Said Jimmy Stewart's character in "It's a Wonderful
Life," George Bailey, "I'm shakin' the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I'm gonna see
the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I'm comin' back here to go to college
and see what they know. And then I'm gonna build things. I'm gonna build airfields, I'm gonna build
skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I'm gonna build bridges a mile long..." It was common dream for
an era when Americans were tired of the struggling economy of The Great Depression and great advances
were being made in technology. The world was still a mystery to most people whose familiarity with foreign
lands was limited to grade school geography books, encyclopedias, and local libraries. There was no Internet
or even cable TV with the Discovery Channel. Articles like this one motivated generations of kids to
pursue their dreams and build a new world.
What's Ahead for You in Engineering?
An "ATH" Career Survey for High School Students
Never before have there been so many or such alluring opportunities
as now await the young fellow who wants to be an engineer. America will be needing annually 50,000 engineers
for some years to come - well over twice as many as present indications show the schools are graduating.
They'll be wanted and welcomed by industry trying to meet the demands of a population increasing at
the rate of a quarter of a million a month, by the accelerated defense program, by research and development
work of all kinds.
Washington Water Power Company's Cabinet Gorge Hydroelectric Development in Idaho
is typical of vast new power projects here and abroad.
All right, you've probably heard about the shortage of engineers, seen some of these colossal, cold-sounding
figures. But exactly what does it all mean to you - the high school student? What kind of opportunities
will be waiting when you finally get an engineering diploma? Where will the best chances lie? And suppose
you have a real urge along technical and scientific lines yet feel you possess talents in other fields
as well - would engineering be your best bet?
This survey is intended .to answer such questions.
Let's have a look at electrical engineering. This, of course, is one of the five principal branches
- the others being civil, mechanical, mining and metallurgical, and chemical. The electrical engineer
deals with the transmission of energy and speedy communications, and within these two main divisions
are found the various specializations many of which offer rich opportunities in the years ahead.
It need hardly be pointed out that the development and application of television goes on apace. More
and more TV is being used in industry - with the camera, for instance, recording the progress of a red-hot
strip of steel from one area to another in a sheet and tin mill for a distant operator watching a receiving
set. War-born radar is being put to an increasing number of peacetime purposes. Fluorescent lighting
is receiving ever-wider application.
All such things naturally mean more jobs for electrical engineers. They also denote a little-realized
fact which bears on engineering in general: the technological age sponsored by America is only now getting
into high gear. In the 20 years from 1918 to 1938, the use of electrical energy for domestic purposes
increased eight times. This period saw today's commonplaces - electric range, home food freezer, or
dish washer - develop from lab experiment into household necessity. With population jumping and the
standard of living climbing, more engineers are sought for more research to develop more new products.
In engineering circles today you hear a great deal about "nucleonics." All branches are actively
interested in the study of atomic energy and how to ·use it - constructively. Many colleges are grouping
this subject into their electrical engineering course. The "E.E." is specifically needed in the electromagnetic
separation of isotopes requiring an extensive list of electrical apparatus. R.C.A. recently announced
the "atomic battery" - as yet just a long-life small battery, but a definite step toward obtaining electricity
directly from atomic energy ... Tomorrow, when you get your degree, "nucleonics" will spell vastly bigger
and better chances.
All drawings from "Engineering - A Creative Profession," published by Engineers'
Council for Professional Development.
The utilities are among those investigating atomic energy. The whole power field is worth your consideration.
In constant need of electrical engineers, this industry doubles itself every ten years. More industry
in general is requiring power and long-range transmission of it is creating new jobs.
As the need for more power increases, more public utility projects will be built. Construction in
this respect since the war has been on the boom, both here and elsewhere, and from indications the trend
will continue. American firms are called on by "power-hungry" countries to design, supervise or build
Urgent need for highway (civil) engineers. Here: bridge for "Autopista" road, Venezuela.
Ebasco Services, for instance, in the last few years has functioned in one or more of these ways
on the first arch dam in Japan, on a hydroelectric development in northern Greece, on others in Brazil
and Peru. This company, the world's largest in utility construction, is very active in this field throughout
our own country.
In transportation, the electrical plant is assuming greater importance every year. In today's diesel
locomotive, there is more electrical equipment than in an electric locomotive. Planes and ships are
demanding far more complex electrical systems. The wider application of the gas turbine - research in
their use for the family automobile has already produced results - implies lots more work ahead for
the electrical engineer, as well as other types.
One of the other main branches of engineering involved in gas turbine development is mechanical.
Let's consider this large and important segment of the profession in detail. The mechanical engineer
is the one who deals with machinery and the power to operate it. He designs and builds engines, ships,
boilers, plants for turning out machine tools, etc. His specializations include automotive engineering,
aeronautical and heating and ventilating.
