September 6, 2015

Data for this post is derived from the following sources: 1.) The Simple Dollar, 2.) Forbes Online, 3.) The Daily Beast, and 4.) Design News Daily: Article by Mr. Rob Siegel

If you follow my posts you surely know by now that I am a mechanical engineer-registered in the State of Tennessee as a professional engineer.  You also know that I have a great interest in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions.  With that being the case, I make a concentrated effort to stay abreast of current trends relative to 1.) Graduation Rates, 2.) Starting Salaries, 3.) Developments in Technology, 4.) Salary Levels vs. time in profession, and 5.) HB-1 Visa allowances.  You get the picture.  I was asked the other day, “If you were doing it all over again, what career path would you follow?”  I would choose engineering again but possibly a different branch of engineering such as materials or biomedical engineering.  These two disciplines are experiencing tremendous growth and provide contributions to our society that will be everlasting.

The conversation got me to thinking, other than the STEM professions, which professions are in great demand.  What professions should a senior-level high school student steer away from?  Which careers might present difficulties relative to salary level, possible advancement and overall job satisfaction?   Many students ask the very same questions.  We all know that changing majors during college years can be time consuming and with the loss of credits, thus prolonging graduation.  The following three (3) lists were compiled by looking at probable job opportunities through 2022.  Now, please keep in mind, there is room in any profession for the VERY BEST in that profession.  I certainly don’t want to appear negative relative to having an individual follow their passion.   Also, these are not presented in any given order.    The first on each list does not represent the “worst” profession to steer away from.  I do consider the three sources to be reliable and capable in making a judgment concerning the viability of occupations for the long haul.  Let’s just look at what areas to shy away from.

The Simple Dollar: “10 Worst College Degrees to earn in 2015”

  • Communications
  • Psychology
  • Theater Arts
  • Fashion Design
  • Sociology
  • Liberal Arts (This covers a range of disciplines and I wish they had been more specific.)
  • Microelectronic Engineering
  • Fine Arts
  • Criminal Justice
  • Hospitality and Tourism


  • Anthropology and Archeology
  • Video and Photographic Arts
  • Fine Arts
  • Philosophy and Religious Studies
  • Liberal Arts
  • Music
  • Physical Fitness and Parks and Recreation
  • Commercial Art and Graphic Design
  • History
  • English Language and Literature


  • Political Science and Government
  • History
  • Music
  • Hospitality Management
  • Anthropology and Archeology
  • Journalism
  • English Literature and Language Studies
  • Philosophy and Religious Studies
  • Architecture
  • Commercial Art and Graphic Design
  • Film, Video and Photographic Studies
  • Drama and Theater Arts
  • Fine Arts

Several on these lists really surprise me and I would take issue with.  Microelectronic engineering is really “hot” right now due to continuing demand for computer science.  We bring in through H1B visas, hundreds of individuals to fill needed positions within the computer science field.   Physical Fitness for a very fat America is not only needed but provides a great contribution to the health and wellbeing of those participants.  (I think participants is the operative word here.) In our global economy, there will always be a need for multi-lingual practitioners providing interpretation for the rest of us not to mention filling open positions abroad for multi-national American companies.

I would again say—IF YOU HAVE A PASSION FOR A GIVEN PROFESSION, follow that passion, BUT make sure you are one of the best in the world.  Competition is not global not just within the confines of our country.   In the post that will follow this one, I will indicate those STEM professions considered to be “everlasting” and indicate current open positions.  I was greatly surprised at the number of jobs that are waiting on acceptable candidates.


September 3, 2012

The sources for this blog come from the following  institutions: 1.) College Board, 2.) National Center for Education Statistics, 3.) US News, 4.) The Cafferty  File and 5.)   New York Times.

My wife and I have two older granddaughters attending Georgia State University in Atlanta.  The oldest is pre-law and the second granddaughter is majoring in textiles.   Our son, their father, was discussing with me the incredible costs of sending those girls to school, even with scholarships, grants, loans and generous grandparents.  “How much more could it cost than when you attended Mercer, I ask?”  I was literally blown away.  Books alone were about $600.00 for each—one semester; one semester and undergraduate at that.    I am one of those guys who always purchased new books.  I always said that surviving an engineering course is somewhat like earning a “badge of honor” and in my opinion, keeping your books just may come in handy as reference guides when working a real job.   With that being the case, I took a look at several of the books I used as a student years ago.  Are you ready for this one?

