Will Automation Destroy Future Electrical Engineering Jobs?

I majored in Electrical engineering in college. As a high school senior, I had an easy college major choice.

I already had a passion for building things. To top it off, I loved the Discovery channel.

The channel showed amazing engineering from around the world. This fueled my interest as I wanted to see what engineers do.

Also, the future of jobs in electrical engineering looked great then too. Plus, many members of my family were engineers.

So, I had quick access to advice to better understand the profession. Now, fast forward to 2020.

You hear about machines, robots, and artificial intelligence taking over the world. As a result, the subject of automation receives a lot of attention.

Discussion on Universal Basic Income

Today, even presidential candidates running in the 2020 election have taken notice. They’ve made universal basic income (UBI) and jobs a focus of their campaigns.

These campaigns focus on how machines will one day take most of today’s jobs. Then, most humans will live in poverty without UBI.

Now, let’s better understand UBI. The UBI model gives all citizens of a country, financial support.

All citizens will receive a certain sum of money from the government. Your income or employment status doesn’t matter either.

Productivity And Hourly Compensation Growth With Automation

I can see this dark future as a reality one day. In the distant future, most jobs we know today will disappear.

But, until that day comes, I can see many jobs created through advanced technology.

As an example, in the 18th century, we had the industrial revolution. The introduction of machines created many new jobs.

This went against the belief that machines would leave everyone jobless. Now today, would you have guessed 40 years ago a teenager could become a millionaire through their TV? A teenager sitting in their parent’s basement playing video games all day?

Probably not. So, the question today becomes, “What type of jobs will we see created in the future?”

The Direction of Automation and Jobs

Automation will one-day end most all low skilled work. That said, throughout human history, new technology also creates more creative jobs.

I can’t see future jobs including a lot of back-breaking labor. I believe automation will create healthier jobs.

These new jobs will replace many jobs people hate today. So, people can train for these creative specialty jobs that’ll flex their minds.

Moving along, tech requires human support. Humans build and maintain both the hardware and software of today’s tech. Someone needs to do this work.

Further, new advanced technology bleeds into every industry. Tech today connects with near every product you could imagine.

By and large, the demand for human support will only increase over time. Of course, until machines repair machines.

Don’t worry though. I can’t see that day coming anytime soon.

How to Become Irreplaceable

Choose your profession wisely. Enter or switch into a profession where you build equity the older you get. A profession where a newly minted college grad can’t instantly replace you.

Future Of Automation By Job Type

You don’t want to become like a printer. Replaced without a second thought once you go up in age.

To become irreplaceable, build unique skills or become an expert in a niche. This will carry you into the future where only specialty skills remain.

To illustrate, I increase my knowledge base every year. I do this by designing many projects and overseeing the construction of my designs.

Also, by starting and running various businesses of my own.

I couldn’t have learned these skills by only reading textbooks. Rather, over time I gained experience equity.

The equity came from my hands-on experience. Also, solving challenging real-world problems.

In short, looking into the future I can’t see my work becoming automated anytime soon. Also, construction and business skills will remain valuable in the foreseeable future.

But, computers will streamline certain aspects of my work. For this reason, I always need to remain a step ahead.

Brief History into Electrical Engineering Jobs

We’ll now try to better understand the future job market. Looking into the history of electrical engineering will teach us a lot.

I’m always fascinated by how the profession evolved through the years.

Electrical engineering went from one focus to a profession with countless specialties. Today, the profession employs 300,000 plus Americans. This according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I’m sure the figure includes a lot of non-engineers too. But still, a significant count.

Electrical And Electronics Engineers Employment Statistics In America

Early History of Electrical Engineering Jobs

In the late 19th century, an electrical engineer would work on the new electric telegraph. This became the first professional electrical engineering profession.

In this time, the electrical engineering profession had limited specialty jobs. But, a promising future lay ahead. The communication industry had sparked a new job market.

The electrical job market started to grow fast. Near the same time, Werner von Siemens gave us the industrial generator.

He created a new industry out of thin air. Utilities now brought power to both homes and businesses like magic.

At the same time, the U.S. power grid began to grow. The power grid had to reach more and more people.

This growth required constant maintenance and innovation. As a result, many new jobs formed to support the power grid’s increased load.