And he's the one who must design and build those gas turbines that are opening up a whole new field
in powerplants. Another job area where he'll be much in demand is that new trend in American industry
called "automation." Pioneered by Ford, this is the system wherein mechanical devices take the place
of humans in making automatically certain choices or decisions on the basis of information fed to them
in various ways:
A simple example is the thermostat. Far more intricate gadgets have been installed at General Electric
and DuPont - the chemical industry is a natural for automation. Its increasing use will spell brand-new
opportunities in the tool design field for the mechanical engineer.
"Air conditioning" is now a familiar term. Again the mechanical branch - or the heating and ventilating
engineer - must design and build to fill the growing demand. With more industrial processes requiring
plants with controlled temperature and humidity and "sterile" air, the mechanical engineer will be needed
to conceive and install the equipment ... Likewise, the refrigeration engineer should expect plenty
of offers both for making the machinery involved or supervising the operation of quick-freezing food
plants, cold-storage warehouses and the like.
Both now and tomorrow, the opportunities for the aeronautical engineer in this country are the chance-of-a-lifetime
kind if you have the qualifications. Jet power has brought about a revolution in aviation, making planes
faster and more complex. New forms like the helicopter are coming into their own; others like the convertiplane
and guided missiles are being developed with amazing progress. Airline routes are growing longer and
more ramified, and more freight is being transported through the sky.
All this creates the necessity for more engineers. They are wanted not only by the busy airframe
and engine manufacturers but for liaison by a good proportion of the 60,000 sub-contractors and suppliers
of parts and accessories. In addition, aero engineers are much needed for research programs carried
on by both industry and government.
Uncle Sam is the big employer in research. The largest labs of this type in the world are operated
by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics at Langley and two other fields. At present the,
NACA payroll alone for this purpose contains 7,500 names. Both the Air Force and the Navy also hire
civilian engineers for their own research and development programs. The AF runs half a dozen experimental
stations such as those at Muroc AFB and Wright-Patterson, while the Navy has various test and development
centers. Work in guided missiles by the air arm is yet another research activity.
And still in addition, the Air Force and the Navy farm out research and development to independent
commercial organizations or schools like Cal Tech and M.I.T. Hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts
have been awarded to these and other labs. Such organizations are hungry for engineering graduates,
and will be for some time to come.
Poised for firing from portable ramp of Navy carrier is Regulus guided missile. Boundless
opportunities for the aeronautical engineer.
Increasing use of television in industry is only one boon for electrical engineers,
as in banking operation here. Photo: RCA Victor Div.
Chances are you'll jockey around a bit in your jalopy during this summer vacation. One sight you'll
come across in your travels is road building. The highway program in this country is years behind schedule
and one of the chief reasons is not lack of funds but shortage of civil engineers. Both federal and
state commissions are pushing highway construction as fast as possible. Likewise, practically every
large city has been building or is contemplating urban expressways - here the program is 10 years in
arrears. And foreign countries like Bolivia and Peru are employing American engineers to help cut roads
through high-mountain terrain, build bridges where nature once felt safe .... New oil and mine fields
in South America must have accessibility.
The civil engineer, of course, is one who also designs and constructs buildings, dams, railroads,
water and sewage systems, tunnels, and does all kinds of surveying. He also maintains the various installations
Besides the continuing critical need for the C.E. in highway engineering, there should be definite
opportunities in long-range pipeline work. You've seen or read about the "Big Inch," which carries natural
gas from Texas to New Jersey. Less publicized but far more extensive in use are the oil lines, such
as the Platte pipeline that transports crude oil for 1056 miles from Wyoming wells in the Rockies to
refineries at Wood River near St. Louis ... The employment of pipelines is a growing trend, and for
a number of purposes.
Getting back to Peru, we quote from a report in a house organ by R. G. LeTourneau, head of the famous
Texas firm active in engineering projects in South America: "One day as I walked a hundred feet or so
behind the Dozer cutting a trail, the native about thirty feet behind me began yelling. I had just passed
within ten feet of a Boa Constrictor snake at the base of a huge tree ... " Well, that particular snake
died, however much he may have wanted to stem the tide of progress now sweeping over his country. There
is exploration and digging into the ground and heavy construction, and U. S. companies have a hand in
most of it. American Smelting & Refining is planning to invest a hundred million to develop Peru's
copper deposits, and Utah Construction is opening the iron deposits in the southern part. In Bolivia,
too, the snakes have cause to be wary ... While up in Canada there's a rush on for copper, desperately
needed by growing utilities, and considerable liveliness in cobalt, a prime defense alloy.
In other words, if your ambition is to become a mining engineer
there should be good prospects along conventional lines in both North and South America. The big news
in mining today, however, is uranium.
