successful completion of pre-Calculus.

This is from Texas Instruments an American company...the company that invented the transistor...

http://www.ti.com/corp/docs/press/company/2003/c03033.shtml

Code Monkey
Thursday, January 08, 2004

I'm not weeping, I'm cheering... less competition!

Rick
Thursday, January 08, 2004

>I'm not weeping, I'm cheering... less competition!

Yes keep doing it until your job is outsourced....enjoy while it lasts :-)  Maybe after that you will figure out that it is not "less competition" but "competition which charges less " and that is all what counts in America nowadays :-)

Code Monkey
Thursday, January 08, 2004

I'm a holder of an electrical engineering degree from a very reputed (and EXPENSIVE) engineering school (my mom is proud, but would have been prouder if I was pre-med).

I would really like to agree with the "problem" implied in this post, but I don't.  I personally am interested in a lot of the things that make up the field of electrical engineering (and computer science, as I only do software these days), but I've convinced myself that the guys getting the parks and recreation degrees are probably smarter than I am, when it comes to quality of life. I mean, sure I make about $100K. But I sit inside at a desk 12 hours a day. Many days I'd rather be making $30K a year managing a park.

Sure you can make what seems like a lot of money when you first graduate. I was stoked to get $55K right out of school. However, if you want to stay an engineer, you rarely make more than $80K, unless you want to go independent, in which case 1/2 your time is going to be doing business stuff rather than engineering anyway.

If you are a good businessman, it is probably easier to make a lot of money opening burger king fanchises than it is to engineer and sell whatever widget you came up with.

It is surely a Bad Thing that students in the USA don't know as much math and science as the rest of the world, but when it comes to employment and quality of life, I don't think think it truly matters that much.

And regarding how high tech makes the USA an economic super power, well, that is true, partially. Really what makes the USA an economic super power is that we are BUSINESS geniuses. Bill Gates didn't write the basic interpreter that launched microsoft, he just bought it from someone. Same with DOS. Then he set up amazing business deals that basically guaranteed him to be a billionaire. Henry Ford did the same with cars. He didn't invent them, he just created a business system that let him build and sell cars more efficiently than anyone else did.

...
Thursday, January 08, 2004

I agree with most of your premise, but your off base with Bill Gates and BASIC. He wrote it for the 8080. There was no one to buy it from in 1975.

pdq
Thursday, January 08, 2004

...:

So how many other countries have invented what we have?  Business isn't an abstract concept; at bottom it's about doing stuff well.  That happens to include, say, inventing the integrated circuit.

Furthermore, your comment about $100k vs. $35k is just foolish.  Smart investment and compounded interest give you the opportunity to retire much earlier than the parks people.  That is potentially an extra 15-20 years of your life to do what you want.  If you're a wage slave, that's up to you.

i_disagree
Thursday, January 08, 2004

>I would really like to agree with the "problem" implied in this post, but I don't. 

Well seems like even CEO's now seem to recognize the problem.... http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1804&ncid=1804&e=3&u=/washpost/20040108/tc_washpost/a63380_2004jan7

>I personally am interested in a lot of the things that make up the field of electrical engineering (and computer science, as I only do software these days), but I've convinced myself that the guys getting the parks and recreation degrees are probably smarter than I am,

Probably if you are seriously making this argument. 

>when it comes to quality of life. I mean, sure I make about $100K. But I sit inside at a desk 12 hours a day. Many days I'd rather be making $30K a year managing a park.

Quality of Life is one of those things which always seems to be greener on the other side of the fence.  Probably the Parks and recreation guy is more stressed than you trying to figure out how to keep away children from needles left by druggies :-) And at $30K a year in Silicon valley atleast I guess you would have to sleep and shower in that park too :-) 

>Sure you can make what seems like a lot of money when you first graduate.