Also, jobs formed to improve the reliability and safety of the power grid.

The power grid grew from one pocket of America to connecting almost all America. This growth sparked many new technologies.

Electricity had become plentiful and accessible to everyone. Like the discovery of fire, electricity changed life as we know it today.

United States Electricity Generation In Kilowatt Hours

Moving ahead, in 1888 Heinrich Hertz discovered electromagnetic waves. This led to the introduction of electronics.

You can find electronics in all parts of your life today. That said, every product that uses electronics typically has a unique specialty.

So, this creates a demand for even more electrical engineering specialty jobs.

Back in the day, companies started to hire their own electrical engineers. Companies wanted to upgrade to electrical products.

They also wanted to build an electrical infrastructure for their factories. Otherwise, their business would suffer because of changing times.

Later History of Electrical Engineering Jobs

By now you see how industries influenced by electricity evolve. Nothing remains constant.

One discovery leads to another like dominos. This then leads us to transistors.

In 1947, the world forever changed with the invention of the transistor. Personal computing pushed humans into a new era.

I believe the smartphone best symbolizes the peak of this transistor era.

Today humans have become married to their smartphones. Smartphones instantly connect us to the other side of the world.

Also, we gain access to more information than we could ever consume in hundreds of lifetimes.

So, we need electrical engineers to build, support, and advance this technology. We get better and faster phones this way that we obsess over.

Now, this increased job demand affects many industries beyond smartphones. I view most every device as an industry of its own.

With this demand, you need to constantly learn to upgrade your skills. Even specialty skills need refinement in these fast-changing times.

Professions no longer change at a tortoise’s pace. Rather, they evolve on steroids.

Electrical Engineering Today and in the Future

Now back to the 21st century. Let’s look at the trending news in the electrical world and mainstream media.

The news circles around renewable energy, robotics, AI, and other future technologies. Electrical engineers lead the way with these technologies.

So, the demand for electrical engineers will only increase over time. They’ll design and support the tech that’ll bring us a science fiction reality.

To highlight this new demand in the electrical sector today, we’ll look at electric cars. Today electric cars have become synonymous with Elon Musk and his company Tesla.

That said, the phasing out of internal combustion engine cars will lead to great job loss. But, a new industry will grow in its place with electric cars.

Growing Global Electric Car Demand

We need electrical engineers to build these future electric cars. Also, to support the new sub-industries created because of electric cars.

New Sub-Industries Created From Electric Cars

Let’s go over several of these sub-industries:

1) Battery Technology: I view batteries as the heart of electric cars. For this reason, you see the battery industry booming.

We want to increase the driving range, and reduce battery weight and cost. All the while, improving battery safety and performance.

2) Autonomous Vehicle Technology: a car driving itself without human support. Today every major tech and car company invests in this new technology.

3) Charging Stations: we need electric car charging stations to power our future cars. No different than gas fuel stations of today.

Electrical engineers need to design the power connection to these charging stations. Also, to research how to improve charging station tech.

Further, charging stations that don’t connect to the power grid still need designers. Imagine a charging station connected to solar panels and batteries.

4) Car Interiors: improving the car interior with the bells and whistles we all love and expect.

Moving into the future, the car interiors will advance too. This will further improve the driving experience for both the driver and passengers.

5) Electric Utility Improvements: more cars will need to connect to the power grid every day to charge. Also, city infrastructures will need to accommodate electric cars.

We need these modifications to our power grid and city infrastructures. This will affect all 50 American states.

To sum up, I only covered several newly created jobs through electric cars. But, this same way of thinking carries over to almost every other industry.

Today’s Booming Technology

Today technology weaves itself into everything we know. With every weave, technology creates more specialty jobs.

As I’ve said, these specialty jobs will soon become a staple in the future.

Looking at my life alone, I have a smartphone, laptop, smart refrigerator, smart TV, and the list goes on. Each of these items once created many new jobs.

All in all, how many people do you know who don’t want faster, smarter, smaller, lighter, and cheaper devices? Few I would think.

Now multiply these advancements across all the industries you know. You can now see how we need more electrical engineers to support these advancements.

Fast Technological Growth Into Future

Utility Jobs for Electrical Engineers

I see utility job openings for electrical engineers all the time. I live in Northern California, but I see openings in many states.

