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February, 1999
Page 6 National Survey Finds More Women Entering Engineering in Canada

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National Survey



The Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (CCPE) conducted a national survey of the Canadian engineering profession in the Spring and Summer of 1997.

The purpose of the survey was to gather up-to-date information on the demographics of the engineering profession in Canada. This information will help CCPE and its constituent associations/ordre, as well as engineering deans, government and other concerned stakeholders, to enhance the standards for admission into the profession and the practice of engineering, support academic planning, assist in policy decisions (e.g., with respect to immigration, recruitment, training, trade and competitiveness), promote science and engineering, facilitate career planning, identify emerging disciplines, and respond to current trends.

The survey was conducted under the direction of the Canadian Engineering Human Resources Board (CEHRB), a standing committee of CCPE. Survey questionnaires, one per license held, were mailed to approximately 165,768 members of CCPE’s 12 constituent associations/ordre, including approximately 161,000 professional and in-training engineers and 4,700 geoscientists. More than 41,000 completed questionnaires (25 per cent) were returned to CCPE The returned questionnaires were processed by Goss Gilroy Inc., a survey consulting firm. An evaluation study revealed that a statistically valid sample of members was obtained for all major categories (e.g., age, gender, discipline) in each of the 12 constituent association jurisdictions.

The key findings contained in the National Survey of the Canadian Engineering Profession Summary of Findings report, which was published by CCPE in Dec. 1998, represent the interpretation of trends identified through the survey, additional supplementary data sources, and past studies. The survey represents a ‘snap-shot’ of the engineering profession in Canada in 1997. However, the analysis assumes that longitudinal (time series) trends can be derived from information provided by engineers of differing ages. For example, the survey found that a high percentage of senior engineers are involved in supervisory and management tasks, which implies that engineering careers eventually include increased levels of supervisory or management responsibilities. Future surveys will be used to test and verify the initial findings developed through this analysis.

The key findings are:

  • 151,200 individual engineers and geoscientists held 165,768 licenses and/or memberships with the 12 provincial and territorial professional associations/ordre in 1997. Some members held more than one license. Membership (professionals, students, etc.) in these associations grew by 23.3% between 1987 and 1997, for an average annual growth rate of 2.3%.
  • Only 2% of engineers described their job as non-technical: The majority of engineers were in direct contact with engineering design, engineering project management, or similar technical endeavors.
  • Two-thirds of those engineers over 55 years of age considered themselves to hold a senior supervisory or managerial position.
  • A high percentage of engineers worked in the discipline in which they obtained their undergraduate engineering degree. This was true across all disciplines, with the highest percentages occurring in civil and electrical engineering.
  • Following graduation, a majority of engineers pursued continuing education activities both within and outside their primary area of specialty. Those taking training tended to retrain/upgrade in their primary area of specialization, although a large number reported taking technical and non-technical training outside their primary area of practice.
  • 25% of engineers went on to earn a second university undergraduate degree or a graduate degree.
  • Women accounted for 5.5% of the registered professional engineers in Canada in 1997. This compares to 3.2% in 1990 and 0.5% in 1980.
  • Approximately 25% of new entrants to the profession are women.
  • Women and men under 36 years of age reported working as managers with similar frequency. However, women 36 years of age and over reported being senior managers less often than their male counterparts.
  • The combined full- and part-time employment rate for engineers was approximately 96 per cent in 1997, well above the national average for Canada, and employment was at or near 100 per cent in some disciplines of the profession, including forestry engineering and instrumentation/control systems engineering. Civil engineering boasted an employment rate of 95.7 per cent.
  • The overall average number of engineers per 1,000 population was 5.0, or one professional engineer for every 200 people in Canada.
  • The top 10 engineering disciplines pursued by professional engineers in Canada included:
1. Civil (26.0%) 6. Industrial/Manufacturing (2.7%)
2. Mechanical (24.5%) 7. Electronic (2.5%)
3. Electrical (16.9%) 8. Metallurgical/Metals Science (2.3%)
4. Chemical (10.6%) 9. Mining/Mineral Processing (2.2%)
5. Geological (3.1%) 10. Engineering Physics (2.1%)


  • Most engineers reported an employee status that generally provided stable, long-term working conditions (permanent, principal or independent consultant). A total of 4.9% of employed engineers reported doing contract work or term appointments. A large majority of professional engineers worked for large organizations.
  • Firms or organizations with more than 500 employees employed 48.3% of all professional engineers, while 22% of engineers worked for firms employing between 51 and 500 people.
  • A higher percentage of women engineers worked in the service sector relative to men engineers.
  • In general, job functions for men and women were similar.
  • The top 10 job functions reported by professional engineers i.e. those requiring 25% or more of their time were:
    • project management: 41%
    • design: 32.5%
    • management/administration: 18.8%
    • project planning: 17.4%
    • engineering/technology support services: 16.1%
    • operations and production: 12.3%
    • research and development: 9.4%
    • specification/technical writing: 7.9%
    • quality assurance: 7.1%
    • marketing and sales: 6.8%

CCPE is the national organization of the 12 provincial and territorial associations/ordre that govern the practice of engineering in Canada and license the country’s 160,000 professional engineers. The Council serves the associations/ordre, which are its constituent and sole members, by delivering national programs that ensure the highest standard of engineering education, professional qualifications and ethical conduct.

CEHRB was established by CCPE in 1972. It studies the academic and professional profiles of professional engineers and serves as the "horizon watcher" for the profession. CEHRB gathers information on how and where engineers are employed and what skills they utilize. This information is used in the planning of engineering human resource requirements. The primary objective of the 1997 survey was to develop an initial profile of the engineering profession that will be updated periodically in the future.





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