WANT TO MAKE $10,000 A YEAR? (Oct, 1956)

<< Previous
1 of 6
<< Previous
1 of 6


The welcome mat is out for young engineers. Here are ways you can cash in on the critical shortage.

By Harry Kursh

BY this time everybody who reads is aware of the critical shortage of technicians, engineers and scientists that exists in America today. Large corporations, government agencies and research

laboratories are engaged in a frantic search for young men with technical education or training. Fabulous inducements are being offered—with such incredible “fringe benefits” as new homes, pension plans, prepaid insurance, free medical care, etc.

The shortage has sent salaries zooming to unheard of levels. In April 1955, Earl C. Kubicek, placement director for the Illinois Institute of Technology, made a study of salaries offered to graduating students. In 1949 the average starting salary offered was $3,384 per year. In 1954 it had jumped to $4,416—and it’s still going up! In June 1956 it was not at all unusual to find ads for graduate engineers offering a starting salary of $7,500 with the promise of rapid-fire raises at frequent intervals. An annual salary of $10,-000 for an engineer only two or three years out of school is so common it might be considered “average” for the field.

It all adds up to this: for a young man now attending a technical school, high school, college, university, or even trade school, opportunities for employment after graduation have never been greater. And for the man who is now working in a shop, factory or office and is thinking of making a switch—perhaps going back to school to learn new technical skills or to enlarge his present skills— the chances for cashing in on his added training have never been better.

How can you take advantage of this unprecedented demand for trained workers in the fields of electronics, plastics, chemistry, aviation, automation and many others?

Unfortunately, going back to school is not easy for many. For one thing, it takes money. But if you’re hoping to capitalize on industry’s manpower search, here are four tested methods of increasing your technical know-how without flattening your wallet: 1. Mail-order education; 2. In-plant training and assistance from your present employer; 3. Scholarships and fellowships; 4. Borrowing to pay for your education.

Let’s consider these one at a time: 1. Mail-order Education: Last year more than 1,500,000 Americans signed up for courses with more than 200 different correspondence schools from coast to coast. Today, correspondence schools provide complete technical educations in everything from architecture to mechanical and chemical engineering. Education via mail order is booming. And there’s good reason for it.

Correspondence schools fill a vital gap in the education picture. They make it possible (a) to get an education without leaving your job, (b) to pay for your education on the installment plan and (c) to take advantage of some of the best teaching brains in the world of science, technology and business even though you may be living in a town that isn’t anywhere near a high school, much less a college or technical school. Many outstanding experts owe their careers to correspondence schools—men like Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, John Garand, inventor of the famous rifle, and General Electric’s boss Charles E. Wilson.

To help you find a correspondence school offering courses that fit into your plans, Mechanix Illustrated has compiled a comprehensive directory that lists a wide variety of correspondence schools by subjects taught and gives detailed information, including prices, about each school. It’s yours for the asking. Write to: Mechanix Illustrated, 67 West 44th Street, New York 36, N. Y. Ask for: Correspondence School Directory.

2. In-plant training: More and more plants are training their own employees to advance them from assembly-line jobs to junior engineering or full engineering status with commensurate increases in pay. Yet many Americans working for giant corporations aren’t aware of the opportunities within their own plants.

Minneapolis-Honeywell, world famed instrument maker, is an outstanding example of in-plant training. A spokesman for Minneapolis-Honeywell told me that 90 per cent of the firm’s employees now participate in some form of on-the-job training!

If you happen to work for a large corporation, make sure you read all the company’s employee publications for in-plant training developments. Better still, go directly to the personnel office and inquire. Even if there is no in-plant training program, the very fact that you display an interest may open up new opportunities for you. The personnel director of an aircraft plant on Long Island told me he had “upped a dozen young men last year to high-paying engineering jobs” after they had come to him to inquire about special training at the plant. There was no formal training program but the personnel director took care of that by transferring the young men to work directly with production and research engineers and giving them time off every day to study theory.

General Electric’s policy is to assign technicians to various jobs for three-month periods. According to GE, about 70 per cent of them end up in engineering and laboratory work.

3. Scholarships and fellowships: To put it simply, scholarships and fellowships are financial grants to aid students. There are more scholarships being offered today than ever before in the history of American education.

Recently, for instance, there were blazing headlines when the Ford Foundation made the startling announcement that it was going to contribute $20,000,-000 to a scholarship fund, making it possible for countless thousands of high school students to get complete, free college and technical school educations. These scholarships will be handed out by the National Merit Scholarship Corp. on the basis of nationwide competitive examinations for high school seniors. The first of these tests was given last year to some 60,000 high school students.