Sure Money is a factor but not the only one. IT is the enjoyment one gets by doing creating and developing something which can change people's lives and become rich doing it :-) I know it sounds high falutin and all but that is what drives me.  The enjoyment I get seeing someone use software I had a hand in developing and be productive is the quality of life for me...and that balances out the all-nighters I had to pull to do that!

>I was stoked to get $55K right out of school. However, if you want to stay an engineer, you rarely make more than $80K,

I don't know where you are based but atleast in the Valley is is still possible for Engineers (who are Project Leads/Managers and there are many such) to make upto $140K...anything beyond that and you have to start your own startup :-) And I never heard of Parks and recreation guys getting options....infact this was one profession when you could retire on your options at 35 to become a park and recreation guy without having to worry about what it pays :-)

>unless you want to go independent, in which case 1/2 your time is going to be doing business stuff rather than engineering anyway.

That is part of growing up as an Engineer....nothing to be ashamed of...I am happy that the Engineers/Techies who started Google / Intel / Microsoft /  HP / Apple did not think this way....

Code Monkey
Thursday, January 08, 2004

I live in Berkeley. I agree with the idea that it would be nice if people in the USA understood more about science and mathematics. However, I don't necessarily agree with the notion that there needs to be more USA born electrical engineers to go into chip design, or consumer electronics, or software. I personally would like to see SMARTER engineers going into stuff like energy research, waste management, and water management. As hard as it is to get people to study electrical engineering, it is even harder to get them to go into infrastructure engineering. In the future, I see no shortage of iPods, bug tracking systems, first person shooters, or cell phones - but I do forsee a few problems with adequately distributing drinking water and finding a place to put all the discarded CD jewel cases. But, I'll stop before I get too far off topic... ;-)

...
Thursday, January 08, 2004

I can understand fewer people in CS and EE.  There's no incentive to enter that program anymore because the job prospects suck.

It's like Aerospace.  Nobody wants to become an aerospace major now because the job market there is so depressed.

The problem is that most of the sciences majors, except for whatever's booming, get no incentives or overall respect.  Especially the pure-sciences where major advances tend to come from.  I need to go into the federal budget at some point to check this out, but if it's the case that we spend more money on agracultural subsidies (including stupid things like jacking up the price of sugar and lowering the price of corn syrup for no real good reason) than we do on the sciences, I'm going to laugh, then cry, then hurl.

Flamebait Sr.
Thursday, January 08, 2004

How much of this is due to college in the US being seen as "essential education"?

So many people are majoring in parks and recreation because US business spent so much time making every white collar worker in the nation get a college degree (no matter what the major was) that now a common perception is "get a college degree or work at McDonald's"

This bizarre requirement created the fear that college would create a working class based on family wealth, so the federal college subsidies were created to make income a nonissue in college attendance. Unfortunately, availability of easy federal college money meant less thought had to go into going to college, feeding the vicious cycle of "you must have a degree to get a job"

I don't believe this is the situation in most other nations, where you truly have to be a top performer to even consider going to University. Since it's so hard to get in, they've got better material to work with and it's less of a "race to the bottom."

Just some random thoughts on it, anyway.

Philo

Philo
Thursday, January 08, 2004

I read an interesting article in the National Review 5-10 years ago.  The author made the point that the fact that we are moving to a "high tech economy" didn't mean that more people needed knowledge and intelligence; it meant that fewer did.  His point?  Years ago to be a UPS delivery guy you needed to keep track of things.  There was complex paperwork to fill out and every driver needed to be able to perform in the system.  Years later a driver only needs to know how to scan a bar code.  The software handles the rest.

Technology allows a "smart" person to help an ever increasing circle of "not so smart" people function.

Name withheld out of cowardice
Thursday, January 08, 2004

Code Monkey,

With stats like that it forces people to make some pretty nasty assumptions about the next half of the century: our parks will be just awesome, but the automatic sprinker system it relies on better not be made in the usa.

