Here’s a glimpse of what the giant, hi-tech cities of the not-too-distant future might look like.
Swamped by rising sea levels, the megalopolis of tomorrow is a sprawling, humming metropolis on stilts.
All around the mega-city, interminable grids of abandoned roads, neighborhoods, and freeway are under water.
Every now and then, lightning illuminates a watery horizon. Small electric airplanes crisscross the low, grey skies, by now perpetually thick with the portent of a coming cyclone.
Far below, in the shadow of the skyscrapers, the giant holograms and the massive digital screens, robots manage thousands of miles of elevated rail transportation.
Inside each train, under the thrum of the lighted ceilings, passengers quietly busy themselves on smartphones they control with their minds. It is the end of the workday. They’re hurrying to the hilly suburbs and their fully automated homes.
Engineering Salaries See Sharp Rise
If how much engineers earn today says something about how our future might look like, then the above should be a reasonable – if a tad zany – estimate.
The progress of artificial intelligence now is such that the intellectual labor of the white-collar professions will soon be under threat from intelligent software.
Accountancy, for instance, and some aspects of the legal profession are facing the front line of this automated infringement.
But that does not appear to be the case for engineering, if we are to go by the results of the latest IEEE-USA Salary & Benefits Survey.
The report indicates that engineers are the leading edge of US economic competitiveness in an increasingly globalized, interconnected world. And they are paid well for their role in shaping America’s future.
Big Job, Big Money
Researchers estimate the median income for US engineers in 2018 at $145,000. The figure reflects a substantial $6,200 increase over average incomes in the same category the previous year.
However, the report also shows that the salary increases for engineers last year varied according to specialties, regions, race, gender and even age.
Even so, the report indicates that engineers – regardless of specialization – make much more money than the average American family.
Data gathered by the US Census Bureau indicates that the average American household earned $63,179 in 2018. That’s well under half of what the typical engineer is earning!
Over time, new technologies can create rapid rises in demand in a particular occupation. That is likely what we are seeing here.
Engineers working with smartphones and watches were among the highest-paid engineers across the US in 2018, for instance. Their median salary rose to $215,771 last year.
Machine learning engineers were next, collecting median salaries amounting to $185,000 in 2018. Communications engineers also did well, earning $161,500.
Engineers working in robotics, automation, energy and power engineering meanwhile earned median salaries of around $130,000.
Engineers in instrumentation and measurement brought up the rear, earning an average $125,000 last year.
Disparities Between Sex and Race
Interestingly, the results of the survey reveal a picture of the various divisions currently plaguing American society.
For example, women in engineering earn far less than men. That is true even when measured according to levels of experience. The study reveals a stunning overall difference of $19,000.
The gap starts out small, but grows with years of experience. Women are also under-represented. Only 8.5 percent of the survey respondents who work full time in their area of expertise were women.
The survey revealed an even more startling divide between the races. The salary gap between Caucasian and African-American engineers was $20,500 in 2018. The gap between Hispanics and Caucasians was only $3,000 less.
There were significant variations according to geography. Money is apparently moving west when it comes to engineering.
The researchers found that engineers in the Pacific territories earned the highest median salaries. As a group, they made an average $168,708 each last year.
Engineers in New England followed, earning about $150,000 in 2018. The East-North-Central and West-North-Central regions brought up the rear with $128,000.
When measured by state, engineers in California earned average salaries amounting to $180,000. Engineers working in the District of Columbia followed, earning an average $159,000.
Massachusetts came next with $158,000. Engineers in Virginia and New Jersey were at the bottom end of the scale, earning about $156,000 in 2018.
The median age of the survey respondents was around 50. That also happens to be the age at which engineers see their salaries go flat, then decline.
Claims of workforce shortages in science and engineering are hardly new in the developed world. The U.S, where there have been no less than five rounds of boom and bust cycles in the country since World War II is typical.
The American obsession over competitiveness in this field is a decades-old habit. In the 1950s, Admiral Hyman Rickover called for more math and science education to keep the US competitive with the Soviets.
The leading competitors today are of course, China and India, whose political leadership understand the importance of science and engineering in global leadership.
Sixty-two years ago the Soviet launching of Sputnik forced a massive reorientation of America’s education priorities.
Sputnik spurred US Congress to pass the National Defense Education Act, which encouraged the expansion and improvement of US educational programs.
That act gave science and engineering education a major boost in the US. Americans began to focus on winning the space race in every classroom and college campus across the country.
In an article for Forbes, Arthur Herman, Director of the Quantum Alliance Initiative, says the US is about to face another such moment. He believes meeting that moment will require the utmost of American society.
“Because when Sputnik comes this time, in the form of a Chinese universal quantum computer able to breach our public encryption systems, or Chinese companies setting the technical standards for 5G networks for the rest of the world, it will be too late,” says Herman.
What do you think?