General Motors has a $5,000,000 fund to aid education. By the end of this year more than 700 young people will be attending college under scholarship awards with GM money.

According to the most conservative estimates it is now figured that nearly $60,000,000 worth of scholarships are being offered every year to Americans for higher education. Curiously enough, it is estimated that at least $10,000,000 worth of scholarship offers go begging every year—largely because most of us tend to think that scholarships are reserved for quiz kids and budding Einsteins only. This is definitely not so.

Scholarships today are offered by an amazing variety of private groups, from foundations to labor unions, fraternal organizations, municipalities, veteran groups, state governments, industrialists, philanthropies and millionaires with their own private trust funds. The qualifications for scholarships vary just as greatly.

More and more private employers and industries, aware of the keen demand for engineers and scientific personnel, are establishing funds to aid education. The nationwide Science Talent Search, sponsored by Westinghouse Electric Corp., is now in its 15th year. To the high school student willing to compete in nationally-held contests, Science Talent Search offers scholarship prizes ranging from a complete four-year education, worth $2,800, to $100 cash awards. So far, some 560 top Science Talent Search winners have received a total of more than $154,000 in scholarships.

Even state governments are throwing in public funds to build up reservoirs of skilled personnel and especially teachers in the fields of science and technology. New York State now gives out 1,750 scholarship grants every year and the State of Illinois has two scholarships for each county in the state.

There are scholarships being offered by Elks, Masons, Lions, Rotary, Grange and parent-teacher organizations. In short, every year new sources of scholarship money turn up. Unfortunately, there is as yet no single source of information on scholarships available. To make it worse, scholarship funds generally do not advertise their offers. If you want to find a scholarship for which you may qualify, you have to do the hunting.

But it isn’t as difficult as it sounds. I made a study of the subject through intensive research and interviews with scores of experts in education, government and industry. This is the best scholarship-hunting technique recommended by the experts: (1) First decide on the career you want to follow in engineering or science. To help you determine your future course, there is available an excellent fountain of information in a series of government booklets known as “Employment Outlook.” These contain valuable information about many different fields of employment, from salaries paid to future prospects for employment. To get the booklets of specific interest to you, write to the Government Printing Office, Washington 25, D. C. Ask for “the list of publications on Employment Outlook booklets.” This is free. When you receive this list, examine the titles you want and follow the instructions for ordering from the government.

(2) Your next step is to choose the school or schools you would like to attend. Most reference books, such as the World Almanac or Information Please Almanac, contain lists of colleges and their addresses.

(3) Write to the school and ask for two things: (a) a copy of the catalog of courses offered; (b) a booklet describing scholarships, fellowships and the various other means of financial assistance offered to applicants and students.

(4) Remember, scholarships and fellowships are being offered by an amazing variety of groups. You may find a scholarship you can get offered by a group or individual in your own backyard. Look around—check with your church, union, fraternal organization, city government, state government (department of education), professional society and veterans’ organization.

Here are some publications which will prove enormously useful as scholarship-hunting tools: Scholarships And Fellowships Available At Institutions Of Higher Learning, price 70 cents, from the Federal Security Agency, Office of Education, or the U.S. Government Printing Office, both Washington 25, D. C.

Scholarships, Fellowships And Loans, published by Bellman Publishing Co., Cambridge, Mass.; written by S. Norman Finegold.

Need A Lift? published by American Legion, price 10 cents, from Scholarship Information Service, P.O. Box 1055, Indianapolis 6, Ind.

The College Handbook published by the College Entrance Examination Board, 425 W. 117 St., New York, N. Y.

The American Federation of Labor publishes a list of scholarships available through its unions. The list costs 20 cents; write to American Federation of Labor, Department of Education, 1625 I St. N. W., Washington 6, D. C.

4. Borrowing to pay for education: Nearly all schools today welcome students who want to study engineering and science, even if they have to keep on working at their present jobs and don’t have the cash to pay tuition fees. Even the eminent Columbia University in New York announced early in 1956 that, for the first time, it is going to make it possible for adults presently employed to get their bachelor of science and engineering degrees “after working hours.” Said the announcement, “Even non-high school graduates able to pass qualifying tests will be accepted in a new program of night studies.”

Recently, the Kiplinger Association made “the most comprehensive survey of college loan funds ever completed” and came to the conclusion that “college can be financed by long-term loans payable after graduation.” Its detailed report, an invaluable aid for anyone wishing to borrow money for an education, was published in Changing Times, February, 1956. If you can’t get it through your library, write to the Kiplinger Magazine, 1729 H. Street, N.W., Washington 6, D. C.

