Engineers Get Rich as Talent War Heats Up
No sooner were Congress and White House occupants congratulating themselves for ongoing success in utterly killing the coal industry (in the process of demonizing burning of all fossil fuels) when the advent of modernized hydraulic fracturing ('fracking') for extraction of shale gas rose suddenly and positively in the public and corporate eyes as the new potential economic savior. Attempts to convince the public that fracking will cause their toilets to explode when a cigarette is tossed into it or that their homes will be swallowed by gigantic platonic shifts in the earth's crust have worked only with the tinfoil hat crowd. As multi-generational families of coal workers are being heaped onto the unemployment and government dependency pile, a new cadre of workers are being primed and trained for exploiting gas energy.
The upside of any specific industry undergoing massively expansive growth is that often an even larger community of subcontracting, manufacturing, transportation, marketing, and uncountable other supporting businesses are spawned in its wake. One pertinent example is SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) equipment for monitoring operations ranging from the extraction site all the way through energy production and distribution. Who designs SCADA equipment? Electrical, mechanical, and software engineers, of course!
According to an April 2013 story from the CNN Money website, new college graduates are receiving amazingly high starting salaries. Petroleum engineers can expect around $93k per year beginning in year one. Computer engineers get about $72k, chemical engineers are at $67k, and computer science majors draw about $64k per year. Unfortunately for most RF Cafe visitors, electrical engineers are near the bottom at around $62k per year. Average starting pay across all science and engineering fields stands at around $48k per year. Don't feel too bad, though, because as usual the civil engineering guy's pay makes it difficult to decide whether accepting an offer from McDonalds would be a better lifetime career choice.
Why are the petroleum and chemical engineers commanding so much more money? Simple; they are directly in the revenue stream of the energy business and they are often field positions that require them to be in the thick of the activity. That makes it nearly impossible to offshore their jobs, although no doubt there are plenty of foreign nationals brought here to America for work. That means even though the reported pay scales are amazingly high, the report does not get into what portion of those jobs are being filled by foreign students who stick around after graduation to fill the slots. Remember that especially in realms like energy exploration, logistics, and production, the corporate chieftains are intimately (sometimes literally) involved with power brokers in Washington, D.C. Nothing is as it seems.
Posted July 26, 2013