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2018 Microwaves & RF Salary & Career Report: Education

Continuing the series that examines the results and trends gleaned from our annual survey, this second part discusses the current state of education within the industry.

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In August, we published the first installment of our annual Microwaves & RF Salary & Career Report findings, which focused on job satisfaction within the industry. In this second part, we’ll focus in on the topic of education. What did our report reveal? Let’s dive right in.

The main question for this section of the survey asked: “How are engineers maintaining their education?” According to the results, white papers are the leading source—73.8% of respondents take advantage of them. This should come as no surprise given the amount of white papers circulating out there, and the fact that, for the most part, they’re easily accessible.

Magazines are the second-leading source, with 72.2% saying that they read magazines to sustain their education. Websites, webinars, and articles/blogs are also favored by many—they’re exploited by 65.8%, 65.3%, and 64.2% of respondents, respectively. These results suggest that engineers count on a variety of resources to maintain their education, which is basically what one would expect in today’s world.

Degrees of Education

Responses were eye-opening regarding the question: “What is the minimum education an engineer should have?” While 46.2% of respondents hold a master’s or doctoral degree, only 18.7% believe that a master’s degree represents the minimum level of education that an engineer should have (1.4% report the minimum to be a PhD). The majority of respondents—63.8%—say a bachelor’s degree should be the minimum.

So, do engineers really need a master’s degree? Or is solid practical experience obtained by working in the industry more valuable than the classroom experience gained by pursuing advanced degrees? The results indicate that a large percentage of engineers tended to agree with the latter. Many readers attest that certain aspects of RF/microwave engineering can only be learned through real-world experience.

That discussion ties into another question from the report. When asked if universities are adequately preparing students for careers in the RF/microwave industry, only 22.5% of respondents said yes; 40.5% answered no, while 37% weren’t sure.

What could universities do differently to better prepare students? “Teach more on instrumentation,” said one respondent. “Many students get limited or no hands-on experience with scopes or spectrum analyzers.”

Some respondents believe that universities should work more closely with the industry. One commented, “Universities should integrate actual industry experts into the teaching. If instructors are not actively working in the industry, they rapidly lose relevance due to the rapidly changing technologies involved.”

One interesting quote came from a respondent who remarked, “Universities are usually 5-10 years behind the technology curve. They need a better visiting professor system.” Another simply said, “Universities should find professors that have had practical experience in the field.”

Continuing that theme, 91.1% think that companies should work more closely with universities. However, only 43.6% say their company actually maintains close ties with universities. Is this a number that needs to increase? Many seem to think so, but skepticism remains on that front. In any case, those working at companies that have ties with universities explained some of the activity that’s taking place.

“We are working with a local university to set up an RF measurement laboratory,” said one respondent. Another commented, “We actively pursue, hire, and train co-op students from the two large universities in our state. Some of these co-ops have been hired as engineers after they graduate. We also sponsor projects for universities for technology development.”

Please feel free to contact us with any comments once you’ve looked at the data. And stay tuned for the next installment, which will discuss salaries in the industry.

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