Data for this document was taken from “Machine Design”, April 21, 2011.  The comments relative to the data are mine. Sometimes stinging but definitely mine.

Every year the “Machine Design” magazine publishes a salary survey for practicing engineers and engineering managers.    This survey provides basic compensation averages for various engineering disciplines relative to geographic locations within the United States.   This year, 1126 respondents answered the questionnaire providing the basis for comparison.    We have good news in that engineering salaries and employment rates were on the upswing and certainly better than 2010. At this writing, the unemployment rate was approximately 8.8% with engineering unemployment around 7%. The average engineering salary, for all disciplines, was $83,767.00.  This figure is approximately 4% higher than the $80,760 for the 2010 year.    Salaries rose for 56% of the respondents with the majority receiving between 1% and 5% increases.  Only 6% experienced a salary drop.  Let us take a look at salary averages by job title:

  • System Engineers:: $78K
  • System Engineering Managers:: $81K
  • Senior Engineer::$90K
  • Consulting Engineer:: $82K
  • Department Head::$115K
  • Project Engineer::$70K
  • Team Leader::$111K
  • Software Engineer::$70K
  • Software Manager::$120K
  • Manufacturing Engineer::$70K
  • Manufacturing Manager::$70K
  • CEO, President, Owner::$114K
  • QC, Evaluation Engineer::$65K
  • R&D Director::$100K
  • Test Technician::$65K
  • VP of Engineering::$112K

Please keep in mind that these are composite averages for all engineering disciplines.  Now let’s look at what specialties and regions get the big bucks.


  • Computer and IT Technology::$90K
  • Electrical Equipment & Component:: $82K
  • Fabricated Metal  Manufacturing::$82K
  • Machinery Manufacturing::$79K
  • Medical Equipment::$95K
  • Transportation Equipment::$81K

Several states in the New England area win the blue ribbon for highest regional salaries:


  • New York and Pennsylvania::$80K
  • Intermountain States::$81K
  • VT, MASS, RI, NH::$99K
  • Pacific Coast States::$90K
  • Coastal Southeast::$80K
  • Southeast and Southwest::$81K

I am stating the obvious when I say engineering is not the highest paying profession on the planet.  I am stating, as a working engineer, that it is the most rewarding profession on the planet.  (Of course I’m more than a little biased in that opinion.) It can be a very very exciting way to earn a living simply due to the act of continuous discovery.  The big “downer” is the movement of R&D, manufacturing and invention “offshore”.  There will come a time when our great country will realize that we can no longer do anything.  Look at the technology that has “drifted away” over the past two decades:

  • Textiles
  • Leather goods; i.e. shoes, belts, handbags, etc.
  • Production of electronic “chips”
  • Memory devices and storage
  • Cameras
  • Sound equipment, i.e. tuners, amps, speakers, etc
  • Television sets
  • DVDs
  • Toys
  • Tools and dies

The list does go on and on.  We are even in the process of relinquishing our dominance relative to manned space craft.  In a few weeks we will be relying on the Soviets to haul equipment and people to the space station.   Next will come medical equipment, then publishing, then legal—the list goes on and on.  For the very first time in our country’s history, the number of government employees (22 million) exceeds the number of manufacturing jobs.  We are moving into an era in which it will be necessary to talk a good game instead of play a good game.   Who knows, maybe we are there already.



December 7, 2010


This past Saturday a very short article appeared in our Chattanooga Times Free Press, page A4, 5th column

“Unmanned U.S. Spacecraft Returns After 7-Month Trip”.

Seven months ago the DoD lunched the very first unmanned spacecraft to fly outside the Earth’s atmosphere.  The X37B slipped out of orbit and landed safely at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California this past Friday.  The stubby-winged robotic aircraft began re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere and landed successfully at 0116 hrs PST (Pacific Standard Time).  The mission was secret and the “official” purpose was to test the aircraft itself.  I was born at night but not last night consequently, I suspect there was more to the voyage than we need to know.