You've read about the Colorado Plateau, where a young fellow named Charlie Steen stumbled on what
became a strike worth hundreds of millions just in dollars. In the Lake Athabasca region in Saskatchewan
150 companies are busy as the result of the fabulous strike there. Last March, a Toronto consulting
engineer discovered near Blind River a field that promises to be as rich in uranium as the one in Colorado.
One uranium mining HQ in Canada. Atomic energy: great chances for all engineering.
What will be the uranium picture by the time you become an engineer? Obviously, a strike may happen
any time, almost anywhere. Or there may be long intervals between strikes. We know that our Atomic Energy
Commission has a contract with Canada to buy all that country's uranium production until 1963. Of course,
it is possible that uranium may be superseded in regard to atomic energy - that entirely new methods
in producing atomic power may be developed.
Far more definite is today's - and tomorrow's - need for engineers in petroleum production. This
is undoubtedly the greatest shortage in the mining branch. The reason has to do with the rapid advancements
in oil in recent years, improvements in refining, the new uses for the products. Part of the job is
locating the "black gold." In this country exploration work is constant; east Texas is still the world's
largest producer. In the upper Amazon basin U. S. firms have begun large-scale operations in areas that
may make Peru a major supplier of oil. And rigs are being set up in Alberta, Canada.
Just a couple of months ago you probably read about Bell Labs announcing a successful solar battery
- but don't shy away from petroleum engineering because you're afraid oil will soon be replaced by other
sources of energy, whether solar or atomic. Research is constantly uncovering new uses for oil. Mr.
Frank M. Porter, president of the American Petroleum Institute, very effectively points out that 2500
different chemicals can be extracted from oil and gas. Another estimate has it that one and a half million
different compounds may be obtained from petroleum if commercial uses can be found for them.
Nor should you overlook the genuine opportunities ahead for metallurgical engineers. New kinds of
power are calling for new kinds of metal-alloys, for instance, that can withstand the high temperatures
connected with jet engines. Titanium has possibilities as one of tomorrow's new general metals; it is
twice as strong as steel and half as heavy. Much research is being done on this and other items of promise,
for use in everything from jewelry to machines and transportation vehicles ... Industry will welcome
tomorrow's metallurgist with open arms.
These Leaders in American Industry Say:
''The Scientific Manpower Commission estimates a shortage of 35,000 to 40,000 engineering
specialists and 5,000 to 10,000 scientists in the coming year. These figures, however, do not fully
reflect total shortage of scientific manpower. With research and development a four-billion dollar business
in the United States this year, we .may well contemplate what other projects might have been undertaken
if scientific manpower was available. For a nation which is becoming increasingly dependent on fundamental
research and development for its national security as well as its economic welfare, the cost of this
shortage of scientists and engineers is incalculable. Certainly, opportunities for young men in all
fields of .science and engineering are brighter than they have ever been before." -- A. C. Monteith
"With every passing year the opportunities for individual success are increasing
enormously. In my lifetime I have seen the birth of the automobile, the invention of the airplane,
the development of chemical synthetics and -plastics, the miracle of electronics· and the dawn of the
atomic age with all the infinite promise it holds for the future welfare of man. And still science
rushes on, crossing one new frontier after another, and finding. beyond each one, a whole unexplored
wilderness of opportunity." -- Benjamin F. Fairless
''The future of our American scientific heritage rests in the hands of the students
of today. Science is still at its frontiers, and it will be up to these youngsters to transform it into
benefits for a prosperous tomorrow. To make them realize the importance of their burden must be OUT
contribution to the future." -- Ralph J. Gardiner
"Research and development being conducted today give us some insight into the future,
for we know that the laboratory experiments of today are the everyday products of tomorrow. Here are
my ten engineering problems for the future: 1. More Efficient Gas Turbines and Other Power Plants. 2.
Power Directly from the Sun. 3. Process for Obtaining Materiols from Earth's Crust and Seas. 4. Control
of Corrosion of Metals. 5. Development of an Adequate Highway System. 6. Practical Atomic Power Plant.
7. Process for Obtaining Fresh Water from the Sea. 8. Development of New Synthetic Materials. 9. Application
of Engineering Principles to Social Problems. 10. Disaster Control-Storms, Floods, Hurricaes and Droughts."
- -C. L. McCuen
Perhaps you'd like to become a chemical engineer. If so, you have selected a branch whose opportunities
are without limit - for the future of chemistry is unbounded. In just the last twenty years the number
of chemical engineers has increased tenfold. Much of our industry is dependent on chemistry, and new
derivations and products are constantly creating new divisions in industry, meaning additional chances
for the chemical engineering.
For instance, not so long ago most of our alcohol was derived from molasses. Today, alcohol from
petroleum is giving that process competition. Or take plastics.
