Saturday, 5 January 2013

The Social Stigmas of Engineering

With every conversation with whoever it may be, every conversation tends to stray towards education: what, where and why you are studying what you are studying. I'm not sure about you engineering students out there, but I sometimes double take whenever someone asks me what I'm studying in school. Now, I'm not the type of person to actually care about what other people think of me (u mirin brah?) but we all have to accept the fact that there is a social stigma out there for people pursuing an education in Engineering.

That is, Engineering students tend to:

- Have no social life

- Constantly study

- Have an absence of female individuals in the faculty of Engineering

- Are just dope as hell

*Warning: All of the above points may be completely true

So basically, whenever someone asks about what you're studying in college/university, you have two choices essentially. You can take the easy way out and dance around the fact that you're in Engineering, effectively avoiding the nuisances which I'll outline in a second. However, if you do decide to be honest and admit that you're studying Engineering, here's what a typical conversation will be like:

Them: So, what are you studying?

Me: Uhhh... I'm studying _____ Engineering at _______.

Them: HOOOOLY! That's really tough man, how do you do it?

Me: I don't know honestly.. I cry every night while slitting my wrists. It provides lubrication for the rectal violations that occurs on a daily basis.

Them: Oh I see. Do you actually like what you're studying?

Me: I don't know, leave me alone! *Runs away crying*

Note: The above conversation was completely hypothetical. No pandas were hurt in this process.

Basically, there are intrinsic core values that are associated with Engineering, like it or not. Hell, I'm studying Engineering and I'll admit most of the stuff that I outlined at the top of this article is true, though we as Engineers joke about it a lot (refer to photos in Engineering Memes Facebook group). I have the opportunity to interact with a lot of strangers on a daily basis due to the nature of my part time job and there's usually two common reactions to which people have when you tell them you're studying Engineering:

1) Shocked

- Usually in awe of how a person is dumb enough to pursue an education in a grueling field of study such as Engineering

- Shocked at the presence of greatness they are witnessing of someone pursuing a god- tier field of study such as Engineering

- Common Phrases: "Isn't that really hard?", "How do you do it?", "Do you even sleep?"

2) Impressed

-Doesn't really follow the trend of this article, these type of people are usually impressed at the fact that you are studying Engineering and will compliment you accordingly

- Common Phrases: "You must be really smart", "You're going to be rich once you finish your studies.", "Your parents must be proud." Most of the time, I'll usually get the latter reaction. Sometimes, a mix of the two. I'm not really surprised that I get the "impressed" reaction most of time, due to the notoriety that Engineering entails being one of the more difficult undergraduate degrees one can pursue.

I do speak from personal experiences; however, I do understand that depending on the types of people you interact with will result in different types of reactions. I'd like to ask you all then, what are the types of reactions you get when you tell people that you're studying Engineering? Are they corroborative with the social stigmas associated with Engineering? Or are they more positive? Please let us know in the comments section below.

This post was written by James Reyes and he is currently studying Mechanical Engineering at Ryerson University located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


  1. DUDE, this is pure Gold!

  2. well, this 'globalized' world means something, besides economic similarities, the way we want to live, or already live... blah blah blah; at least here in mexico yes... very similar situation/reactions/stigmas (*crossed hands below chin staring at PC*)

  3. ... My family believes that I'm some sort of masochist for choosing engineering ._.

    1. Ah.. I know that feeling here too in Indonesia, well, some part.

  4. I think the main difference (from my experience) between the two reactions is who is asking the question. If the person asking is someone who likes to live an easy life (party 24/7, cheat on tests, avoid problems by any means necessary) then they will always go along the lines of:"Oh wow, why would you do that to yourself?"
    And yet when the person asking me is pursuing his/her life goal in some other field they'd always compliment and admire me.

  5. Most of the time when people hear that I'm an engineer, they respond with "I hear that's a difficult major; you must be really smart!"

    It's a mixture of shock and awe typically from my parents' generation and older.

    My generation tends to respond with shock in a more negative manner.

  6. I think you'll find that the ones who respond with shock in a negative manner are in fact responding to how condescending many engineering majors are.

    There is a tendency among Engineering majors to look down on anyone in the arts, or in a field that doesn't have a direct correlation to a career that is fiscally rewarding, 'practical', or hands-on.

    Not always true, but often enough that I remember it being a common theme.

  7. in Slovenia Engineers are not that well respected. it sucks as hell! i'm moving to Germany once i finish my degree ;)

  8. In France engineering studies are not as shocking as they seem to be in your countries. Here we are gods to do that. ^^ Only impressed reactions.
    Besides I disagree with your firts points. Lots of events are organized by engineering schools so we have a life, even a blooming life. And yes we study but it's not hell. Last, at least more than 1/3 of girls in my school. Not amazing but not bad too.
    Great arcticle btw :)

  9. Well,in India almost 40% of 12th class graduate enroll for engineering thus it is a common sight to find a student pursuing the same.

  10. I'm studying Aeronautical Engineering in Bulgaria. Whenever someone asks me about it I get impressed reactions. It is a difficult field of study, and I guess that is what impresses most of the people, and others are just impressed by the way it sounds. And I don't get this reaction only from Bulgarians, I have many friends from other countries that react the same way.
    Now about the comment that there are no girls in engineering... that isn't true. I am a girl in engineering and there are at least 20 others in just my course. And most of them are pretty too.
    Greeting from Bulgaria.

