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Statistics On The Degrees People Earn 144

Xzzy writes: "Over on NASA's space science page, they recently posted a link to a PDF file with a bunch of numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics, focusing on geekly-type jobs. Interesting numbers noted were ones pointing out that over the past ten or so years, degrees earned in electrical engineering have steadily declined.. while degrees focused on fitness studies and recreation have sharply increased."
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Statistics On The Degrees People Earn

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  • by ilovelinux ( 129476 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @04:43PM (#610985)
    because getting your electrical engineering degree is ALOT of work. You have to really love science and math to stay the course and finish.

    With such a boom in the telecom and computer industry in the last few years, companies are accepting more and more technicians, and in Canada, technologists, (like myself) for traditionally "engineer required" jobs. I personally know a few very bright people working for Nortel and Alcatel doing R&D who are technologists.

    Why take 4 years to learn all your math and physics when you can make nearly as much money being a tech?

    Why hire an expensive engineer when you can get by with a tech?

    BTW, I have the utmost respect for engineers, and plan to get my degree within the next couple of years. For now, I'm content being a 1/2 engineer.

  • I'll come at this from a slightly different point of view. I've been a Ph.D. EE specializing in very high speed analog ICs for a major semiconductor vendor for a while. From time to time I'll get out and see how the market is and do some interviews. I can honestly say that I think my Ph.D. has caused me a fair number of problems from managers who tend to think that just because I have a Ph.D. I don't want to or can't do practical circuits. I have been to several companies where I have been directly challenged on working in a non-ivory tower environment with a Ph.D. Not all managers feel this way, but enough do to be surprising and annoying to me.

    Besides, the best economic return for an EE comes with an MS if you work out the numbers and lost opportunity cost. The only way a Ph.D. works out is if you really value education, really enjoy what you're doing, or need it to get through various artificial government requirements for getting a job in this country.
  • I don't know but it's been said, but Air Force Wings are made of lead.

    I don't know but I've been told that Navy wings are made of gold!

    Besides, who wants to wear pansie-boy blue uniforms when you can wear cool white or black?!?!

  • I agree with AC here. Coming from a business background, I have learned that grades don't matter much when it comes down to it. Granted they are helpful if you are looking for that dream job that you spent years in college getting the degree for, but if you don't know how to manage the income that that job produces, you are just headed up $#!@ creek without a paddle. If you didn't go to college, just worry about broadening your knowledge about wealth, finance, and whatever skills you use in your profession.
  • I've seen that so many times, the biggest was a couple of years ago when a telecoms company wanted me to come in and run a project for them, they had hired a few guys that knew the system they were using and had let them loose without real co-ordination or leadership and they ended up with a really unstable system that they were actually using in their business, needless to say I would not even touch it with a bargepole, I told them it would need a complete redesign and rewrite, but they didnt like that, so I said no thanks and walked away.
  • I could put another -1 to this, but I'm writing this and can't moderate the discussion anyways. I've also posted elsewhere on this thread as well.
  • I dis-recommend pure tech studies to acquaintances beacuse of the glut of cheap foreign labor. The nearly million here already occupy over a quarter of IT jobs and the amount will double in the next few years. Salaries are depressed and if you don't have an Indian sounding name, many companies won't even talk to you.

    I do recomend science and technology degrees, but away from generic areas where competition will be fierce. I recommend some kind of science major with a computer minor.

    I think this message has pretty much gotten out to American students because of declining degrees.
  • The root of social science -

    People want to be "happy"

    People want to be "in control"

    everything else can be extrapolated from there.
  • Let us not forget that American students have far more choices in higher education than students in, say, China, where engineering degrees seem quite prevalent.

    I do not believe that the worth of our society should be measured by the geek ratio. Just because someone does something that you would not like does not mean that they are stupid. Have any of you ever been called names because you liked computers?

    I find it instructive that the US has a higher percentage of citizens with Bachelor's Degrees than most of the European countries where education is "free."

  • Its so easy for an american to go out and get a job paying 60k these days.

    Really? I'm an American who will be out of college in four weeks. Please point out one of these mythical 60k jobs please. Remember, I only have the degree and no X years of experence in C++, Java and client server applications.


  • No one ever lost their job by buying IBM.

    Uhm, I mean... no one ever lost their job by hiring someone with a degree in web programming.

    Let's be honest here. The companies ten years from now that are merely doing well in the market place will be those who only hire geeks with degrees. The companies ten years from now who are kicking butt and taking names are those who hire the best, degreed or not.

    However, that being said, having a degree at least proves that one can hack a four-year program, generally implying that one is at the least trainable. All other things being equal, they're going to hire the degreed geek every time.

    That's why it's important to start working on sexy open-source projects now. If the non-degreed geek can slap down a CD with kernel patches, Quake mods, and stuff from CPAN that they've written, well, things are no longer equal.

    Now that non-degreed geek can prove that they are a self-starter, that they can produce, and that they really do know what they're talking about; not that they just took a couple of classes and read a few books (like the typical degreed geeks we've had turn up to interviews).

    Now, trying to get onto the management track ten years from now without a degree is a different story....

    (is it just me, or is the term 'geek' being watered down in general?)


  • (from Geoffrey Perkins's introduction to "The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts")
    I came to work for BBC Radio from a shipping company in Liverpool. I only went there because when I told the University appointment board that I didn't know what I wanted to do they immediately told me to go into shipping. It was only afterwards that I realised they probably recommend everyone who comes in on a Wednesday and doesn't know what they want to do to go into shipping. On Thursdays it's probably accountancy, and so on.