The vinyl plastics have provided us with a substitute for leather. Plastics created from silicone
resins have made rockets and guided missiles possible - for they can resist the high temperatures involved.
Or consider synthetic fibers from coal, petroleum and the like: the material of your fancy new slacks
represents only the beginning of possible developments in this field. Just as a feather in the wind,
it might be noted that today the petroleum industry hires more "comical engineers" (as the undergraduate
chemical engineer likes to libel himself) than any other kind.
Right here, it might be explained that it's the chemical engineer who takes the lab discoveries of
chemists and turns them into commercial realities. It's his job to take such new finds or developments
as penicillin or high-octane gasoline and make them useful to us, to learn how to manufacture them economically
and on a large scale.
The industrial application of chemical processes is widespread - playing an important part in industries
having to do with food, rubber, grass, paper, iron, steel and many other things. And not only does our
man "engineer" a process like extracting vegetable oils from beans or seeds with solvents, but often
he must devise new instruments or equipment to meet new problems.
Nucleonics needs the chemical engineer. There are probably more of his type employed at the atomic
energy plants than any other branch of engineering or science. And have you ever heard of the Atomic
Industrial Forum? This organization, composed of key representatives of industry, is busy exchanging
information among companies and functioning otherwise to help convert atomic energy to peacetime use.
The more the whole program expands, the louder will be the call for chemical engineers.
Industry in general is working behind the scenes to make tomorrow a better and more prosperous world;
for it knows that what helps one helps all, The immense research programs it carries on imply expanding
opportunities for you - and much of that research is the fundamental kind. At General Motors, for example,
Mr. Charles F. Kettering, the veteran engineer and scientist, has an entire staff trying to discover
"why the grass is green." Cracking nature's secret of, photosynthesis might mean chemically harnessing
for all mankind the prime energy of the sun. As pointed out by Mr. McCuen, the manager of GM's research
labs, solar energy falling upon one square mile of the earth's surface per day is equivalent to 400,000
gallons of oil or 2,000 tons of coal ... which themselves represent the sun's energy one or more steps
The functions of the engineer are broadening. Mr. Maynard M. Boring, manager of General Electric's
Technical Personnel Divisions, has said: "That (industrial or manufacturing engineering) is a field
that is going to grow very rapidly in the next few years because production has become so extremely
complex. You simply cannot depend on the fellow coming up through the machine shop to take over the
complexities of today's production. It's a big new field for new engineers."
The industrial engineer is the man who is concerned with the efficient use of labor, machines and
material. Specializations include safety, plant layout, time and motion. Industrial engineers may come
from practically any of the five main branches.
Suppose you like science and math but feel you'd be better off in the general managing end of business.
There is news for you. More and more industries are filling their staff positions with the engineer-trained
- jobs until recently not considered part of engineering, such as sales and market research. Now over
40 percent of top management in industry are men who were originally trained as engineers. In this respect,
they are replacing the banker and the lawyer.
The man with an engineering background - the trained ability to analyze all factors involved in a
problem and on their basis evolve a solution for it - is being increasingly sought in such fields and
professions as government work, cost accounting, investment advising, sales and advertising campaign
directing and the like.
Whatever your interest in engineering, there are certain things you can and should do now while still
a high school undergraduate. First, take as much math and science as you can, both to meet college requirements
and to make the road ahead a little easier. The actual number of units varies among the engineering
colleges; this information may be had from the individual schools; your teacher, principal or guidance
counselor will be glad to help you find things out. Don't neglect history and social sciences; you'll
want to be well-rounded. By all means don't neglect English. A sad fact: certain large companies today
are sponsoring classes in English composition, including business letters, for their "backward" executives.
A foreign language - French, German, Spanish - can be it definite asset. Another fact: firms sending
men abroad often have them first take a course in a particular foreign tongue ... So why not get the
jump on the opposition by preparing yourself now?
The following booklets and pamphlets are suggested reading; a number contain further source material:
"Engineering - a Creative Profession." 25 cents. Published by the Engineers' Council for Professional
Development, Engineering Societies Building, 29 West 39th St., New York 18, N. Y.
"Engineering as a Career." 15 cents. Published by Engineer's Council for Professional Development,
29 West 39th St., New York 18, N. Y.
"The Electrical Engineer," 25 cents. Published by American Institute of Electrical Engineers, 29
West 39th St., New York 18, N. Y.
"Careers in the Mineral Industries." Free. Published by American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical
Engineers, 29 West 39th St., New York 18, N. Y.
"It's a Wonderful Life," George Bailey, "I'm shakin' the dust of this crummy
little town off my feet and I'm gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum.
Then, I'm comin' back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I'm gonna build things.
I'm gonna build airfields, I'm gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I'm gonna build
bridges a mile long..."