Young Engineers

Engineering Dream Jobs: An Unscientific Study

January 21, 2014

We recently polled a group of engineers and engineer hopefuls on their dream jobs in engineering. Though our methods were by no means scientific (if you’re looking for statistical significance you should stop reading now), our findings did reveal creative passion, inspiring confidence in the future of engineering, and overall were not as disturbing as we thought they would be.

Abstract

iss engineerThe field of engineering offers nearly limitless possibilities for ambitious visionaries, business-minded entrepreneurs, and daydreamers alike. Curious about what types of jobs engineers dream about finding, we took to social media and asked a group of engineers and engineer hopefuls about their ideal jobs. The results show a diverse mix of progressive-minded futurism and social ambition, a passion for problem solving, and a taste for purely geek-centric pleasure pursuits.

A few realizations emerged from our survey:

Engineering is still a popular destination for males. Particularly those who like 1980s anime and sci-fi movies. No data about gender was collected, but we can tell.

Most large-scale solutions to world problems will probably come from engineers. In areas like renewable energy, medical devices, and urban planning, there is plenty of drive to explore new ideas and inventions that will improve the human experience.

Technology will constantly evolve due to the ongoing urge to improve it. Cars will become cleaner and more efficient, performance vehicles will perform better, planes will become safer, hospitals will become more effective, and new inventions will emerge to solve other problems and themselves be improved upon, because that is the nature of engineers.

Some of you may be slightly delusional. There is a small quotient of engineers who dream just a little beyond the back wall. More power to you.

Methodology

We were thorough, if not scientific. Through social media, we polled 119 participants who self-identified as engineers or engineer hopefuls, asking only one question: What is your dream engineering job? Participants answered anonymously, and their answers are presented in aggregate, without identifying any single respondent. No other questions were asked. The strength of this approach is that we received a decent volume of responses, enriching our sample size. A weakness is that respondents could be 40 or 14, experienced or not, we don’t know – and we suspect there’s a wide margin. Responses were categorized, numbers were crunched, results were tallied.

Findings

Top Engineering Dream Jobs

engineering dream jobs
Space-related jobs at NASA, SpaceX and other super-orbital employers were the clear winner when it came to the most popular dream jobs, with around 13% of respondents aiming for careers in space. Engineers most often want to be astronauts, work on rocket propulsion, build Mars rovers, and invent spacecraft. If space is the final frontier, this leaves little doubt it will be pushed far and fast in the coming decades.

Racing technology came in a close second, with around 12% of engineers hoping to design and build better engines, lighter chassis, better fuel injection systems and more aerodynamic parts for on-track and off-road vehicles. Formula 1 has a particularly strong draw, including the newer hybrid engines.

Aircraft design is also in demand, with callouts to Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works and Boeing’s Phantom Works, as well as practical areas such as airliner safety and turbine research and design. This appealed to about 5% of those polled. A surprising addition to the list was roller coasters – around 4% of engineering talent sought to join the Walt Disney Imagineers to design coasters, work with robotics, and create fantastical visual and virtual experiences.

Highway systems is an area of interest we appreciated, as well as medical technology and alternative energy, each of which appealed to around 3% of the engineers polled. The 4% of engineers who wanted to build Gundams raised an eyebrow, and the 3% who were drawn to weapons development (i.e. “blowing stuff up”) were expected. About 2% just wanted to retire, which is understandable.

Top Engineering Disciplines

engineering disciplines
We’ve reported before on where the engineering jobs can be found, so this time around we’re happy to report on what engineers are looking for.

As is mostly consistent with job demand, mechanical engineering takes the lead as the discipline with the most followers. Around 42% of engineers’ dream jobs crossed over mechanical engineering, whether it’s building engines, robots, motorcycle parts, sports equipment, roller coasters or rovers. Electrical engineering came in second with around 24% of those polled crossing over it. There was a lot of overlap between electrical and mechanical engineering, but appliances, automation, and electrical systems for cars and machines also drew favor from engineers.

The aerospace field (18%) was of course popular with those who wanted to go into space or work on aircraft, and electronics engineering (9%) was a popular discipline for those wanting to develop cellular technology and consumer electronics. Nuclear engineering (6%) was preferred by those dreaming of going into nuclear power, and around 4% of engineers had ambitions for a career crossing into environmental engineering.

Top Companies

Lockheed MartinSome organizations that employ engineers were called out by name, indicating that if you are reading this and you work for one of these companies, you may actually be in your (or someone else’s) dream job. The most often dreamed-of companies, in alphabetical order, are:

Fantasy Factor

engineering fantasy
We don’t like to think anything in engineering is really fantasy – it is, after all, a field of endless possibilities. But we have to draw the line somewhere. For those engineers who dream of building time machines and anime war robots, working in historic time periods or on fictitious worlds, or living out an existence of ludicrous playboy excess, you may have to work a bit harder than most. That said, the Fantasy Factor in this crowd was relatively low at around 13%.

The Takeaway

It may be dreaming, but this is the sort of dreaming that tends to change the world. Engineers are creative, analytical, concerned with the future, and challenged by today’s problems. They think in terms of what they can improve, not what the world can offer them. Yes, some are a little zany. But as one respondent pointed out, most of their dream jobs are completely attainable. Now go out there and do something about it.

What’s your dream engineering job? Tell us in the comments, or on Facebook.

(Image credits: Gundam Wiki, NASA)

One Comment
Raymond says:

Loved it! Would like to have seen a little something about us software engineers.