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Hot Shots & Hot Jobs: Engineering Solutions

VCU Capstone (Senior) Design Expo

Why is Engineering a Hot Job? Listen to 3 students from Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Engineering to find out. During the recent VCU Capstone (Senior) Design Expo hundreds of engineering students solved problems and developed new products that will make a difference. Learn why these three students went into Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Electrical Engineering. Why is Engineering a Hot Job? In the words of recent graduate Eric Henderson, You get to work with friends in teams, you get to make a lot of cool objects and toys, and you get to make a lot of money." Check out the resources below and see if Engineering is the career path for you.

Engineers love to solve problems. Without them so much of the man-made world wouldn't exist. Engineers design and construct many of the systems and infrastructures we often take for granted. Think about who invented some of the favorite things you use every day. Engineers help create everything from your computer or iPhone, to interstates and bridges, to cars, rockets, satellites and even those huge stadiums and theaters where you go to enjoy your favorite sport or music. Engineers use their knowledge of math, science and technology to solve real world problems and improve our lives.

So what are some of the problems being solved? Eric Henderson, a Computer Engineer, and his team were trying to solve how to design a prosthetic hand that was easier for a user to master. "We wanted to incorporate a simplified approach and we created a subset of 3 limited grips: a fine pinch, a 3 finger grasp or point and a full closed fist. Based on this model we can place sensors on the surface of the hand so it is able to detect physical objects. This makes it possible to handle and manipulate these objects without crushing or damaging them."

Biomedical Engineer, Cassie Turnage and her team developed a testing device that will add to the diagnostic tools for assessment of ADHD by looking at eye movement and Zachary Gartrell, an Electrical Engineer, and his team chose to solve the problem of wasted wind energy. Zachary explains that "Any time you've got wind blowing you should be capturing that energy. Our device aims to do that. When the wind blows across it we convert that into pure electricity that you can use to charge your cell phone, of even power up your AC."

These are just a few of the projects that were developed by seniors in VCU's School of Engineering this year. Click here for the complete listing of project abstracts, team members, faculty advisors and company sponsors.

What do you think the 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century are? Check out this list developed by an international group of leading technological thinkers to for the most important problems we need to solve in our future.

Why go into Engineering? Our 3 Engineers explain why they chose Engineering as a career path:

Henderson states, "I went into Engineering because as a young boy I was always interested in seeing how computers worked. I wanted to learn how they accomplished the things that they did. I didn't understand how something that was made by a human could appear to be smarter than a human. I wanted to learn how to master this platform and get insight into how I can make this thing do what I want it to do."

Turnage chose to study Biomedical Engineering because she liked learning Physics, Math and Biology and has learned a lot about how to approach problems and conduct research. Gartrell went into Engineering because he likes to make new things and to understand how things work. "I get to take things apart and see what's in there and put it back together. Doing this helps you to understand. When you understand you can improve and when you improve you can make a difference. That's really what I want to do."

What types of skills are needed?

  • Do you like math? Engineering requires mathematical calculations whether you are studying electrical circuits or designing water purification plants or the latest innovations in technology. Click here for more on math skills needed.
  • Do you enjoy working with computers and technology? Engineers often use complicated Engineering software tools and are proficient computer users. This includes using Excel for statistical spreadsheets or AutoCAD for highly complex, 3-Dimensional renderings.
  • Are you analytical? Engineers identify problems, determine the root causes of the problems, create and test prototypes, and evaluate test results.
  • Do you like problem solving and logical thinking? Many companies (even non-engineering companies) hire engineers because they know they are logical thinkers and can think outside of the box to solve problems.
  • Do you pay attention to details? Engineering students learn to proceed according to strict sets of criteria for their projects and must pay incredibly close attention to detail in their work. The problems you’ll be tackling in your career after graduating can – and often do – have human lives at stake.
  • Are you inquisitive? Engineers are creative thinkers who like to think out of the box. They are curious and ask questions.
  • Do you like to work with a team? Most solutions require a variety of people with different types of expertise to solve them.  Engineers have the opportunity to work both on their own and with a team. As a result, excellent community skills are needed.

Current job data and projections:

In 2014, Forbes.com reviewed labor market data and job postings analytics from EMSI for 18 engineering occupations classified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and 8 engineering technicians occupations and identified these data trends:

  • The U.S. has approximately 1.6 million engineering jobs that pay $42 per hour in median wages.
  • Civil engineers account for the most jobs of any engineering field (274,000 in 2014), followed closely by mechanical engineers (264,000) and industrial engineers (229,000). Those three engineering jobs, plus electrical engineers and electronics engineers, make up two-thirds of the American engineering workforce.
  • Job growth from 2010 to 2014 has been in the double digits in four occupations: petroleum engineers (30%), mining and geological engineers (12%), biomedical engineers (10%), and industrial engineers (10%).
  • Every engineering occupation has added jobs, the most being among mechanical engineers (21,500 new jobs since 2010). Source: Forbes.com "The Most In-Demand (and Aging) Engineering Jobs"

Manpower Group's Annual Talent Shortage Survey 2014 includes Engineering in the Top 10 jobs employers are having difficulty filling both in America and globally.

According to Kelly Services' latest Engineering Employment Outlook which forecasts the engineering labor market through 2023, the United States will need nearly 250,000 more engineers over the next 10 years to work in high-growth sectors and industries such as oil and gas, aerospace, and renewable energy. This translates to an 11% expansion rate in the U.S. engineering labor market.

What types of careers and job opportunities are there in Engineering?

What jobs are available in Virginia and the US?

What courses are being taught in Virginia high schools and Universities?

  • Virginia's Career and Technical Education (CTE) Centers offer courses in many areas of Engineering. Click here for a comprehensive listing of STEM courses.
  • Educating Engineers.com and VAeng.com - both have listings of Virginia Colleges and Universities with Engineering programs.

What camps and programs are available to students in Virginia?

More great Resources:

Check out other Science Matters' Hot Shots & Hot Jobs videos on Engineering: