Relative job growth trends for engineers from The search engine searches openings at thousands of job sites. Credit:

The Society for Automotive Engineers just released a survey-based study on anticipated employment trends for engineers in the 2011-2016 timeframe. The study focused on the so-called mobility industries: automotives, aerospace and commercial vehicles (e.g., construction equipment, trucks, tanks, armored personnel carriers, etc.). The report is free to SAE members.

According to the executive summary, the employment picture for SAE’s constituency is looking rosy for the next five years. The study compiles information collected through surveys, personal interviews with high-level HR managers and government statistics. All respondents indicated that they expect to hire engineers in the next five years and most of it in 2011. The automotive and aerospace sectors plan to add positions in the next 1-2 years; the commercial vehicle sector will lag a little bit, adding positions in the next 1-3 years. Most of the hiring activity will be with OEMs in the automotive industry, and they are expecting to hire an average of 500-1000 engineers each.

The SAE report identifies mechanical engineers as the most in-demand group, followed by industrial, electrical and manufacturing engineers. Materials engineers are expected to represent about 2% of the new hires in the automotive sector, and 1% and 4% respectively in the aerospace and commercial vehicle sectors.

The good news for materials engineers appears to be substantiated by information available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition. According to the OOH, the employment outlook for engineers overall is expected to be good and to grow at about 7-13 % in the next ten years. The expected job growth for materials engineers is projected to be right in the middle of that range at about 9%, increasing from about 24,400 jobs in 2008 to 26,600 projected in 2018. Within the motor vehicle manufacturing (NAICS 33610) category, BLS is forecasting an overall reduction in the engineering work force by 2018 compared to 2008, however, materials engineers are expected to be affected only slightly.

Salary-wise, OOH reports a median salary of about $82k for materials engineers. The OOH just happens to mention that among engineers employed by the federal government, our brethren ceramic engineers pull top honors with mean annual salaries of just under $127k.

Relative job growth trends for ceramic engineers from The search engine searches openings at thousands of job sites. Credit:

However, it’s important to remain realistic. Joy about the outlook for engineering job growth should be tempered by other economic indicators that offer more gloomy scenarios. Recently, CNN reported that the recovery is losing momentum with hiring slower than expected in May and slightly worse unemployment.

There are glimmers of hope. The National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Job Outlook 2011 Spring Update reports that employers expect to hire 19% more new graduates out of the just-graduated class of 2011 – and that is across all majors and industry sectors – than they did last year.

Anecdotally, the press releases in our inboxes are telling a story of confidence and investment. Here is a sampling.

Morgan Technical Ceramics – Expanding Latrobe, Pa., facility for manufacturing of alumina and steatite micro-size products.

Momentive Performance Materials – Expanding ceramic powders production manufacturing facility in Strongsville, Ohio with a $5.8 million, 6,000 square foot project.

Nanocerox – Expanding it Ann Arbor, Mich. based manufacturing and R&D facilities by 20% to meet market demand for ceramic nanopowders and optical ceramics.

MesoCoat Inc. – Building a new manufacturing plant in Euclid, Ohio to produce ceramic wear-resistant coatings and clads for steel tube, pipe, and plate.