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Who Deserves to Make the Big Bucks?

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Charles Murray
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Re: Celebrities make more than me? I couldn't care less
Charles Murray   7/17/2014 7:45:20 PM
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Agreed, johnr. It's cultural, but I can't explain it beyond that. Your explanation sounds as good as any I've heard.

johnr
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Re: Celebrities make more than me? I couldn't care less
johnr   7/17/2014 1:50:31 PM
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My guess would be cultural differences, but I don't know enough about Japanese culture to know for sure.  From what I've seen in American culllture, there's not a lot of respect for science and engineering. Maybe "respect" isn't exactly the right word: scientists engineers are thought of as "weird" and careers in science andengineering aren't things "normal" people aspire to.

Charles Murray
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Re: Celebrities make more than me? I couldn't care less
Charles Murray   7/11/2014 8:02:09 PM
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I agree with all the points you make about the market, johnr. That's the way it works. I still wonder, though, why does Joseph Engelberger go to Japan to be fully appreciated, while Ichiro Suzuki comes to the U.S. to be fully appreciated? I wish I knew the answer. Both are free markets. So what is it...cultural differences?

johnr
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Re: Summming it up in one word - TEACHERS
johnr   7/11/2014 2:07:12 PM
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My wife works in education.  There are some great teachers, and there are some terrible teachers.  But the problem with education in the US has little to do with the teachers.  The majority of the problems lie with the kids and their parents.

An example of this is a joke that is popular (and fairly accurate) among teachers: A generation ago when a child wasn't doing well and had a conference with his parents and teacher, the parents would ask the kid, "Explain these bad grades!".  Now, in the same situation, the parents will ask the teacher, "Explain these bad grades!".

johnr
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Celebrities make more than me? I couldn't care less
johnr   7/11/2014 2:00:39 PM
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I'm always a little troubled by laments that engineers don't make as much as star atheletes, especially when they're tied to an implication that, "If you go into engineering you'll be the next Elon Musk".  No, you won't.  Statistically, the probability that you'll end up that rich are very, very, very small.

By the time I was 8 years old I knew I would never be a star athelete.  By the time I was 30 years old I knew I would never be a star engineer.  I'm OK with that.  That's not why I went into the engineering profession.  I chose it because, 1) I love science, and 2) engineering paid better than some of the alternatives I looked at (archeology, metorology, oceanography).  I was a poor kid from the hills of north Georgia looking for a good, stable career where I could earn enough money to be fairly well off:  for example, where someday I could buy a car (preferably a new car).

Has that worked out OK?  You bet!  I've had a great career:  I've worked on some interesting projects, with some great people and customers.  I've had tons of fun (and a few disappointments).  I'm good at what I do; good enough that I'm still employed and my opinion still counts where I work.

And I've made good money.  Enough to provide a nice life for my wife and kids, enjoy a few pleasures in this life, and be generous to others.  By the definition I set for myself years ago, I'm rich:  I said, "I'll be rich when I can pay someone else to change the oil in my car and not worry about what it costs".

I said all that to illustrate what I think the real message we should tell kids about engineering (and other STEM careers) should be:  "You might get fabulously rich, but chances are you won't.  But you will have a good career that will be interesting, meaningful, stable, and that pays pretty darn well."  That sales pitch isn't as sexy as saying you'll be the next Bill Gates, but it's more realistic and will still appeal to a lot of kids.

Bill21
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sports vs engineer salaries
Bill21   7/11/2014 11:14:54 AM
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A few random thoughts.

This is pure economics.  

Pro sports are as much about the team but also the personalities of the athletes (whether you like them or not).  Huge revenue streams come in from tickets, concessions (food/drink), parking, logo'd clothing/etc besides all the legal/illegal betting.  It's not a question of travel schedule or that they work hard.  Then add on top of this sponsorships/commercials to an athlete.  The athletes that are very successfully are very polished spokespersons for products they represent.  They can command huge salaries since they have the world stage to see them perform.  This group is a very small % of the population.  Once you get out of the Pro league, you step down into AAA, AA, etc leagues and you will quickly find out that salaries and perks are far from the top earners.  In pro sports, the athlete IS the product....better recognized names can influence revenue streams and higher ROI for the organization.  There is also a limited pool of this elite players (how many Michael Jordans, Tiger Woods, etc) exist.  So in the pro leagues, supply/demand has a big influence on salaries.  In addition, all contracts that are signed set benchmarks for other salaries not only in the same team but across the league.

Very few engineers perform in the public and if they did, it would probably be boring to the audience.  Being an engineer for over 30 yrs, I could not imagine watching someone perform engineering design or implementation.  So building a personal brand that is recognized in an area is very rare.  Engineers are not trained to be spokespersons and would not draw commercial endorsements. As far as recognition in Japan, very small population that is fairily homogeneous.  Deming and others were recognized in Japan long before they had any recognition in US.  When Japan focuses in an area (like quality or robotics), the entire country understands the initiative (Gov't as well as companies and their press showing how they are participating or achieving success).  

Number of 'candidates' and jobs:  There are many more engineers and engineering jobs than what is available at the top level pro organizations.  Football has 53?, Basketball has 12?, etc times how many clubs are in each NFL, NBA, etc.  

This is another Don Quixote swinging at windmills situation.

Charles Murray
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Re: Let me answer that question for you!
Charles Murray   7/10/2014 6:42:12 PM
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I understand what you're saying, Battar. The one-in-a-million engineer makes a ton of money, just as the one-in-a-million athlete does. Excellent point. But I do wonder why a Joseph Engelberger has to go to Japan to be fully appreciated, whereas Ichiro Suzuki travels to the U.S. to be fully appreciated.

bobjengr
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BIG BUCKS
bobjengr   7/10/2014 5:08:41 PM
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Richard--I agree, BUT little-by-little we are seeing some recognition for engineers and scientists where in the past there was virtually none.  You have the "superstars" such as Edison, Tesla, Musk, Jobs, etc. who manage to rise to the top, at least as far as notoriety but the rank and file guys barely go noticed for everyday improvements to living standards and relief of drudgery.  These are the people I would love to see get more praise for the work they do.  Great post. 

TomBee
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Re: Let me answer that question for you!
TomBee   7/10/2014 3:19:06 PM
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I've been engineering and inventing new products since I was in high school. I'm approaching retirement age for some but don't see myself in that role because there's still too much fun in creating new products.

I see that as part of the reason why engineers don't get paid more. We would continue our passion to be creative and focussed on designing products even if we weren't paid. In general most engineers don't have the desire or need to demand more for doing less. Those who do have gone into other professions.... such as legal ;-)

Many of us are engineers because we like solving problems and thrive on making the world a more interesting and better place.

Battar
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Re: Let me answer that question for you!
Battar   7/10/2014 9:46:27 AM
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Disagree, Chuck.

There are busloads of low-paid, annonymous atheletes out there, just as there are numerous unloved engineers. The very top layer, the 0.01% at the very peak, are highly paid and celebrated in ANY proffession. Of course, if you are going to run back and forth for an hour and a half in front of a batch of advertising billboards you will be more visible, but thats it. People like Larry Page and Elon Musk are no less celebrities than top atheletes whose names I can't remember right now. The key is not how fast you pitch the ball or how fast you processor is - the only question is, are you better than the next guy in line? Because if you are, the guy behind you just isn't interesting anymore. 

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