sealPurdue News

February 1999

Demand -- and salaries -- for engineers on the rise

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The job market for engineers has rebounded, according to Frank Huband, executive director of the American Society for Engineering Education.

Download Photo Here
Photo caption below
"The end of the Cold War and reductions in the defense industry in the early '90s caused a downturn in employment for many engineering disciplines -- mainly aerospace, electrical and mechanical," Huband says. "Now the hiring outlook is better than ever; the demand for qualified engineers far outweighs the supply."

Larry Huggins, associate dean of engineering at Purdue University, says, "For students who decide to major in engineering, the jobs are back and the salaries are steadily increasing." Purdue's Center for Career Opportunities reports that the average starting salary for an engineering graduate ranges from $35,534 to $46,935, depending on the area of study.

Hiring bonuses are becoming more common as an incentive for today's engineering grads. "To hire the cream of the engineering crop, company recruiters realized they would have to offer higher pay than that earned by their company's engineers with two or three years experience," Huggins says. "Sign-on bonuses are a way to address such salary inequalities within companies."

Huband credits large consulting firms such as Arthur Andersen and Price Waterhouse with a fairly new breed of engineer -- the engineering consultant. Having found a growing market for these types of consultants, both companies combined hire about 1,500 engineering graduates each year. These consultants are farmed out to small and mid-sized companies that can't afford to hire a permanent staff of engineers, Huband said. "It's a win-win situation," he says. "Smaller companies don't have to worry about severance pay when a job is completed and the engineers are no longer needed. The engineers, on the other hand, have job stability as well as a changing work environment that offers a variety of new challenges."

Recruitment of engineers has risen to an unprecedented level this school year. The Purdue Engineering Student Council's "Industrial Round Table" -- the largest student-run job fair in the country -- attracted a record number of recruiters to the mid-September event in West Lafayette. Approximately 280 companies and more than 1,000 recruiters converged on the job fair to accept resumes and set up future interviews with engineering students.

As for engineering "hot spots," Huggins says computer engineers are in demand, and that encompasses electrical engineers, as well. In addition, he says, environmental engineering is "cleaning up," as the Environmental Protection Agency's growing list of Superfund toxic waste sites creates jobs for engineers who have training in environmental remediation.

According to Purdue's Center for Career Opportunities, recruiters scheduled more than 2,000 interviews with 1997-98 graduates with electrical or computer engineering degrees, the highest total number among all the engineering fields. For those 268 students who signed up to interview through the center, each received an average of 7.5 job interviews.

Each of the 214 graduates with a mechanical engineering degree received, on average, nine job interviews. The 138 graduates with chemical engineering degrees averaged 11 job interviews, and the 107 graduates with industrial engineering degrees averaged eight job interviews.

Nationally, engineering enrollment has declined for the past 15 years, and one-third fewer students are majoring in engineering than in the mid-'80s, Huband says. But at Purdue, engineering enrollment has held steady for the past 25 years because of an enrollment cap.

One of the leading engineering schools in the nation, Purdue this fall enrolled 5,987 engineering undergraduates and 1,879 graduate students.

Sources: Larry Huggins, (765) 494-5349; e-mail,

Frank Huband, (202) 331-3500; e-mail,

Writer: Jeanine S. Smith, (765) 496-3133; e-mail:

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

Ray Cipra, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue, helps Noelle Schneider of Spring Lake, Mich., and Curt Peternell of Fort Atkinson, Wisc., examine a crankshaft in a small engine lab. Jobs for all engineering students are booming, and each mechanical engineering grad at Purdue is receiving an average of nine job interviews. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID:
Download Photo Here

* To the Purdue News and Photos Page