Thursday, May 15, 2008

Evergreen Civil Engineering Field

It is admission time in India for undergraduate engineering courses now. If trends of the last year are taken to be an indication, the computer science and electronics branches of engineering are going to have maximum demand. The traditional engineering branches like Mechanical and Civil Engineering could be branches with least rush. In many engineering colleges they are abolishing seats allocated to Civil and Mechanical Engineering and replacing it with Computer Science, Electronics and IT branches.

People think that compared to other branches of engineering, Civil Engineering is the least lucrative with no jobs available for those who graduate. On the other hand you could get multiple job offers from software companies if you are doing other branches of engineering and your starting salary will be mind boggling by Indian standards. On the other hand a Civil Engineering undergraduate will start with a salary as low as Rs. 3000 to 4000/month. Who on earth wants to take a job as a Civil Engineer when the difference in starting salary is over Rs. 25,000?

Having done bachelors, masters and a PhD in Civil Engineering I believe that in the long run Civil Engineering jobs fetch you equal or better returns compared to software jobs. It is more than 10 years since I did my under graduation. One of my classmate joined a reputed software company and was very happy for the first year mainly due to the salary she was earning. By the start of the second year she started bitching about the number of hours she had to work (she had to work almost 12 hours a day and 6 days a week)and about how her pay has become stagnant. By the 3rd year she moved to another company to get a better pay but there her work load was much more. She resigned and again joined another company by the start of 5th year and is working in the company since then. Every time I talk to her she complains about the lack of pay rise and work culture.

This is a sharp contrast to another of my class mates. After graduation he joined one of the construction companies in Kerala with a starting pay of Rs. 2000! He had to be on site most of the time and his life was tough. He used to compare his pay with his friends working in the software field. But things have changed now. He has over 10 years experience in construction industry and last time I met him he is earning more than my other classmate in the software field. Initially my friend was making only Rs. 2000 and his life was hell but now he gets a lot of time to spend with his family and is happy.

Increase in pay for a Civil Engineer with about 5 years experience is phenomenal. This is a trend that is observed not only in India but also in Middle East and US. I have so many of my friends in Middle East and they tell me that a Civil Engineer with more than 5 years experience is a hot commodity there.

Observing my numerous friends in both software and civil engineering fields this is the graph I developed. It compares the salary of a software professional and a Civil Engineer over a period of few years. Just see the slope of both the curves. Initially the difference in salaries for a civil engineer and a software professional will be huge. The salary of the civil engineer will start to rise considerably by around 5th year and he overtakes the salary of the software engineer with a 10 year experience.

This trend can also be seen in the US. My boss who has more than 10 years experience as a Civil Engineer, makes much more than a software engineer with 10 years experience. On top of it, job security of a Civil Engineer in US is much more than that of a software engineer. The job of a software engineer is directly linked to market and with the slowdown of economy your job can any day be part of history. But Civil Engineering jobs have a constant market and is one of the areas least affected by economic boom or slowdown as depicted in the graph below.

In a nutshell – life as a Civil Engineer can be rewarding if you are ready to be patient. As you get more and more experience your worth increases exponentially while for a software professional, his worth increases in a very slow pace compared to a civil engineer.


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Blogger Ram said...

I have to ask - where the hell did you get that graph? Adangu da :)

May 15, 2008 10:42 AM  
Blogger silverine said...

I hope they stick this post on every Engineering college wall!! Long term evaluation of every profession is necessary to guide students to make appropriate choices! And I hope we get to see more such posts from professionals in other fields too!

May 15, 2008 12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your post does convey some interesting pointers for future graduates. Having picked professions from the two ends of the spectrum nearly 15 years back (eventhough I don't fall in either category of subjects--s/w engineer or civil engineer at this point), I guess I can really understand what you are talking about.. Even though I do agree with most of the points in your post there are some major holes [more precisely, mistakes/attempts to drive a point, by omission/suppression of key facts.. :). ]..

These days high school graduates can pick any branch of engineering, but they finally end up as software engineers of some sort. Civil Engineering/construction/architecture/city planning etc etc have picked up some steam in the recent years as a result of the boom in real-estate development, housing market etc etc and can provide job opportunities for a large number of engineers in these areas. This trend would continue provided that SOFTWARE INDUSTRY remains HEALTHY and STRONG to expand to more places in India.

Now back to your graph.. Where the hell did you get the data for that stupid graph?? A software engineer's salary in India over the past decade has increased on an average 15-20% year to year. At this rate, his/her initial salary has to double every 5 years and the trend is still continuing (who knows for how long!!) and does not seem to be well captured in your graph. If we compare just the salaries we are basically not taking into account the wealth that has been created over the decade (investments, stock options etc etc) which would have obviously indicated that software jobs are better. Moreover, getting the same salary between two professions after 10 years doesn't convey as much information because fluctuations in inflation, purchasing power of the currency etc etc does have a huge impact on your investments and wealth after a decade. Think about the trends of real-estate prices, stock prices, dollar rates over the past decade..