My comments do not address the secrecy of the mission but the marvelous engineering that made this mission a resounding success.  Can you imagine the remarkable complexity such an endeavor would bring?  I was a lowly Captain in the USAF Logistics Command and worked on the missile that fired the Gemini crews so I have an appreciation for the split-second timing and planning that must be accomplished for success.  I know that all engineering disciplines had to be in play to bring this project to completion.  Mechanical, electrical, civil, engineering physics, etc etc—all were needed and used.   I am also amazed that communications were maintained throughout the entire seven months—ASTOUNDING!!!     I can’t walk from my front porch to the mail box without my cell phone dropping out fifteen times.  ( DoD must not use Virgin Mobile. )

 It takes smart, trained, energized, optimistic, hard-working engineers and scientists to pull something like this off.  You don’t make this happen with high school drop-outs.  Drop-outs will not find themselves as members of a DoD or NASA team. You are not allowed to write code that would affect trajectory and a flight plaths with merely a high school degree and certainly not as a drop-out.   It is a national tragedy that approximately 30 % of high school students choose to drop out before graduation.

I think what we have just witnessed is a forecast of things to come.  “The Rise of the Machines”—OK, maybe not but, more unmanned flights-definitely!  The technology involved and project management are just stunning. I think we need to keep this story alive so high school students, and even grammar school students, realize that engineering is a most exciting profession and there are still jobs available—even in our country.  The best is yet to come.


October 22, 2010


Merriam-Webster defines language as “A systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures or marks having understood meanings.”  The operative words in this definition are ‘means of communicating’ and ‘understood meanings’.  There are 116 different “official” languages spoken on our planet today but 6900 languages AND dialects. The difference between a language and a dialect can be somewhat arbitrary so care must be taken when doing a “count”.  English, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Spanish etc, all have specific and peculiar dialects; not to mention slang words and expressions so the discernment between a language and a dialect may be somewhat confusing to say the least.. 

The book of Genesis (Genesis 11: vs. 1-9) recounts a period of time, during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, when an attempt was made, by mankind, to become equal with God and that one language was spoken by all the people.  We are told that the attempt was not met with too much favor and God was pretty turned off by the whole thing.  Go figure!    With this being the case, He, decided to confound their language so that no one understood the other.  This, as you might expect, lead to significant confusion and a great deal of “babbling” resulted.  (Imagine a session of our United States Congress.)  Another significant result was the dispersion of mankind over the earth—another direct result from their unwise attempt.  This dispersion of the populace “placed” a specific language in a specific location and that “stuck”. 

Regardless of the language spoken, the very basic components of any language are similar; i.e. nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, etc.  You get the picture. The use and structure of these language elements within a sentence do vary.  This fact is the essence of a particular language itself. 

Would mankind not benefit from a common language?  Would commerce not be greatly simplified if we could all understand each other? Think of all the money saved if everything written and everything spoken—every road sign and every label on a can of soup—could be read by 6.8 billion people.  Why oh why have we not worked towards that over the centuries as a collective species.  Surely someone has had that thought before.  OK, national pride, but let’s swallow our collective egos and admit that we would be well-served by the movement, ever so gradual, towards one universal language.  Let me backup one minute.  We do have one example of a world-wide common language—


Like all other languages, it has its own grammar, syntax, vocabulary, and word order, synonyms, negations, conventions, abbreviations, sentence and paragraph structure.  Those elements do exist AND they are universal.  No matter what language I speak, the formula for the area of a circle is A=π/4 (D)²

  • π  =  3.14159 26535 89793
  • log(10)e  =  0.43429 44819 03252
  • (x+y)(x-y)  =  x²-y²
  • R(1),R(2)  =  [-b ± ( b²-4ac)]^0.5/2a
  • The prime numbers are 2,3,5,7,11,13,17,19,23,29,31,37—You get the picture.
  • sinѲcscѲ = 1

 Mathematics has developed over the past 2500 years and is really one of the very oldest of the “sciences”. One remarkably significant development was the use of zero (0)—which has only been “in fashion” over the past millennium.  Centuries ago, men such as Euclid and Archimedes made the following discoveries and the following pronouncements:

If a straight line be cut at random, the square on the whole is equal to the squares on the segments and twice the rectangle contained by the segments. (Euclid, Elements, II.4, 300 B.C.) This lead to the formula:  (a + b)2 = a2 + b2 + 2ab

The area of any circle is equal to a right-angled triangle in which one of the sides about the right angle is equal to the radius, and the other to the circumference, of the circle. (Archimedes, Measurement of a Circle, (225 B.C.)  Again, this gives us the following formula: 

A = 2pr·r/2 = pr 2 

These discoveries and these accompanying formulas work for ANY language we might speak. Mathematics then becomes the UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE.

