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What you will learn:
- The different ways in which engineers continue their education.
- Why time has become a challenge to keep up with industry trends and advances.
- Do companies support engineers to continue their educational efforts?
When asked about the top challenges of staying current with relevant technical information, one respondent answered our Salary and Career Report 2022 The survey responded, “There is ample time to learn future-proof design knowledge and management’s willingness to innovate and invest in technology.” This is a representative example of hiring engineers to refresh and/or continue their engineering education. There is certainly no shortage of new technologies to keep up to date, making ongoing training a constant necessity.
In our survey, we asked you to tell us about your current level of education and how you prefer to learn about new technologies and skills. Does your employer encourage continuing education by paying the bill, and if so, in what form? And how does the coronavirus pandemic fit into the picture? In this article, we look at these topics with facts, figures, and anecdotal answers.
level of education is falling
First, let’s look at where you stand with your respective highest educational level and see how that compares to the 2021 survey responses. The leading answer was a master’s degree (32% vs. 46% in 2021), followed by a bachelor’s degree (22% vs. 19%). Over 13% require a bachelor’s degree and some postgraduate degree. However, the number of respondents with a PhD has decreased to 11% from 14% in 2021.
So, these survey results suggest that overall, at the higher academic levels overall, the level of education among you is declining somewhat year-on-year compared to 2021.
A wealth of educational options for engineers
Whether you pursued an engineering career with little or no college education, or made all the way to a PhD, you still need to keep up with technological advances as you make your way into the industry. So, like every year, we asked, “How are you continuing your engineering education?”
As always, the results were mixed. Curiously, however, since last year’s survey, more categories of educational options have declined in use than those that have increased. More than anything but the anecdotal responses to the survey, this fact points to the time constraints engineers face in their day-to-day lives.
Providers in the electronics OEM industry have always done a great job creating videos, white papers and webcasts to educate engineers on their latest and greatest innovations. All of this media is free to use and webcasts can usually be viewed on demand if you missed the live events.
This year’s leading category for learning options is seminars – almost 51% of respondents rely on them for information about new technologies. That’s down from 63% in 2021. About 48% prefer white papers (vs. 67% in 2021), while 47% like technical publications (vs. 71% last year). Webcasts are down from 58% last year to 42%.
Engineering textbook usage has dropped from 56% in 2021 to just 35% in 2022. And eBook usage has also fallen from 42% last year to 35% this year.
Educational options that more respondents are considering in 2022 compared to 2021 include classroom college courses (over 14% in 2022 vs. 11% in 2021) and online college courses (27% vs. 20% ). ), meetings/meetings of user groups (20% vs. 17%), meetings sponsored by engineering associations (over 23% vs. 17%) and in-person trade shows and conferences (26.4% vs. 26%).
It’s interesting that in-person forms of continuing education — things like college classroom courses, user group meetings, and meetups — comprise most of the educational categories, which are used more this year than last year. While COVID-19 is still with us in its various forms, more and more engineers seem willing to take the risks that come with being on the road and in groups. Hopefully this trend will continue as we switch the calendar to 2023 and beyond.
Our survey shows that fear of contagion is no longer the major barrier to upskilling it was in 2020 and, in part, last year. Lack of time is what hinders engineers the most. “Finding the time to learn, improve, and stay current while still fulfilling all of my work responsibilities, maintaining work-life balance, and supporting my family is challenging,” said one respondent. Another chimed in: “At work, too much time is taken up by trivial tasks.”
As mentioned above, work-life balance is a pervasive problem for engineers, and not everyone wants to take home training materials or extracurricular reading. “Balancing work and life while keeping up with new trends is very difficult,” said one respondent. Many respondents would prefer to do it during working hours, but that’s just not possible: “I commute more than an hour each way, that’s time that I can’t spend studying.”
Another often-cited obstacle is the sheer volume of material that needs to be triaged and prioritized. “Analyzing what technological advances are relevant to my business and how quickly they will be available or at a reasonable price is part of the problem,” said one respondent. Meanwhile, another laments, “I’ve cut a wide range from RF to digital to embedded software to CAD. It’s hard to keep up with all of this.” Still others cite the combination of the pace of change in the industry and the number of issues to keep up with.
Of course, there is no lack of information. Some respondents mentioned the need to verify information, both in terms of its accuracy and its relevance to current projects.
Employer support is a mixed bag
Finally, we asked whether your employer invests in their engineering staff by reimbursement of training costs. Our 2021 survey showed a broad downward trend in employee support. This year, unfortunately, the results in most categories have fallen again.
The good news first: Here are some examples of when employers are more generous. When it comes to the cost of online trade shows and conferences, 30.5% of employers have helped this year, up from 20% last year. They were somewhat more generous when it came to engineering textbooks (27% vs. 25.5%) and contributions to engineering associations (25% vs. 21.5%).
But unfortunately, in many other forms of education in 2022, employers are less supportive of the professional development of their employees. Seminars (33% in 2022 vs. 38% in 2021), in-person trade shows/conferences (37% vs. 39%), tuition (26% vs. 31.7%), certifications (23% vs. 29%), and online Training (26.6% vs. 32%) all saw a decrease in the number of respondents saying their employers helped pay the bill.
Even as employer support for many facets of technical training is waning, only 14.5% of 2022 respondents told us their employers do not support training at all. In 2021, 27% said they did not receive help in any way. So overall it seems that more employers help in some way than not at all, and probably to a lesser extent when they do.
There is no doubt that it is difficult to keep up with technology trends and project-related information. We hope that in 2023 you can maintain and expand your knowledge base enough to stay at the top of your game.