    When I was in school (in the US, about ten years ago), the fad was to use these career aptitude assessment profiles or some nonsense like that. They ask a bunch of questions about how you like to work, what things interest you, what bores you, if you prefer spearmint or peppermint gum, etc. Then someone magically tell you what career you're best suited for. They're probably now using them for everything from college selection to picking a lunch menu. The point is, I took two of them (that I can remember) and the first one said oceanographic biology; which was odd because I didn't like either water or animals. The second time I got aerospace engineer which sounded more exciting and expensive. Well, I'm neither now, in fact I dropped out of college basically because I realised the same thing Geoffrey Perkins did. And on those tests I must've just filled out all the blanks for "pathetic directionless loser" and, rather than tell me I had no prospect at any meaningful career, it just tossed something out at random.

  • I have also seen this as an employee. My current manager wanted to hire a particular Ph.D. He could not get approval from the higher-ups for several months, because they needed justification that a Ph.D would really help the group.

    By the time they finally cleared the approval, my manager learned that the potential employee had taken a job at another company. Even if a manager wants to hire, the additional salary and company politics may make it difficult on everyone.

  • I am sad to say that I know several rec studies majors. Their academic life is a joke - they can get good grades by cracking open a book, and decent grades by going to class. I also know a couple theater types, who are quite talented, but they spend relatively little improvint that talent. And while I'll admit I have no creative ability and couldn't do it myself, i think I spend much more time coding, solving equations, whatever, than they do reading and rehearsing, etc.

    Also, remember the workload in your lib ed classes? Always seemed a lot easier, didn't it? At least that's what I got out of it.

    At the same time, snobbiness doesn't get you anywhere - there's always someone who can claim to have a tougher degree from a tougher school. You can spend your life looking down on the lib ed majors, but you're pretty sad if that's your primary source of satisfaction.
  • Over the course of the past few years, i've been observing the general public (american) getting dumber and dumber. aiming lower and lower.

    i thought i was wrong. i hoped i was wrong.

    this only serves to reenforce my beliefs. but still i have to believe... 5,000 years of recorded history filled with idiots (granted, without our hindsight). I still have to believe this is a hiccup... even the primative sumerians weren't uneducated enough to be PE majors. =)
  • No wonder. The media has taken over culture and now people are more interested in looking like Britany Spears or an NSYNC guy. Face it, our culture is a cult to the body, not to knowledge...we are all part of the "ultra-light" culture who feels good because they buy the "right stuff"(by The new kids on the block) rather than by ideals or concepts that can transcend all that we know.

    Our culture has ALWAYS been like that, sadly enough. The anti-intellectualism streak that runs through it has actually gotten a little better than it used to be, I think, due to the rise of the computer industry and the idea that you can actually make money by thinking.
  • i'm an american grad student, and when i look around i see mostly indians. the reason? have you seen the perceved economy lately? its so easy for an american to go out and get a job paying 60k these days. the only americans in grad school right now (in engineering at least) are there because they really like what they are doing.

    people from other countries have much better motivation:

    spend a few years in america. get a degree. come back and attain a very high social status

    this sounds bad for us, but....

    we get alot of use out of them too in terms of research. so it's not all bad

    i do however think we should encourage them to stay. most of them are very smart and very hard working.

  • Is it just me, or does that last chart seem a bit out of place? And yes, that is a disturbing trend. Though I think you'd see some upturn in EE if you had results up to the present, including dot-com and wireless mania.
  • Trying to make it into, are you?


  • by milliyear ( 132102 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @04:51PM (#611004)
    seems to be in Electoral Engineering. Or maybe there are too many, at least in Florida.

    BTW - is there such a thing as an Honorary Degree in Electoral Engineering??
  • ..lesbians. Lot's of lesbians. In fact, every female Phys Ed teacher I've ever had was a flaming lesbian.
  • engineering == not too many cute girl phys ed == plenty of nice chicks
  • What you're saying is true only for "monkey" type of low-tech crappy jobs
  • At least here, mechanical engineering seems to be the toughest.
  • > It's my experience that the number of women in hard science/engineering is, sadly, staying more or less constant.

    FWIW, my alma mater currently has (estimated) 25% f/m in the freshman level CS classes, but only about 10% in the senior level classes.

    That may represent a rapid change in demographics over the past three/four years, or it may represent a differential rate in the number who stay on track for four years. I don't know offhand how to tell the difference.
  • Where to begin....

    This reasoning is flawed. No real work can be done by someone who doesn't have an adequate technical formation.

    What exactly qualifies as "real work"? Or "adequate technical formation"? It's a very vague pronouncement, and the "real" before work looks like it can easily become a circular argument; "real work" can only be done by someone with a technical background, otherwise it's not "real".

    Social sciences are notorious for leading to nowhere whilst leaving the illusion of progress (forged by social scientists, of course).

    Actually, the social sciences are the most self-critical disciplines around, and have become more so as time goes on. Which social scientists talk about "progress" exactly? And they lead nowhere? What a ridiculous charge. All social sciences have at their foundation history, and I don't think knowing anything about the past can ever become irrelevant.

    Althought they are helpful in many personal aspects and should not be neglected, one should be careful not follow the current trend and overemphasize them in favor of science.

    It is ludicrous to think that there is a "current trend" to overemphasize social science over the physical and natural sciences in education. Scientific departments tend to be far, far better funded, and social science graduates usually have few illusions how their degrees will be received by potential employers.

    Fortunately there are still some that like challenges and study exact sciences.

    I like challenges, so I studied both. Social sciences are less "exact" because they simply deal with more complex variables.
  • And Linux? While it is in some universities, most degrees will teach you that, "Noone was ever fired for choosing Microsoft."

    You're mistaking a CS degree and an MIS degree. One is a science, the other a buisness. Big difference.
  • Some of these reasons for foreigners (from a US standpoint) being there is that its easier to stay here as a student. Once a high level degree is obtained is is then easier to get past the immigration service.

    For those where this is not an issued, there is the opportunity cost of going to school. I personally spent $15k/year attending college when I could have been making $50k programming already. Over there course of 4 years, I'm in the hole $60k, and have missed $200k of income. It also costs 4 years of work experience. All that is gained is one line on a resume.