With that being the case, why do we not introduce the “Language of Mathematics” to our middle-school and high school pupils?  Is any school district doing that?  I know several countries in Western Europe started this practice some years ago with marvelous results.  This “language” is taught prior to the introduction of Algebra and certainly prior to Differential Equations.  It has been proven extremely effective and beneficial for those students who are intimidated by the subject.  The “dread” melts away as the syntax and structure becomes evident.  Coupled with this introduction is a semester on the great men and women of mathematics—their lives, their families, were they lived, what they ate, what they smoked, how they survived on a math teacher’s salary.  These people had lives and by some accounts were absolutely fascinating individuals in their own right.  Sir Isaac Newton invented calculus, was a real grouch, a real pain in the drain AND, had been jilted in his earlier years.  Never married, never (again) even had a girlfriend, etc etc.  You get the picture.  The greatest mathematicians of all time are said to be the following:

Isaac Newton

Carl F. Gauss


Leonhard Euler


  Bernhard Riemann

Henri Poincaré

David Hilbert

Joseph-Louis Lagrange

Gottfried W. Leibniz

  Alexander Grothendieck

Pierre de Fermat

Niels Abel

Évariste Galois

John von Neumann

Srinivasa Ramanujan

Karl W. T. Weierstrass


René Déscartes

Augustin Cauchy

  Carl G. J. Jacobi

Hermann K. H. Weyl

Peter G. L. Dirichlet

Leonardo `Fibonacci’

Georg Cantor

  Arthur Cayley

Emma Noether

Eudoxus of Cnidus

Muhammed al-Khowârizmi

Pythagoras of Samos

What do we really know about these guys?  Do we ever study them when we use their wonderful work?  I think not.  I honestly believe the study would be much more enjoyable IF we knew something about the men and women making the contributions they did.   Think about it.  PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!


Our country is very blessed with excellent schools of higher education and I personally think, correction, I know we have the best schools in the world.  Our engineering schools take students “wet behind the ears” and produce remarkably productive and resourceful professional citizens.  In my opinion (and I’m quite biased in this area) our engineering schools are the best in the world—-hands down!  In the United States though, most entering freshmen would rather be anything other than engineers due to the absence of adequate compensation and the absence of appreciation over a lifetime of work.  That situation is very different than most parts of the world.   Let’s face it, in the United States, engineers don‘t make much money in comparison to other professions.  Those who really “make it” move from engineering into management or succeed in a business of their own.  The number of engineers graduating each year pales in comparison to the number from China and India.  This will eventually catch up with us unless our country moves all manufacturing, research and development and other technical endeavors abroad.  If this occurs, there will be no real need for engineers.  Already this year, China has bested our efforts relative to patents awarded. Already this year, our “executive branch” has gutted NASA.  NASA now has no real direction and layoffs are underway.  Personnel that will never be replaced, certainly within my lifetime. Our country has the second highest corporate tax rates of any country in the world and yet we wonder why we have a ten (10 ) percent unemployment.  Congress needs to do the numbers.  I run a two-man engineering consulting organization and you would  not believe the taxes I pay on an annual basis. 

OK, let us get away from the doom and gloom.  What makes an engineering school great?  What combined elements produce the very best environment for retaining and educating a student?  Given below are those happy circumstances presented by the US News & World Report which make for the most successful teaching institutions.

