You may have heard about how, year after year, engineering majors lay claim to the highest average starting salaries for recent college graduates. But as a former assistant director of admissions at an elite university, and as a former first-year English instructor at a state university, I can tell you that doesn’t mean every teenager should be pushed into the field.
Whether on the opposite end of an admissions interview or chatting in the hallways after class, I’ve worked with hundreds of bright, driven students as they transition from high school to college, trying to convince themselves that engineering is their destiny.
For some of them, engineering is a natural fit. But the ones who say that a high entry-level salary is their main career goal (especially if they’re doing it mostly because they “like cars”) are the ones I fear for most. When our culture overemphasizes the idea that engineering is the best—possibly only—option for wealth, success, and respect, then students may opt out of considering all life paths, without considering the field’s high rate of overwork and burnout that has, on more than one occasion, resulted in worker deaths.