    Of course for some jobs, engineering is required. And if you can afford to go and enjoy it enough have fun doing it. Personally I would have been better off skipping school entirely. This brings up another point. I know what I should have done now, but would I have known without 4 years to figure it out in school? Maybe not.

    My only conclusion is that college is expensive, but I weigh this against living in a building with several hundred women.

  • by Cowking ( 146248 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @04:19PM (#611013) Homepage
    Wow, all of these fitness and recreation degrees, and we are still the most obese nation in the world. What a waste of time.
  • by dr_labrat ( 15478 ) <spooner&gmail,com> on Monday November 20, 2000 @04:19PM (#611014) Homepage
    engineering == difficult
    phys ed == not so difficult.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The last couple of semesters in a Engineer's BS degree is spent more in the PROCESS of design rather than learning new tricks. You learn to make decisions for specific reasons and not to jump to the first idea and run with it.

    In my current project, i'm really pleased at how well everything just seems to be falling together and melding perfectly. This is by no means a small project and at first the task seemed daunting. We did not simply start "wandering" off writing code and laying out schematics but rather had some long brainstorming whiteboard discussions. As we brought new engineers on-board (and several work in other states and countries), they would invariably question some of our choices but we could just whip out our notebooks and back-up our plan. Sometimes they have a good idea that we missed, but those cases are few and far between.

    Contrast this with the hackerish approach (i refrain from using the word "tech" because I know there are some damn good techs out there that think more like engineers out of experience) Where someone makes a change or contribution, and it is not run through a process of cross-checks to make sure that it:
    a) agrees with the design and its philosophy (and avoids splintering your design)
    b) doesn't cause any systemic failures (a fix in one area doesn't brake another working component)
    c) a peer-review is actually performed (and NOT an ad-hoc "look what I stumbled across" process)

    To get back to your question. Why hire an engineer. I've been on both sides, but I think, in very broad strokes: A tech can get you a quick, dirty, and cheap solution. Whereas an engineer can get you a more robust, expansible, stable solution. The engineer version may be cheaper in the long run due to lower support costs of having a better infrastructure. Also I suspect the engineer version stands a MUCH better chance of "first-pass success" vs. the hackerish approach which may require more rewrites/respins to get the project working.

    As always, you get what you pay for.

  • The purpose of college has always been to get a well-rounded education that includes one area of expertise and several lesser areas. In all honestly, though, most so-called geek jobs don't involve the kind of thing you need advanced education for: system administration, web site scripting, general data munging in Perl and Python, writing enterprise applications that are mostly GUI-oriented database front ends (using tools like Filemaker, Foxpro, Visual Basic, Toolbook, and Delphi), lots of glue and script programming. Looking through newspaper and online ads supports this. So if you're going to spend some years doing lightweight code monkeying, is there much point in getting a hardcore degree like EE or CS?

    Yes, there are also jobs that require real math and programming skills, but those are not the kind of jobs that are being created by the boom. If you're shooting for current skills that most employers want, then you might as well get some good use out of college by getting a degree in history or science or even literature. There's no sense in overloading on geekdom and regretting it later.
  • I am not sure how long it will take for your garage mechanic scenario to play out, although I am sure that it will; however, people seem to permanantly misunderstand what constitutes a CS degree, and that can only delay the inevitable differentiation between these two groups

    Recently a my (US) uni, the degree course was audited by a group of lecturers from other colleges, to assess the value of the course. I was embarassed to sit there and listen to one of my fellow students argue that they should be able to transfer in their MCSE in lieu of some of their core cs major courses! Thankfully, one of the auditors put this chap in place and pointed out that computer science was exactly that and should not be confused with 'a familiarity with whatever packages and tools happen to be in vogue at the moment.' He added that it was certainly more than clicking a few buttons to create a new user.

    this, I have to admit, put a smile on my face ;-)

    Now can someone explain this to people who haven't taken cs110 and don't know their microsoft from their elbow?
  • Agreed. In my case, I'm interested in cryptography.

    While it is possible (and often *necessary*) to
    be an auto-didact in cryptography proper,
    formal schooling helps a *lot* in developing the math skills necessary to understand what's going on. Maybe you can sit down and teach yourself abstract algebra from scratch -- but it's a lot easier for me to take a course.

    Eventually I expect to go for a PhD. It's not
    required to "do cryptography." Plenty of respected
    cryptographers don't have a doctorate. But look at it this way: it's a chance to spend 4-5 years doing nothing but hitting yourself up against the most interesting problems you can find. :-)
  • Look how much our lives have changed in the past four years - virtually everyone is on the net now compared to a relatively small percentage a few years ago. I would be willing to bet that people like me (who are just now graduating with an EE degree), who saw the trend a few years ago, will make that line go upwards.

    The other thing that might have watered down that graph (pg 8) would be the popularity of computer science/computer engineering majors as of late. I bet if you added in all of those majors throughout the years, you'd see a steady upwards trend and perhaps a significant rise in the last few years.

    Not to say the job market isnt great though :). There is still a great need for straight EE's.
  • there's college that offer that major?

    geez, all this time i'm wasting. i'd probably be 3/4 of the way to my masters in binge drinking, and i'd have gotten my bachelors in a semester!!

    "...and i see on your resume you have a ms in 'mental fortitude'. care to describe that?" =)
  • I bet the trend is not similar in countries outside North America.

    The relative outcomes of getting an EE degree to Sports and Recreation degree may not have changed, but the opportunity cost has. When I teach, I found that many students in Canada do not have even the minimal skills in math before they get into U/College.

    It's relatively painful to catch up on math to go for a degree that needs a lot of math. Do we use as much math in Sports and Recreation as we do in, say, Economics?
  • Look another dipshit that complains about spelling.
  • This is not very surprising for two reasons; more techies learn their skill on their own time, before they graduate, and due to the improving economy, we can afford more fitness experts. Every person that I know that likes to tinker around with electronics, has done so from an early age. Through this, they have acquired vast amounts of knowledge through both trial and error, and reading up on their future trade.