  • FUNDING—Say anything you like to but having the necessary money is critical to a teaching institution.  Money attracts the very best faculty.  Money buys the very best equipment. Money allows for grants, student loans, etc.  The lack thereof is evident in the classroom, student dorms, campus grounds, student facilities, etc.    The school that has the most money provides the best all-around atmosphere for teachers and pupils.
  • RESEARCH ORIENTED—Make no mistake about it, an engineering school that teaches AND conducts research will be miles ahead of one that merely teaches.  Governmental and commercial research and development is necessary in today’s world if a school is to maintain the right circumstances and attract the best teachers and the best students.
  • STUDENT / TEACHER RATIO—Today, this is no real problem because fewer and fewer students are attracted to engineering.  In my day, a proper classroom size was approximately fifteen students to one teacher.  The very best teaching environments provide this, or lower, student / teacher ratio.
  • QUALITY OF FACULTY—This is almost self-explanatory.  The best schools can attract the best teachers and the most gifted teachers.  This is tricky because there are many academically qualified teachers; i.e. good technicians, who can’t teach.  They have no enthusiasm for the classroom and just don’t seem to “get it across”.  Tenure is another subject for another day.
  • SIX  (6) YEAR GRADUATION RATE—Some schools seem to go out of their way to see how many students they can fail out freshman year.  I personally think it is appalling that the attrition rate, in engineering, for the first two years is between fifty and sixty-six percent.  At my school, the dropout rate for mechanical engineering, the first year, was fifty-five percent.  Ridiculous!!!! Absolutely ridiculous!  My professors were basically too involved with other endeavors to worry about their freshman or sophomore students because they knew the numbers.  Strangely enough, junior and senior year—they would go to the wall for a student.  Go figure.
  • DIVERSITY—Some schools strive for diversity in the classroom, therefore, some students are admitted based upon gender or race.  I have absolutely no problem with that unless it becomes the deciding factor instead of academic ability and those students do not displace more qualified applicants.
  • COURSE OFFERINGS—Self-explanatory.
  • AVAILABILITY OF SCHOLARSHIPS AND GRANTS—The best students do not always have wealthy parents.  As a matter of fact in most cases, that is the case.  Scholarships and grants MUST be available in order to maintain the most talented student body.  The availability of student loans and grants is a MUST!
  • QUALITY OF ONCAMPUS LIFE– Let’s face facts, even the most academically talented school will not thrive if the dorms are rat-infested—if the cafeteria serves grade “D” food—if there are no internet connections—if there is absolutely nothing to do over the weekend.  The students, even the most gifted students, simply will not enroll.  Word gets around quickly.  If you don’t believe that, talk to any graduating senior in high school and they can tell you, to a man, which school is the “best party school”.  Dollar to a doughnut they all know.  The same is true for “life on campus”.
  • HOW MANY TENURED TEACHERS TEACH—TAs (teaching assistants) are fine, sometimes, but a student wants a teacher who has more than a little “gray hair”.  I want the guy or girl, who wrote the book.  
  • ENTERING FRESHMAN SAT AND ACT TEST SCORES—The most academically accomplished entering class will be the class that requires zero remedial work.  Consequently less money spent for remedial teaching.  This statistic is always kept by the administration.  The money devoted to remedial teaching can be devoted to other pursuits, if the student body is fully prepared.  The best schools always attract the best students.
  • BIG VS SMALL—Many smaller schools have wonderful engineering departments.  I am thinking about schools such as 1.) Rose-Hulman, 2.) Harvey Mudd, 3.) Olin, 4.) Rice University, 5.) University of Rochester, 6.) Carnegie Mellon and 7.) Rensselear Polytechnic Institute.  Larger schools, such as 1.) MIT, 2.) Georgia Tech, 3.)University of Chicago, 4.) CalPoly, etc are obviously wonderful schools also.  The student must decide big vs small.  The smaller schools can be every bit as academically progressive as the larger schools.  The only problem here is—sometimes the larger schools have greater endowments consequently offer better scholarships and grants to the student body at large and have greater research possibilities.

With the above being  given criteria, here is the list provided by the US News & World Report as to their opinion relative to the best engineering schools in the nation.  I’m going to let you draw your own conclusions.

  Massachusetts Institute of Technology
2 Stanford University (CA)
3 University of California–Berkeley
4 Georgia Institute of Technology
4 University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
6 California Institute of Technology
6 University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign
8 Carnegie Mellon University (PA)
9 Cornell University (NY)
9 Purdue University–West Lafayette (IN)
9 University of Texas–Austin
12 University of Southern California
13 Texas A&M University–College Station
14 University of Wisconsin–Madison
15 University of California–San Diego
16 Princeton University (NJ)
17 Penn State University–University Park
17 University of Maryland–College Park
19 Northwestern University (IL)
19 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (NY)
21 University of California–Los Angeles
22 Ohio State University
23 University of Minnesota–Twin Cities
24 Johns Hopkins University (MD)
25 Harvard University (MA)
25 University of California–Santa Barbara
25 Virginia Tech
28 North Carolina State University
28 Rice University (TX)
30 University of Colorado–Boulder
31 Columbia University (Fu Foundation) (NY)
31 University of Washington
33 Duke University (NC)
33 University of Pennsylvania
35 University of Florida
36 University of California–Davis
36 University of Virginia
38 Case Western Reserve University (OH)
38 Rutgers State University–New Brunswick (NJ)
40 Iowa State University
40 Lehigh University (PA)
40 Washington University in St. Louis
43 Michigan State University
44 University of Arizona
44 University of Rochester (NY)
44 Yale University (CT)
47 University of Delaware
47 University of New Mexico
49 Arizona State University
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