WHY ENGINEER? — A cautionary tale for those who aspire to do so. — INTRO

I started writing this several months ago.  I would hope to turn it into a book at some point.  Let me know your thoughts on the matter.

Although this is non-fiction, I can’t say that all will agree with me about the truth of the matters discussed.  It is based upon my 50+ years of experience.  I would hope that counts  for something.

Here is the first part.  I’ll try to add to it each week, but no promises.


This work is dedicated to Earl, a good guy and remarkable engineer.


Why would anyone want to be an engineer?  Why would you want to be in a profession that is one of the least understood by the public, your family, and oddly enough, your fellow engineers?

You can’t answer these questions if you don’t know what engineering is all about.  So, I would like to help you.  And I am not going to do that by giving you advice.  The decision to become an engineer is completely up to you.  I’m simply going to tell you what it takes to be one and what it’s like to be one.  If this book influences your decision, if it causes some of you to abandon the idea and others to become an engineer, then this book has done all it can.

This book is not about the impact of engineering on civilization.  It is about the impact of engineering on you.   And I don’t know what that impact will be.  Your view of the impact is your view of the impact.

So, who am I to lead you down this path?  If I said there was a PhD after my name, most people would be satisfied.  Well, there isn’t.  If I said I was the engineering director for some large engineering firm, that might satisfy some, but I’m not.   I am an engineer – period.  If you want to know more, I am an aerospace engineer.  I have an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology and a masters degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  I am a licensed professional engineer in the State of Washington.  I started as an engineer in 1962, and at this writing, I am still a working engineer.

So, why write this book?  As long as I can remember there has always been a huge shortage of engineers in the United States, probably the whole world – but quantity isn’t everything.  I’m more interested in quality.  And I don’t think there’s much emphasis on it.  Being a brilliant student does not automatically make you a good engineer.  Answering the question as to why you are going into engineering by saying that you are good at math and science is not much of an answer when you have no clue as to what engineering is all about.  So let’s talk a little philosophy.

I once had a professor of industrial engineering who didn’t  fit the usual professorial mold.  He was what some would call “street smart.”  He probably made more money as a consultant than he did as a professor, and I would guess enjoyed it more also.  He had a simple definition for the word “engineer”.

“An engineer is someone who can do for one dollar what any fool can do for ten dollars.”

If you think you can fill that bill and would enjoy doing so, maybe you should go into engineering.  If you think the definition ignores the loftier goals of engineering, then beware! 


I don’t know, maybe I should put the introduction before the preface.  What do you think?  There’s a set of rules here, but I’m not sure what they are.  If it bothers you, just read the introduction first.  However, I don’t recommend that procedure.  This is where I tell you what is in the book in greater detail.  I wrote the preface to introduce the subject.  Here is where I introduce the book.

So, what would you like to know?  I don’t really expect an answer, but it is something you should consider.  I’ll consider it also if you send it to me.

I see nine topics of interest when it comes to deciding about becoming an engineer:

  1.  What is engineering?
  2. What should you put in your head?
  3. What can you only learn on the job?
  4. What is the difference between research, development, and production?
  5. What influences decisions?
  6. How do ethics fit in?
  7. What do I need to know about office politics?
  8. How much does engineering pay?
  9. Some rules of thumb!

I think I’ll break the book up into nine chapters and cover each topic separately.

So, that’s what is going to be in the book.  Now let’s see how many pages it turns out to be.