    Meanwhile, due to the rising, lets say, average mass, of Americans, there is more need for fitness experts than ever. In addition, due to the booming economy, we also have more money to spend on recreation. Also, urbanization has made it hard for us to exercise outdoors like we did in previous generations.

    All these factors make this an understandable statistic, and hardly newsworthy. It will make good trivia though. :)

  • The graph at the foot of the PDF ignores the presumed transfer from EE to CS & CE ... and if the US is anything like the UK, then we can presume that there is more demand for courses that previously did not tend to be awarded degree status, catering for the increased population in higher education.

    I don't think there's much that can be seen in this single-year snapshot ... move along now.

  • ...and the football team has to take something to keep their GPA up.
  • engineering = geeks
    phys ed = cute dopey chicks
  • So you're saying they're packing the place with women so they can look progressive and non-discriminatory?
  • Damn, according to an career aptitude test, or whatever they call it, I was supposed to be a bus driver ;)
  • I was one of those physics majors in the math classes. And I was always one of the math savvy among the physics crowd. But I only really worked at "applied" math classes. I only sat in the first few weeks of classes like analysis, algebra, topology, lie groups, number theory,.... They seemed like a lot of hard work for silly little things that weren't that useful. Now that I'm trying to take classes in quantum field theory, I'm getting smacked around big time. Now I almost wish I had spent the time to learn that stuff for real. As it is, I will likely never really understand as much physics as I'd like to, just because I wasn't willing to hack the math. And while I'm not anything special, I did take more math classes than most physcists in my class.

    There's some truth to it. Although, I like to think of it more along the lines of people who chose not to hack it, rather than people who can't.
  • 2) Academic CS curriculums are typically behind the curve - after all, the professors are teaching what they learned 5-10 years ago, and most of them don't keep up with new technology (with some few exceptions, where they're involved). If you're not at the top half-dozen schools, then it's likely you're not cutting-edge in computing.

    but good cs curricula are not supposed to teach flavor-of-the-month languages and dev environments!

    computer science (as opposed to computer job prep) is in the business of teaching the fundamentals of the science, not the hot new techniques. a bachelor's in cs should signify not knowledge of the windows api, but knowledge of how to learn windows or any other api; not skills in admining win2k networks, but in networks structures and implementations which can be easily reapplied to win2k; not familiarity with linux kernel, but understanding operating systems in enough detail so that the details could be acquired reasonably quickly should need be. students shouldn't be taught mfc or linux kernel hooks - rather, they should be taught how to learn them efficiently.

    of course, it's very good if the department pays attention to what's marketable, but teaching kids skills that are likely to be obsolete by the time they graduate is only a disservice. the benefit of learning computer science is acquiring the skills to rapidly learn new languages and systems, and be able to fit them into the larger framework of existing knowledge.

    but that's just my opinion, i could be wrong (although i wonder, considering the number of those who reinvent higher-order procedures and other intro-to-programming concepts under the label of 'cutting-edge programming patterns')
  • Somehow I don't think the population at large is worried about a 'glut' of foreign workers. I think they're more concerned with a shortage of qualified workers (and of course the election). Come on, moderators, mark this as flamebait that this is.
  • i'm pretty sure the grandparent of this posting was an amusing if trollish rant, but since we're on the topic of usefulness of a college degree, i though i'd throw in this fascinating story.

    a senior researcher from electronic arts (yes, they have a research division!) was invited to our department for a presentation about their labs and life in the gaming industry. and since the room was full of starry-eyed students (yours truly included), the topic of employment and requirements for getting into the game industry naturally came up.

    it was very interesting to hear that, when evaluating candidates, they pay attention not to the applicant's familiarity with hot technologies, but to the applicant's general education! yup, the standard "did they get a bachelor's? a master's? what do they know?"

    the reason is that, not surprisingly, good education gives people the foundation on which they can learn and use any particular system (and dev tools in games change very rapidly), while people familiar with tools but shaky on fundamental concepts will be likely unable to switch when a better tool comes around.

    a good comparison is with that of a 3dmax guru without art skills, and an artist without 3dmax skills. the point is that the latter can learn the tool relatively quickly, while the former will fail miserably knowing only the particulars of the tool, but not about composition, color theory, and so on.
  • Thanks! I just didn't catch how funny that was when I first read it.

    Mandrake 7.2 and KDE 2 for me? for free?
  • i dunno, those wacky exercise physiologists seem to be using excel a lot.
  • This is part of a sort of backlash against intellectualism. Another good example is alternative medicine in places where conventional medicine works just fine. I'm not entirely sure why this is (and in fact it might be a selection effect), but I can see how the trends in degrees might be a reflection of this as well.

    Hey, a full circle! That can be my accomplishment for today.

  • > Thanks! I just didn't catch how funny that was when I first read it.

    IIRC, I found that in a story linked from Linux Today. It was part of MS's "explanation" of why the big breakin that hit the news a few weeks back was not pinched out sooner. Or rather, one of the several versions of the "explanation".

    As usual, as soon as they start spewing spin to convince the public that their poop doesn't really stink as much as your nose says it does, they inadvertantly say something that makes their poop sound even smellier than it would have if they had said nothing.

    It really concerns me that MS' own security team would shrug of the continual creation of unauthorized accounts as being just another unexplainable quirk of the system. We're talking major confidence in the quality of their own products here.

