Engineering as a college major and an investment
College is an enormous investment in money, time, and hard work, and investments need to pay off. This blog post is going to be relatively short, as most of the heavy lifting has already been done by Aaron Clarey over at his blog Captain Capitalism, and in his book Worthless. While I personally have not read the book, Aaron discusses the book frequently enough in his YouTube channel for me to know I would have agreed with its content anyways. The evidence is overwhelming and undeniable:
Of course, I am somewhat biased considering I have a PhD in engineering – but objective analysis of the facts supports the case. Engineering dominates the top 10 lists of lucrative degrees. The exact composition of these lists vary slightly, but usually include majors such as petroleum engineering, chemical engineering, actuarial mathematics, computer science, and all the other remaining engineering fields (mechanical, electrical, aerospace). Starting salaries for those with a 4-year Bachelor’s degree are usually around $60,000 (much more for a petroleum engineer). Mid-career salaries are over $100,000 (again, much more for a petroleum engineer).
My direct experience with engineering salaries is somewhat limited. At the risk of contradicting myself, I am currently unemployed as of this writing, so my income from my engineering education is right now a big fat zero. However, this situation is unlikely to last for long, and I can expect a salary in the range of $90,000 – that’s damn good money for a single male with no children, especially considering that these jobs always come with an excellent health insurance and retirement benefits.
Several of my friends and colleagues from undergraduate years however, have had much success in the job world. One of my friends started off at $80,000 a year – and others close to it. Graduates of the catalysis group in my department often start off at much more, over $100,000.
Paying for an Engineering Degree
Me? I consider myself very fortunate to have lived in Florida growing up, since Florida has the Bright Futures Scholarship program. Basically, the state lottery funds the educations of anyone that wants to go to college in Florida. My tuition for four years of chemical engineering undergraduate study was totally paid for by the state of Florida. My mother paid for housing and whatnot while I was an undergrad.
At my graduate school in the Midwest, all four years of study were paid for by the university. I received a stipend of $26,000 a year as a graduate student. If you work hard and get good grades, money isn’t much of an obstacle in my experience.
Again, I consider myself very fortunate to have had all of these breaks in life, so the only thing I had to focus on was studying hard and getting good grades. But all would not have been lost otherwise. I strongly recommend those that cannot pay for a college education normally to join the military. It really is that simple. The GI Bill will pay your way through college. That’s the strategy I would have taken had I been unable to pay.
The Boneheadedness of a Business Degree
As an aside, I wanted to complain here about how a business degree is a poor choice of college major. Sure, it’s a degree you can put on your resume – just like all the other people with business degrees do. But that isn’t the worst thing about a business degree.
The worst thing? The opportunity cost.
Instead of pursuing an education in business… why not just start a real business? The outlays needed for a college education dwarf many profitable small business ideas. An “associate” of mine makes $8,000-$10,000 a month selling stuff over the internet by mail order. He purchased his inventory with a $50,000 loan from his wife. $50,000, and now he has a lucrative job of his own. Compare that with the cost of a business degree from a private college with average yearly expenses of over $30,000 a year. And after four years, all you have is a piece of paper and no job guaranteed. Which would you choose, if owning your own business is what you really want to do?