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More science, less drama: IT pros defend engineering careers

High-tech readers sound off about why they chose engineering careers and how it has paid off -- or not.

By , Network World
March 02, 2009 12:44 PM ET

Network World - IT professionals have strong opinions about choosing a career in engineering over other fields, and many think parents could be doing children a disservice by not encouraging advanced studies in math and science and instead suggesting acting.

"It's chilling to think that more parents would rather see their daughters be actresses than engineers. Lindsey Lohan? Really? That's the better option than being a software engineer or a scientist? Have we really lost that much perspective on what's important in life?" one reader commented online

A recent survey by the American Society for Quality revealed that more than 85% of students aren't considering careers in engineering and that parents didn't promote engineering as a viable career option to their children. The results also showed that some parents suggested to their daughters careers in acting over exploring math, sciences and other high-tech paths. That left many Network World readers scratching their heads and commenting online about the value of working in IT.

"How could parents know what the industry involves? We went from Novell and mainframes to AS400s and Microsoft to Microsoft and monster ERP systems in less than two decades. Now they want us to be 'business analysts' who understand business processes and use them as a basis for our development," one reader wrote online. "If I started college now, the industry would be completely different by the time I got done, right?"

The ever-changing nature of the industry drew many to follow the road less traveled and build a career in high-tech, according to other readers. The benefits may not be immediately obvious to a bystander, but those working in IT today say the career provides fulfillment for those who enjoy problem solving, challenging situations and a bit of change in their day-to-day lives.

"I know the hours are terrible and the technologies are always changing, but aren't we all here because when we unravel a really sticky problem we are king of the world for that five minutes until the next problem comes up?" one reader said. "Maybe if kids knew there can be joy in being good at something hard they might be interested."

The survey showed that 44% of those not choosing a career in engineering cited a lack of knowledge about the specific field and the overall industry as the reason they wouldn't select a job in IT.

"Clearly, there needs to be much more focus on math and science in schools. Children need to understand how math and science link directly to things that are important to their lives: like cell phones, the Internet, Facebook and healthcare. Then we need to figure out more creative ways to showcase math and science. We need more math majors and fewer drama majors if the U.S. is going to remain competitive in the 21st century," one reader said.

Another reader also pointed to shortcoming in the U.S. public school system as a cause for the waning interest in high-tech fields.

"Education is lacking. Getting through high school with good grades was much easier than slogging through [calculus 3] and [differential equations]," one said online. "The added distractions and complexity of 21st-century living certainly isn't helping focus time and concentration on core mathematics."

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