The unemployment rate for recently graduated undergraduate engineering students dropped from 6.4 percentage points in 2009 to 2 percent in 2011.
The gradual rebounding of the economy is influential in the sudden increase of jobs available to engineers, said Carl Martellino, executive director of the USC Career Center.
“As the economy begins to improve and companies begin to seek positive outlooks for their goods and services in the future, they’re going to start hiring engineers to build those goods and products,” Martellino said.
Engineers not only play an important role in the economic recovery but also help build and maintain the world’s infrastructure and technology, Dean of Viterbi Yannis Yortsos said.
“The world cannot work without engineers because engineers are very important for everything that we do,” Yortsos said. “The reason the economy rebounds is because engineering, computer science, information technology, all these things are driving the economy of the world and nowadays we live in an era in which intellectual property is what is the most important thing.”
Martellino said the field of engineering is constantly evolving and expanding to fit the needs of the economy.
“Engineering is one of those fields where there is constantly new creation and innovation, and when an economy expands you will tend to see both,” Martellino said. “You’re going to see jobs that already existed growing and you’re going to see new areas of innovation taking place too.”
Though the demand for engineers has increased, Yortsos said this will not negatively affect the quality of engineers.
“What we try to do is create people that are as competitive as possible because, you know, you want to make sure that you ride this wave, but at the same time are able to be ahead of it and create this additional value that is useful for the rest of your life, and be able to always innovate,” Yortsos said.
As a member of the executive board of the Dean’s Counsel — a group composed of every engineering dean from across the nation — Yortsos is working with President Barack Obama to have more recently graduated engineers hired to solve grand challenges through engineering. These grand challenges are grouped into four categories: security, health, vulnerability and the joy of living.
“The question is: What are the big challenges of the future and how can engineers help solve these challenges,” Yortsos said. “The school of engineering, here at Viterbi, is supporting these and moving in how to energize the world about solving these grand challenges.”
It is a good time for undergraduate engineering students to be entering the job market, Martellino said.
“From the job seeker’s stand point, that rate is tremendous. That means you’re going to get signing bonuses and that means salaries will start to heat up,” Martellino said. “From the stand point of the student going out into the work world, it really is difficult for it to get much better, 2 percent and 0 percent are pretty close.”