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Career Guide for Engineers and Computer Scientists ^ | 2003 | Philip Greenspun

Posted on 10/02/2003 3:29:44 PM PDT by A. Pole

Career Guide for Engineers and Computer Scientists

by Philip Greenspun

Site Home : Careers

Chainsaw Juggler; Venice Beach, California.

"We dangle our three magic letters before the eyes of these predestined victims, and they swarm to us like moths to an electric light. They come at a time of life when failure can no longer be repaired easily and when the wounds it leaves are permanent ... "
-- William James, "The Ph.D. Octopus", 1903

Aid to Evaluating Your Accomplishments

If you are one of MIT's 25 Nobel Laureates, or in CS at MIT, Stanford, or CMU, at the MIT Media Lab, or if you are in any department at Harvard University, please click here or here.

If you'd like to know the value that members of the opposite sex put on your advanced training, try playing The Game.

Market Street, San Francisco

I am fascinated by the 30-year decline in the relative salaries and prestige of engineers and scientists that has been accompanied by 30 years of statements by politicians and university administrators that there is a shortage of engineers and scientists.

Could the source of negative stereotypes be conditioning of youth by toy manufacturers? What about the thoughtful critiques of Artificial Intelligence research that have appeared in the media?

Naturally, the ever-expanding MIT Administration does its best to ensure that there isn't an oversupply. They've spent twenty years, for example, trying to increase the number of "underrepresented minorities" in MIT graduate school. Perhaps it is the dignified manner in which the MIT Faculty comports itself.

Of course, many computer science graduates have happy experiences, but on the whole you may be better off staying in graduate school.

[Note: I hope you don't feel, after all, that you chose the wrong college major.]

The first Two Commandments of Computer Science

Serious Stuff

Not So Very Serious Stuff


! $50K! ! ** ! ** * $40K! ** * Any Questions? ! ** * ! ***** * $30K! **** * ! **** * ! ***** * $20K! ***** * ! ***** * ! *** * $10K! *** * !** * ! * 0 +--------+----------+-----------+------------+---------+--*--------->

no high some Bachelor's Master's Doctor high school college Degree Degree of school diploma Philosophy diploma

Achievement Gallery

Portraits of people who are putting their advanced training to good use.

Rachel, PhD Biology UCLA 1992, enjoys the wealth of material comforts that she has accumulated during 10 years of hard work in science.

(click on the photo for a 500x750 JPEG; click here for a 1000x1500 screen-filling image)

Though the Superconducting Supercollider project was never finished, many of its research teams have stuck together in their new careers. At the upper right is a team of high-energy physicists, still hard at work on their discretized version of Quantum Chromodynamics. At the lower right, medium-energy physicist Dr. Albert Meyerstein notes that, "I miss working with Dr. Gerald Abelson on more efficient sources of pulsed spallation neutrons but I'm glad that we can continue our collaboration on the polymeric properties of automotive pigment in a detergent-rich environment."

Physicists working on Quantum Chromodynamics

Chip, PhD Chemistry Princeton '90 says "I never thought I'd be writing papers for the Journal of Root Vegetables (Fried) This career is so exciting!

Note: "Root Vegetables" is a registered trademark of the MIT Media Laboratory; not affiliated with the Journal of Root Vegetables (Steamed).

Joe, PhD Physics Stanford '86, and Mike, PhD Biochemistry UC Berkeley '88, have become entrepreneurs in Times Square.

Albert, PhD Electrical Engineering and Computer Science MIT '84 relaxing on 15th Street in New York City. "I had a tenure-track position at Carnegie-Mellon but after seven years they said it was unfair to keep me from the great opportunities outside the university."

Bob, PhD Physics University of Chicago '65 working on 5th Avenue and 20th Street in Manhattan. "The experience I had publishing in Academia has been very helpful in my new career, distributing information to the public." Of course, it was pretty tough to land any sort of position at all until I took advantage of a PhD expunging service.

Vijay and Rama find that the teamwork that got them their Harvard PhDs in astrophysics continues to pay off as they work together in the "real world".

"Ten years of graduate school is more formal preparation than is strictly needed for most musical careers, but I find the PhD gives me the confidence I need to perform before large audiences in important venues," John, Mechanical Engineering PhD. Purdue '93

Hearst Magazine Building.  New York.

David, PhD 1985 Artificial Intelligence MIT notes that "while my knowledge engineering skills don't seem to be worth much in today's C-hacking world, I'm learning Java and hanging out around the big New York publishers. I'll be a multimedia developer soon."

Java Monkeys

Stammbach, Eduard. (1988). "Group responses to specially skilled individuals in a Macaca fascicularis." Behaviour, 107 (December 1988), 241-266

Does the staggering wealth of particular engineers and programmers mean that there is any chance for nerds to rise socially?

Stammbach worked with a colony of longtailed macaques. In the paper cited above, the running header is "Responses to Specially Skilled Java Monkeys." Stammbach took the lowest-ranking macaque out of the society and taught him to operate a complex machine and obtain food. When the nerd monkey was reintroduced to the society, the higher ranking macaques stopped kicking him out of the way long enough for him to complete operation of the machine and obtain food for the community. I.e., society cooperated to create the conditions under which the nerd could toil for them. However, the monkey who acquired these special skills and provided for the society did not achieve any rise in his dominance status.

The Last Word

"A chorus of voices exhorts kids to study science. No one stops to ask whether it is inhumane to force adolescents to spend the bulk of their time studying subjects most of them hate."

