Will there be Native Born American Civil Engineers for the 21st Century and Beyond?


Civil Engineering is a practice of building and designing horizontal structures or in previous times the professional who undertake public works.  There are also cases that C. E.’s manages and operates building construction but not in the design and plan for buildings since it is under the jurisdiction of the architectural profession.  To practice one must pass the government exam after finishing the apprenticeship program for the first requirement, “an aspiring PE must graduate from a four-year engineering program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)(Griffiths).”  Indeed the first step is a continuous process towards a continuing education.

The Civil Engineers with master’s degree in structural design prepares for the structural design and earthquake analysis of multiple storey buildings.  A failure in design can cause the collapse of the structure which gives legal liabilities to the practitioner.   As with the saying goes that if a lawyer commits a mistake the client goes to prison but for the engineers if they make wrong calculations they will be liable for the public safety and will be put in jail in cases of lack of competence.  But not only that, it may also cause for the revocation of the practitioner license to practice.

To be able to pursue a career in civil engineering, an aptitude in mathematics and physics are major requirements though in some cases some math subjects like calculus seemed to be irrelevant or may be enhanced with other math subjects or technological change in the future making it more difficult for an average student to pass the course.

It was in 2006 that report from the leading advisory on science and technology predicted that “U.S. prominence in science and technology will be on the decline and to be able to prevent it the government must take actions in further improving math education (Geraghty No. 5).”  However, top students prefer other courses as the enthusiasm for outer space developments faded in the 20th century (Geraghty).

 To this day young civil engineers practices has a variety of choices because of the new information technology that is rapidly changing and the many global trends that brought mankind just a step away to the other world and culture.

Pros and Cons of few native born civil engineers

Every nation that is constantly growing and in existence need the service of a full pledge engineer as the American Society of Civil  Engineers told that “old infrastructure such as roads and water-supply systems needs rebuilding and in order to accomplish the work, civil engineers must be knowledgeable not only on basic principles of civil engineering but must be aware on how their planning, design and construction would affect the environment (ASCE).”

It is eminent that “science and engineering talent is needed for the U.S. to meet global competitiveness in the field of science and engineering (Michael Berger)” however, a 10% decline in the number of practitioner between the year 2000 and 2005 with a slow increase in earnings for about 19.01% only as referred in page 6 table 1 (Brown and Linden) is an  indication that there are only few native born Americans who pursue this job.  The figures show that there is so much liability and hard work for earning an approximate annual income of more than or an approximate $75,000 (Payscale) as compare to other high paying technological jobs.

John Marburger the U.S. presidential science adviser “asked the nation to intervene to increase the success in the education of science and engineering students since the future strength of the Nation’s science and engineering unmet workforce was already affected by two reasons:  One, U.S. future inability to rely on international market due to intensifying global competition for technology and two; there is an evident decline on the number of native born engineers (Michael Berger).”

While the older ones are near their retirement those few native born students that will pursue higher education would prefer courses without the difficult math and complex science subjects included in the curriculum.  This fact indicates that students no longer appreciates math or find the subject not only difficult but also irrelevant.

Distinctly there are more negative effects when the decline of numbers of native engineers can not be reversed than that of the positive effect of being able to communicate with the rest of the world’s new technology in bringing in foreigners to the workforce.  Positively, it has increased colleges’ funds and decreased labor wage that makes companies profits increased to make their product or services more competitive with the world market.  However, these positive effects are short sighted as compared to the detriment it will cause the U.S. if the decline is not resolved immediately.

Human resource developments or talents is not created overtime and further neglect on this point may totally removed America from its pristine position of being the world’s leader in technology.  Technology advances through the efforts of the engineering professions and these people who are assigned to this task are not only born but are also made in which the preparation of creating geniuses takes a century as history has recorded.

In pages 11 to 13, the CRS Congress reported on the perceived benefits and problems with regards to the intrusion of foreigners in the civil engineering institutions and work forces indicating that  they provide support in meeting the needs of the university and the nations economy (Matthews).  Some because of inculturization began to find life in America more promising, eventually apply for naturalization.

Why are at present US have more foreign civil engineers and lesser native born engineers?

Obviously there is the decline numbers of native born engineers as discussed above but beside the point it is because foreign engineers are paid less than that of native engineers and some U.S. native born engineers prefer to work abroad or makes a career shift.

