The Trajectory of the Engineering Profession: A Look into Engineering Employment Census Data

Background

Census data provides a wealth of information about Canadians. From commuting times, to household income, education, and myriad other characteristics, this data tells us a lot about the way we live, work and play.

For OSPE, the data provides critical information about the evolution of the profession. Recently, using data from 2005 and 2015, OSPE took a look at areas of particular interest to our members: the types of professions held by engineering degree holders, the proportion of women and proportion of men in each type of profession, their income, whether the gender gap has widened or narrowed, and if location of study makes a difference in these variables. For non-engineering professions, all jobs listed as professional/managerial are counted as professional positions as well as those normally requiring a degree. All occupations labelled as administrative/technical by Statistics Canada are deemed as underemployment as those jobs do not necessarily require a degree.

The Data

Many individuals end up in professions that do not match their field of study and are satisfied with their position. However, attaining an engineering degree is an achievement that indicates the graduate has devoted a great deal of time, effort, and dedication to acquiring specialized knowledge that is essential to every aspect of society and the economy. And indeed, surveys conducted by OSPE and PEO overwhelming indicate engineering students and new graduates intend and desire to pursue a career in engineering. The assumption is that engineering degree holders typically should be using their degree by being gainfully employed in engineering or a professional position and not in jobs that do not necessarily require a degree (underemployment).

Given the goal of advancing women in STEM positions, it is also important to investigate whether more women are working in engineering. Comparisons of the 2006 and 2016 censuses is useful for this.

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  • A higher proportion of engineering degree holders worked in engineering in 2015 than in 2005;
  • Regardless, less than one third of the total worked in engineering, with a much higher proportion of men than women working in engineering;
  • Only a small proportion of women worked in engineering – no higher than 23% in 2015 which is only slightly higher than in 2005 (21%);
  • Almost 45% of women with engineering degrees worked in jobs not necessarily requiring a degree in 2005, with a lower proportion in 2015, albeit still almost 40%;
  • Noteworthy gaps exist between the proportions of men and women working in engineering and being underemployed, with virtually no change between 2005 and 2015 in engineering and marginal change between 2005 and 2015 in being underemployed

When it comes to the question of whether or not Ontarians are using their engineering degree in their field, the obvious answer is “mostly no.” A positive trend, however, shows a decrease in the amount of underemployed Ontario engineers, and an increase in those holding professional positions. This shows that, although we can’t be certain on why those individuals are working outside of engineering, their skills are being held in a higher regard across the board.

How Does Age Affect Employment for Engineers?

The first variable we looked at to see what could be affecting engineers’ employment is age. Once again, we compared census data from 2005 against data from 2015 to see the changes in engineering employment in 4 different age groups. See below for the comparison graphs and associated insights.

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  • Greater equity exists between men and women the younger the age group;
  • The highest proportion of women in 2015 working in engineering is from the 25 to 34-year-old group, at 29 per cent, with it decreasing every age group afterwards – the older women become, the more likely it is that they do not work in an engineering profession;
  • Almost complete equity exists between proportions of men and women in all age groups working as professionals in both 2005 and 2015;
  • The proportion of men and women being underemployed is lowest for 25 to 34-year olds;
  • The highest proportion of underemployed in 2015 for men was for those in the 45 – 54-year-old group and for women in the 55 – 64-year-old group;
  • Glaring gaps exist between proportions of men and women working in engineering with far lower proportions of women working in the profession than men, except in the youngest age group of 25 – 34 years old;
  • In general, the gaps between men and women in engineering and being underemployed get wider the older the age groups become

Income Equality for Engineers in Ontario

For years, many leaders in society, industry, and government have recognized there are inequities between men and women performing the same job. Programs, policies, and regulations have often been instituted to close the income gaps between genders. Census data provides a snapshot about whether income is indeed becoming more equitable between men and women Ontarians with engineering degrees, as demonstrated below. We’ve also compared the income stats to those of engineers across Canada to see if Ontario is particularly progressive or not.

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  • The income gap between men and women engineers in all types of professions narrowed between 2005 and 2015;
  • Nonetheless, income gaps still persist, with the narrowest gap in 2015 in engineering, where women are earning 12% less than men;
  • Professionals demonstrate the largest income gap in 2015 between men and women, with women earning 21% less than men;
  • Both men and women earn the highest income when working in engineering with median weighted incomes in 2015 of $93,636 and $82,684, respectively;
  • There are wider gaps between men and women in Canada as a whole than Ontario;

How Does Place of Study Affect Your Engineering Employment?

It’s well known that if you’ve obtained your engineering degree outside of Canada, the chances of you getting work in your field are less than those who have a Canadian engineering degree. Using the census data, we analyzed just how drastic this affect was, how it affected the gender wage gap, and how it affected income to degree holders as a whole. Below are the results and insights.

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  • Those with degrees from outside Canada (immigrants) are at a distinct disadvantage in finding work in engineering or professional positions;
  • Engineering and underemployment show huge gaps between those with engineering degrees from inside Canada and outside Canada;
  • In 2015, holders of degrees from inside Canada had more than twice the proportion than those with degrees from outside Canada in engineering; more than twice the proportion of degrees from outside Canada were underemployed than the proportion of degrees from inside Canada;
  • Gaps were even more pronounced for women, with half of women with degrees from outside Canada being underemployed in 2015;
  • Income gaps based on location of study narrowed between 2005 and 2015;
  • The narrowest income gaps were in engineering;
  • There are roughly similar gaps between men and women when based on location of study.

