"more societally meaningful" ?! And I don't get it either. My job does not get more societally meaningful; if I don't do my job (Software Engineer, Industrial Automation), you don't get any power to your home, don't drive a car, don't get air condition in the mall and many more things. Sure I am only a small cog in that bigger scheme of things, but without engineers modern society would not exist.
Exactly. Maybe they don't see the bigger picture? Maybe we don't properly motivate with these examples?
If engineers fail at their job, people die. Chemical plants explode, medical devices fail, airplanes crash and burn. How much more impact on society can you have?
I think the problem is the job is too far removed from the feels. You don't have personal direct impact.
And sometimes the conditions are not conducive to family life. I have students starting with a four year degree making over $100k. But they spend lots of time in the gulf on oil rigs. Sometimes people make different life choices.