  11. Here in the UK engineer isn't a protected term so, in order to motivate them, companies often refer to their fitters and technicians as Engineers (for example, British Gas don't send a Boiler Repair Technician, they send a Heating System Engineer to fix the central heating). This means that the reaction I get most often when people find out I'm an engineer is, "Oh could you take a look at [broken piece of hardware]". Either that or they quickly move on to talking to someone who they think will be more interesting, this was the usual reaction in social situations at Uni.

  12. Here in Portugal, engineers are one of the most respected people, in some ways more than doctors or lawyers, so the reactions are almost always the impressed ones. I only get joked for being in engineering by my other friends who are also taking engineering courses.

    And by the replies I see a trend. Here in Europe people respect engineers more than they do in North America.

  13. I also get the "why would you ever want to do that/that sounds super boring" reaction when I talk about the mechanical engineering classes that I have to take (I'm studying biomedical engineering with a focus on biomechanics). And then I start talking about what I want to do in grad school and it just goes downhill from there, unfortunately :P

  14. I have to admit that I've done this on a number of occasions. When someone tells me their majoring in "Biochemical engineering" my first thought is WOW! I would never be able to survive a major like that. But if I were one of those students I wouldn't be shy or humble about the fact that I was pursuing a major in engineering, its a great accomplishment, own it!

  15. While there is some truth to all stereotypes, I think someone who holds such a picture of engineers in their heads just doesn't know a big enough variety of people. The world would be a sad place if we were all the same!

    1. True. Im different from all other eng. I do go out a lot, hang out with friends, sport, clubs, and get high grades in my eng courses. Thats why ppl cant belive that Im an eng :-)

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  17. This whole thing is true! Hit it dead on! I'm currently completing my basics for Petroleum Engineering and so far no social life!

  18. Omg!!!really???!!you must be so smart!! Masters????wow!!respect. But you do not look like an engineer!

    Such dialogs happen with me all the time!

  19. I am not an engineer. However, most of my friends are and I've seen them tell people they are engineers. I have never met anyone who is 'shocked' when they are told this.

    I have seen people ask 'is that hard?'. However, it has never been any more than a polite conversation filler with someone they're breaking the ice with.

    I have heard my friends tell me about all these times people were 'shocked' or 'impressed' they were engineers. For instance, on particular incident I was witness to - the person in question was neither 'impressed' or 'shocked' when told, any more than if my friend had told her he was a lawyer or a real estate agent. She was just interested, in the same way anyone would be interested in a new person they were getting to know. Hearing my friend talk about it later though, she was absolutely 'shocked'.

    'Impressed' is somewhat more common, in that I have at least seen it before. I myself am impressed a bit by engineering, because I don't think I'd have the intelligence or discipline for such a... discipline >_> <_<
    But again, instances of people being 'impressed' all seem to be a bit exaggerated. One of my friends, being hit on by a girl he was not interested in, told her he was a 'salesman' when she asked what he did. He thought if he said 'engineer' she'd be too impressed to lose interest in him.

    None of my friends really gave much credence to engineering stereotypes when they were starting out. But the longer they've been studying it and (now that they've got jobs) doing it, the more and more they've shared these stereotypes among themselves. It seems to create a positive feedback loop - the more they hear, the more likely these stereotypes are true and colour their own experiences, the more they share their own experiences/stereotypes, etc.

    Either that, or engineers just really have trouble understanding the difference between 'shocked'/'impressed' and 'polite interest' or even 'indifference'.

  20. studying engineering has changed me ..... from someone who is always cheerful becoming depressed,blank staring and empty inside.....thinking about the future that are not surely guaranteed ... I have long lost my soul,to fulfill the hopes of my parents .....sometimes I don't recognize,who I see when I look at the didn't mean that I'm not being strong,trying to fight the obstacles and trials that lie ahead,instead I try to be more tough and never get weak in the knees,and never hold my breath......when challenges and pressures beyond the control as well as loss of self-judgment.....and knees starting to shake,I forced myself no matter what,to breathe and to take another step,eventhough I had reached the limits of my own abilities.....finally, I was not able to feel anything either in my life,in my soul or my mind.....

  21. Mostly... people feel happy as they start a conversation. It happens a lot with me that people start asking about some natural phenomenon and expect a complete report from me. n in my opinion i feel great too and i usually pepper it a bit n at the end my typical phrase is "its much interesting u should take it as a major" just expanding the community :)

  22. There is one more area of engineering that's seen a spectacular boost in importance -- environment engineering. This particular field focuses on establishing different methods to deal with various environment concerns. As nations are actually more mindful of the significance of sustainable development, they're interested in strategies to help companies convert to utilizing sustainable resources. Engineers are experts in this area. Read More for more details.

  23. could you remove this Annoying social media icons ..they arent good..only engineering was TESLA..

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  25. It's true I do sleep a lot less since I'm studying engineering. My life revolves a lot around my books, and studies, but hey, that's why I'm here. I like engineering, and if changing my habits is going to help me go through this, then I'm willing to let go of those partys and beer a little hehe. My only complain... there's too much boy!! ;)

  26. I was so very taken by the flow of your write-up. The events just took me to the place which you described and I could feel that happening to me. I think your narration is world-best…keep it up........:)
    Engineering Company

  27. Hello there, I was looking for a reliability engineer jobs and I came across your blog, very informative and entertaining, it shows that your an expert in your field.
    I will definitely be back for more. Keep it up!

  28. Sooooo true, i am dealing with computer codes since 4 year , now can't able to deal with my own life, engineering is a life style