Engineers are a talented bunch. And although their talents typically take them to a quiet office or a lab, that's not always so. Sometimes, their gifts place them in the limelight, and we tend to forget where they started.
Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover, for example, took their talents to the top spot in world politics. Tom Landry used his analytical skills to become a legendary football coach. And Alfred Hitchcock's innate intelligence launched a career as history's most recognizable film director.
Of course, there will always be a few who are rumored to be engineers, but aren't. Folklore has it, for example, that Cindy Crawford, Ashton Kutcher, and Mr. T were engineers. But none were awarded engineering degrees or toiled as engineers. And Mayim Bialik, best known from Blossom and as Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, went from child star to earning a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA. She will be speaking this week at Design West.
Here, we've collected photos of individuals, most of whom earned engineering degrees and then found fame elsewhere. Did we miss anyone? Tell us in the comments section below. Click the image below to start the slideshow.
Filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock directed Psycho, The Birds, North by Northwest, Rear Window, Vertigo, and many other major movies, but started his working life as an engineer. He studied engineering at the London County Council School of Engineering and Navigation and worked as a draftsman before launching a career in movies in the 1920s. (Source: Wikipedia)
"The law of supply and demand would seem to indicate that there would eventually be a surplus of engineering grads, and the starting salaries would drop due to an influx of students migrating to engineering. But that never seems to happen."
The law of supply and demand is sensitive to the "cost of the degree". The reality is that many engineering schools now take five years to complete. This makes an engineering degree 25% more costly than other fields.
Better engineering schools have higher tuition costs, although a mix of commumity college and engineering school can mitigate under some circumstances. But the engineering curricula makes transfer from community college more difficult since foundational engineering and science courses are introduced sophomore year.
The biggest impediment to operation of the law of supply and demand in engineers is that all engineering degrees are hard work! Some fields are "only" difficult, but most are just plain challenging. Folks who "hated trig" or "hated physics" in High School are probably ill suited to taking on an engineering degree in College.
I agree that it's a bad idea to lump all degrees together when analyzing the value of college, naperlou. Given the lists that come out every year with engineering grads earning the highest average salaries year after year, though, I don't understand why there's always a shortage of engineering graduates. The law of supply and demand would seem to indicate that there would eventually be a surplus of engineering grads, and the starting salaries would drop due to an influx of students migrating to engineering. But that never seems to happen. Year after year, engineering grads have the highest annual starting salaries.
The problem with engineering has always been that while it offers good salaries straight out of school, the money flattens out pretty fast. I suspect some of these people found ways to keep their salaries moving up the curve, especially the Congressmen who don't have to pay taxes. And, yes, bobjengr, I agree that engineering offers great critical thinking skills.
While US Congressman Joe Barton is an engineer, I don't think I would have used him as an example in this article. He's made a habit of saying (and doing) some amazingly ridiculous things over the years.
Very informative post. I have two friends who graduated from engineering schools then went right into law school. One is now a patent attorney and the other owns a retail establishment ( Starbucks ). Somewhat sad but reality, I know several graduate engineers who started working as engineers but realized there was no real money in the profession and looked elsewhere for their livelyhood. I think we can all agree that engineering required critical thinking and that's what other professions can use.
You're right, naperlou. The Wall Street Journal had an article called, "The Diploma's Vanishing Value," three days ago (link below). Engineering degrees, however, never seem to have a vanishing value, however. I would add that degrees in English and liberal arts have significant value, but that value doesn't translate well to the job market, especially when coming directly out of school.
Chuck, this is a very instructive list. It is good to see so many talented people who were educated as engineers. This is also germaine to the higher education debate going on in this country. We are often afraid of the rising power of countries like China and India, at least partly becuase they are graduating so many engineers. At the same time there are articles and columns in American papers talking about the diminishing returns of a college degree. The problem with those analyses is that they lump all degrees together. We don't need more social workers and english majors, do we? We need more engineers, as evidenced by the debate on H1B visas. Even if some of those engineering grads don't spend most of their career as practicing engnieers, they typically bring analytical skills to areas of endeavour that help them to be successful. We need more of that.
The question of whether engineers could have foreseen the shortcut maintenance procedures that led to the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in 1979 will probably linger for as long as there is an engineering profession.
More than 35 years later, the post-mortem on one of the country’s worst engineering disasters appears to be simple. A contractor asked for a change in an original design. The change was approved by engineers, later resulting in a mammoth structural collapse that killed 114 people and injured 216 more.
If you’re an embedded systems engineer whose analog capabilities are getting a little bit rusty, then you’ll want to take note of an upcoming Design News Continuing Education Center class, “Analog Design for the Digital World,” running Monday, Nov. 17 through Friday, Nov. 21.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.