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Trends in Electrical Engineering Employment During the Recession

written by: •edited by: RC Davison•updated: 7/12/2009

The current economic situation is affecting all facets of industry, including the Electrical Engineering field. But even though unemployment figures are high, there are jobs out there for EE’s.

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    The United States, and for that matter the world in general is suffering from a very serious economic downturn, probably the worst since the depression of the 1930’s. This is not news to anyone who has been conscious for the last year or so. There may be light at the end of the tunnel, it seems that the rate of unemployment is leveling off, but as usual, there are conflicting reports, which make it difficult to get a clear picture of what the state of affairs is for employment and job availability in Electrical Engineering in the current times

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    What’s It’s Like Today

    Electrical engineers have not been immune to the downturn. There are many engineers out looking for work because of recent layoffs. Utilizing one of the more popular job searching engines like, Juju or among others, one can search job listings collected from hundreds of job posting sites, bulletin boards, classified ads, and company sites. It’s easy to see where the jobs are by location or by specialization. Just using the general keyword - electrical engineer - almost 32,000 jobs were listed across the country at the time this article was written in the beginning of July. Almost 5000 of those jobs were in California, 3000 in Maryland, around 2500 positions posted in Texas and Virginia and 1000’s of jobs in each of the states of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey to name a few.

    Out of these jobs over 6000 of them were listed as energy related; over 6000 related to building/facility engineering; over 4000 related to digital design and 2500 for analog design. For EE’s with software experience, over 13,000 listings were showing. There were over 9000 positions for engineers with power experience (including power generation, transmission, power supply design, and power systems).

    Some other areas:

    • Aerospace > 3000 jobs
    • Military > 4500 jobs
    • Instrumentation >1000 jobs
    • Control Systems >10,000 jobs
    • Computer > 13,000 jobs
    • Systems Engineers > 24,000 jobs

    It is important to note that some of these postings may show in other job categories, as many ads include multiple keywords in their descriptions so these numbers may be somewhat higher than the actual total number. The gist of it is is that there are definitely companies out there looking for people. In some cases they are looking for young engineers with a few years of experience while others are seeking the highly skilled engineers. Some companies are willing to pay to relocate a new hire while many others are not. With the economy being what it is, selling one’s home is not a sure thing today and many companies are not willing to take on someone that has that additional burden.

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    Hope Is On The Way

    If the stimulus package that was signed into law in February 2009 does what it is supposed to do, then there should be an increase in jobs in the near future in the energy sectors related to electric vehicle technology, new battery technology, smart grid and power transmission technology. There is money for renewable energy technologies in the form of loan guarantees that will stimulate the markets for wind, solar and geothermal installations, which will drive development of new technology and new jobs.

    These are all positive indicators of what’s to come. The tough part is hanging on until those opportunities arise. During this down time I would encourage every engineer to do whatever he or she can to add new skills to their repertoire. Don’t think that the next job is just around the corner—it may not be! Make the best of the time you have to take some courses in areas that you are weak, or pursue a new field that has always been of interest to you. Look for programs sponsored by state and federal unemployment offices providing assistance for educational advancement while unemployed to help with the costs. The time will pass anyway and by doing this you will improve your competitive edge in the search for a job. Remember, unlike wine, an aging engineer doesn’t naturally get better!

    Good Luck!