Li-fan Chen
Thursday, January 08, 2004


A few years back, I remember reading how American kids scored the best in self-esteem ("I am good at math") and the worst in math; at the same time the Korean kids scored the worst in self-esteem and the best in math (http://members.iquest.net/~macihms/Education/teach.html).

This is, I'm afraid, a serious problem facing America.  As a nation we are getting really good at thinking we're good, and we're rapidly losing our ability to actually be good.

Sadly, I think we're starting to too much resemble the fading silent screen starlet Norma Desmond in the movie Sunset Boulevard.

"You're Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big."

"I AM big. It's the PICTURES that got smaller."

prometheus
Thursday, January 08, 2004

undergrads aren't stupid - the EE and programming jobs are being outsourced, unemployment in IT is higher than in general employment, and since the dotcom implosion, salaries have been dropping. Add to that the useful life of a programmer in corporate America is about 15 years, after which you'd better have a plan B - why on earth would anyone sign up for this ? The money's in management and VC..  and if you don't care for that, might as well do something you enjoy, so parks and rec.  isn't unreasonable.

Doug
Thursday, January 08, 2004

http://philip.greenspun.com/careers/

"A chorus of voices exhorts kids to study science. No one stops to ask whether it is inhumane to force adolescents to spend the bulk of their time studying subjects most of them hate."
-- Unabomber Manifesto, Ted Kaczynski

...
Thursday, January 08, 2004

Name witheld wrote:

>Technology allows a "smart" person to help an ever >increasing circle of "not so smart" people function.


A theme that has been pretty thoroughly explored in sci-fi.  Example:  Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, Player Piano.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0385333781/002-9642707-9508863

Biotech coder
Thursday, January 08, 2004

Hard subjects make us FEEL BAD and that's not OK. Fun subjects make us FEEL GOOD and that's all that matters.

The Government should just make employers pay more for the jobs we like. Right after they create those jobs. That way we won't FEEL BAD.

Anytime we FEEL BAD, it's someone else's fault. We are all good people therfore we would never do anything to make ourselves FEEL BAD.

ootah
Thursday, January 08, 2004

About a fortnight back somebody posted that unemployment among electical engineers (which included a debateable number of computer engineers) was at its highest ever. If the county is producing enough engineers why produce some more.

IN general technology seems to get rid of the middle jobs. You are either doing a higly skilled job or a semi-skilled job (of course you often find highly skilled people doing semi-skilled jobs but that's another matter).

Public service, nurses, teachers, social workers, doctors and librarians will fill the middle ground, and there will also be a large number of people who make a poor to reasonable living pandering to the new needs of the moneyed classes (personal trainers, dog walkers, guitar teachers, private tutors etc).

Taking that scenario into account, it is quite normal to see an increase in the number of people studying Parks and Recreation. That is where a lot of the jobs are. Service jobs are the ones that can't be automated or outsourced. At the same time they can't ever pay much above the average wage.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, January 08, 2004

You've also got to be very careful to be comparing like with like in tests. The UK did nearly as bad as the US in comparative tests in Mathematics until somebody pointed out that in Europe and many Asian countries if you flunked you were held back, so by comparing the results by grade, and not age, English students, who like American students are not held back, would suffer, because the average age of each grade class was less in the UK. When they compared the results by age the UK shot up the list.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, January 08, 2004

>> “…many Asian countries if you flunked you were held back, so by comparing the results by grade, and not age, English students, who like American students are not held back, would suffer…”

Absolutely right.  I’m glad someone finally mentioned this.  Not only do some countries hold poorer students back, they move them out of the academic track altogether.  Thus their worst students don’t even appear in the test score data.

bob
Thursday, January 08, 2004

There is no insentive to study in science or engineering. I knew people who majored in history so their GPA would be high enough to get into med school. I work with PhDs in math and physics, and they do undergraduate required work. Why would anyone pursue a science career in the US...it does not pay and there are no gov't subsidies to make it pay (like farming).

Tom Vu
Thursday, January 08, 2004

"Not only do some countries hold poorer students back, they move them out of the academic track altogether."