In addition, there is a unique pay-as-you-go college plan you ought to know about. This is called The Tuition Plan, Inc. It was founded in 1938 and makes it possible for schools and colleges to collect tuition cash in advance while the student pays back monthly installments direct to Tuition Plan, Inc. If you want to find out whether the school of your choice is registered with Tuition Plan, or if you want more information about the plan itself, write to The Tuition Plan, Inc., 347 Fifth Ave., New York 1, N.Y.

If by now the bug has bitten and you’re giving some thought to the possibility of making a switch that may lead you into a brand-new career in the world of technology or science, but you’re afraid that you might get caught in midstream, consider these words spoken by Dr. Maynard M. Boring, chairman of the Engineering Manpower Commissions: “The shortage of engineers is going to be with us a long time. Industry will just have to learn how to get the job done with the engineers it can get.

“We haven’t offered solid-gold Cadillacs or winters in Florida yet but it looks as if that may be necessary to meet some of the competition!”

Watch for the exciting and informative series on new careers in engineering which will start in the December issue of MI.

  1. Rick Auricchio says: February 14, 201210:26 am

    Ten thousand 1956 dollars is roughly $85k today.

  2. Casandro says: February 14, 201211:45 am

    Well of course today, companies don’t actually need engineers any more, they only believe they need some. Many companies have shown, that it doesn’t matter how much you spend on engineering. All that matters is how much you spend on marketing.

  3. Kosher Ham says: February 14, 201212:26 pm

    Also shortages are cyclic; right now there is actually a surplus of engineers in the defense/aerospace sector due current administration’s priorities with defense spending.

  4. RS says: February 14, 20125:21 pm

    Engineers needed to design the soup kitchens of tomorrow.

  5. Hirudinea says: February 14, 20126:55 pm

    $10,000 a year? Pttttth, I make nearly twice that. 🙂

  6. Casandro says: February 15, 201212:04 am

    I don’t think there’s a cyclic demand or need. However there’s a lot of discrepancy between the demand and the need for engineers. Again, very few of the companies employing engineers actually need them. That’s why those engineers often become depressive, they feel useless.

  7. Casandro says: February 15, 201212:12 am

    Ohh one little note, look at the name of the “company” it’s “…ngineering inc”. Today no company would bolster itself with its engineering. Look at Apple, it was founded by a hardcore engineer (Wozniak) and made clever little designs. Today they make products so simple they are re-engineered (often in better quality) by Chinese companies within days.
    From a commercial company it makes very little sense to have good engineering. People aren’t going to value it.

  8. Don F says: February 15, 20124:12 am

    I remember hitting $10,000 per year; I was so proud ’cause I remembered my dad saying he had reached that amount before he retired.

    I work for a large computer hardware company and they seem to still value engineers, although not nearly as much as they did in the 50’s . . . .

  9. Stephen says: February 15, 20126:37 am

    My job title is “engineer”, but the last time I got my hands dirty was cleaning out the cat’s litter tray. I engineer software, and there’s still a demand for that – though the better my employers get at automating things, the less there is for me to do.

  10. JMyint says: February 15, 20128:26 am

    It depends on the type of engineer. When I could no longer find work in electronics I went back to school and now I’m a network engineer. You got to learn to be flexible.

  11. Charlie says: February 15, 20129:57 am

    Casandro: I’m pretty sure that Apple has quite a large engineering staff it’s not easy to cram an entire touch screen computer into a little phone sized slab, especially if you’re the first. Also I question whether you’d be able to find any (non-trivial) Apple knock-off gear that even matches let alone surpasses the original’s quality.

  12. Darren says: February 15, 20124:06 pm

    I’m not sure what you call it, but I love the comic drawings of the 50s. There is a lot of detail in them. The new employee has bought along is own T-square, slide rule and pencil. He’s ready for work!

  13. Mike says: February 15, 20127:54 pm

    After my father passed away I was going through some of his stuff, I found a notebook with numbers listed and other costs. It took me a second before I realized that was his yearly salary, and expenses. I found it strange.
    Now I am thinking how in the 70s we thought “The Six Million Dollar Man” was a lot of money.

  14. JMyint says: February 16, 20122:57 pm

    Charlie, I think you will find that that the Palm Treo beat the iPhone by 5 years.

  15. Charlie says: February 17, 20128:35 am

    JMyint: Beat it how? It’s certainly a nice bit of kit, but the iPhone was a whole different beast.

  16. JMyint says: February 17, 20128:39 am

    A smart phone with a touch screen and customizable applications.

  17. Jari says: February 17, 20124:32 pm

    And Ericsson R380 was released even earlier in 2000. Okay, now this commenting is going off-tangent 🙂 Ahem.. I don’t recall any marching band nor handshake with an older looking executive, when I got my first engineering job…

Submit comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.