    Oh, well. In a few years they'll be out with the next iteration of their Great New Thing, and then we'll hear them tell us that it doesn't stink like W2K did, blah, blah, so we'll run out and buy the new one before word gets out about how unreliable it is.
  • Sounds like a joke but I'l lanswer anyway. In Canada Technician - 2 years college, very little theory, lots of practical Technologist - 3 years college/some uni level courses, alot more theory, some practical. (Calculas for example) Engineer - 4 years university, almost entirely theory.
  • Fitness/recreation majors are becoming more popular because we are becoming a society of entertainment. More and more people are sitting back and saying entertain me. Since there are more "rich" people these days we can afford to be entertained.
  • Well this might be true, I suspect that there is another reason for the sharp increase in recreation. neo-Hippies, I know at least where I go to school, Ohio University, there are tons of hippies we are overrun with hippies and poorly trained dogs. I think it is also common sense that hippies enjoy smoking herb, smelling bad and being one with nature. This all lends itself to recreation/wilderness type majors, rather than EE or CS majors. I am sad that more people haven't recognized the joy involved in hacking away and debugging software but oh well they will someday figure out what I have known all along.

  • interesting things are happening in terms of numbers of males and females.
    This chart [] from StatCan []shows women outnumbering men 10:7 in total number of degrees granted. But in Eng. that is reversed 5:1.
    Does this mean it's permisible for me to marry for money?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    you deserve a heart attack today
    so come in and get away from the carjackings and muggings
    at mcdonald's

    i find it so funny that the vast majority of americans are fat pigs, shouldn't they be thin from having to run from rapists and armed robbers constantly?
  • Really, flaming? Most of mine were hard-core bull-dykes. Must have just gone to way different schools, I guess.
  • Well no shit sherlock. Do you really think I want to be an engineer? Let me tell you flat out.. Engineering is a pain in the ass..

    1) They make it extremely challenging almost to the point where its in pratical.
    2) At least in school you get no free time between labs and homework.
    3) An engineering degree requires a little higher level of intelligence. (not that all engineers are smarter but percapita the iq is higher)

    But yea I think the main reason for this is that people like recreation and fitness more than they like engineering.. I know I do and I'm an engineer.. Why not do something you like to do for a living? I mean this whole fitness major thing has some huge advantages.

    1) you're doing something you'd do anyway
    2) more time to stay inshape
    3) you get to meet women (lets face it there aren't many dateable engineering women)
    4) these women you meet are probably in shape
    5) in shape women are usually sexually active (in shape & intelligent you + inshape sexually active women = SCORE)
    6) totally avoid the 'Office Space' enviorment
    7) live much longer becuase you're healthy (how many of us are overworked and under excercised?)

    All in all why in the hell does anyone want to be an engineer.. I know I sure as hell don't.. Why did am I getting a degree in this stuff?

  • I have a degree in medical engineering, and I always thought that the EE people had it a bit tougher, but then I remember talking to some of them who thought some of the stuff we were doing was pretty hard also. The people I REALLY had respect for were the ones who did a double degree in EE and CS in 5 years. They had an average workload (in terms of contact hours) that was 1.5 times greater than all the other types of engineering. To those who did this, I salute you.
  • Didn't you take any humanities courses while you were in school?

    I took a year "off" and spent one academic year taking almost no engineering courses, and instead focused on humanities/economics/etc. That was by far my easiest year in college. I spent much more time drinking and carousing, and much less time studying, and was still able to effortlessly pull down straight A's.

    By the way, I would recommend the same to any current/aspiring engineering majors (not just EE). It gave me a much broader perspective than I would have come out of school with otherwise.
  • Did anyone else notice that with the exception of Singapore and Finland, the the countries with the highest percentage of engineering vs other degrees were all fairly poor? Additionally, a disproportionately large percentage of PhD's in science went to nonresidents (international students in the US?, who are likely to be from poorer countries)

    Just some food for thought for all of you who think college degrees are useless. If you think college tuition is a lot of money, compare it to how much that money could buy in China or Russia. And then look at what those people are spending that HUGE amount of money to learn.

  • I'm currently getting my Electrical Engineering degree, and while it does take a lot of work, I think its totally worth it. Right now I'm doing co-op, and everyone I work with in R&D is an Electrical Engineer. There's so much theory that you have to learn to be able to understand what's going on. Every day I learn new stuff that will be taught to me in an upper year course. I agree you might not need a degree to do testing, but for design I don't see how you can't have one. Of course I do see that if you have tons of experience you'd be amply qualified for many jobs, but I'd hope most people still strive to understand what's really going on, not just apply the formulas.

    I also think the lack of EEs is going to change within five years - I know my school is just one of many that doubled the number of CompE and EE frosh. The extra Rec students must come from the fact that more people are going to university overall.
  • I think that was his point. If it's so easy for people to get 60k jobs then why are CalTech grads only averaging 55k. CalTech, for goodness sake! If you graduated from Univ o' Illinois (like ErikZ) then good luck getting one of those easy to get 60k jobs.
  • I see several reasons for this. For one thing, there's this great emphasis on reading, yet I see little emphasis on math and science in our schools. Science in many public schools (at least in California) is a joke. Over the years, science has been dumbed down to the point to where those of us who find science interesting are bored to death in the classroom where they rehash the same topics year after year in a heavily watered down format.

    The other problem I see is that (at least here in CA) they have changed the math and science cirriculum such that much of the homework would fall under art or possibly social science. Have you seen many of the homework assignments today? No calculations, just draw pretty pictures.

    I blame this on the lack of qualified teachers. Let's face it, with today's economy, no sane person with a science education would waste it as a teacher in public schools since it won't pay the bills. Most of our teachers have a social science background.

    After this last election I now know how dumb our population has become and it's sad. We have the exact opposite problem as the Gulgofringens (sp?) in HHGTTG. Our useless third of the population has taken over, leaving humanities future in doubt when in 2018 the giant space goat eats the Earth because we're too busy philosophizing about the nature of our navals to see it coming.
  • I am currently in mechanical engineering and considering switching to math if I can't hack the engineering. Chew on that one.
  • I am a masters student in chemistry with french, actually chemistry with a year's study in France and I am currently at an engineering school (Ecole normale supérieure de l'ingéneurie, technically) and one of the things it has given me is a healthy respect for engineers.

    As chemists we tend to concentrate on the practical aspects of chemistry with only a little bit of maths so we can learn the basic principles of thermodynamics and QM, however these guys do a ton of maths, a ton of theory and quite a bit of practical too.