But maybe that is what America should also be doing.  If grade promotion were based on achievement instead of age advancement, many students would work harder.  And it would be more difficult for the slackers to hold back the more interested students.

T. Norman
Friday, January 09, 2004

I know several engineers who hold advanced degrees that are not utilized at all.

I have a Bachelor's in EE and see little incentive to further my education, considering a PHD is doing technician level functional testing of my software.

The only real benefit I can see is better starting pay.

Jimmy Corrigan
Friday, January 09, 2004

I have a degree in chemical engineering. Man, was that a mistake. I switched into programming right out of college, but I've worked in chemical plants and factories along the way. Most of the guys I knew who were titled as "process engineers" did very little engineering work. They were 90% maintenance supervisors and babysitters for spoiled line workers, and 10% working on a tiny process improvement project that their management assigned to soothe their bruised egos a bit.

As Philo hinted, perhaps the real story here is the massive decline in the quality of U.S. high school graduates. This has made a bachelor's degree a de facto requirement for employment. Maybe the secondary school system should do a little addition by subtraction to improve the student body.

Mr. Hand: "Mr. Spiccoli, you're late again..."
Jeff: "Dude, it wasn't my fault!"
Mr. Hand: "That's it. You're off to work in the poultry processing plant."

Rob VH
Friday, January 09, 2004

"Approximately 25 percent of all freshmen engineering students need remedial math. "

Could be worse. They could have dropped all the math form the EE curriculum. You think I am joking? I'm not.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, January 09, 2004

I don't think the "need a degree to work here" is caused by the standard of high school graduates. I think it's just inflation in the market.

You can still look at someone's marks from high school and see whether they were a good student, or someone who just scraped by and passed because nearly everyone completes high school these days.

I'd say that nearly everyone finishing high school is a symptom though. Because of the need for high school to get any kind of job, everyone tries to finish high school, and the educational system caters to that.

Here in Australia, you can get an E for everything (equivalent to an F in America) and still pass! Your actual pass/failure is not tied to the grades you get! So long as you make a reasonable attempt at all the projects and hand them in, and turn up to all the exams, you pass, even if your work is clearly not up to standard.

So I think you're right about the standard of some of the high school graduates being lower. I just think it's caused by the job market, not vice versa.

Sum Dum Gai
Friday, January 09, 2004

>> "But maybe that is what America should also be doing.  If grade promotion were based on achievement instead of age advancement, many students would work harder.  And it would be more difficult for the slackers to hold back the more interested students."

On one hand, I absolutely agree with you - the US should definitely spend more of its resources on the gifted & hard-working, and less on the 'no child left behind' slackers.  The only problem I have with this is that, in countries which move underperformers out of the academic track altogether, there is practically no hope for the underperformer to work his/her way back towards the technical professions.  What's the problem with that, you may ask?  Some of the most amazing developers I've ever met were slackers in grade school & high school.  In fact, in a lot of ways, these guys are still slackers! ;-)

anon
Friday, January 09, 2004

I think there is a very important economic aspect to the reduction in engineering and science degrees worth noting.

Any of you cheering the loss in competition are WAY off the mark. Businesses do *not* locate in areas where the help they need doesn't exist or is of poor calibre or is in insufficient quantity. The writing is on the wall - engineering, and in turn all industries that employ smart people making things and performing services that produce a lot of value -  is on the way out in the US. What you've got is a situation where the last guy left standing wil turn out the lights.

For instance, contrast Silicon Valley to the Ohio Valley (I've lived in both areas.)

Silicon Valley became a high tech mecca because of the "feeder" effect and the creative energies of having tons of college educated, hip, intelligent engineers and programmers concentrated in a few dozen square miles. Even with outrageous real estate prices and the intense competition that once existed for engineers, many startups chose to stay close to Sunnyvale or Menlo Park rather than try to open cheaper branch offices 100 mi+ outside of the bay area.  Even with staffing hassles and high salary rates and unstable workers, Silicon Valley produced the bulk of the small technology companies and jobs at one point.

