Where The Jobs Are: 2014

The manufacturing and petrochemical industries need electrical engineers

The slowly recovering economy is yielding gains for electrical engineers: In early 2014, job website CareerBuilder had 3.5 electrical engineering jobs posted for every job-seeking candidate, while U.S. tech recruiting firm Randstad Engineering says demand for electrical engineers is high in semiconductor and telecommunications companies and the energy and transportation sectors. And in manufacturing, “we’re seeing an increased demand for EEs, specifically quality and control engineers,” says Jay Rogers, vice president of recruiting at Randstad. “There is also a demand for control engineers in the petroleum industry. And salaries in that industry are off the charts.” According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top-paying jobs for electrical engineers are in software development and in oil and gas extraction, with average salaries of US $119,000 and $118,000, respectively.

Many of Randstad’s client companies sponsor H-1B work visas for international hires when the supply of U.S. engineers is low, Rogers says. But this year, they are having trouble filling even those work visa positions. The auto industry also has an escalating need for engineers with power electronics as well as computer engineering and software know-how, he adds.

The top 10 jobs in the United States and Canada ranked by highest expected salary gains are in engineering and computer science, according to staffing firm Robert Half. Mobile applications developers, software developers, and software engineers will all see a nearly 8 percent hike in salary this year, more than twice the average salary growth across all fields in 2014. Over the past two years, salaries in the United States for control engineers and power engineers have increased by 10 percent, those for RF engineers by 15 percent, and those for protection and control engineers by 25 percent, according to Randstad.

This high-demand, low-supply scenario applies to Europe as well, Randstad’s Rogers adds. The unemployment rate for engineers in the United States is 3 percent, while in Germany it is 2 percent. According to the 2014 European Graduate Career Guide, the U.K. government forecasts engineering job growth in the automotive, aerospace, energy, and medical sectors, and it plans to create 150,000 high-skill jobs in electronics by 2020. The growth of renewables, especially offshore wind in the United Kingdom and Germany, is creating thousands of jobs. But the British manufacturing industry faces a constant dearth of engineers with the right skills, reports the Financial Times, with big employers like Dyson and Jaguar Land Rover struggling to fill hundreds of positions.

A recent survey by international employment firm ManpowerGroup found that engineering jobs top the list of hard-to-fill jobs in the Asia-Pacific region. China, the largest oil-product consumer in the Asia-Pacific, plans to reduce dependency on imports by increasing oil refining capacity and establishing shale gas production, so recruitment opportunities are booming, says Joshua Schrijvers of NES Global Talent.

But the petrochemical industry isn’t the only hot spot. Thanks to the growth of big data, cybersecurity jobs and income—along with those in mobile and cloud computing—are on the rise. The current average salary for a cybersecurity hire in government is $116,000, while private companies often pay more, says Eugene Spafford, executive director of Purdue University’s Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security. Businesses are also creating special positions for computer scientists and math whizzes with degrees in data analysis. Candice Lewis, assistant director of the new M.S. in Business Analytics program at the University of Texas at Austin, says that a job event in the fall brought 53 companies in areas such as retail, consulting, and oil and gas for the school’s first crop of 52 graduates.

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