    Mathematician = physicist who can't do mental arithmetic
    Physicist = mathematician who can't visualise higher planes of functions
    Engineer = Physicist with no imagination
    Chemist = Physicist who can't do maths!

  • Around here, if your grades in math aren't good enough to be a computer science major, you can become a math major instead.

    Lovely, isn't it?

  • by Crash Culligan ( 227354 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @05:08PM (#611053) Journal
    It's been suggested by other sources [] that a college degree may or may not be all it's cracked up to be. After all, you spend 4 years in college, you come out the other end with a piece of paper that certifies you've received an education that is now up to 4 years old.

    Physical education: This degree can age gracefully. Nobody comes out with upgrades for kneecaps every six months. Nor has any stretching exercise gotten extensive venture capital attention. Aging doesn't seem to hurt this degree significantly.

    Computer sciences: Whoa, has this stuff changed. Blink and you miss it. New manufacturing techniques, new technological breakthroughs, new things to keep track of... spending a day in a classroom filling your head with the old stuff actually robs you of the time you need to learn the new stuff.

    Physical Education: good to go through college to get a degree in. The information will be useful.

    Computer and electrical sciences: bad to go through college to get. Things change before you finish. And while it counts as some experience, the companies that are making the breakthroughs have to educate their workers because the stuff is too new to find anyone experienced in.

    Conclusion: fewer technical degrees are being handed out because the students are looking elsewhere for their knowledge.

    Side note: For those of you who pity the Phys Ed degree holder for not having a more technical position, consider those people who sit behind a desk typing away at a computer all day. Sooner or later they'll get enough out of shape that they need to join a gym or hire a trainer...

  • Why is their a tech worker shortage? Our colleges are sending all their degrees overseas when there foreign exchange students return home.

    Hahahaha ... that's a good one. You are joking, right ? The Chinese and Indian students have a very low return rate.

  • Am I the only one that noticed the near doubling of rec & leisure major from '91 to '92? It would seem to me that this data is inaccurate. Maybe a "growing" major was reclassified during this time period as rec & leisure.

    The decline in EE degrees makes sense though. My school [] saw a decline during that period too. The shift was to Mechanical and Chemical Engineering big time. But now Computer Engineering (my field) is gaining popularity and things will swing back. In fact, well over 50% of my EE graduating class was in Computer Engineering last year.

  • Ooooooo damn it, i should've sent my PhD application to CMU!

    any info on CMU's current PhD candidate gender ratio?
  • No wonder. The media has taken over culture and now people are more interested in looking like Britany Spears or an NSYNC guy. Face it, our culture is a cult to the body, not to knowledge...we are all part of the "ultra-light" culture who feels good because they buy the "right stuff"(by The new kids on the block) rather than by ideals or concepts that can transcend all that we know.

    Don't blame it on the media (which is owned by a buch of large corporations)...become the media. Become the web of useful information, be human in the way that you were not taught to be, be yourself and dont feel afraid to show it. This is our culture, the culture of truth. Being myself is more important to me than being the product of some sick plan to manipulate me.

    I have other plans.
  • Since a large portion of the industry is doing stuff that's brand new and not too difficult, the primary job requirement is being able to learn a bunch of new stuff and use it. For that, most any college degree is sufficient. The actual information gained in college is unimportant, compared to the ability to gain information.

    There is a need for actual EE and CS majors, but that's just to have people who have some perspective on the problems-- most of the people on a project don't need to know much about the subject beforehand, and what they need to start with is a user-level familiarity with computers, which is generally acquired in college regardless of major.
  • yes. we need to teach american people how to walk. most of the time this lard-assed creatures drive their cars.
  • The number of EE degrees is dropping but at the same time the number of CompE degrees has been steadily increasing. After all, the EE and CompE degrees come out of the same department in most schools and the difference is only a handful of classes. The pull of compsci is also not helping EE, when the can get more money for a bachelors in CS.

  • 'tis not so much a vast majority, but a minority that's vast...
    Bush's assertion: there ought to be limits to freedom
  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @05:23PM (#611062)
    > Computer sciences: ... spending a day in a classroom filling your head with the old stuff actually robs you of the time you need to learn the new stuff.

    Good sir, I fear you have confused a degree in CS with a certificate from a trade school.

    If they are teaching the right "old stuff", it's every bit as valid today as the "old stuff" they teach you in mathematics, chemistry, physics, or any other field of science.
  • What really big consumer of electrical engineering has been taking a shit kicking the last 8 years?

    Aerospace! Why?

    Cold War is OVER! No cold war, no big missile/aircraft/bomb/spacecraft research going on, plus no FUTURE in private industry. Wild Bill Clinton and his assault on the military was just the icing on the cake.

    Hence attention turns to growth industry, HEALTHCARE. Boomers are getting older and fatter, and they have money to pay for fitness trainers, Physical Therapy, etc.

    People are no dumber than they ever were, they just go where the money is. You uber geeks in industry want electrical engineers, PAY 'EM!

    The Phantom
  • by /dev/kev ( 9760 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @05:30PM (#611083) Homepage
    Computer sciences: Whoa, has this stuff changed.

    How much has Djikstra's algorithm changed in the last 4 years? Floyd's? What about dynamic programming in general? Integer programming? Let's go even simpler - how much has recursion changed in the last 4 years? Or even object oriented programming? What about regular expressions or formal language specification methods like EBNF? What about the various bit operations, like shifting, and, or, two's complement, and what they're good for? How has the basic maths behind perspective transforms changed recently? What about the major standard Unix development tools, like gcc, make, and cvs?

    These are just the things that I can think of, off the top of my head, which I've learnt in my CS degree, which will be applicable for a long time to come. The most valuable thing you get out of any degree is not knowledge, but methods and ways of thinking.