Whereas, in the Ohio Valley, most technology companies are fragile, low IQ and low quality sweatshops where the few bright kids from the local area with a technology degree who have some loyalty to local family connections are treated like rent-a-temp contractors because "this is a FUN job and you're f*ckin' lucky to have it, sonny".

Companies locate facilities where the suitable workers are.

Bored Bystander
Friday, January 09, 2004

Interesting statistics. It is very possible that the state of Math and Sciences education in the United States is very poor. In Israel, it seems that there is a tendency towards technocracy, or at least used to be for quite a while. Israel has the highest percentage of engineers out of the general populace than any other country in the world. We still needed more in each area during the bubble period, and even now, most of the really clueful people are employed.

The military desperately needs more engineers, but it does not seem to get too many. (which is another issue that is out of the scope of this place). I have studied Electrical Engineering in the Technion of Haifa and do not regret studying Computer Science instead. (however, I do have second thoughts on going to study in the first place, and programming is still my main passion). There are also many other graduates every semester in EE and other technical fields.

So, the situation is better. Recently, the public education in Israel, is becoming steadily and steadily worse (which can be expected from a public education), so it's hard to tell what its effects would be on the future of higher technical education.

What is possible is that our engineers are narrow-minded and lack perspective in humanist areas. I don't know how I can effectively determine if this is the case. In Israel, the global tendency in higher education is to choose whatever there is a high opportunity for employment in the field. We have two friends in England and their daughters chose to learn Latin and Literature respectively, or something like that. (they probably aren't to get employed in their field of work).

Still, it happened to me several times that I drove in a cab, told them I study Electrical Engineering, and they asked me if I know how to handle the house's electrical network. To be honest, my father, who has a Ph.D in Micro-biology is much better than me at these things, and I barely know how to change a lightbulb. (and they don't show us these kinds of things in the Technion).

Shlomi Fish
Saturday, January 10, 2004

It's good that there are fewer people studying engineering in college, and more studying parks and recreation. For those of you that haven't noticed, there won't be any jobs for engineering students coming out of college. At least here in Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources has been hiring.

Think about it. You can spend your days unemployed as an engineer, or if you do have a job, locked inside a factory or lab.  Or, you can go into a field where people are hiring, and you job description is boating, hiking and swapping hunting stories all day. I'd sure rather be spending my days on the trails, rather then trying to scare up customers for my programming services. Hunting and fishing are fun; making sales calls isn't.

Clay Dowling
Saturday, January 10, 2004

> The military desperately needs more engineers, but it does not seem to get too many.

I'm pretty talented and my grandmother is Jewish. Should I immigrate to Israel?

Tony Chang
Saturday, January 10, 2004

Regarding math education in America...

I just got out of high school and there, no one cared about math, even though quite a few of them were ambitious types who wanted quantitative-type jobs. Science got a little more attention.

It was the case that nearly everyone who was doing poorly was making a conscious decision not to try.

I suspect such is also the case at many other schools. They just don't care.

I see that all of you are thoroughly convinced that getting an engineering degree is a death sentence. So be it, I'm double majoring in math and computer science, although I'm sure I'll end up at McDonalds because the only possible way to be successful is to be a slick businessman, etc etc etc. You damn pessimists don't scare me anymore.

Warren Henning
Sunday, January 11, 2004

This article doesn't surprise me one bit.  Acctually it makes me happy in a way.  At least the kids going in college right now will spend their money on a career that they can't get a job in and not dig themselves in student debt on such a worthless degree.

I can honestly say it was probably the biggest mistake I've ever made in my life and if I could do it again I wouldn't have waisted my time and money on a degree in EE.  Rather I would have received a degree in Business.  It's much more versatile (and in this age of outsourcing) much more beneficial.

JC
Tuesday, June 15, 2004

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