Why are all engineers not scientists?

Scientists and engineers

In your experience, are there differences in the perception or appreciation in companies of degrees in the natural sciences (chemistry, mathematics, physics) compared to engineering degrees?


We will make better progress if we come out here as a theoretical physicist with a doctorate (with honors) who has just started his career.First of all - it's good that I don't know anything about Freudian prescribers - you have made it, in which you are comfortable Badly foreign word "engineering" to accommodate three errors (I corrected). Perhaps that is a sign of the gulf that occasionally shines through between the two groups.

So that there are no misunderstandings: We are talking about classic industrial companies (like yours). And we're leaving your chemists out of here completely. After all, there is an important chemical industry that is naturally teeming with chemists. Then roughly applies:

a) The vast majority of employees from these two groups (natural scientists and engineers) are engineers. This means that, depending on the industry and the company's product range, the others can easily come close to exotic products.

b) There are relatively many people with a degree in natural sciences who would like to work in these industrial companies (probably also because there are hardly any other jobs geared towards them). But there are only very few in-house positions that are precisely tailored to you in terms of their requirement profile. Specifically: Only in very few job advertisements in the industry are directly or alternatively e.g. B. Physicists specifically wanted.

c) However, there are significantly more physicists working in these industrial companies than were specifically sought. These “overhang scientists” have successfully applied for engineering positions and also work in such positions. They are employed “as if they were engineers”, have appropriate careers and are subject to corresponding requirements. A somewhat daring, but in the majority of cases certainly correct claim: You could have studied engineering right away. At least it would have made it easier for many of them to start their careers, and the choice of employers would often have been significantly larger.

d) For these "overhang natural scientists" in industrial companies who are the focus of your question, the following applies specifically:

- In many cases it is difficult to even find a company to start your career with. A large, medium-sized metalworking company and a doctorate in theoretical physicist are worlds apart.

- Once you've got started, you quickly become an “engineer among engineers” internally. If one meets the requirements of the actually intended engineer well, renounces continuous contributions to the discussion such as "I as a physicist", speaks the language of the engineers and achieves such services, the actually given "exotic status" is quickly forgotten (internally!) . Max Müller, who has a doctorate in physics (theoretical direction), is quickly becoming more and more of an employee Max Müller, who is "an engineer", who does and cannot do this and that, and nothing else.

Even when it comes to promotions, the only thing that will soon be checked is whether Max Müller has the potential, his former special status is - often completely - forgotten.

- In the case of external applications, his special past “comes up” very quickly. Max Müller is completely unknown to the applicant, who only sees the theoretical physicist, whose dissertation topic he cannot even read out - and who may remind him of the one total failure that his company hired ten years ago. “Never again” - whoever knows one knows everyone after all. This effect lasts for many years. Even with external applicants, training pales over time compared to professional practice, but that takes time.

- General recommendation, e.g. B. for physicists in engineering positions: stay, move up, have success, become and be more of the “department head product development” than the “theoretical physicist with a doctorate”. And only change as late as possible (e.g. after ten years and presentable career results with the employer who gave you a chance at the time despite actually “wrong” studies).

Short answer:

Relatively few physicists and mathematicians are specifically wanted by industrial companies. However, many such applicants have managed to apply for B. to qualify for engineering positions. Their “exotic status” is quickly forgotten within the company, but with external applications it remains an “issue” for many years.

Question No .: 2517
Number of the VDI nachrichten edition: 44
Date of the VDI nachrichten edition: 2011-11-04

A contribution from:

  • Heiko Mell

    Heiko Mell is a career advisor, author and freelancer for VDI nachrichten. He is responsible for the career advice series within VDI nachrichten.