With a growing population, our power grid needs to provide power to more and more people as we learned.

We also need to meet California’s bold goal of 100 percent zero-carbon electricity by 2045. This increased demand for workers doesn’t even account for our outdated power grid.

A lot of our power grid’s electrical equipment needs replacement. The equipment includes transformers, switchgear, switchboards, and so on.

As I’ve repeated, the demand for electrical engineering jobs will only grow as we move into the future.

Not All a Cake Walk

I may have made the search to find a future job sound too easy. In truth, anything worthwhile requires effort and sacrifice.

With globalization and an increasing population, employment competition will only increase. But, you’ll also find greater opportunities for jobs in all corners of the globe.

Every year more developing countries become modernized.

Countries With Most STEM Graduates Globally

That said, you’ll need to work smart and hard. You may even need to move to another state or country.

But, once you gain experience, you should have a path to an eventual great job. The barrier to entry of the jobs of tomorrow will give you greater job security too.

Even more, if you have the entrepreneurial gene you can take an added giant step forward. Start your tech-focused or non-tech related business. Combine your engineering skills with your business skills.

Regardless of the path you choose, you’ll need to always learn to stay ahead of the competition. For example, let’s take a look at one of the top athletes ever.

Michael Jordan entered the NBA in 1984. He won his first championship in 1991.

When Jordan first became a champion, he didn’t slow down. He continued practicing shooting free throws and perfecting his footwork. His thirst to stay on top in his field made him practice even more.

He became even more relentless with his workouts. This led him to become one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

Jordan always fascinates me. Especially one story from his Chicago Bulls’ teammates. They said his practices were more intense than the actual NBA games he played. Imagine that!

How I Treat Jobs

I never treat a job and especially business as clock in and clock out work. Rather, I always do my best to learn as much as I can.

I entered into my professions because I had a thirst for the work. So, I always feed my mind with knowledge to quench that thirst.

As an illustration, think of Elon Musk. Elon didn’t go to school to master the ins and outs of rockets before he started Space X.

He devoured textbooks on his own time. Also, he surrounded himself with the brightest minds in the aerospace field. This way, he could absorb all their knowledge.

So, never allow a job’s responsibilities to limit you to specific actions and habits. If a job requires you to do X, it doesn’t mean you can’t do X and Y together.

Use this as a hack on how to become a great engineer. Also, how to avoid future age discrimination. A reality for many engineers as they move up in age.

Equally important, don’t become comfortable in any job. You need to always adapt to changing times. Otherwise, you’ll fall behind in today’s fast-changing world.

As an analogy, imagine wild animals. They migrate for food every year despite predators roaming nearby.

These wild animals hold food above their fears. The animal kingdom teaches us survival at all costs.

Jobs in the Future and Engineering

I’ve discussed how the demand for electrical engineers will only increase over time. Using my own experience, and looking into our past and future, I see a bright future.

The profession won’t disappear in the coming decades.

You may even make other jobs disappear working as an electrical engineer. But, don’t feel too bad as you’ll create more creative jobs in return.

That said, most all types of engineering have a bright future. Also, we have the trades that go in hand with these engineering professions. Think of electricians, welders, plumbers, and so on.

These engineering and trade jobs will only increase. I see these jobs fueling today’s and tomorrow’s road to a comfortable life and even riches.

As I have shown, engineering will continue to advance society. No different than how oil advanced America many decades ago.

John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil Company changed America forever. They remained ahead of all the trends while looking into the future.

By the same token, earning your engineering degree will give you a lot of flexibility. Look at this abbreviated list of Americans who hold engineering degrees:

  • Tim Cook – CEO of Apple
  • Jeff Bezos – Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Amazon
  • Mary Barra – CEO of General Motors
  • Larry Page – Co-Founder, and CEO of Alphabet (Google)
  • Michael Bloomberg – Founder of Bloomberg L.P.

The engineering degree makes a great investment. To maximize your future success, look at yourself 30 years down the road.

You shouldn’t become overwhelmed with the direction of technology. Instead, do your best to join the technology movement to avoid it passing you by.

How do you view the future of engineering? What type of jobs do you foresee in the future? Do you think we one day will have UBI?


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