Computer Engineer Grads: 8 years later

I am a computer engineer by training. We all know that computer engineering is one of the relatively “new” disciplines of engineering and that it doesn’t exactly fit in with the more traditional fields like civil, mechanical, and even electrical. Described by some as a mix between electrical engineering and computer science, computer engineers are educated to be comfortable with the applied science of computer hardware and software. With such a broad spectrum of technologies, it’s no wonder that Computer Engineers end up in a wide variety of industries and careers. We’ve discussed previously how, for many of these positions, a P. Eng. is neither required or even relevant. Many employers don’t ask for it and more than a few don’t even know what it is. I realize that the claims I make here are unsubstantiated thus far, so it seems apt for this engineer to explain, with some quantitative evidence, where his perspective comes from.

Fortunately, thanks to LinkedIn, it’s fairly easy for me to survey a sizable portion of my graduating class to see where they are now. Keep in mind that while there were at least 100 computer engineers in my 2005 graduating class, I’m only connected to about 40 of them on LinkedIn. Clearly, I’m not a social networking butterfly, but we should also note that these results suffer from a selection bias (that selection being: the people that I knew well in my class). That being said, the tabulated data shows some interesting trends.

Chart by Visualizer

First, and this should surprise nobody, the gender split is extremely uneven. We were only a handful of females away from being a class at an all-boys school. Women are under-represented in engineering in general, but computer engineering was, at least in my year, even worse than other disciplines (although electrical wasn’t much better). There are countless reasons why we need more women in engineering. For one, I can tell you first-hand that having an almost all-male classroom setting does not do wonders for the learning environment. A little more balance would have gone a long way.

We’re here, however, to talk about what happened after school. Did these young engineers all go on to become P.Eng’s? Where did they go?

Chart by Visualizer

There are more than a few ways to look at this dichotomy. A “glass half-full” person might observe that a large majority of engineers stayed in Canada, but the pessimist (who thinks of themselves as a “realist”) would note the significant (more than 1 in 4) brain drain south of the border. With big players in the CE industry such as Google, Microsoft, Intel, and more operating in the U.S., these numbers are not surprising.

Now that we know, literally, where these young engineers ended up, what kind of jobs are they doing? Engineering, of course! Right?! Well… kind of. You see, engineers end being capable of more than just engineering. Even in this small sample group, you’ll find people working in sales, finance, politics, even professional poker!  Here are the numbers from my sample group (keep in mind that deciding what is “engineering” is a slightly subjective process):

Chart by Visualizer

We see that while on the one hand most are still working in engineering roles, a sizeable minority are not. This seems only natural, especially 8 years after graduation, a time by which many have, intentionally or not, transitioned into another role.

We know from previous ramblings that it’s not kosher, in Canada, at least and in some American jurisdictions to have an “engineer” job title without being licensed in that jurisdiction. With that in mind, I counted how many of my classmates had “engineer” in their job title.

Chart by Visualizer

Wow. That’s quite a drop-off. Only 5 of the 38 graduates now call themselves an engineer. Although most of these people are still working in engineering roles, many of them have started to move up in the ranks. There is a “VP of Product” and “Senior Manager” who are obviously working with and supervising engineers, but they do not explicitly have the term in their job title. There is also another factor contributing to the lack of engineering job titles…

Chart by Visualizer

And there it is. One could say that so few of these CE grads have “engineer” in their job titles because they don’t have their license. But, realistically, these are smart, capable people and if this designation was something their employer wanted or was otherwise holding them back career-wise, the overwhelming majority would have it by now.

Although there is likely some degree of error introduced because perhaps not all people list their P.Eng. designation on their LinkedIn profile, the data illustrates a clear point. To survive and thrive in industry with a degree in Computer Engineering does not require a P.Eng. license and, in fact, it is a rarity to see.

Don’t worry, though. I’m still planning on getting mine. That’s the whole point of this blog! Next entry, I plan to get the ball rolling on the application (audience: “finally!”).


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