U.S. companies began to prioritize the hiring of foreign engineers which made devastating effects to those native born who earlier pursued the career.  The lack of priority of companies towards the native born engineers provided a stiff competitiveness on the profession which caused lack of opportunity or economic rewards for the practitioner.  The scenario is the end result that the lack of loyalty has promoted disloyalty towards the profession and the competition or race to land a civil engineering jobs have caused to lower engineering services bargaining power.

Also schools may not have taken priority over the profession in the last few years because there are few candidates pursuing the civil engineering courses for which there are also many other technologically based career which are given priority by the younger generation for instance the I.T. courses.

Another reason is the increase of foreign student’s getting a U.S. diploma and afterwards joining the U.S. workforce through the application of H1-B visa, granting foreigners to work in the U.S.  At the same time, foreign students provide liquidity for the school fund than the native students who often study through subsidies and for this reason alone foreign students are very much welcomed.

Moreover, the decline in the pursuit of higher education posed a hard impact in the number of U.S. born engineering professionals for many reasons like students chooses to study other practical courses than the difficult ones in order to land a job soon than to wait on jobs as difficult as the engineering works which has legal liabilities as stated in the introduction but a career which is not given due recognition.

There is lack of interest in the subject for the very real reason that it does not seem to pay well.  Indeed this idea shows very well a materialistic or hedonistic view of the younger generation where an apparent difficult thing has to be removed at all costs, even to the detriment of ones country.  Probably there will no longer be war like the one in the 18th or previous century but warfare in technology.

If America does not have loyal and natural born citizens who will defend its country when there’s the need to face the dilemma on how the problem of the nation’s sustainability is resolved, who do you think will stand by its side, and for sure those will not be the foreigners? However, some foreigners would rather stay and meet the challenges in their newly found culture but of course they will stay until the economic condition of the U.S. is maintainable.

How can you apply math or physics into constructing a building?

One of the difficult subject students in Civil Engineering has to face are math and physics, that is in order for them to make a reinforced concrete design for buildings or to design the equilibrium of the building so that it will still be safe for the structure to withstand earth movement when a tsunami occur.

Physics is a basic requirement in order to understand the strength of materials and forces that is applied to a structure or what we call the man-built environs.  Moreover, this human environment is fast changing and because of this fact, it has entirely changed the face of technology which may eventually change the career paths of civil engineers but will never change the course of mathematics and physics.

The question above is not about design of the structural safety of a building but on construction and based on the present scenarios that we see, many of successful contractors are not civil engineers but are most of the time businessmen who have learned the trade in constructing.  The question on how to apply math or physics is not in the construction alone but on the specifications and methods of application of designs used in construction.

Without math or physics, calculations for structural works in buildings may not reach its success in providing a safe environment for the public.  Moreover, without mathematics, probable estimates will not be as accurate as intended to be which a requirement that is obviously needed in order for the project to become a success in terms of the strength of the infrastructure and in the economic ends of investors.

In the design analysis of a building, the tool used by engineers is his or her knowledge in the reinforced concrete designs, timber, and steel.  To be able to analyze the strength of these building materials, one must have a good knowledge in physics and math.  Say for example the earthquake analysis wherein the engineer has to compute all the forces that a several story building should handle in time of stress.  A very good foundation in math and physics will make the engineer’s analysis better and the work a lot easy even without the aid of computers.

Computer can hasten the work of an engineer but a human mind analysis can not be surpassed by an unthinking gadget.  It is just an aid to complete a numerous or finish a redundant and tiring task of finding the zero or the equilibrium for a 100 storey building which is to know if the building is safe in the event of an earthquake.  It is still the analysis of the human mind that works even though some task begins to be obsolete when there is new technology that is waiting to be discovered.

Mathematics and science also appoints or tell when a material is resistant to fire for how many hours not to mention that engineering skills provides practical uses and savings in the use of materials.  These knowledge needs to be pursued deeper since environment is beginning to change.  The planet is also beginning to age and the lost of its natural resources is very much felt in all the corners of the world.

The career calls not just on aptitudes and skills alone for the reason that the task is an exact science meaning, there is no area of error that can be tolerated.  For this reason, practice in mathematical skills and the knowledge of the x and y axis though in the practical sense the application which may not be so relevant is in reality a must.  In fact these are necessary formula in order to measure the world and the space in this material existence.