  • Norton Anthology of English Literature–$8.9 5
  • The American Tradition in Literature– $7.25
  •  Introduction to Logic–$5.50
  •  Marketing Management and Planning–$12.50
  • Thermodynamics– $7.95
  • Kinematics and Dynamics- $9.75
  • Design of Machine Elements– $ 10.95

Granted, that was years ago, specifically 1961 through 1966.  OK, I’m an old guy but these are undergraduate publications, the content of which has not changed that much over the years.  Undergraduate work is ground zero and during that time basic foundations are hopefully established from which more detailed and specialized work is accomplished.  The concepts are really not cutting edge at all.

The comparative cost of books necessary for completion of undergraduate education got my attention.  I decided to take a much closer look at how university costs have risen.  I was actually shocked.  Here we go.

You can see from this chart and the summary above, the cost of a university education continues to outpace the rise in median family income by a considerable amount.   Even the cost of medical care has risen less than the cost for obtaining a four-year university or college degree.   By the year 2008, tuition costs represented 25% of a families’ combined income.   At this rate, tuition costs are estimated to rise as represented by the following graph:

Can you imagine the debt after four years of attending a private university?   Granted, a public education is considerably less expensive but still substantial.  Very few families can pay outright the costs of a four year degree; wonderful if possible but somewhat rare indeed.  An estimate of the actual itemized cost is shown with the next chart. 

Even if you are a resident, like my granddaughters, you are “in the bag” for approximately $18,000   plus.  The “other expenses” could vary considerably depending upon spending habits and I feel the “other expenses” above is a very conservative estimate.    (Have you seen the number of shoes my second granddaughter has?)

OK, where does the money come from if you are not a trust fund baby?  Another look!               

As you can see, approximately 50% come from Federal loans—indentured slavery.

Fewer than 12% of private college students pay those schools’ high sticker prices. Fully 88% of all freshmen at private universities received scholarships to reduce their costs, according to a recent survey by the National Association of College and University Business Officers. Private college students receive, on average, $15,530 in scholarships and federal tax benefits, reducing their average net cost to $26,700, the College Board found.

Fewer than half of all public university students pay the full sticker price to attend. Federal surveys show at least 52% of all students at public four-year universities receive scholarships or grants. Aid, not counting loans or campus jobs, brought the net tuition paid by the average student at a typical public university to about $2,500, the College Board estimates. That brings the total average net cost of a year on campus (including dorm, books, travel and living expenses) to $11,400.

 The really sad news– according to one study, the median starting salary for students graduating from four-year colleges in 2009 and 2010 was $27,000 a year. That’s 10% lower than what those who entered the workforce from 2006 through 2008 earned. A separate study found only about 45% of college graduates under age 25 are working jobs that requires a college degree. Less than half. That number varies from major to major: Those who majored in education and teaching or engineering are much more likely to find a job requiring a college degree. But while engineering jobs are highly paid, education and teaching jobs have much lower earning potential.

And here’s a sobering thought: Half the 54,000 jobs created in May of 2012 came from McDonald’s.

I studied engineering, specifically mechanical engineering, because I was fascinated with the way things worked.  How they were put together.  What components “made them go” and go properly.  How to improve designs that would allow the products to “go the distance” and perform their function well into a tenth year or even longer.  In my wildest dreams, I did not realize my efforts would allow me to work to the ripe old age of 70.  I unknowingly chose one profession that seems to remain in demand– regardless.  Now, I have made every attempt to keep up with existing technology.  You really can train old dogs to learn new tricks.  If I were giving advice to an entering freshman, I would say consider the engineering profession.  Consider a life in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professions.   These disciplines will not fade as time goes by.  They will not lessen in importance.  They are global in their appeal.  One possible fact does worry me. 

By virtue of university costs, we may be structuring a caste system n which the educated control the uneducated and using this mechanism, advances become problematic if not impossible.  Some educators feel this is happening now with the remarkable elevation in costs…Just a thought.


April 22, 2012

Statistics sited in this document were taken from “National Association of Colleges and Employers”, Bethlehem, Pa. Survey of 160 Major Employers across the Country.

Across our country right now are millions of high school seniors anticipating graduation within a few weeks.  Many of those students have been accepted to attend colleges and universities, both near and far, with goals of pursuing their passion and finding that coveted “dream job”.  There are also a great number that really don’t know what they want to do but realize they have about two years to “declare” a major.  Too many times they do what daddy or mommy want them to do without taking a good hard look at what’s selling.  What occupations would I enjoy for a lifetime AND what occupations satisfy need for the basics; i.e. food, shelter, clothing, gas in the car, enough money for a date on Saturday night, etc., if graduate school is not in the picture four or five years down the road.  The statistics below may give the graduating high school senior insights as to where we are in this nation relative to employment and where we might be in the very near future.