    Don't say "Computer Science" when you mean "Technology". Technology outdates, Computer Science matures.
  • I have an EE degree (with computer engineering option) from an excellent engineering school (not one of the elite schools, but a highly respected school nonetheless). I have always thought that I worked way harder for my parchment than most others earning bachelors degrees. Part of the reason was somewhat objective (needed more credits at a minimum then most other bachelors degrees) others were more subjective (math, physics, electro dynamics, computer architecture...compounded by having multiple such classes in one semester).

    But, am I just arrogant? I think there's a healthy dose of that. I do still believe that earning an engineering degrees does take more work and dedication that most degrees. But, I think we take away from others by doing our little superiority dance. If I tried to get a degree in music or english, I might get the paper, but I would suck at it. I'd barely make it through (in the case of music, I probably would not have made it).

    My abilities clearly steered me toward science and mathematics. My interest carried me into ECE. But, we should not take away from others by supposing that one degree requires more ability then others. A different skill set, absolutely. Perhaps more dedication or perserverence. But, not necessarily more talent or intelligence.
  • Years of organic chemistry and e&m won't buy you what they used to.

    This is so much crap. Where is the supporting information?

    You know, maybe you should go take a physical sciences course so you understand "quantitative analysis" instead of manipulating words ala Derrida with absolutely no content in it.
  • by Electric Angst ( 138229 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @06:24PM (#611086)
    These are just the things that I can think of, off the top of my head, which I've learnt in my CS degree, which will be applicable for a long time to come. The most valuable thing you get out of any degree is not knowledge, but methods and ways of thinking.

    I agree. I find that too often, geeks seem to come off with a "it advances so fast, college is worthless", not realizing that in less than five years, a CS degree is going to mean the difference between (what will then be) blue collar assembly and maintenance and engineering teams.

    Being a "computer guy" who can fix things verses someone with a degree in CS will be like the difference between a garage mechanic and a mechanical engineer working in Detroit...
    And it's funny, the geeks are laughing at the VC's and stupid e-flops now for being short-sighted. ..
  • by wik ( 10258 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @04:25PM (#611088) Homepage Journal
    On the 2nd to last page, it notes some numbers about non-resident and women recipients of PhDs.

    48% and 43% of CS PhD's went to non-residents and only 12% went to women.

    This doesn't surprise me after looking at the graduate student pictures in the engineering builing hallway. This particular school (CMU) has seen a marked increase (from 10% to nearly 40%) women in the freshman CS class in the past three years. Maybe these statistics could be just as fluid in a few years?

  • I noticed that many jobs dont' require degrees any more, especially ones in the data communications field. As long as you have the skills and can show that, the company is willing to hire you. The question is, in the next few years, as geeks are able to train themselves at home, will degrees totally go away? Or should the geeks of today go to colelge to get a degree in something?

  • I'd surmise that the reason for the 40% women in the CS class is largely do to the admissions selection ability that a school like CMU has. Due to the high number of extremely qualified applicants that schools such as CMU, Stanford, MIT, etc. receive, they do not need to conform to the supply and demand curves of the CS student market, but instead can select the CS class based on department and admissions goals. For example, gender and racial demographics exceeding that of the populace.
  • You know, I usually don't feed the trolls, but your argument just made me laugh. In order to give you a balanced opinion, let's look at a place that concentrates heavily on both phys ed and engineering.

    Visit for a couple days at the U.S. Naval Academy and talk with some of the midshipmen. Ask them what's harder - getting through the physical demands of plebe year, or getting through the remaining 3 years with a EE degree. I guarantee you that they'll choose EE by a wide margin.



    P.S. Wonder if anyone remembers "Rocket" Reed :)

  • What I noticed to be blatantly missing from the pdf was the following: How many people getting hired out of school before achieving a degree? This has been a trend that was NOT accounted for in the data presented. I realise that they are talking about degrees but the numbers should include those who are hired out before completion. We all know it exists. I see them talking about it on the news all the time when the Tech/Programming fields are discussed. College students in computer related fields (especially programming) being snatched up by big companies with lucrative offers before they finish. Engineering students facing the same situation, though to a lesser degree(npi). Where are these numbers?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Burger King

    Welcome to America. Here's your gun and your hamburger.

  • by Gen-GNU ( 36980 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @04:36PM (#611112)
    At first, the thought that EE degrees are going down, while Fitness degrees are going up is truly disturbing. (More people want to be Richard Simmons than Georg Ohm)

    But as I think about it, this makes some sense. Firstly, some of the people who would have been interested in EE a decade ago are probably now being sucked into CompSci. Not to mention the number of people getting jobs in the computer industry without degrees. Most of these people probably would have, a decade ago, gone towards EE degrees.

    Also, the number of degrees has gone up in the last 10 years, so the number of fitness degrees should go up. I couln't get into all those numbers, so I don't know if the growth there is inconsistant with other degrees, but I would supspect it isn't.

  • I dunno about that. One of the biggest complaints I heard from various engin and science departments at the UofM is that there were few American students even applying for these specialties. Infact when I designed the admissions database for the biosciences programs, I noticed that there were very few American applicants into those programs. Most of the names were foreignish--hard to tell in our melting pot--and a goodly number of the citizenship fields were marked as international. What it seemed to me is that we had mostly immigrants and sons and daughters of naturalized immigrants applying into this scientific department. I have a strong suspicion that this has to do with the way Americans perceive educational achievement and sciences in general. Many americans look at anyone with a high level of academic achievement as elitist, and they often look at scientists as being beyond human. That sort of psychological distinction between scientists and normal people I think lays down a real barrier to entry into those fields for your average freshman. You don't see that in immigrants and their first generation descendents. They equate technical education with success in life. Along with this trend is that trend in comp sci majors to go pro before they get their degrees these days. Can't say I blame 'em. You can always go back and finish the degree, so why not do it with stock and a nice cash savings? I also have to wonder about the level of high school preparation of incoming freshman. I think a lot of them don't have the prep to enter a science program. I was just such a student and had to take a mess of remedial classes before I could enter my major. It wasn't because I was screw up, but because my school didn't provide much in the way of science and math prep. Frankly it was a fluke I even got interest in science and math. Given the above, is that we're giving away degree to foreigners or are they just filling a vaccum left by the Americans?

