The Harsh Realities of Job Security in Engineering
Job security can provide steady income, give peace of mind, and improve quality of life. Thus, many people will naturally gravitate towards careers that seem stable. For some, a career in engineering comes to mind. But is engineering as secure as it seems?
Becoming an engineer takes time, money, and dedication. Unfortunately, these investments don’t always translate into job security.
Perceived job security in engineering
Engineering seems like a secure career path for two main reasons.
Firstly, engineers are critical to essential services. Critical infrastructure relies on engineers to constantly maintain and operate it. From the roads we drive on, to the electricity we use, engineers make it possible.
Secondly, engineering school is notoriously difficult. This high barrier of entry makes qualified engineers a rare commodity. The barrier of entry is even higher for niche roles that can only be filled by engineers with very specialized skills.
Combining these two reasons, an engineer can hold quite a secure job. Unfortunately, majority of engineering jobs are not essential and specialized at the same time.
Actual job security in engineering
Most engineering jobs rely on the market
Jobs in critical sectors offer more job security, especially during economic downturns. Because of this, these jobs are often highly sought after. Furthermore, these critical positions are often so stable that engineers hold these positions for years or even decades. Unfortunately, the consequence of this stability is the scarcity of job openings in these sectors.
Non-critical jobs typically have more openings compared to jobs in the critical sectors. Thus, many engineers turn to non-critical sector jobs. That’s not to say that non-critical jobs aren’t as good as critical jobs. Non-critical jobs have plenty to offer, but they do lack the stability of the essential sector.
Non-critical sectors are heavily dependent on current economic conditions. And just like most other workers, engineers are in danger of layoffs during poor market conditions.
Overspecializing is risky
Some engineers become extremely specialized in certain areas that they become subject matter experts. These engineers often fill niche roles that are only suited for a handful of people. Becoming a subject matter expert is a good way of holding down a job, but only if the subject stays in demand.
The downside of specializing is that you pigeonhole yourself into one area. If one day the situation changes due to external influences such as technological advancements or political changes, you and your role could be made redundant. This could happen in both critical and non-critical sectors.
Employment stability through engineering
Despite subpar levels of job security, a career in engineering can still provide stability in other ways. These days, job security isn’t about the job anymore, but rather the person. Someone who can solve problems and adapt quickly will be useful in any industry. Engineers are very well versed in these skills.
For this reason, engineers can break into seemingly unrelated sectors, such as financials or healthcare. This makes engineers extremely employable. Even if your job becomes unstable, you can rest assured knowing that your skills are needed elsewhere. The versatility of an engineer’s skills goes beyond just job security, it offers employment security.