Studies show that only around half of America's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates pursue careers in engineering. Unfortunately, this means that employers in top fields have been unable to fill many of their open engineer jobs for years. With the looming retirement of the baby boomers, the crisis is expected to deepen for the foreseeable future as older workers retire from their careers in engineering without enough qualified graduates waiting to take their place. Here are three of the top careers in engineering that are scrambling to fill existing engineer jobs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) identifies biomedical engineering as the fastest-growing job in the entire engineering field. The demand for candidates in the industry is expected to rise by a staggering 62 percent between 2010 and 2020, driving up wages as it goes. Biomedical engineers design and build products such as prostheses, durable medical equipment, and surgical tools. They are needed to design the next generation of cardiac pacemakers and devise medical technologies that are yet undreamed of. This field has seen tremendous progress over the last few years and, with the swell of elderly patients in need of life-supporting machinery, represents one of the most promising careers in engineering.
Environmental engineers are likewise seeing a spike in demand. Careers in engineering relating to environmental science typically involve finding new ways to recycle and recover materials that would otherwise be discarded. Engineering workers in this field are also essential to the task of developing new methods and protocols for environmentally friendly industrial and chemical processes. With the recent shift in emphasis toward sustainable technology and manufacturing, demand for candidates who are willing to work in this area is set to rise almost as sharply as the demand for biomedical engineers.
It's no secret that the US has let much of its domestic infrastructure decay, to the point that the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that repairs will cost $3.6 trillion by 2020 alone. Civil engineers are needed to oversee and maintain these essential systems, and employable workers aren't available to fill the open positions.
Careers in engineering have the potential to reward skilled workers with a lifetime of benefits such as high earnings and stable employment. Unfortunately, a confluence of rising demand and a throttled supply—as engineering graduates go to work on Wall Street, for instance—have created a gulf between the need for a skilled workforce and the supply of qualified candidates who are interested in pursuing careers in engineering. For now, US employers are struggling to fill the gap with guest workers, but the long-term decline is unmistakable.
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