  • by Commie ( 106979 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2000 @04:09AM (#611116)
    I've been done with my undegrad for a few years now, and have a BS in CS from a school with a well known CS department.

    A college education is overvalued, period. My program was loaded with math and theory, being championed by many folk here as the end all. Anyone want to bet me more than 25% of the people out there spewing Boyer-Moore this, Dijkstra that, or Turing in between could do anything more than cover the very basics of said algorithms and concepts? Want to find me anyone out of academia (plenty of them in would work fine as well, but just to be safe) school greater than 4 years and get them to prove this or that is or is not NP complete? Or even make a decent attempt? Good luck -- *real* geeks, not self-styled ones, are very few and far between.

    As with anything, you remember what you use, and forget what you don't. Give virtually anyone their 4th semester calculus final 6 years after they got an "A" and you're going to see some very poor results unless it's been related to something they've been doing since the final. Most forget, and very quickly. Some of the most brilliant scientists and "industry" types I know either have no degree, have a degree in something "unrelated" to their techie field, or have only a bachelors degree where at least a masters is the norm.

    The answer there is: college is one way of learning, but not the only way, and often not the best way. While I agree, fundamental theory and math are important to techie types, college is not the only means to that end. Much of any "you're being graded" educational scheme is to give you basis and a few answers, then leave the rest to you and all your student buddies to figure out.

    Many of the most grueling and difficult courses I went through were curved extremely heavily. Even though the failure rate was incredible in many of them, it was pretty damn obvious only a *very* small few of those that got A's really understood the material in the end. They got good grades simply because they knew the stuff "well enough" compared to their fellows.

    Having a grasp of loosely related concepts does not, for instance, automagically translate into being a "better Computer Scientist" or engineer. You can make an argument that learning anything has some sort of subjective worth as far as your overall competence at virtually anything else.

    As far as I see it, it's just a matter of human nature. Most people that graduate college want to believe their experience was worthwhile intellectually, and doing this or that improved them. Unfortunately a common side-effect of wanting to give something value is to devalue everything else, and point to your path as being the best way. A sort of status symbol.

    Having a piece of paper with your name on it tells very little about what you know or what you're capable of. Not that an undergraduate education is worthless, or the experience of college in general, but most of the commentary I see goes way overboard.

  • Old joke you've probably heard but what the heck -

    A science graduate asks "Why does this work?"

    An engineering graduate asks "How do I build this?"

    A social science graduate asks "Do you want fries with that?"
  • Seriously, in my school, the engineering people need like 200 hours to graduate. And some of those phys ed majors only need like 40 hours. It is horribl. But at least I know I will be making 4 times as much money as them so it is worth the extra work.
  • There is more truth to what she wrote than you might think. The ability to communicate and to lead ends up being equally important to technical knowledge in the "real world." I've known enough mediocre techies with better-than-average people skills who wound up becoming good technical managers to see that a better-rounded background is more important to success in high-tech business than technical competence alone. Of course, the outstanding engineer with leadership skills will go even farther (evidence the Andy Groves and David Hewletts of the world -- and, I would venture, the Linus Torvalds, too). But such talents are too rare to fill middle management.

    You may feel that engineers don't receive enough recognition for what they do, and you may well be right. But, with some notable exceptions, businesses aren't run by engineers. They are run by managers who are more likely to have a liberal arts background than an engineering background.

    You may be so blinded by what you consider is or isn't "real work" that you can't see how the world around you actually behaves. Make fun all you want of what managers do, but I'd rather bet on a team of twenty average engineers and four good managers than twenty-four superstar engineers working on their own (or with poor managers, which is pretty much the same). Leadership -- the ability to articulate a common goal and lead a group toward it -- is how real work typically gets done. And leadership is more likely to spring from a knowledge and understanding of human thinking and culture than from technical knowledge. Thus it's interesting, but hardly surprising, that the few engineering programs which include liberal arts requirements as well as engineering training (such as Stanford's) produce so many of our technical leaders.

  • As far as just engineering degrees go, yes, EE is one of the harder ones. At my school, the only major people routinely said was harder than EE was ChemE (by quite a margin, actually). A guy I knew at Cornell placed EE at #3 or #4 after applied physics, ChemE, and maybe something else.

    The interesting thing at my school is that we graduated about 350 ChemE's this year, and about 120 EE's. Guess which major has 5 times as many jobs available as the other one :)

    Engineers do tend to be arrogant (especially if you went to purdue :) but I try not to be...I could never act, paint, or write a good book. Our society just says we get paid more, due to supply/demand.
  • In 1993 EE's were getting layed off by the millions and medicine was viewed as the only practical future for anyone. By 1997 this resulted in fewer EE's and more physical therapy and athletic degrees. Today the story should be exactly opposite.
  • by yawhcihw ( 171760 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @04:38PM (#611127)
    Is most colleges don't offer degrees in binge drinking and drug use...

    (as said by a student at a small liberal arts school notorious for its alcoholism...)
  • it really depends. geek job can mean alot of things. what i want to do is mathmatical modeling of biological systems. its really hard for me to get the training needed by picking up an o'reily book and going from there. if you want a career (notice i didn't say a job) that requires a more structured type of training then you will probably have to go to school.

    eventually i think the more 133t geek jobs of today will be filled by people with higher education. the reason they are not being filled right now is that there isn't any real place you can go to get trained in this sort of thing.

    eventually employers will want more security in who they hire. ie the managers will want to say to their boss we should hire schmuck number 1-he has a degree in whatever. this gives them some sort of implied credibility (sp?) to this schmuck. it's sad, but it's the same reason people use windows-its more of a cya thing.


Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.