Back in the olden days when I went to college, the list of engineering majors was a relatively short one. You could be an EE, an ME, a CE, or a ChemE. That's certainly not the case today, as many majors are defined by the applications that they are geared toward. For example, now we have automotive engineers, aerospace engineers, biomedical engineers, and so on.
My opinion is that people morph their titles over time. For example, since I graduated from college as an EE, that's what I was at the time. But since I was employed by DEC, I must have been an automotive engineer.
To get some insight on this issue, I posed a question on our System & Product Design Engineering LinkedIn group to ask whether we, as engineers, should still classify ourselves using the older nomenclature, or whether that's passé. Here are some of the responses.
Michael Grillo thinks that the degree should define us, and I agree with his logic. "One should classify themselves by their degree followed with a description, automotive, manufacturing, and so on. To say [you] are an automotive engineer would mean [you] have a degree in automotive engineering, and that may not be the case. An automotive engineer would be someone with a concentrated study of automotive engineering, incorporating elements of mechanical, electrical, or some other engineering degree."
A vote for the opposition comes from Louis Giokas. "The specialization around applications is the wrong way to go. I worked in the aerospace industry for many years and saw very few people with aerospace engineering degrees. We had functional departments which included systems engineers, controls engineers, structural engineers, thermal engineers, mechanism engineers, software engineers, power engineers, logic engineers, etc."
Another distinction comes in the areas of specialization one can maneuver to. For example, to go from being an EE to an ME would likely require going back to college. But going from an ME to an automotive or robotics engineer could be done with on-the-job training. It's also a fact that industries create disciplines, particularly as aerospace, biomedical, and automotive.
Here's a view from someone who actually holds what I would call an unorthodox degree. Lamont Hislop earned a degree in manufacturing engineering (BSME) but only worked in this specific capacity for a short time right after college.
"I've been a CAD/CAM programmer, a liaison engineer, a design engineer, a tooling engineer, a test engineer, a quality engineer, a system safety engineer, a reliability engineer, and an analysis engineer, all within the industry umbrella of aerospace. I guess you could say that I've been an aerospace engineer working in all of these specific disciplines," he said.
It appears we're not going to have a clear resolution to this issue. What's your opinion? Tell us in the comments section below, and go to our System & Product Design Engineering page on LinkedIn to get in on the next discussion.