Engineering Suddenly Hot at Universities
Christian Science Monitor, April 24
Across the U.S., enrollment in engineering programs has risen to levels not seen in three decades. The economic uncertainty created by the recession appears to be one factor, as students and their parents look for dependable careers with steady incomes and relatively high job security. Moreover, some education experts detect a shift in opinion about the profession itself, as issues like global warming and stem-cell research make fields like chemical and bioengineering more relevant. Many students are bringing to engineering a heightened sense of social responsibility and a desire to go out and make a difference in the world.
Nationally, enrollment in undergraduate engineering programs rose 3% in 2007 and 4.5% in 2008, according to the American Association of Engineering Education. Meanwhile, enrollment in masters' degree programs rose 7% in 2007 and 2% in 2008. Despite the fact that more than 400,000 undergraduates were studying engineering at U.S. universities and colleges in Fall 2008, skeptics note that engineering remains a low priority for U.S. students compared to other nations. The U.S. ranks #22 globally in terms of the number of engineers produced on a per capita basis. The profession fell in popularity after the mid-1980s and has been struggling to recover ever since. With the economy in the doldrums, though, the lure of steady, high-paying jobs within engineering will help to accelerate this trend.
Interestingly, many students point to an evolution in the way that their peers now perceive engineering. They are drawn to the fact that engineering is a way to help people, save lives and contribute to society. Biomedical advances, including those suggested by stem-cell research, have made biomedical engineering one of the fastest growing disciplines, especially for women. The concern over global warming and energy development has also drawn more young people to chemical and environmental engineering. With that as backdrop, the article takes a closer look at engineering enrollment trends; explores how universities are updating their curricula to attract students; and examines the problems still hampering engineering schools, such as an inability to attract African-Americans, Hispanics and women.
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Tuesday, May 5, 2009
From the ACM CareerNews Alert.