As what Leibniz stated in the Metaphysical Treatise a chapter in his book Discourse in Metaphysics “the assertion that nature is governed by strict law will be devoid of its content do not adhere to the statement that it is due to mathematically simple laws (Chaitin).”  The skills gathered in the practice of solving mathematical problems will develop the idea of future engineers who will be designing the future and may find the solution for the sustenance of the world to come that is near ending.

The Call for the Significance of the Civil Engineering Profession in the 21st Century

While searching for another references this seemingly out the topic reference came out in an open, asking whether is it providential?  It is about a profile of a translator whose father practiced the profession which we are studying in this paper.  Paragraph six is a very sad surprise when she recounted that “it was the depth of the Depression. Her father (italics are my own words) eventually found a job with the British Railroad, which assured him a lifetime of genteel poverty (Greiss).”

The following narration concluded that translation skills and typing is all needed to earn a good paying job.   For this reason, it has concluded the study being conducted in this paper with evidences cited in the previous pages that there are thousands of civil engineers neglected by society for the reason that these are people with rare talents but were treated insignificantly.  They are noble men with disposition to remain calm despite that reluctance is widely felt in their profession.

The enthusiasm of the past created many practitioners but those enormous talents were put to waste by some because of the need to survive, taking odd jobs or just accomplishing anything that is related to their career.  The decline of the career in civil engineering for the native born U.S. citizen is not due to the influx of foreigners alone nor it was because of the lack of interest of people why there was a decline in the number of professional practicing civil engineering but for a very simple reason that, there is lack of opportunity because their talents was taken for granted in the past.

As Linden and Brown indicated that “ civil engineers employment and earnings did not increased much between the year 2000 to 2005, it was due to rapid technological change which makes it difficult for older engineers to get trained because they are not allowed to learn and work on new technologies since U.S. companies wants newly minted graduates (Brown and Linden).”  With this point of view, there is no shortage but the least is that there is what you can call discreet discrimination.  A new wave of thinking that old wisdom is not as good as the latest version of technology making the value of experience declined with the rapid change of technology.

We can only brace ourselves that authority concerned will be able to erase from the mind of the next generation the anecdote stated above so that the younger generation would not be heard saying ;”When I grow up, I want to be ignored;” “When I grow up, I want to be forced into early retirement…. (Greiss).”  May all this fears be reversed before it is too late before all U.S. native born math wizards become an endangered species?

With the new technology that is coming up together with the consideration of the new awareness in the environment there is an urgent need to re-engineer the civil engineering profession that is to help them get back to the track that will assure them the power of continuous innovation.  Innovations that will retain U.S. eminence in her pursuit of a world class and humane technology.

Work Cited

ASCE. “Opening the Window of Sustainable Development to Future Civil Engineers.”  (2002). 29 April 2008 <http://scitation.aip.org/getabs/servlet/GetabsServlet?prog=normal&id=JPEPE3000128000004000212000001&idtype=cvips&gifs=Yes>.

Brown, Clair, and Greg Linden. “Is There a Shortage of Engineering Talent in the U.S.?”  (2008). 29 April 2008 <www.iir.berkeley.edu/worktech/papers/chip_industry_crisis07.pdf >.

Chaitin, G. J. “Leibniz, Information, Math and Physics.”  (2004). 01 May 2008 <http://www.umcs.maine.edu/~chaitin/kirchberg.html>.

Geraghty, Coleen L. “The Changing Face of Engineering.”  (2008). 30 April 2008 <http://advancement.sdsu.edu/marcomm/features/2007/engineering.html>.

Greiss, Susana. ” Reflections on a Translator’s Life.”  (2000). 01 May 2008 <http://accurapid.com/journal/12prof.htm>.

Griffiths, John. “The Abc’s of Pe Certification.”  (2008). 30 April 2008 <http://www.graduatingengineer.com/articles/19991102/The-ABC’s-of-PE-Certification>.

Matthews, Christine M. “Crs Report for Congress:  Foreign Science and Engineering Presence in U.S. Institutions and the Labor Force.”  (2007). 29 April 2008 <www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/97-746.pdf>.

Michael Berger. “The Quiet Crisis – the Future of U.S. Engineering, from Nanotechnology to Civil Infrastructure.”  (2008). 29 April 2008 <http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=4272.php>.

Payscale. ” Salary Survey Report for Job: Civil Engineer ”  (2008). 30 April 2008 <http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Civil_Engineer/Salary>.