I pity your friend (the software engineer) because I still believe that whining and giving up (eventhough easy) is probably not the best option in the fast pace/high paying software field. If she had been with any software company that has been around for over 10 years now, she is already a crorepathi (which I assume she wouldn't say..). Also, your story could have been complete and more compelling if we highlighted the key strengths of the individual engineering fields like job stability, potential for growth etc etc.

May 15, 2008 2:39 PM  
Blogger Brijesh Nair said...

As I wrote in the post, I made that graph just to make a point that salary do increase considerably for the civil engineers. That is why I wrote just to see the slope and that is the reason I didn’t mention any salary value in the y axis.

That was exactly the purpose of the post. You need to look into the long term prospects of a field rather than short term prospects.

Anon @ 6.39 PM

The point I want to make in the graph is “rate of increase of salary for a civil engineer with more than 5 year experience is high”.

Again I do mention about the job stability at the end of the discussion.

May 15, 2008 2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont know how reliable the graph that you provided is. It would be useful for readers if you provide source of such graphs/statistics.

I may agree with you that civil engineering has great future in India in coming years but i am sceptical when you suggest that civil engineers are making more than what software engineers make in 5 years. your friend's situation may be aberration and you should also look at other opportunities that software engineers have apart from salary.

I agree that civil engineers will have more opportunity in coming years than what we have right now but it will never be comparable with that of software engineers.

May 15, 2008 3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Integrate that graph for both curves and see who comes out ahead. (Except us civil engineers who forgot how...)

Also, I've only seen a few civil engineeering jobs offering 100k or higher in US dollars... they want 15+ years experience. I've seen software people making that in less than 10 years. For earning, I don't believe that civil engineering can touch software/electronics field.

That said, keep in mind that civil engineering is much more stable, has a more reliable market and we are able to find jobs anywhere. This is a nice trade for a little lower salary.

Our work also has an intrinsic value to it. We are building everything you cannot live without (sanitation, clean water, etc.) Everybody completely depends on it eveyday and yet at the same time they do not notice it. Something to think about... a few of you who read this will understand it and the rest of you will wonder what I'm blabbering about...

May 15, 2008 5:04 PM  
Anonymous Sarath said...

I understand the point that you are trying to make and I believe it is true to some extent (the work experience part) for other conventional fields. But I think you went a little overboard by drawing that graph and claiming that the salary of a civil engg. will go higher than sftware engg. after some years of experience. You really don't have 'any data' to support that claim. 'What you know from your friends' is not real data, its just 'hearsay'. I know you said just see the slope..but to make a slope also you need data relating to growth rate in salary.
And unless you have that data you can't make any predictions.
To construct such a graph you need at least 10 years worth of data from 'different people' working in 'different positions' in 'different companies'.

May 15, 2008 11:46 PM  
Blogger Karthik said...

Brijesh - Nice Post! I fall into the category of your first friend - Civil Engineer working in a software firm . And though many here disagree, I see sense in what you are trying to say. The salary gap between various jobs in India are rapidly getting bridged (I belive for the better).

The difference in salary between an IT and non-IT sector will not hold on for long and soon, the case will be the same as that in US.

May 16, 2008 8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

now i know why u put ever green civil engineer, u always see the color or money :)

May 16, 2008 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

color of money

May 16, 2008 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forgot the job life span of a Software Engineer...very low compared to that of a Civil Engineer who can retire from his job.

May 17, 2008 4:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the data you got is not correct. Also in IT companies people wont stay for salaries alone. Say after 8 yrs experience, salaries doesn't make much sense. And major portion of it goes to tax. It is other perks like stocks, other perks etc which still makes IT the sought after jobs atleast in India. Also I personally think if one likes dynamism and work challenges, IT is one of the best jobs to take. This is unlike the civil engineering jobs where the workable domain is very narrow.

May 19, 2008 7:34 PM  
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May 31, 2008 1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is very weird how your graphs show the demand for CE and IT exactly at the same percent for 2008. I agree, where the hell did you get these graphs?

July 20, 2008 9:37 PM  
Anonymous Akshat said...

Hello sir,
I m a 1st year engineering student of bits pilani and I have got civil branch. In bits, it is possible to change your branch after 1st year if the performance of the individual is good. ofcourse u would advise me not to go for a branch change. I would like to know after 4 years from now when I will graduate, what range of salary can I expect?
Also how good an institute is bits pilani when it comes to civil engg?

August 10, 2008 7:24 AM  
Blogger Brijesh Nair said...

Four years is a long time and so many changes can happen. Right now construction market is OK in India, booming in middle east and worst in US. In 4 years things can change. Doing Civil Engineering from BITS will really help you if you are planning to do higher studies. If you have any more questions mail me at brijeshnairan(at)gmail(dot)com

August 11, 2008 6:14 AM  

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