-- Unabomber Manifesto, Ted Kaczynski

Other Internet Resources

Arbeit Macht Frei.  Gate to Dachau Concentration Camp, just outside Munich, Germany

Text and pictures are copyright 1990-1998 Philip Greenspun

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Political Humor/Cartoons; Technical
KEYWORDS: economy; free; freemarket; freetrade; jobs; market; outsourcing; recession
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1 posted on 10/02/2003 3:29:44 PM PDT by A. Pole
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To: Willie Green; Wolfie; ex-snook; Cacophonous; Jhoffa_; FITZ; arete; FreedomPoster; bwteim; ...
Career Guide for Engineers and Computer Scientists

Might be useful.

2 posted on 10/02/2003 3:30:33 PM PDT by A. Pole ("Is 87 billion dollars a great deal of money? Yes. Can our country afford it?" [Secretary Rumsfeld])
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To: A. Pole
Oh, piffle. I know an engineer who's cleaning up. A Sanitary Engineer.
3 posted on 10/02/2003 3:32:21 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: All
We're On A Mission From God
Help us make our 4th quarter fundraising goal in record time!

4 posted on 10/02/2003 3:32:48 PM PDT by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: A. Pole

PhD in CS with a 6-figure salary & countin' my blessings BUMP.
5 posted on 10/02/2003 3:36:47 PM PDT by WOSG (DONT PUT CALI ON CRUZ CONTROL & VOTE YES ON 54!)
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To: A. Pole
Now I know exactly what the problem is -- too many people on this list have advanced degrees from prestigious schools.

I'm busy as hell here in my corner of the engineering world, but I will never hire someone with an advanced degree from a prestigious school.

6 posted on 10/02/2003 3:36:54 PM PDT by Alberta's Child ("To freedom, Alberta, horses . . . and women!")
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To: A. Pole
Is "Move To India" on the list?
7 posted on 10/02/2003 3:38:38 PM PDT by AntiGuv (When the countdown hits zero, something's gonna happen..)
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To: A. Pole
Thanks for posting. Many of my classmates will be graduating in a year or two and will have to make the choice of whether to go on to grad school full time or take the first job offer from industry and go to school nights.
8 posted on 10/02/2003 3:41:28 PM PDT by RightWhale (Repeal the Law of the Excluded Middle)
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To: Billthedrill
Seriesly, what sort of jerk hates topology? Idiots.
9 posted on 10/02/2003 3:50:59 PM PDT by patton (I wish we could all look at the evil of abortion with the pure, honest heart of a child.)
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To: A. Pole
Step 1: Change majors.
10 posted on 10/02/2003 3:57:10 PM PDT by Wolfie
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To: A. Pole
Massive shortages of engineers and scientists- another untruth foisted on the gullible public to get cheap workers for the military industrial complex. Engineers need an organization like the AMA to limit the number of engineers coming out of school and drive salaries up.
11 posted on 10/02/2003 4:01:17 PM PDT by Rockitz (After all these years, it's still rocket science.)
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To: Alberta's Child
How does a BS in Ocean Engineering from Rhode Island sound? I don't want to be sleeping in the street...
12 posted on 10/02/2003 4:02:07 PM PDT by zoso82t
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To: A. Pole
I have to stop spending so much time browsing the listings on,,, and the threads at and work on my novel.
13 posted on 10/02/2003 4:08:22 PM PDT by Alouette (Neocon Zionist Media Operative)
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To: A. Pole
14 posted on 10/02/2003 4:12:35 PM PDT by VOA
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To: zoso82t
How does a BS in Ocean Engineering from Rhode Island sound?

How often does the ocean need engineering?

15 posted on 10/02/2003 4:14:55 PM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: Ichneumon
Oil platforms in a deepwater environment need enormous amounts of engineering.
16 posted on 10/02/2003 4:17:57 PM PDT by Dog Gone
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To: A. Pole
I've got a high school diploma, three years of college basically majoring in history, and a career in networking that I just started five years ago at the age of 45. I'm racking my brains trying to figure out how I've managed to earn a decent living when all these highly-educated people are standing idly about for want of work.

17 posted on 10/02/2003 4:24:30 PM PDT by Agnes Heep
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To: A. Pole
You're just trying to piss me off, aren't you?

Did I relate the story about the job as an electrician that I had two years ago?

My boss got paid $120 per hour for my services and that of my helper (he paid me $14 and my helper $8), so he always had us dig trenches by hand rather than renting a trencher - he got paid more that way.

So one day my helper and I were digging a particularly difficult trench through rocky soil, and we got to talking. Somehow it came up that I had earned a BSEE in the sixties. He suggested that I was probably into the drug scene back then, to which I responded, "No, I was studying ten hours per day so that someday I could have a good job like this one".

After we stopped laughing, he got more serious. He told me, "Myself, I dropped out of high school. I moved furniture and drove 18-wheelers all my life. I have been in jail several times. But look, here we are doing the same job!"

18 posted on 10/02/2003 5:19:02 PM PDT by snopercod
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To: zoso82t
Sounds pretty good, but I wonder if your degree isn't too narrowly focused. I usually recommend a more general degree like civil engineering or electrical engineering at the undergraduate level. What exactly does "ocean engineering" involve?
19 posted on 10/02/2003 5:26:24 PM PDT by Alberta's Child ("To freedom, Alberta, horses . . . and women!")
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To: snopercod
Sounds like you should charge $100 per hour for your services, $80 per hour for your assistant's services (while paying him $35 per hour), and drive your old boss out of business.
20 posted on 10/02/2003 5:29:09 PM PDT by Alberta's Child ("To freedom, Alberta, horses . . . and women!")
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