Survey Shows Most Associate Invention and Innovation With Engineers

Engineering has more impact on society than other professions

15 May 2014

Image: iStockphoto

For engineers who feel their profession goes unnoticed, here is good news. A recent survey found that a majority of respondents commonly associate innovation and invention with engineers. Teachers and doctors were next in line. This sentiment is reflected by 87 percent of respondents.

The survey of 1017 U.S. adults was conducted by TE Connectivity, a world leader in designing and manufacturing technology for a variety of industries, and was run in conjunction with DiscoverE’s Engineering Week, in which IEEE-USA was a sponsor. The survey sought to gauge the current U.S. perception of the engineering profession and the role that it is playing in fueling innovation. Moreover, 73 percent of respondents said they perceive engineers to be more innovative today than two decades ago. 

Some of this can be attributed to emerging technologies. Wearables, such as fitness bands, and driverless cars were among the innovations respondents mentioned as positively impacting society over the next 10 years.

These results come at a time when more people are choosing to join the engineering profession. Since 2009, science and engineering degrees have increased by 19 percent, which is more than double the growth of other fields, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The TE Connectivity survey, entitled the Engineering Sentiment Survey, also showed that increased emphasis on positive experiences with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in elementary and middle school is expected to most significantly contribute to students entering careers in these areas. Other reasons students might join include mentorship, internships, and support to help prevent students from dropping out of STEM-related courses.

In an interview with The Institute, Rob Shaddock, executive vice president and chief technology officer at TE Connectivity, says he has first-hand knowledge about the changes shown in the survey results.

“Since I earned my degree in engineering science—quite a few more years ago than I’m willing to admit—I’ve witnessed firsthand an evolution in positive public perception of the engineering profession as more individuals understand the inherent impact engineers have on society,” he says.

“I’ve also witnessed an increased change in society that encourages our children to ask ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ It’s these two questions that have led to them entering careers that involve exploration, innovation, and invention.”

While some are less than optimistic about employment opportunities for engineers (See our post: Are Engineers Really In Demand?), Shaddock says that projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that job opportunities are expected to grow some 11 percent by 2018. These include job openings in biomedical and biomechanical engineering, as well as computing, nuclear energy, and manufacturing. 

As an editor of a publication that covers IEEE members and their innovative and inventive work, I’m happy to see that many others see engineers the same way that I do—as leaders who are making a positive impact on the world in a big way.

Tell us how you feel about the survey results in the comments section below.

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