Do Engineers Across Canada Experience the Same Job Trends as Ontarians?

Next, we analyzed the census data to see how Canadian engineers compared to engineers in Ontario when it came to job placements. Do both groups follow similar trends between 2005 and 2015? What about the gender balance between roles in the different regions? What about those with engineering degrees from outside of Canada? Click below to see the full results and insights.

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  • Figures 1 & 2 show the differences between Ontario and Canadian Engineers, in terms of the type of jobs they held in 2005 and 2015;
  • Except for professional jobs in 2005 and being underemployed in 2015, there are clear differences between what types of professions engineers work in when comparing Ontario with Canada as a whole;
  • A positive trend in these figures shows both Professional and Engineering jobs held increasing from 2005 to 2015 across the board, with less engineers being underemployed, as well;
  • Figures 3 through 6 display the differences in Male and Female engineers, the type of job they held, and their region for 2005 and 2015;
  • These figures show large gaps between gender representation for both regions in 2005 and 2015, with more men working in engineering and more women being underemployed;
  • Although Ontario seems to employ engineers in more professional positions, engineers across Canada seem to find more work in their field;
  • A positive trend here also shows underemployment for engineers in both regions decreasing from 2005 to 2015;
  • Figures 7 & 8 show the overall difference for jobs held by engineers for those that have Canadian engineering degrees vs. those that have engineering degrees from outside of Canada. Once again, those that acquire a Canadian engineering degree have a much easier time finding jobs in their field;
  • Figures 9 through 12 look at the same statistics, but separated by gender. As expected, the general trend is consistent here, with women having a harder time than men when finding work in their field;

How do Engineer Employment Rates Compare to those with Other Degrees?

Other articles in this series demonstrate that Canadian educated males fare better than women and certainly non-Canadian educated engineering degree holders. They also earn more income than the two comparable groups. That being said, when it comes to their employment rate in Canada, how do engineers compare to those with other types of degrees?

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  • Figure 1 compares the employment rates for those with engineering degrees and those with all other degrees from Canada and outside of Canada;
  • Positive engineering trends continue with this figure, showing those with engineering degrees have a higher likelihood of being employed in a professional position (including engineering roles), than those with all other degrees;
  • Figures 2 & 3 break Figure 1 down into Male vs. Female employment rates. Here, the biggest insights are how having an engineering degree from outside of Canada doesn't seem to matter too much for males, but for females, having an engineering degree could give them the employment edge;
  • Figure 4 shows the weighted median annual income for engineers vs. all degree holders in 2015, separated by gender and position. Here similar trends continue to be prevalent, with males earning more than females in both types of roles, and engineers earning more in comparison to those with all other degrees;
  • In Figures 5 & 6, we break Figure 4 down further by location of study. Again, those that obtained their degrees from outside of Canada, make considerably less across the board;
  • Figure 7 & 8 look at the differences in weighted median annual income of men and women by location of study - the pay gaps between those with Canadian degrees and degrees from abroad are similar to the gaps that exist between male and female income. Here again, males earn the most, and engineers make more than all other degrees;
  • Figure 9 drills down further and compares engineering degrees against business degrees - Here we see that engineering degree holders fare better than business degree holders in terms of gaining jobs in professional positions;
  • Figure 10 compares engineering and architecture degrees, and shows that although they work closely together, engineering degrees once again hold a higher weight than architecture degrees;
  • Figure 11 compared engineering degrees against education degrees, which seem to be more valuable. Those with education degrees from inside and outside of Canada had a higher chance of being employed in a professional position than their engineering counterparts;
  • Figure 12 compares engineering degrees to non-doctorate health degrees, which also had a higher professional employment rate than engineers inside of Canada. Health professionals across the board had higher chances of professional employment than engineers

Key Takeaways

After thorough analysis of engineering employment data and the way that the profession progressed from 2005 to 2015, the following conclusions can be made:

  • A graduate from a Canadian university with a degree in engineering has about a 4 in 10 chance of working in engineering and 8 in 10 chance of working in a professional position, including engineering;
  • Only a small proportion of women with engineering degrees work in engineering;
  • Women across the board earn less income than men, although the gap has narrowed since 2005;
  • Ontarians with an engineering degree working in engineering make up a slightly smaller proportion than engineering degree holders in Canada as a whole;
  • Ontarians with engineering degrees from outside of Canada (presumably immigrants) are at a clear disadvantage than those educated in Canada, both in terms of type of profession they work in and the income they earn;
  • There are proportionally more Ontarians with engineering degrees working in professional positions than Ontarians with degrees from all fields of study;
  • There is a lower proportion of Ontarians with engineering degrees from inside Canada who are underemployed than Ontarians with degrees from inside Canada from all fields of study;
  • Obtaining an engineering degree from a university in Canada is a worthwhile endeavour likely leading to employment in a professional position with a high income – especially if one is male;
  • OSPE will continue to work with government and industry to ensure obtaining an engineering degree is a worthwhile endeavour – no matter if it is from inside or outside Canada and no matter what gender one identifies with.

Analysis of the engineering profession on this level is helpful, not only to current engineers intrigued by the close future of their roles, but also to upcoming engineering graduates. Understanding the trajectory of a career in engineering can provide future engineers with a concrete path for them to set their goals upon. As we progress into the future, engineers of all status need to continue to contribute to the positive progress the engineering field is making towards equality in the workplace and to the general positive contribution that engineers make to our world every day.

How do you see the trends outlined above progressing into the 2025 census? Will the gender wage gap continue to shrink? Will more engineers be working in their field? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

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