The National Association of Colleges and Employers released a survey in September that revealed the highest-paying college majors. Of the Top 10, seven were engineering-based. In fact, another breakdown from NACE showed engineering as a whole with the highest starting salary.
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Despite the dollar signs, the demand for graduating engineers is still staggering. The United States is having a hard time producing engineers fast enough. “We estimate that only about 25 percent of companies are adequately preparing ahead of time for the loss of knowledge due to baby boomer retirement,” says Lewis Keel of staffing firm Kelly Services.
In Maryland, Leigh Abts is working to increase the number of engineers as a professor at University of Maryland’s College of Education. “We’re seeing an increase in applicants,” Abts says. “We’re pushed to the capacity of students, and the average GPA is on the uptick.”
While this is great news for Abts, there is still a need for more graduates.Robert Green is an engineer at vacuum maker Dyson’s U.S. headquarters. Part of his job includes educating middle school and high school students on the power of engineering through different workshops.
“The aim for the workshop,” says Green, “is getting an understanding of engineering. You want to get students to look into it,” he says. Abts speaks of a similar practice, calling it “demystifying design.” The idea is that by shining a light on engineering at a younger age, more students will be interested in it later in life.
“When I was going to grade school,” says Abts, “we were all players and tinkerers. Kids want to design and engineer things in that way. It’s part of their lives. The structure of formal education may not give them that opportunity, though it’s a continuation of what’s natural. Teaching kids at a young age keeps them engaged, letting them play and tinker with harder and harder problems.”