Forbes.com Article Highlights National Need for Engineers

Demand for engineers to fill open positions is strong for the second year in a row, according to a recent article on Forbes.com, which says that engineer is one of the top 10 hardest jobs to fill in America. That news bodes well for Worcester Polytechnic Institute's (WPI) engineering graduates, who are enjoying a bullish employment market, with high placement rates and starting salaries that exceed the national average.

According to Janet Begin Richardson, vice president of campus life and student affairs at WPI, this news is a silver lining in a gloomy economy for graduates who chose to major in one of the engineering fields WPI offers: aerospace, biomedical, chemical, civil, electrical and computer, environmental, manufacturing, and mechanical.

"WPI graduates have been consistently successful in landing rewarding employment after graduation, even during a recession," Richardson said. "Many corporations continue to hire WPI graduates for entry-level positions, despite current economic challenges. Companies are looking to hire the best and brightest, and WPI students fill that need with their project-based experiences, on and off campus. We are told by our hiring organizations that when WPI graduates come into their organizations, they make significant contributions from day one."

"Engineering is a field that requires years of experience before you take on major responsibility," the Forbes.com article notes. "It's one thing to learn the theory of building a bridge or a tunnel in school, but it's quite another to have decades of work at it behind you." One of the reasons WPI graduates are in high demand with employers is that they already have gained that experience before they graduate.

Through the university's project-based curriculum, all WPI students work in teams and apply their knowledge to solve real-world problems in communities around the world. The projects are an opportunity to put the engineering and science theory students learn in the classroom into practice through real-world design and research experiences. They become innovators and entrepreneurs, ready to tackle the world's challenges even before they complete their education.

The Forbes.com article cites a survey conducted by the staffing firm Manpower that was completed in the first quarter of 2009 and in which 2,019 employers said that engineer is one of the country's toughest jobs to fill. The survey based its results on salaries from 2007. Nationally, that year (the latest figures available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) the average starting salary for a civil engineer with a bachelor's degree was $48,509; for environmental engineers, it was $47,960; and mechanical engineers, $54,128.

The average starting salaries that year for WPI's class of 2007 were higher than the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic's national average: $54,285; for civil engineers, $50,712; and for mechanical engineers, $56,288. That class enjoyed a 90 percent job placement rate.

The average starting salary for a WPI engineering graduate from the class of 2008 (the latest year the university has complete employment figures for) is $57,004, which is well above the average salary of $48,515, as reported by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). The class of 2008's job placement rate was more than 90 percent.

Industry recognizes the value of a WPI education, and businesses actively recruit current students and alumni alike. Top recruiters of WPI students include Raytheon, United Technologies Corp., General Electric, General Dynamics, EMC2, Teradyne, Analog Devices, BAE Systems, Fidelity Investments, Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Intel, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Hewlett Packard, Compaq Computer, National Grid, Mass. Electric, IBM Rational, Lucent Technologies, Accenture, Genzyme, and the University of Massachusetts; the majority of WPI students stay in New England, but graduates are employed nationwide.

The employment and salary opportunities available to WPI graduates were recognized last year in Forbes.com's "Top Colleges for Getting Rich" survey that ranked WPI No. 9 in the nation for graduates employed for 10 to 20 years. Median salaries among WPI graduates with up to five years of experience averaged $61,000; this obtained a No. 12 national ranking. For graduates with 10 to 20 years of experience, the median was $114,000. The median top salary among WPI graduates was $180,000.

The Forbes.com survey was based on information that was gathered in a study by Payscale.com which looked at earnings of alumni from colleges nationwide. The numbers reflect only the earnings of bachelor degrees recipients; all alumni who went on to earn graduate degrees were excluded. Only colleges with more than 1,000 enrolled students were included in the survey. Salary totals included bonuses, commissions, and profit sharing.

June 15, 2009

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