Survey shows engineers held in high esteem


In a Harris Interactive® survey conducted on behalf of the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES) with a grant from the United Engineering Foundation, engineering receives a higher rating from adults, whether or not they were parents, as a career choice for their children than either accounting or the ministry.

When asked to use a scale of one through 10 to represent extremely displeased to extremely pleased if their child were to enter a particular profession, both accounting and the ministry receive high marks, with accounting receiving an overall rating of eight and the ministry a seven. Engineering and science, on the other hand, both receive nine.

Ratings for engineering as a profession are consistent across all groups, regardless of respondents' familiarity with or interest level in engineering, gender, age, or level of education. When asked to explain why they'd be pleased if their child went into engineering, to "make a positive contribution to society" is cited as often as to "earn a good salary." Other reasons given include the ability to do "interesting work" and the profession's prestige.

The survey reveals slight differences for why adults would be pleased depending on the child's gender. When discussing sons, 31 percent appreciate the ability to earn a good salary and 29 percent like that they can make a positive societal contribution. By contrast, 25 percent pick positive contributions to society as the prime reason they would be pleased if their daughters chose engineering, followed closely by good salary at 24 percent. Perhaps another contributing factor is the high esteem with which the engineering profession is held among Americans.

According to the survey, more than three out of four respondents, 77 percent, say engineers are largely responsible for a high standard of living. As compared to scientists, engineers are thought to create strong economic growth (69% vs. 25%), preserve national security (59% vs. 29%) and make strong leaders (56% vs. 32%).

Despite the positive views, and the fact that the survey finds that, on average, Americans are personally acquainted with six engineers, just one-third (33%) of those polled feel very or fairly well informed about engineers and engineering and only slightly more, four out of ten (40%), are interested in learning about engineers and engineering.

Still, 95 percent agree that engineers use old and new knowledge to solve practical problems and are involved in diverse fields and occupations. The vast majority recognizes the contributions of engineers to almost all aspects of life. When asked about engineers' level of involvement in transportation, for example, 98 percent of respondents acknowledge the contribution of engineers in building automobiles, airplanes, highways, bridges and tunnels. Ninety-five percent believe engineers are involved with spacecraft, electronics, and air conditioning and refrigeration.

When asked to describe what first comes to mind when they hear the word "engineer," respondents say an engineer "builds/constructs/makes (38%)," "designs/draws/plans (19%)" and does "mechanic/mechanical work (9%)."

Henry J. Hatch, P.E., Chair of the AAES Committee on the Public Awareness of Engineering (COPAE), notes that the positive public perception of engineers accurately reflects the important role the profession plays in all levels of society. "Engineering touches every part of our lives in a wide variety of ways," said Hatch. "These survey results are a strong indication that the vast majority of people support our work and our goals and offer a powerful endorsement of the profession."

The survey found that the most common source of information about engineers is from television news, cable and local. Those better informed and having a higher interest in the profession are more likely than those who are not to get that information through the Internet. The Internet is a more common news source for those who are informed about engineers (24% vs. 10% who are not informed), interested in engineering (21% vs. 9% who are not interested) and who know at least one engineer (17% vs. 3% for those who do not know any engineers).

Survey Methodology
Harris Interactive conducted telephone interviews among a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults, aged 18 and older. Interviewing was conducted between December 1 and 14, 2003. Figures were weighted for age, sex, education, race and ethnicity, region, household size and number of telephone lines in the household. In theory, with a probability sample of this size, one can say with 95 percent certainty that the results have a statistical precision of plus or minus 3 percentage points of what they would be if the entire U.S. population had been polled with complete accuracy.

About Harris Interactive®
Harris Interactive ( is a worldwide market research and consulting firm best known for The Harris Poll®, and for pioneering the Internet method to conduct scientifically accurate market research. Headquartered in Rochester, New York, U.S.A., Harris Interactive combines proprietary methodologies and technology with expertise in predictive, custom and strategic research. The Company conducts international research through wholly owned subsidiaries--London-based HI Europe ( and Tokyo-based Harris Interactive Japan--as well as through the Harris Interactive Global Network of local market- and opinion-research firms, and various U.S. offices.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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