  • 2009-2010            40.4
  • 2010-2011            21.1
  • 2011-2012            32.6

Scary right?  As a college or university graduate, you will be competing with many individuals FOR THE SAME JOB.     Also, no longer is your competition “local” only.   People seeking employment have online sources to search for positions AND, they are willing to move in order to get the best job in their specific field.    My town is very fortunate to have VW as an employer.  Over 2500 people work at VW with 800 additional individuals being sought at this time.  I think it is very unfortunate that VW  is having to go “national” in its search for technical people.  We simply do not have candidates that meet their needs.  This is the country we live in right now and I suspect conditions will not get much better.


The recessionary period we have just experienced, and some say we are still in, has lead employers to defer hiring, thus creating the average number of job applicant per position as given above.  This hiring “freeze” has abated somewhat but competition is still extremely great.  Let’s take a look at employee hiring vs. year:

                YEAR         YEARLY CHANGE

  • Spring 2007         19.2 %  gain
  • Spring 2008         8%  gain
  • Spring 2009         21.6%  decline
  • Spring 2010         5.3%  gain
  • Spring 2011         19.3% gain
  • Spring 2012         10.2%  gain         

Hiring is definitely on the rebound and the greatest gains are within very specific fields of endeavor.  Let’s take a look at spring 2012 to see what professions are in demand.  Please keep in mind that 160 companies were interviewed to find out what disciplines represented the greatest need.


ENGINNEERING               69

BUSINESS                     63

ACCOUNTING               53


ECONOMICS                22




HUMANITIES               13

The 160 companies interviewed also indicated they prefer prospective employees to have work experience within their specific field of study.  Co-ops, interns, volunteer efforts may just give you the edge when competition is the greatest.  It certainly won’t hurt.  Also, having a great and credible reference (or references) is a definite benefit.  

I will now like to give you my “short list” of desirable attributes relative to securing a position in the highly competitive job market.  This list is really intended for that entering university freshman and possibly gives them something to think about along the way.  You eventually WILL graduate.  You WILL eventually seek gainful employment.  Let’s take a look:

  • You MUST know how to draft a well written document, put words together to make a sentence, paragraph or page that makes sense and is readable.  Good punctuation, good “wordsmithing”, logical sentence structure and basic flow of ideas will get you a long way.  You would not believe what I have seen from university graduates.  Some simply don’t know how to write (which consequently makes me believe they don’t know how to think!).
  • The need to be bi-lingual or even multi-lingual is extremely desirable in today’s culture.  Learn Spanish or French or German or Italian.   Oh by the way, we have English and we have Southern—I’m from Tennessee, and I know the difference.   Know how to speak English- the King’s English -but know at least one other language. 
  • If you are a person of color you may have to “act white” when dealing with customers, peers, managers and teachers.  Don’t “axe” them a question, don’t use “ghetto” language and think you will get ahead any time soon.  It just does not work that way.  You will eventually be working in a professional atmosphere so be professional.  Employers won’t say anything but you will be evaluated based upon how you speak and how you answer questions.   I have told our three children that their first manager may just be an old guy like me, so behave. 
  • Read continuously from the moment you enter college and continue that action throughout your professional career.  Don’t ever think that watching hours of TV will do anything but waste your precious time.  Stay abreast of developments within your profession and discuss those developments with your peers and your manager.  Cultivate the habit of reading about subjects outside your chosen field.  Some day and in some way, that information will come back to benefit efforts within your profession.  Never fails!  Managers needing employees know those individuals who are well-read and articulate subject matter in a concise manner. 
  • Network—ALWAYS, prior to the interview and after the interview.
  • Dress in a manner that is appropriate for the interview and the job.  DON’T WEAR YOUR LUCKY BALL CAP TO THE INTERVIEW!  Pull up your pants.  Leave your mini-skirt at home.  The interviewer is looking for a worker, not a date.  Don’t even think about smoking or “dipping” during an interview or on the job.  (You would not believe what I’ve seen over the past few years.  What are these kids thinking? I even interviewed a guy who was smoking “weed” during the very short interview. )
  • Know the company you are interviewing.  Do your homework before you sit down with the HR guy.  What do they do?  Where are they located?  How many employees?  Where are their offices?  National or international?  You get the picture. You must know this information before you go in.
  • Don’t go into the interview unless you are sober. (Please see previous discussion.  Again, what are these kids thinking? )

Good luck!   I have worked with some of the very finest young people on the planet in my years as a mechanical engineer.  They are smart with great work ethic and really resourceful.  (I love the resourceful.)  Trust me on this one, you can do extremely well during the interview and on the job with the proper attitude and a willingness to listen, apply your considerable talents, and work.  Always remember—If you want to leave you’re footprints on the sands of time, you must wear work shoes.  Been there, done that, got the “T” shirt.


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